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A variety of thoughts from EQ Studios very own John Hamilton.

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February has been an interesting and busy month at EQ Studios.
We finished mixing Sony writer Peter Conway's tracks for Newton Faulkner - everyone at Sony very happy.
Mahattan Clique's (and Grammy winner) Phil Larsen was in producing brand-new girl group The Neons (watch out for them).
JNet's Mike Segal brought a brilliant new singer Charlotte Peters singing original material.
Others in included Rasheed, Phil Ryan, Ken Smith, Ray Glastonbury and Mike Maclachlan. (Mike has a cut, produced by EQS, in a new German feature film.
 
Finally, on a personal/musical note, John's daughter Alice is doing a showcase with the house band at The Original Songwriters on Wednesday 17th March. It will be Alice's first gig with a live band and she is most excited. The venue is FYM FYG Bar, 231 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 0EL.
Alice has decided to call herself 'Miss Practice'. Music starts at 8.30, and Alice and John would be thrilled if you could come along and cheer her on.  

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The last four weeks have been very busy at the studio. Earlier this week, we rolled out our first Two-Day Studio Training Course for final year Music/Music Tech students, and, judging by initial feedback, it has been a great success.

Jazz virtuoso Brian Dee has got three cuts (demoed by us) on a new album by a new up and coming (Michael Buble style) artist managed by the legendary Tony Hiller.

Phil Ryan completed work on a beautiful ballad for Andrea Bocelli.

Robin Willow, a tremendously gifted writer, has started work on am album project which will be orchestrated and performed by a choir in the New Year. (Enter Logic 9's array of sound plug-ins!)

Anne Hamilton (ShamRock) has begun an album of devotional music which will run into Spring of 2010.

Juliet Lawson, another brilliant writer was in putting the finishing touches to her latest album, recorded by us and produced and arranged by yours truly.

Finally, may I wish all my clients a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year in 2010

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Susan Germaney's Peace is Possible, (sung by me) reached the semi-finals of the UK Song Contest this year and has now been chosen by a Dutch organisation called World Peace is Possible as their theme tune.
John Wayre, a regular client, has had several pieces (produced by us) accepted by TV/Film music suppliers Crucial Music and Pump Audio.
We produced King Coal is Dead for Ray Glastonbury  and now a famous Welsh male-voice choir is rehearsing it for public performance in the near future. (What a buzz hearing your song performed like that! - Many congratulations, Ray.)
Clare Harding, who specialises in country style music has won and been a finalist in several major song contests with our demo productions.
Callum Hendry's You're an Angel reached no.1 in the Hitzone Charts.
Wes Cardy has had several songs, demoed by us, recorded by Daniel O'Donnell.

This blog is about the importance of being pro-active and thinking 'out of the box' in getting your music heard. Experience has shown me that many writers look on the production of the demo as the major moment in that song's life. They have thought about it, nurtured it, changed a few lines, brought the chorus in earlier etc. Then they come into the studio and a little later (3 hours - 3 days - both true) they emerge into the night with a personalised CD clutched in their hot little mitts. Job done? Many appear to think so, perhaps they mail-out a few copies (unsolicited) to the latest 'hot' act and wait . . .and wait. 

The real major moment in your song's life is - having it performed in public, on TV, radio, stage. I know it can be a great emotional rush when your song is produced in the studio, but I can tell from experience (regrettably not many!) that hearing it on the radio, seeing it performed on TV or stage, eclipses the recording experience by a country mile. And, when the PRS/MCPS statement of earnings arrives to say that £xxx has been deposited in your bank account courtesy of same song - well, that's pretty good as well!

The model of selling songs has changed, hence the individual approaches of the folks above. Only Wes Cardy's represents the old model. Increasingly, performers are surrounded by  teams of producers, writers, publishers, labels and management, making our access to same performers very restrictive. How do we get round this? Well, perhaps you are  talented enough to  perform your own material, but, that failing, why not look around and find an unsigned artist who needs material, and then you effectively become one of his/her inner circle of creativity? Try Songlink International whose magazine is crammed with performers looking for original material.

We don't lose our ability to write - I think I'm writing some of my best stuff now, and I've been at it for a few years! But what I've picked up from so many clients over the years is that if they don't believe they can get their song performed and listened to, they become demotivated and lose interest in something that they are actually good at and once were passionate about. When the great lyricist Sammy Cahn was asked which came first, the melody or the lyric, he famously replied -'the phone call!'. Well, these days the phone doesn't ring much except for a select few, so what are you going to do to make your songs happen? I don't have many answers, but in my position as a studio owner, I at least can share some of the things that my more persistent clients have done to keep their songs 'out there', and, just as important, keep themselves motivated and inspired to keep writing.

If you would like to share your thoughts on the above, log on and get writing. I'm sure other writers would appreciate your views and, in turn, might feel inspired to make their own comments. Keep on keeping on!.

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Another interesting week at the coalface. Working with two clients, Ben Francis (my very talented web-site designer) and Rasheed Oganlaru. Ben's song, a power ballad Stay Forever was almost complete before I went on holiday, so this was a tidy-up, a little fairydust and mixing. Fairydust was sprinkled in the shape of strings, percussion and some insane Russian choir in the bridge. Mixing went well and Ben marched into the night clutching his treasure. The CD remained in his briefcase.He posted it on his Facebook (Benedict Francis) and I have also posted it in mine (John Hamilton).

 

Btw, if you're not my Facebook friend yet, feel free to apply. There have been some nice responses already from the posting, both as to the quality of the song and also the singing - which happens to be my daughter Alice. I must say that, over the years, I have been very fortunate in my choice of session singers - Anne Hamilton, Ffion Wilkins and now Alice.

 

Rasheed's song is a combination of dark melancholy and Stevie Wonder funk (as described by Rasheed!). I just think it's a brilliant piece. The chords are a little off the mainstream, which always interests my jaded fingers, and I had a great time programming drums and bass (Tamla style where I could pretend to be James Jamerson - legendary Motown bassist) Stevie type keyboards (in your dreams, Jock!), some funky rhythm guitar, strings and percussion. Rasheed recorded the vocals in the control room (to keep it real) and did a great job. He has a vocal style reminiscent of the late, great Billy Eckstine (YouTube him, children) but with a totally modern stylistic take.

 

To followers of my blogs, you might have spotted that Rasheed is a bit of a polymath, in that he was in the studio last week laying down voice-overs in his capacity as a life-coach. So not only does he inspire me with his great music, he can sort out my meaning of life issues when we have a coffee break - and the clock keeps running! - just kidding. . .really.

 

A propos nothing, I bought the remastered Beatles Abbey Road and Revolver (my two faves) and while appreciating them, the experience was somewhat surreal. I am so familiar with these two albums that it was almost disconcerting to hear the fine detail that the mastering revealed. I suppose that the total sound amalgamation of the originals was the initial hook that excited me, and now to hear the tracks, analysed so forensically, is slightly weird. I'm glad I bought them, and helped shore-up EMI's dwindling fortunes, but for the above reasons, the jury is still out on this.

 

Tonight (Sat) and tomorrow I am gigging with my brilliant function band Tuxedo. I find the therapy of delivering a song in three minutes to a crowd of crazy dancers an essential counterpoint to the (equally enjoyable) process of bringing a song into the world in the more time consuming environment of the studio.

 

I'm already drafting out my next blog which is really at the heart of everything I do. Songwriting and the mystery of the creative process. I would really like to open a dialogue with you on this, because I think shared challenges and responses will be of great mutual benefit. Watch this space.

 

John H

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I had a very interesting voice-over session yesterday. Two fascinating people  (Life coach Rasheed Ogunlaru  and clinical hypnotherapist Diana Powley) who are writing a book together about 'healing' for both healers and clients, were in recording the CD that will accompany the book. 

In a loosely structured conversation, they shared their backgrounds, how they came into their respective professions and offerred invaluable advice that would help both healers and their patients. I won't pre-empt the book/CD by going too deeply into the content of their conversation, but several pointers came up that I think do have a resonance for most of us.

There comes a time for all of us when we are confronted by crisis. It could be redundancy, a relationship break-up, bereavement, bankruptcy - some event with the potential to impact negatively on the way we see ourselves. Thoughts of worthlesness, regret, fear etc are totally understandable in these  circumstances. What Rasheed and Diana pointed out is that how we actually define ourselves can be the key as to how  we respond to these 'crises'.   So if you define yourself by your work, and then lose your job, you may feel a loss of identity. Similarly if you are in a relationship that comes to an end, then losing your 'other half' may leave you feeling 'half-formed'. Or if you lose all your money, the inability to have the experiences and possessions that you are used to, may engender a loss of self-worth.
As Rasheed and Diana point out, it is most unlikely, as you journey through life, that you won't be presented with one or more of these crises. It is quite natural to feel such emotions at these critical moments. The issue becomes - do these emotions now take you over and dictate things, or, do you simply ignore them and act as jeux blackjack en ligne if you are immune? The key to this does come down to self-identity. Yes, you are (say) someone who loves his job, his partner, possessions etc, but that is not all you are. Job. partners, children, possessions etc - these are things that are part of your life - that's all. Precious, yes, important, yes but not the whole story. And that, I believe is the key to our emotional survival and growth. If you lose someone/something , take your time to acknowledge their value, recognise the loss - let friends help - but ultimately you must move on. The only option is to relive the pain over and over.
I hope this blog hasn't been too hippy or trippy, but as you can see, the stuff that Rasheed and Diana discussed yesterday really impacted on me.

Here's a final thought:
Learn from the past but don't be ruled by it; prepare for the future, but don't be afraid of it; Live in the now, it's all we ever have.

More info: Rasheed: www.rasaru.com and Diana: www.dunehypnotherapy.co.uk.

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Got an interesting week ahead, but first I must tell you about a little garden party I attended last night (Sun 16th). It was held in a garden in West Hampsted and hosted by the renowned pop music journalist and author, Charles Shaar Murray. The day had started a little flat, for it was the 5th anniversary of the passing of my Mum, and, being me, I just felt a little disconnected from everything. Then my daughter Alice called, and we ended up having a stroll in the sunshine in Kenwood – what a beautiful place – it defies depression! There, we bumped into Phil Ryan (a client and brilliant singer/songwriter) and he invited us to Charlie’s ‘do’ that evening.

I always think that the memorable events in our lives are never planned – you just need to be open to what occurs and then go with the flow. Earlier in the day I was reading the ‘Music’ section of the Sunday Times and in it was an article about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. It reported that The Who’s headline act had been ‘interrupted by Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman venting his fury about the imprisonment of the White Panther John Sinclair.’

 Alice and I rolled up to Charlie’s, said hello to the guests, most of whose names I promptly forgot (as you do), and then was introduced to an elderly American guy, very distinctive appearance with a long white beard. ‘John’, says Charlie, ‘this is John Sinclair.’ They say that there are no such things as coincidence, but I never stop relishing the frison as small particles of your life seem to slot together to create a sense of (quite random) structure. The evening was indeed, rather magical. John (for it was he) recited some poetry while Phil and Charlie (on slide) accompanied, Phil sang a few of his songs, Peter Conway (another big talent) sang some of his songs to great acclaim, and as the fire crackled in the corner of the garden, Alice machine a sous sang ‘The Rose’ and a song of Phil’s ‘I Believe in You’ and, as she does, stopped the traffic.

You can’t legislate for evenings like this, simply enjoy them and let the after-touch linger.

This week promises to be fun: Tomorrow I have life-coach/singer songwriter Rasheed who is coming in to do a new song, Ben Francis (my talented slot machines web-designer, but also a great songwriter) is producing Alice singing one of his ballads. Later in the week, Barry Dawes is coming in to do more work on his second Gospel Album and finally, Mike McLachlan, yet another talented writer, is doing the final mix on (what I think is) his most commercial track to date.

I’m off to Scotland on Thursday 27th for ten days break and a general recharge, catching up on , cycling, writing, walking, cooking, reading and sampling more alcohol than is good for me – but hey, as they say, moderation in all things – including moderation.

I’d love to hear if you have any ‘coincidences’ you can share with the EQ community.

Finally, for any clients who are looking for 'open mike' opportunities, a new one has opened at The Island, College Road, Kensal Green, West London (near the studio) every Wednesday evening. So if you want to perform a song, original or cover, just turn up and ask for Wade and he'll try to fit you in. The venue is usually pretty crowded, a little pricey (The Jock speaketh), but the atmosphere is good and the crowd very friendly and receptive. I'm usually there, so, turn up and I'll stand you a pint!

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I paid a visit (long overdue) to The Original Songwriters showcase evening on 4/8 - an event that takes place every Tuesday at the FYMFYG Bar near Bethnal Green Tube Station. As always the evening is organised by the redoubtable force of nature (aka Pam Robbins) who has been running it for the past seventeen years or so.

I first got to know about TOS in about 1997 when I was managing Lucie Kaz, a talented singer from Hertfordshire. At that time we decided that she needed a live outlet for her performing and, after a bit of searching around, we discovered TOS. It was being held at The Orange (West 14) in Kensington in these days, and after appearing a few times there. Lucie became a firm favourite with the regulars (even having the honour of being selected to perform at the TOS Xmas party in 1998). TOS has been at its new location in East London for a few years now, but only seems to have grown in stature with the change of address.

I was particularly taken by the attention and respect that the audiences gave to each performer, something which couldn't be said for the crowds that used to attend the Kensington gig, where they seemed to see the evening as a social night out where they could compete in loud conversation with what was occurring on stage. Back then a House Band was in attendance every week, but now, I understand, only the first week of every month features the House Band as accompaniment for the artistes, and the remaining weeks are given over to self-contained individual acts or bands.

The night I attended, I took along my daughter Alice Hamilton who is a singer (she already does regular sessions for clients at EQ Studios) and, now that she is writing and recording original material (mainly co-writes with me) wants to find a sympathetic venue where she can perform. We both got a great welcome from Pam at the door (me, very flattered that she remembered me) and then went in to the main room - lots of space and a reasonably sized stage.

The evening is mc'd by Krysten Cummings who started proceedings by singing a couple of her own songs accompanying herself on guitar. Krysten is a brilliant singer, bang-on intonation with a marvellous sense of light and shade. When she sings, she invites you into her world and makes you the richer for the experience. You can guess I liked her! Alice likewise was blown away.

During the course of the evening, Krysten was always sensisive and sympathetic to the acts as she introduced them - always 'larging them up' and giving out little bits of information for us to find out more about them. There isn't space here to describe each act, but two in particular stood out. Matt Heanes, a brilliant soul singer did a great set winding up with his tribute to Marvin Gaye, 'What's Going On'.

The last act Ian Hornal, was well worth the wait. He held the audience spellbound as he sang his own songs accompanying himself on guitar. For his final piece he invited two members of 'The Feeling' on to the stage and we were treated to some harmonies that evoked the best of Crosby Stills and Nash.

Finally, I would highly recommend The Original Songwriters to any writer who wishes to give their songs a live outing -either by their singing them, or getting someone else to perform.

The Original Songwriters

Venue:
FYMFYG Bar, 231 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 0EL

Contact:
Pam Robbins, (07956 533481) pam@showcaselondon.co.uk

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Good, creative week.

Did final mix on David Stark's (Songlink) new song 'Remember', which a beautiful Beatles tribute song. Great fun working with David, as not only is he talented musician/composer, he is a fount of (often unrepeatable) tales of the music business.

Also winding up a new album with the exceptionally gifted singer/songwriter Juliet Lawson. Highly recommend that you give her a listen when the album is out - watch this space!

As many of my friends and clients know, I play guitar with London function band Tuxedo. We did a wedding in Farnham, Surrey on bank holiday Monday - the sun shone, the bride was radiant, and we played pretty well. The musicians are so gifted - James (our leader) an exceptional keyboard player, Curtis (bass) an Jim (drums), a brilliant rhythm section, and our beautiful, mad but gifted singer, Ffion. They are such a pleasure for me to play with.

A bit of celeb on Thursday when Kate Silverton from BBC Morning News came in to do a voice-over on behalf of Clarks' Shoes. She was very professional and friendly, not to mention rather gorgeous.

Last night I went to Winchester to socialise with my web-designer Ben Francis. Said thanks for the Kate gig (see above) as Clarks located me on a Google search - so the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) seems to be doing its job.

Next week I'm going to a launch party (organised by my writing partner Kelly Lyne) for Filament - an erotic magazine for women. What a tough life!

Next night I'm taking daughter Alice to see Mama Mia to celebrate her 20th birthday, then finally, on Wed to see a band called 6 Toes - check them out on U-Tube - they are excellent.

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I have had this book for several years now, but recently, inspired by a recent burst of creativity at the behest of daughter Alice and several talented clients, I have revisited its pages. The premise is pretty straight-forward. Zollo interviews some of the most prominent songwriters of the past 50 years - Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Carole King, Sammy Cahn, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and many more (these just happen to be my favourites!) and asks them about their particular views on the subject of songwriting.

This can ???????????? ????????? ???????? cover the mechanics of musical and lyrical structure, discipline (coping with the 'that's good enough for rock' attitude), spiritual empathy (am I really the conduit for a greater intelligence, or did I have too many glasses of red last night?), motivation and inspiration, words first or music? ('The phone call' - Sammy Cahn), and many other random but related angles.

As someone who has always enjoyed and flourished in the company of others, I personally find writing reveals a curious anomaly in my own psychological make-up - that is I love the totally self-absorbing process that is songwriting. where I can retreat into my imagination and find an inspiration that eventually appears in she shape of a completed song. The best of fun!

I'd be curious if any of my blog readers have any songwriting insights they would like to share. I'll be happy to post them up as they come in.

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As part of our service to singers, performers and songwriters, we will draw your attention (weekly if John isn't too swamped!) to ways of getting your music 'out there' and making money. Every April and October, John gets a modest royalty cheque from PRS and that always spurs him on to keep writing. A regular client, John Wayre has really tapped into the concept of getting his material on to TV and Movies, and, to that end, regularly sends his songs and instrumentals to Pump Audio and kasyno Crucial Music. Basically these organisations try to place your material on to a TV show or a Movie and, where succesful, they keep a slice (usually 50%), but you retain copyright. Pump, I understand, are owned by the Getty Picture Library, and they can get you exposure via their film stock where music might be required. Have a look.
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Music Maker magazine are having a songwriters competition which is totally free to enter. For more details go to www.songwriter-showcase.co.uk. My own view on competions like this is that they are just another way of keeping you focussed on your aims as a songwriter - that is to have your 'voice' heard and (hopefully) make some money out of it. Yup, it would be great if Robbie (or the next Robbie!) made an album of your songs, but even if that isn't happening, it is important to keep a positive mind-set. That only can come by your keeping writing and, equally important, getting your songs 'out there'. There is no limit, in these technological times, to the ways you can spread your material; post it on U-Tube, MySpace, check-out competitions and enter  -  someone's got to win! Look at mags like Songlink - they tell you who's looking for stuff. If you can, network yourself and your material. BACs have regular 'surgeries' where a team of experts from the industry will listen to and evaluate your material. Don't be shy, the worst they can say is they 'don't like it'! When we had the ShamRock single Tell Me Ma out ten years ago, not one major radio station would play it. The music press hated it for its 'cheesiness'. They thought it was a joke. After the barrage of criticism, I started to hate it (just kidding)! But guess what? My initial instincts that if the public heard it we would have a hit were borne out. It eventually sold 130,000 units and on compilations, 3m. I guess what's at the root of this blog is - believe in yourself, persist (repeat persist) and, if you've got a bit of talent, stay the course and never quit, you might just get a result. Remember, someone has got to win this competition!
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When potential clients are checking out different studios, it is quite natural that the subject of price will be high up their list of considerations. You can look at EQ Studios price (currently £40.00 per hour) and then see another facility charging  £30.00 per hour and think, 'This is a no-brainer. I'll go for the cheaper one'. Ok,  if the product on offer is (say) a Mars Bar, and one shop is charging 50p and the one next door, 40p, all other things being equal, you go for the 40p tooth decay.

But the key phrase is all other things being equal, and I would suggest that, when you are checking out different studios,  the following might also be worth taking into consideration:

Sound Quality: Check our equipment list. It is high-end professional, and when you listen to the samples on our Portfolio page, you'll see what we mean.

Efficiency: If EQ Studios at £40.00 ph can do the job twice as fast as the £30.00 option, we now become, pound for pound. better value.  And we can work very fast, especially when the client is on a tight budget.

Our Reputation: Have a glance at our Testimonials page and you will see that EQ Studios come highly recommended by a broad band of clients, ranging from Songlink International, singers, songwriters, composers, trainers, voice-over artistes, publishers and producers. We didn't print these testimonials to boast, but more to reassure you that, if we can do a good job for these clients, we should be able to help you.

Pricing Flexibility:  We are aware that these are testing times financially, and if you go to our Services page, you will see the special deals that we have on offer.

Facilities: EQ Studios is a customised Recording Facility set in a purpose-built suite in West London. As well as a spacious, air-conditioned Control Room, we have an acoustically treated Live Room, as well as a large Recreational area where you can chill-out with a nice cup of tea!

Atmosphere: Check the Testimonials page again, and you will get a picture of clients who return again and again to EQ Studios, not just for great sounding, good value productions, but because we manage to combine artistic creativity and achievment in an efficient, friendly and stress-free  environment.  We want your visit to our facility to reward you with the results you always dream about. Whether you are an established professional or a start-up enthusiast, we will give you our total undivided attention in our efforts to shape your dream. Oh, and it's fun, too!

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Getting your music 'out there' is, in some ways, easier now than it used to be. In the past you had to get past the 'gatekeepers' of the record companies and publishers - 'send your stuff in, we'll listen to it, honest!' - and if you weren't networked in the industry, that was it, unless you got lucky. Now there is a sea change, the record industry is shrinking with falling sales caused in the main by copying and illegal downloads, but music has become invigorated by individual websites and the rise of sites like MySpace and YouTube, where anyone can expose their talent to a truly global market.

You can see/hear on our 'Portfolio' page how we have taken advantage of the Internet to let you here samples of our own work. So (theoretically!) you can listen to these samples, read the testimonials, check your bank balance and book a session with us! 

Recently some of our clients have been utilising internet sites like Crucial Music and Pump Audio (see John Wayre's testimonial) to get their material in to Movies and TV without losing the publishing rights.

The last word on this blog entry is have a look at David Stark's Songlink where, for a modest subscription, you will be given details of artists who are looking for songs right now. We have several clients who are subscribers to Songlink and they speak very highly of it as a means of getting cuts on  their material.

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In December 2008, we purchased the latest 8-core Apple Mac Pro running Logic 8.  Having been working wioth Logic 6 up until then, we were initially frustrated by the new set up - almost TOO MANY options!!  As we became familiar with it's functions and enormous potential, we became more and more excited.

With the new sound libraries that we can access via Apple and Logic, plus the Mac's capacity to shoulder the endless variety of plugins, the sounds emanating from the studio are truly breathtaking!

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This is the first ever blog I've done, so I'll start by saying what a great job TheMediaSet has done in re-designing my web-site. It is still a work-in-progress, with new music samples of different categories of music still to be installed, but we are underway and I'm really excited. I'll be back!
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