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Show One App - Tony Fagenson Interview

Review by Sean Mitchell // December 09 2015
Show One App - Tony Fagenson Interview


We have Tony Fagenson, drummer from Eve 6 with us. You will remember these fellas – huge, huge hits. So Tony and his friend, Jerry Fitzgerald, have developed an app for drummers. I’ll let Tony explain the new ShowOne app. 

What is it Tony?

Thanks, Sean. ShowOne in a nutshell is an app for playing backing tracks live. It is somewhat geared towards drummers but it’s geared to other musicians as well, whoever in their group or in their project runs the backing tracks live.

My partner in the app project, Jerry, was our stage manager in Eve 6 and also kind of the drum tech.

I’ll just kind of give you the history of it. A few years ago, we had been touring a lot and there was all sorts of different ways that we had tried to run our tracks. We had a laptop for awhile; we had Ableton; we had a Roland SPDS (which I’m sure your viewers will know about) and they all had their ups and their downs. We had a system that was working pretty well but one night after a show we just got to talking: “Man, it would be great if there was a really good, basically an IOS way to do this on your iPhone or iPad."

That was kind of the beginning of it and we just took it from there. Eventually we came up with the ShowOne app, which is essentially a way for bands, solo artists, worship groups, church groups, national touring acts, whoever – there’s so many acts now that play along to some kind of backing tracks. Whether it’s just a tambourine loop going on or full orchestra, string section, background vocals, other guitars – you name it – it’s very common nowadays.

This is an app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that will allow you to play along to them easily. It gives you some key features that we feel are important for a musician to have in order to do it without too much headache.

I know, for myself and other musicians, that you’re looking for a one-stop-shop and it sounds like this app delivers just that – very simple.

It is that simple. The main thing with backing tracks, like you just started to say, is the audience needs to hear one thing and the musicians need to hear something else. The audience needs to hear just the music, whatever you have on your tracks that you’re playing along to. The musician needs to be able to hear that but also most of the time needs to be able to hear some kind of a time keeper; particularly for drummers you need a click track. For so many bands that I’ve worked with it’s just a pain in the ass. You have to either put everything into a DAW and have the full laptop and all this stuff running right there or you need to prepare your tracks with a click track out one side that you’re going to then play – split them that way – you have to prepare everything. We try to take all that out of it, so basically, you put your audio in – say you have a song that has some extra background vocals and guitar parts you’re going to play along to – all you need to know is the tempo. You put that track in the ShowOne, it gives you the click automatically so you don’t have to prepare that or anything. Then if all you have is your phone or your iPad it’ll split the audio automatically so that out one side is the click track along with the music (that would go to the drummer) and then out the other side that’s just the music that would go to the other musicians and the audience. The app takes care of it for you; you don’t have to prepare click tracks; you can choose different click sounds and one of the big things is, of course, you arrange all your songs into different set lists, have whatever order you want and also adjust the tempo of all your songs after they’re already in the app.

A very common thing I came across was you’re playing a song and it feels slow, you’re playing to your tracks and maybe those tracks on the recorded version was the right tempo, but live, you want to play it a little faster. With this app you can just do it in the blink of an eye – change the tempo. It keeps all the tracks in, keeps the pitch the same. You can change the tempo independently of pitch and vice versa. If you need to change the key – say your vocalist has a cold that day and you need to drop this a whole step - very easy to do all within the app.

We’ve tried to keep things fluid for you so the musicians can just get right to playing the music; you don’t have to go back and re-bounce your tracks, prepare click tracks and all that stuff.

We should explain for the average musician, say the club player maybe not necessarily on a stadium tour, they can find the backing tracks. Maybe their guitar player shares it through SoundCloud or another online sharing platform. This is the other thing I thought was pretty cool – you can download these tracks and then upload them to your ShowOne app from Dropbox and all this kind of stuff.

Right, so we’re not providing the tracks for you. This is for whatever the musician wants to play along to. So basically, the app can sync up with any of the major Cloud services. So if you’ve got a folder in your Dropbox account that has all your backing tracks, it will access that right away and you just pull the ones in that you need, it sticks them in the app and you’re good to go. It works with Google Drive, iCloud, Box.com and Dropbox. We might add a couple more but those are the major ones right now and we figure most people have one of those accounts. So it’s very easy to get audio into ShowOne. You could also plug into the computer and have it with the iTunes, synced through iTunes as well.

Like you said, if it’s the guitar player that’s bouncing down your tracks, he just emails them to you and you stick them in there and you’re good to go.

We could use this in a club date and professional, as well. You’ve been using it for how long, Tony?

We launched the app over summer, in mid-July, actually under a different name. The app is now ShowOne but we originally launched it as Sidestage. We changed the name for trademark issues, but basically, long story short, I just so happened to be on tour with my band Eve 6 over the whole summer and I was the perfect guinea pig for the app as we were launching.

Not just because I helped create the app but as a real live musician that was playing 31 shows on that tour. I used it the whole time and never once did it skip or crash or anything. So I can say, as a musician, that it really works great; it served its purpose well and we were able to really quickly change things as needed cause we changed the set a little bit as we went from show to show.

We tried to make it accessible for all styles of musicians, anyone that has any need to play along with some kind of recorded music – even if you’re a street musician. A lot of street musicians now have some kind of playback that they’re playing along to.

You may not even need the click track but you can still use the ShowOne track editing features like tempo, pitch; you can add voice counts; you can trim the end or beginning of a song. Suppose you don’t need that eight-bar intro tonight, you just trim it right off, again without having to go back and re-bounce them or have your entire Ableton or Pro Tools or Logic set up right there.

It works for cover bands, international touring bands, anyone that has backing tracks that doesn’t want to spend $800 on an SPDS or bring their entire recording rig out with them - that’s who it’s made for.

The price is right too on this thing; it’s less than $10 (US) to buy the full version.

That’s right – right now, it’s $8.99 for the unlocked version. The free version is free to download and try. You get an almost fully featured version of the app but you can only import two of your own songs. Just go on the IOS app store – it’s IOS only; eventually we’ll get to android but we’re focusing on IOS at the moment. You unlock it for $8.99 and then you can import unlimited tracks and you also have access to the in-app store which is just beginning, but that’s where we’ll have extra features that you’ll be able to buy as add-ons or additional click sounds and things like that.

Again, we really want this to be accessible to any type of musician, so hopefully the price reflects that.

Tony, this must have been an interesting challenge. My limited knowledge of apps is such that I do know that it can be complex and this sounds like something that you’ve spent a lot of time on. Was it a long process? It sounds like there was a lot of maybe math and computers involved in this. 

There certainly was. I’ll answer that question in a couple of parts.

First of all, it was a long process. Like I said, it was about three years ago that we kind of hashed the idea for it and we went through a few different iterations of how it would come to be. We thought of it as a hardware piece for awhile not part of an iPhone thing. Then we went back to that. There was a lot of back and forth, but through that we really refined what we wanted it to feel like and what we wanted it to do.

Then when it came time to actually making it – I will say this – neither Jerry nor I are programmers at all. We didn’t do the coding. We hired another company and gave them very specific directions and worked with them on how it was going to look, what it was going to do, what this needed to do, what that button needed to do. They did the hard work basically – they did the heavy lifting. So we’re the developers but we hired an actual development company called Hello World Engineering – great guys up in San Francisco – they actually did the coding and know the IOS world of coding. But the idea, the layout, what it's supposed to do and all that is from us and it definitely took awhile to refine it.

In a perfect world you could put every feature that you want in there but that take a long time. There are certainly some things that we want to keep adding as we go. That’s the great thing about the mobile format too – that you can say, “Hey, next month there’s going to be some new features in the new update," and so on. It will keep getting better and more refined with more features and more additional things as we go.

We’re really happy with how it’s going right now. We’re starting to get some nice user feedback and some real musicians out there using it.

Another key aspect of the app is that you can use it in a four-channel mode. There’s a lot of audio interfaces now for iPads and iPhones. There’s the stuff from Native Instruments, the Apogee Duets, and there’s stuff from Novation, from Focusrite, so if you have one of those that has four outputs you can actually use ShowOne in four-output mode. The big thing is you don’t have to split it out the headphone jack; you’ll send your tracks full stereo to the audience and to the musicians and be able to have independent control of the click, the voice counts and all that kind of stuff.

If you have your setup with your laptop and SPES but for some reason you don’t want to take the whole rig, ShowOne works as a great backup too. It’s also a great backup should any of your other stuff go down. You can just have everything there ready to go.

We are also aiming it to be developed as an instructional tool, because it adds the click track. It’s really good for drum instructors, for example, to slow down tough sections of the song with the click to practise to or just a practising musician in general that wants a click track and to be able to change pitch, change tempo really easily. It’s a good practise tool.

Eventually we are going to expand that even further, but for now that is a pretty cool thing. A lot of musicians that I talked to when we were developing this said that although it’s cool to split the audio out the headphone jack, it would be really good to not have to send only a mono signal to the audience. In four-output mode you’re able to do that; you just need the right interface. The Native Instruments Traktor 2 is under a hundred bucks.

ShowOne is available right now in the iPhone app store, like we said, for $8.99. Tony, when can we see you using it next with Eve 6?

We’re looking into that. Probably sometime next year, I’d imagine. We’re talking to our agent and figuring out what the right opportunities for next year will be, but I do plan on using it. There’s little dirty secrets – Eve 6 does play to some backing tracks. (laughs) In 2015 I don’t think anyone really minds - everyone does it. What I always like to say is some might think backing tracks is kind of a ‘dirty word’ or whatever; I say they can make a great band just a little bit greater, but they can’t make a bad band good. It’s all about the artist; it’s all about the music; it’s all about the performances and the songs, that kind of stuff. The backing tracks really are the icing on the cake but the cake’s got to be good to begin with.

Some artists use them more than others. One act’s backing tracks might be a tambourine loop in one section and then the next artist’s could be the entire track, the entire band. So it’s whatever you want to do with it.

My band, we do use them a little bit but it’s just for additional stuff that we had in the studio. We can’t bring another three or four musicians on the road with us – it would be great to – you know how it is. We will be using it next year, probably next summer, so keep an eye out for us.

ShowOne co-creator Tony Fagenson used ShowOne (then named Sidestage in the app’s “soft launch” phase) every night on tour with his band Eve 6 throughout summer 2015. Fagenson noted, “I wanted to put our app through the rigors of the road as the ultimate test for skips or crashes, and ShowOne performed flawlessly.”

Users can try the mostly full-featured app for free on the App Store, with a limit of two user-imported tracks. To unlock the app is currently $8.99 and allows unlimited track imports and access to all of ShowOne’s functionality. New features will be rolled out in the near future as IAP (In-App Purchase) add-ons including Click Packs, MIDI connectivity, and more.






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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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