Born of Osiris’ Lee McKinney is Selling an Axe FX II Patch for $20
The news that Born of Osiris guitarist Lee McKinney has made his “signature tone” available for purchase had the metalwebs ablaze with debate last night. You can purchase his patch for the Axe FX II — for those non gear-heads reading this, that’s a highly customizable digital amp that’s all the rage these days — at producer Joey Sturgis’ Big Cartel page for the price of 20 smackers, or three beers at an NYC bar. Sturgis produced Born of Osiris’ most recent album Tomorrow We Die Alive and presumably had a significant hand in crafting the tone. Lambgoat was the first to pick up on the story.
So, what do you think — is the idea of selling amp tone brilliant or is it sacrilege?
Just two years ago Devin Townsend wrote a Rigged piece for MetalSucks in which he detailed his live setup piece by piece. In that write-up he supplied his Axe FX II patches completely free for anyone to download, not because we asked him to but because he figured it’d be a cool and useful thing part of his rig rundown. You can still download them right here.
So let’s get this straight. Lee McKinney’s tone: $20. Devin Townsend’s tone, detailed EQ settings and entire signal chain map: free.
I’m not necessarily against McKinney selling his tone… I’m not sure what I think just yet. I just wanted to point out the potential paradox involved in doing such a thing, which I’ll detail in a moment.
Selling amp settings does seem a bit bizarre in and of itself and it’s certainly a unique concept to the digital era. Whereas in the past you could just look at a guy’s amp to see how his knobs were set, that’s just not possible with an Axe FX; the particular make/model of amp that’s being simulated, the way the tone controls and other virtual “knobs” are set on that amp, the microphone type, microphone placement, virtual cabinet type, additional EQ and so on and so forth are all factors that go into an Axe FX II preset. McKinney [presumably] spent hours getting it just right, and he’s got a unique product to sell. It’s not unlike selling a tablature, in some ways: he’s saying, “Here, this is exactly how you get this tone and how you play this song. Do with it what you please.” And he’s smart enough to know that just because 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 Born of Osiris fans download this patch they’re not going to suddenly be as popular as Born of Osiris, or even become popular at all. He knows that the real magic is in the songwriting and the fingers. I admire the kid’s tenacity.
Meanwhile some folks in the metalsphere are all up in arms about this, saying $20 is highway robbery, and claiming that the idea of selling presets is ridiculous. I understand this mentality also. It’s a friggin’ amp preset that anyone can dial in. It’s not worth twenty fucking bucks. A large segment of guitar players are against the idea of digital amp modelers entirely, arguing they’re fake, they don’t sound organic, they don’t even sound good, and so on and so forth. But my sense of it is that even some people who support amp modelers like the Axe FX II aren’t in favor of selling presets.
But here’s the thing: if people are paying $20 for something — anything at all — then that thing is indeed worth $20. Value is determined by the buyer, not the seller, as we’ve learned over the past 15 years as we’ve watched the price of recorded music plummet. On the other hand if no one is buying McKinney’s preset as it’s priced right now at $20… well then, it ain’t worth twenty bucks. The fact that Devin Townsend gives his patches away for free also throws a wrench into the whole thing. And, of course, these patches will be extremely easy to pirate. But so are regular audio files, and people still pay for those anyway.
I could actually see a cottage industry developing around Axe FX II presets. I wonder how come no one has tried to do this yet with famous musicians on a mass scale? Toontrack is doing something similar with products like the Andy Sneap EZ Mix pack, the Metal Gods guitar pack (featuring tone by Misha Mansoor, John Petrucci and more), the Metal! EZX pack and so on and so forth. But those products seem more specifically geared towards recording and mixing than playing.
One also has to question Joey Sturgis’ role in this endeavor. The guy is a very in-demand producer for a certain kind of metal, and the most popular Google searches for phrases starting with his name are “Joey Sturgis drum samples” and “Joey Sturgis bass tone.” Clearly people want to know how to sound like the guy. By selling this particular preset as “Lee McKinney’s tone” Sturgis reaches the more casual Born of Osiris fans who might not know his name. Smart. I wonder how they’re splitting the profits?
Forgive my unorganized thoughts on this matter. As I stated at the top, I’m not really sure what I think of it yet… but I’m inclined to say F it, if the guy wants to sell something for $20 and people are willing to buy it for $20 then so be it, more power to him. Crazier things in history have been bought and sold.
Gear Gods Editor in Chief Chris Alfano has some interested thoughts on the matter, too, including some issues I haven’t covered here. Check it out.