Mark Brewer


ImageFM and PreSonus Bring Ontario Music to the Web

If you’re a fan of independent artists in the area around Toronto, Canada, and you like Internet radio, you are probably familiar with ImageFM. Dubbed “visual radio” because of its video window and Flash media, the Hamilton, Ontario, station serves 25,000 viewers per month with a steady stream of indie music, Webcast shows, and a new video-on-demand system.

Station owners Mark and Kathy Brewer founded ImageFM together. The whole thing evolved after Mark bought Kathy a Webcam for Christmas six years ago. Today, Kathy is the president and runs the business while Mark handles the technology. (“Kathy is the brains of the operation,” insists Mark.) They are assisted by an able and enthusiastic team of volunteers, most of them musicians or people interested in a broadcasting career.

Mark is a self-taught engineer in that he didn’t learn the business in school, but he had good mentors. He worked in AM radio for four years, then in FM radio for a couple of years, was a DJ, owned a sound company, and mixed front-of-house for a variety of bands and venues. He has learned much in the School of Hard Knocks. 

Eventually, the Brewers bought a new property in Hamilton, a city of 500,000, located about 40 miles southwest of Toronto, on the far southwest corner of Lake Ontario. There, in a two-car garage, Mark built the current studio, from which he operates ImageFM and records bands. He also continues to mix live sound. . 

Mark Brewer knows that having the right professional tools makes a huge difference. He also knows that ImageFM does not exactly have the sort of budget enjoyed by the CBC/Radio-Canada, so he has to buy professional tools at a modest price. For Brewer, that means PreSonus StudioLive™ mixers and Capture™ and Studio One™ Pro software. 

“I tried using other mixers but when I tried the StudioLive 16.4.2, the difference was night and day,” Brewer states. “It’s wonderful in the studio and it is exquisite live; it absolutely kills anything else I’ve used. The XMAX™ preamps are very clean and far better than the preamps in competing mixers that I’ve tried. I use a lot of Shure SM7s and Audio-Technica AT4040s and AT4033s, and those mics can push a preamp to its limits. I am very happy with the results I get from the XMAX preamps.” 

The StudioLive’s intuitive operation is a big plus for ImageFM. “We are broadcasting in real time; two seconds after it’s performed, it’s over the Internet. Fortunately, the StudioLive has been very reliable.”

Brewer liked the StudioLive 16.4.2 so much he invested in a StudioLive 24.4.2 as well. “I was getting by with 16 channels but had to make compromises,” he notes. “For example, instead of running keyboards in stereo, I had to run in mono. To do things the way I wanted to, I needed at least 18 to 20 channels. The StudioLive 24.4.2 is also used in my recording business, and when I have guitarists who want to stack a lot of tracks, I don’t have to compromise as much with the larger board.

“I also like the expanded gating on the 24-channel mixer,” he continues. “It is a lot more adjustable, and I need that because I’m mixing live bands in a 22 by 22-foot space. With a 5-piece band, there’s a lot of bleed-through, so I appreciate the extra gate controls, such as Key Filter and Key Listen. And the parametric EQ on the 24.4.2 is really good; it’s better suited for my work than the semi-parametric EQ on the StudioLive 16.4.2. But I still like the 16-channel board a lot; it’s my choice for smaller bands, such as 3-piece groups. I have plenty of use for both boards; mixers get a lot of hard use here, between broadcasting and all of my other work.”

Brewer records his broadcasts and makes extra money producing live recordings for some of the bands and other musical clients, in addition to his regular recording business. He likes to track with PreSonus Capture because it’s so simple and easy to use. Then he edits in Studio One Pro, running on his new super-fast i7 tower PC with Windows Professional 32-bit and 4 GB of RAM. “I tried Audition 3,” he comments, “but I had too many glitches. I like Studio One because it’s not as dense as Nuendo or ‘Slow Tools.’ I like the way the effects racks open with one click. It’s a lot more convenient than with other DAWs. The PreSonus plug-ins are awesome—even compared to big-name premium plug-ins, which I have and use regularly.”

Recently, Brewer recorded the latest Moeraes Fate (formerly Dame) album, and he is currently using Studio One Pro to mix Conflicted’s new prog-metal album, which he engineered and recorded. Brewer predicts that the Conflicted album will be very big in North America, and he is thrilled that one song, “Victor-Victoria,” will be in the game Rock Band 3 (available for international download just before Christmas 2010).

And now, we suggest that you direct your browser to ImageFM and enjoy some of the great young talent in Ontario!