Video series crafts a community

Musicians have 48 hours to record a “Shaking Through” session via Weathervane Music, a nonprofit promoting independent artists.

Rob Grote of the Districts, records vocals. | courtesy PETER ENGLISH
Rob Grote of the Districts, records vocals. | courtesy PETER ENGLISH

When a musician records a “Shaking Through” episode, they have to be prepared to move into the studio – literally.

The video series, led by Brian McTear of the nonprofit Weathervane Music in Fishtown, requires artists to commit 48 hours to recording a song in its wood-draped, naturally lit and inviting studio.

Artists move in to the apartment attached to the studio while they record. The result is a professionally produced song, a video of the recording process with artist commentary and a video documenting the technical side of the production.

The project’s new website launches Tuesday, and its new fifth season will premiere April 19 for members and April 23 for non-members.

McTear, executive director of Weathervane Music and the creator and co-producer of “Shaking Through,” said the project stemmed from his goals 19 years ago when he founded Miner Street Recordings. He is currently the co-owner.

“It was always my inclination to try to be as helpful and to create as much opportunity for the artists I was working with as I possibly could,” McTear said.

However, McTear said the early stages of the idea for “Shaking Through” didn’t initially involve filming.

“When I first had the idea, I didn’t consider video as part of it at all,” McTear said.

When he began Weathervane Music in 2002, McTear said he and his business partner Peter English could see the makeup of the music industry shifting. As people began buying music less and less, a new approach was necessary to keep Weathervane Music sustainable. When the duo decided sponsorship was their most viable option, they deemed video the best way to draw sponsors in.

And it did – Bruce Warren, assistant general manager for programming at WXPN, took notice of the pilot episodes, and the station sponsored “Shaking Through” for two and a half years before the project decided to go off on its own.

Currently, there are more than 40 “Shaking Through” videos online.

McTear said one of the most important parts of the “Shaking Through” operation is its membership. Officially launched on Jan. 1 of last year, the membership gives users early access to episodes and downloads of unmixed tracks, giving them the opportunity to create their own mixes of songs featured on the series.

“[Offering membership] was giving individuals out in the world a way to hook in to the activity,” said McTear, who spoke about the topic at TEDxPhilly this year. “The viewer becomes the creator, because they get to remake the song. Those remixes are sometimes way more creative that the original mixes we make.”

The membership community seems to agree with McTear. According to the project’s annual report, the threads where users post remixes were viewed 233,000 times in 2013. There were also over 2,300 forum replies and more than 600 remixes submitted. Users can access files from old episodes and download them as many times as they want.

“It’s not just a nice idea,” McTear said. “It’s a community of people that f—— go bananas over this s—.”

McTear said the upcoming season of “Shaking Through” focuses on female artists.

Sharon van Etton, who was featured on the first official episode of “Shaking Through,” curated and coproduced the first episode featuring the band Torres, which is supported by members of The War on Drugs and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

Other artists to be featured are The Tom-Toms, Cassandra Jenkins and Cayetana.

An episode will debut every two weeks.

McTear said one of the biggest challenges of running “Shaking Through” is getting others to recognize the difference between his project and other live music series like La Blogotheque and Daytrotter.

“That is literally a two or three-hour effort on the part of the band,” McTear said. “They show up, do all of this stuff and then they leave. This is two full days. They can’t just do it earlier in the day when they are playing at the Electric Factory later that night.”

Jenelle Janci can be reached at or on Twitter @jenelley.

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