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Written by Mike Harmon
We’ve all been there. The drummer overslept, the guitarist is late, and the bass player has to leave early to hang out with his girlfriend. None of us enjoy being in this kind of a situation, and that is why having a planned out recording schedule can help improve session flow and save you time (and money). Assuming your band is well rehearsed and prepared for their recording session, there are several steps you will want to take to prevent the session from coming to a screeching halt. The key factor to preparing for a productive recording session is a Session Schedule.
In an interview with Dr. Susan Rogers (Producer/Engineer; Barenaked Ladies, Prince), we learn about the importance of having a plan when entering the studio.
IndieAmbassador.com: When starting a new recording project, what steps can an artist take prior to the first session to familiarize the engineer with their music, instrumentation, and sound?
Susan Rogers: Artists should discuss the upcoming work with their past and future works in mind because in the fullness of time, every recording contributes to your body of work. Discuss some of your past recordings with your producer and engineer to point out what you like and dislike about them. Distinguish between how you regard the material, the performances, the sounds, and the mixes. In this way you begin describing the parameters of your new work — what it will and won’t include. Play other artists’ recordings for your producer and engineer to show them what musical and sonic elements you value. It is very important that everyone understands what is meant by “massive” or “sick” or “tight” or “compressed” or “distorted” so that you have as singular a goal as possible before starting. Describe the vision for the project, even including an aesthetic idea for the artwork. This can help the producer understand the project’s overall tone (i.e., powerful, confident, antagonistic, rebellious, brooding genius, sensitive soul, fun guys, angry young men, etc.). The band should do this collectively and not each corral the engineer and producer to describe an individual vision.
Decide whether you want your recording to be 100% reproducible on stage in a live setting, or whether the recording will stand alone. In the latter case, discuss whether the recording can include outside musicians or not. If a harp, a harmonium, or tablas will be used, for example, will you hire a studio musician or play these from samples?
Pre-production is fun because the pressure is light, costs are minimal, and everything is possible. This is the stage where ideas should flow without self-consciousness or hesitation. The producer who encourages ideas from artists is the one who is most likely to have his own ideas respected. The producer must listen very carefully at this stage to identify each player’s performance characteristics and the band’s working dynamic. Who keeps great time?; Who is continually revising parts?; Who works the most tirelessly?; Who is always on the phone during breaks?; Who gets easily frustrated?
The engineer with the band and producer discusses the purchase of new strings and drumheads; the engineer may prefer certain brands. If guitars need to be intonated or if amps need to be retubed, this is discussed and done in advance. Piano tuning is arranged with the studio and included in the budget. Will you need to hire a drum tuner? Discuss this together.
IA: Assuming you’re going to be recording several instruments (drums, guitar, bass, keys, vocals) in one session, how much time should be allotted for setup, and should all of the players be present for this stage?
SR: The traditional paradigm allotted at least half a day (6-8 hours) for set up. With today’s smaller budgets this is not always possible. The engineer visits the studio in advance and plots out the lay out and mic selection with the assistant, minimizing set up time. Drums take the longest so the drummer should arrive earlier than the others. It is vitally important to tune the drum set carefully prior to getting sounds. Hire a drum tuner if the project’s drummer is not a master of this technique. The producer monitors set up time by making sure the engineer has the conditions he needs (e.g., don’t let the guitar player be tweaking his amp at full volume while the engineer is getting drum sounds). Vocalists can take advantage of this time to rest or prepare because they will be needed later in the day. Engineers and assistants know not to play another artist’s work during set up unless it is expressly for the purpose of listening to a specific sound. Producers know to keep the band out of the control room so that the engineer can work in peace.
IA: Assuming the band would like to overdub additional instruments, how important is it to abide by a strict timeline that will ensure you’re not spending too much time on any given part?
SR: The timeline of an album depends on the budget and available studio time. It is the producer’s responsibility to manage both. Drums, vocals, and mixing are all critical stages that suffer the most from being rushed. If time must be cut from a project, try to avoid shortchanging any of these.
Typically, parts are worked out “offstage” before bringing a player up to bat. The engineer should be prepared to give players a 2-mix sound file that they can use to rehearse their parts offstage. Producers and other band members should give a player enough time to work out a part privately. The player must recognize that just because he spent time working out a part doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t be changed. Smart players come up with ideas and run them past other members before getting too committed to them. Smart band members and producers are tactful when critiquing a part and consider the work that went into it. If you don’t think the part works,say WHY. How does it conflict with the overall goal of the track or the project?
In the early stages of a project there is enough to do that at any given time, you can do an overdub pretty quickly. In between instrumental parts, keep the vocalist on standby so that you can always spend an hour or two on vocals. Having the vocals spread out over many sessions rather than all in one or two days is vital to the singer’s strength and psyche.
IA: If a musician is struggling while recording a particular part, when is it appropriate to shift concentration onto other players or parts still needing to be recorded?
SR: Producers must understand the nature of the struggle. Is it a performance issue or an ideas issue? If the former, producers must ask gauge the distance in hours between where you are at this moment and where you need to be. We say to players, “We are hours away from getting this” as well as, “We are nearly there.” If the producer estimates that progress is being made and the part will be done in minutes or an hour, it is best to keep going. More than an hour away means that you could do a vocal in that time so send the player to another room to work out the part and move on. If it is a drum track on a basics session, the same 1-hour rule applies. Move on to another song and work out the part at the end of the day.
IA: How important is it to factor in time for lunch/dinner breaks, as well as short breaks to give the musicians and engineer a rest?
SR: A fact of studio life is that studio time is very expensive; so are the services of a producer and engineer. The latter two should expect to work with minimal breaks throughout a day that is at least 12 hours long, in most cases. Musicians should work as long as they are being productive. Creative people must rely on craft when art fails them, which it will most of the time. In other words, when your ideas run dry, there are still things you can do that take craftsmanship alone, such as editing, playing an over-learned part, planning for the next day, etc. Make the most of every minute in the studio because somewhere out there, your competition is….
That said, being creative means being on “output” and we simply cannot be on output all the time. Artists need time to soak in life — to be on “input” — so that we have something to create with. If everyone is mentally and physically exhausted, do not record. Use the next few hours to go to the movies or go bowling or listen to music or read or take in life. Do not use the time to make phone calls or pay bills or run errands. Take time to be on input.
IA: As the band completes the recording stage, how can they work with their engineer to prepare a timeline for the mixing and mastering stages of the record?
SR: For mixing, figure on a minimum of 8-hours per track. When negotiating with a mixer, decide if he/she is to be paid per track or hourly. If per track (the better way), discuss how many recalls and how much time should reasonably be spent for this price. It is very important that the band and producer reach a consensus on mixes and convey their thoughts to the mixer through one spokesperson (usually the producer). It does not work to have many people each giving the mixer a different idea. During mixing, the band should be preparing photos, artwork, the website, and booking shows.
Given that today’s projects are often self-financed and budgets are small, the mixer typically relies on other sources of income and cannot devote his/her attention to the project on a full time basis. He or she must be prepared to give the band a realistic timeline to complete the mixes and then stick to it. Any major delays should automatically grant the band the right to choose another mixer.
The engineer and producer typically choose the mastering engineer and a mastering date is booked once the mixes are nearing completion.
IA: Are there any other important factors to keep in mind while planning a Recording Timeline for an upcoming recording project?
SR: Pay your bills, call your mom, water your plants, and generally plan to move the world out of your way as you enter a recording project. Significant others should be on alert that your body and mind will be elsewhere for several weeks.
Under the traditional paradigm, a record took approximately 700 hours on average from start to finish. That’s roughly 10 weeks of 12-hour days, 6 days a week. Eight weeks for tracking and overdubs and two weeks for mixing. (Many great records were made in far less time; this is just an average.)
Mixing an album will still take around 150 hours, or twelve 12-hour days. Plan on another 150 hours for tracking and overdubs. Many of these hours can be spent working in a project studio. The more you do in preproduction, the fewer hours this will take but be careful not to over-learn the record in preproduction. The danger is that the recording will sound as though you are just going through the motions and the end result will be stale. Leave enough time to be creative in the studio.
IA: Thanks Susan!
Dr. Susan Rogers got her start in the record-making business in 1978 as a Studio Maintenance engineer. Throughout her career she has served several roles as an Engineer and Producer, engineering Prince’s “Purple Rain” and producing Barenaked Ladies’ “Stunt,” to name a few. Susan currently teaches classes in the Music Production & Engineering department at Berklee College of Music, and is a partner in the Boston-based, non-profit recording facilityThe Record Company, offering youth classes in recording technologies. She has also earned her PhD from McGill University in Experimental Psychology.
(UPDATED) The iPhone 4S is flying off the shelves, in part because of Siri, the voice app that answers questions, schedules appointments and replys to texts. But Siri will also works with music. Soon, when connected with music services like Shazam and Spotify (as in this integration with task manager Remember The Milk), Siri could revolutionize music. "Most people don't care about individual apps - they care about the problems they solve...," wrote Kyle Bylin in Billboard, "(Siri) removes even thinking about apps from the equation - and makes them work more like iPhone features than pieces of software." Until that happens, we're all stuck just talking to Siri, unless you're Jonathan Mann who recorded a very funny duet with her... it is it, with it...
So… you want to be in the music business? There are a lot of you out there. I know this because every time we put out a call for interns or jobs at Cyber PR®, we get over 100 resumes. As you know I love breaking things down into steps (see: http://www.MusicSuccessInNineWeeks). So, I wrote this guide for you. Once upon a time, I was just like you: dying to follow my passion and aggressively trying to land a job in the industry of my dreams. It was a humbling and, at times, humiliating exercise. So, this dear young aspiring music business mogul is for you. Interns are much needed in every facet of the industry, and most of my music industry friends (myself included) started out as unpaid interns back in their day and we leveraged our unpaid internships into paying jobs.
YOUR FIRST LESSON
TWO WORDS THAT APPLY TO EVERY MUSIC BUSINESS INTERNSHIP: NO PAY
I know you are spending / have already spent a fortune to go to college but here is the reality – 99.9% of all music business internships are unpaid. I know it does not seem fair but the truth is there are so many people looking to get started that payment is not usually offered. Therefore if making
money is on your immediate goal list, you will need to get a second job to feed your passion around music. Don’t let a little thing like money keep you from your life dream.
So now that you know you will be working for free and probably paying your college to get credit – so actually you will be paying to work – make it something you want to do!
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR AREAS OF INTEREST
Search your mind. Ask yourself what part of the music business do you want to be in? Is it working at a label, a radio station, a publicity firm, an online marketing company, in touring, or digital distribution? You may not know the answer to this question yet and that’s alright. You are not supposed to know until you get some experience in a particular area. BUT if you don’t specify what you are looking to try, the people in charge of hiring you will have
NO CLUE where you will fit or how they can fit you into their business. So having a list of general areas of interest is a necessity.
Here are two suggestions to help you get a working knowledge of what different parts of the music industry are available:
1. Peruse music business related websites like Hypebot & Music Think Tank and start reading articles and news. There are countless articles available advising musicians and marketers on how do tackle their own careers. If the articles resonate with you and seem interesting than you have found a good match.
Create a list of areas that you are interested in working in.
Music Business Categories
Major Label (i.e. Sony, Warner) – Specify a department: Promotions, Publicity, Radio, Marketing, Licensing…
Indie Label – You probably won’t need to specify departments they are small it will be all hands on deck.
Indie Artist – Remember many artists are DIY and would love the help of a capable person so working for the artist is an option as well.
Marketing Firm – There are many genres within: Regional, Online/ Digital, Tour, Specialty / Niche/LifestyleRadio Station – Specify a department: On Air, Producer, Sales, Promotions, etc.
Music Website / Blog / Music Magazine – Good for techies or writers or designers, and for aspiring journalists
More: Publicity Firm, Management Company, Booking Agency, Indie Radio Promotions, Music Venue, Concert Promoter, Production / Recording Studio, Publishing Company, Film & TV Licensing, Special Events Company.
Research as much as you can in your chosen field. Again, think like a musician. There are a million resources available for musicians that list companies that help support them, and they all have websites that clearly show what they do and who their clients are.STEP 2: MAKE YOUR DREAM LIST OF COMPANIES & ARTISTS
If you love a specific band or artist, look up who they work with and put those companies on your list because nothing is more thrilling and satisfying than working for your favorite artists and bands (I still get a thrill out of that and I’ve been working in the music industry for 19 years).
STEP 3: ROCK YOUR RESUME
Next, create the best resume you can put together. There are many websites, books, and even your career counseling office at school that can instruct you on how to do this so I’m not going to get into much detail here. But please heed this advice:
Be Concise – One page only
Be Detailed – What exactly did you do at the previous jobs that you list? These should express your talents.
Be Interesting – Include personal touches and hobbies or special interests.
Be Social - On your resume don’t forget to mention how many followers you have on Twitter, Facebook, and which music promotion social media sites you know how to use Last FM, ReverbNation, etc.
TIP: The music business tends to be informal, so you have some room to play with your resume and make your personality shine through more than you would on a “corporate” resume.
STEP 4: RECOMMENDATIONS RULE
I call the first people that have great reference letters in for interviews first!
Call an old employer, a professor, or a person in your life that can write you a spectacular recommendation letter. If you can ask the person writing the letter to mention strengths that will be cohesive with the job you want, it will really make you stand out.
STEP 5: START APPLYING
Now that you have your list, there are three places you can go:
1. Straight to the companies of your dreams that you have discovered – in these cases, they may not be advertising for interns so you need to cold call and ask first if they would consider accepting a resume (be excited and tell the truth that you
found out about their company and you would love to be considered). Then ask to whom the resume should be addressed.
3. Your college’s career office (Don’t count on them as your main resource – my best interns found me by looking online).
STEP 6: KNOW THE GOLDEN RULES
NEVER EVER send a resume without a cover letter. It’s totally unprofessional.
Include the NAME, ADDRESS, COMPANY NAME, and INDIVIDUAL’S NAME on each cover letter, and CUSTOMIZE each letter FOR THAT SPECIFIC COMPANY. Yes, this will take longer but it will also get you results. If it is not obvious call and politely ask!
Note: Out of the 1o0 resumes I received on my last round of hiring, only three people put my company name on the cover letter and wrote “Dear Ms. Hyatt”. A few wrote “Dear Sir.” Under no circumstances am I a sir (a 1.1 second Google search will tell you this).
100% of all of these letters mentioned in the first paragraph that the candidate had excellent communication skills – and I thought are you kidding
me?? If you are so excellent at communicating, how come my name was not mentioned anywhere? The letters that really annoyed me and made me never want to meet the candidate were the letters that said “Dear HR Dept” or even more gross: “Dear Hiring Committee,” enough said.
Mention some things that relate directly to the company you are applying to – the names of their artists, your passion about what it is they do, how you became interested in music, etc.
Please for the love of sweet God above DON’T write any of the following lines:
“I have excellent communication skills.”
“I have loved music for as long as I can remember…”
“I believe I am the perfect match for your company (unless you say WHY).”
“My extensive background in music…” OK, if you are under the age of 25 you DON’T have an extensive background (an extensive background is 10 years or more).
DO write the following lines (if they are not the truth of course don’t write these):
“I have been a fan of (artist’s name this company works with here) since (year/concert you attended, etc.).”
“I have always wanted to learn about (company’s specialty here) and a position at your company would provide me just that opportunity.”
“ I have (#) of friends on (Twitter/Facebook/Last FM/any other relevant social networking site here”
If you are applying to a digital marketing or PR firm highlight how many online friends you have on social networking sites, or if you use Tumblr or blog. This could be your golden ticket! Everyone loves a well-connected intern. It’s a huge asset!
“I have already had some experience with (booking, promoting, etc), and would love to expand on what I have already learned at (school, from volunteering etc.).”
STEP 7: GO OLD SCHOOL – SNAIL MAIL OR FAX!
Most of these websites give you an interface to go through and you submit your resume straight to them via the Internet. Definitely do this and IN ADDITION if you can fax or mail in your resume, I highly recommend you do this as well, it’s so old school it’s now new!
STEP 8: TREAT EACH RESUME LIKE A LOST PUPPY
Back to my 100 candidates from this past month – Two people called to follow up to see if I had received their resumes! This is mystifying.
So – a few days after you send the resume, call to follow up! This is a great way to stand out in the crowd because no one else is following up.
Don’t get an answer? try @’ing the company or executive you want to reach via Twitter or send them a message on Facebook.
Even if the website says “don’t call us, we’ll call you” you should call and politely ask if your resume was received because 100% of everyone I know in the music business is so busy that they don’t have time to always follow up with the deluge of resumes. This could be a missed opportunity to land a job!
STEP 9: KILL IT AT YOUR INTERVIEW
So, you followed my steps and you got an interview set up? Wonderful!
If you get three or four interviews, go to the one that you are least interested in FIRST to sharpen your interview skills.
TIP: ON THE DAY OF: Call first to confirm your interview. It’s professional and a great way to stand out.
Be 5 minutes early (not more), and remember the music business is casual so a three-piece suit is highly discouraged. I suggest business casual.
Bring a book or a magazine in case you have to wait. Don’t talk on you mobile phone or text while you wait!
Bring two copies of your resume, cover letter, and recommendation letter as well as some writing samples (if applicable – even if it’s a paper you wrote about the music business). This is interesting and it sets you apart again!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “What does a typical internship encompass here?” or “Do you have some specific projects I might be working on?”
With most internship interviews I do, I always have to ask: Do you have any questions? And it always leaves a weird taste in my mouth if they have none – even if you ask how many days the company is expecting interns to work and what the hours would be. At least you are establishing a dialog! I suggest preparing 2-3 in-depth questions that you have researched by looking online at this specific company and come prepared!
MORE TIPS: The smaller the company, the more work you will probably end up doing and the more experience you will gain – it’s just the nature of the beast.
If you don’t like the person that interviews you, or the vibe at the company don’t take the job – trust your instincts!
BONUS STEP 10: ALWAYS FOLLOW UP!!!
Even if you HATED the interview, ALWAYS send a thank you email to follow up (or better yet a CARD!) to say thanks for taking the time to interview me! If you really enjoyed the interview, SAY SO and WHY. And don’t be afraid to say “after meeting you I am even more convinced that I would like to work with you!” Flattery will get you (almost everywhere).
I hope that these tips turn into a winning internship experience, and I would love to hear from you and find out how this guide worked for you –please post here.
Apple missed earnings projections for the first time in almost a decade, but promised robust iPhone 4S sales to make it up. They've also updated the Remembering Steve page to include tributes from Jobs fans and their retail outlets will close briefly today in tribute.
- Android chief Andy Rubin confirmed that Google is "close" to launching a music download store, but unlike competitors, Google's offering will "have a little twist - it will have a little Google in it."
- EMI rumors have Citi less than pleased with lower offers and considering holding on to EMI until the economy shifts. I can't imagine they think a label in limbo is going to be worth more in a couple of years.
- Viacom tells appeals court that YouTube profited from infringement, so no Safe Harbor. (ars)
- Boostrapped mp3 blog aggregator The Hype Machine has passed 1 million users (TNW)
- Downtown Music Publishing has promoted Sean McGraw to Vice President, Licensing Administration and hiring of Young Hwang as Vice President, Royalties.
- Music rights deals 'keeping Pandora out of the UK' (Telegraph)
- GMusic Unites Google Music Locker with Apple iOS (Evolver.fm)
The Music Industry
Thinks Out Loud
Hello Hypebot and MTT Community,
First, thank you for your loyal readership and the insightful content that many of you have written. Without you, Music Think Tank would not exist. MTT was made to discuss our thoughts on the current and future music industry, technology, and everything that goes along with it. In order to provide our readers with relevant content, we are asking for content submissions. If you have something to say about the music industry, please contribute a post to MTT. Remember to review the submission guidelines posted on the MTT open page before posting.
Community Manager, MusicThinkTank
Since Spotify’s US launch and the F8 announcements a few weeks ago, a major sea change is underfoot. I have been following some of the most important and lively conversations about the meaning of all of this for independent musicians everywhere.
I don’t have much to say about it all (yet) but my knee jerk reaction is to revert back to the basics. As things get more and more complicated and as artists are being included on platforms that will yield them smaller fiduciary returns, it is more necessary than ever to remember and practice core marketing principals and basic networking.
On that note, I’m continuing the Music Marketing Experts FAQs where my favorite gods and goddesses of online marketing and Social Media promotion share with me the questions they get asked the most by musicians and in this case industry hopefuls.
Music Marketers FAQ – How do I get a job in the music industry?
I wrote an in-depth article about this awhile back. This was the perfect opportunity to update it for you. Here’s an excerpt:
“So… you want to be in the music business? There are a lot of you out there. I know this because every time we put out a call for interns or jobs at Cyber PR®, we get over 100 resumes. As you know I love breaking things down into steps (see: http://www.MusicSuccessInNineWeeks). So, I wrote this guide for you. Once upon a time, I was just like you: dying to follow my passion and aggressively trying to land a job in the industry of my dreams. It was a humbling and, at times, humiliating exercise. So, this dear young aspiring music business mogul is for you. Interns are much needed in every facet of the industry, and most of my music industry friends (myself included) started out as unpaid interns back in their day and we leveraged our unpaid internships into paying jobs.
YOUR FIRST LESSON: TWO WORDS THAT APPLY TO EVERY MUSIC BUSINESS INTERNSHIP: NO PAY“
You have a few choices, but either way it’s important to note the lesson from my first mentor: “there is no money in the music industry.” While the rumors of a changing industry are overtly true, revolution does not mean it is suddenly easy to get a lucrative job in a very complicated industry. There is much to learn, and loving music, while a prerequisite, is not enough; you need to know things. Be weary of easy titles, prepare to work hard. Find a role where you have access to learning about all aspects of the music business, and I mean all elements. Like all careers, this is a career path that is best with a solid mentor. After a year or two, propose your own role and just do it. This is the secret sauce that will make your career in any industry. Learn everything you can about how the machine works, and then focus on the area on which you are surely an expert, most passionate about, and will be willing to dedicate at least 10 years of your life to making it work. This is not a jokey glamorous business. The best analogy I can offer is marine biology. Very few marine biology graduates get to swim with dolphins. If you go into the music business for glamour, you are competing with the artists. If you want a job in the industry, prepare to work hard and go get it. Just do it. And like all other careers, strategize your next 5-10 years. Very few people stick it out; be the person who does, and that’s how you get a job in the music industry.
I always tell everyone to work for free – whether it be volunteering or interning. Finding a way to get your foot in the door, meeting new people, and getting experience from the ground up is the best way to do it.
Getting that first job is a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time, but it’s extremely critical to any further success you might have. Regardless of the kind of job, you’re always better off working with the biggest, most successful name you can, because that will lead to better jobs and a faster career climb later. You’ll learn more from a successful person or company, and just having that name attached to your resume will open doors down the road.
Carla Lynne Hall
To get a job in the music industry, it helps if you do your homework. Start with reading music industry blogs to stay on top of what’s happening in the music industry, and think about what kind of company you’d like to work for.
Choose a handful of target companies, and learn everything you can about them. Set up a Google Reader and follow their company blog’s RSS Feed. At the same time, think about the strengths that you could bring to the table. If you’re a college student seeking an internship, your strengths could include enthusiasm and passion.
Pay attention to what’s going on at your target companies, and use social media to start connecting with people that work there. Don’t be annoying. Find something else to connect with your future co-workers with, and you’ll soon learn more about your target company, and if it’s where you want to work. After you’ve made a genuine connection, maneuver to get an interview. If you’ve done your preparation, your interview will demonstrate that you’re ready to be hired.
I always tell people that if they want to be in the music business they just have to find what I call “conversation currency” or an excuse to talk to people. There are dozens of great bands out there who could use help – go find one and manage them- this will give you the excuse you need to meet industry people without going hat in hand and asking for a job (you will probably be going hat in hand asking for favors for any new band but that’s a whole different story). Provided the artist or band knows you are working for them as a way of getting further in to the industry I think this is a great way.
Music Marketers FAQ – Contributors:
Corey Denis is Vice President Digital Marketing & Social Media at TAG Strategic. Throughout her career, she’s created & executed digital strategies, built & marketed platforms for numerous distributors, startups labels and artists including What Are Records, IODA, IRIS Distribution, Michael Tilson Thomas, SoundExchange, Todd Fancey, Ning, Loudcaster & Comedian Stephen Lynch. Corey founded San Francisco’s first Musician & Promoter Workshop and has produced numerous music centric fundraisers such as Save Net Radio SF, Barack N’ Roll, Reload: SF. She writes a weekly column about digital music for SF Appeal, San Francisco’s online newspaper, has 2 cats and 8 iPods.
Rick Goetz is a music consultant by way of a ten year career at major record labels, TV & Online Projects. He’s also an avid surfer and blogger.
Carla Lynne Hall
Carla Lynne Hall is a musician and online music marketing consultant based in New York City. Her mission is to make music and share her knowledge with other musicians. She has released three CDs on her Moxie Entertainment label, and has toured the world as a singer/songwriter, and professional vocalist. In addition, she also has spent a number of years behind the scenes in the music industry, in publishing, management, publicity, and social media.
Using his music and recording experience combined with an easy to understand writing style, Bobby Owsinski has become one of the best selling authors in the music recording industry with thirteen books that are now staples in audio recording, music, and music business programs in colleges around the world. Based in Los Angeles, Bobby is also a producer of several music-oriented television shows and can frequently be seen as a moderator, panelist or giving presentations at a variety of industry conferences.
Cassie Petrey is the co-founder of Crowd Surf, which helps fans feel closer to the artists and music that they love. Cassie is one of the most devoted music fans you will ever meet, and this is why she understands the ins and outs of digital marketing and fan relationship management. Crowd Surf has successfully launched and developed digital marketing campaigns for major label, indie, and unsigned artists in a variety of genres.
When listening to a song you’ve never heard before, what is it that draws your attention? Is it the beat that gets you moving? Maybe it’s the lyrics tugging at your heartstrings? Or is it the arrangement and interplay of the instruments?
A great song has a bit of all of these, but what can set a song apart from the rest often involves the hidden science and art of audio engineering helping to put those pieces together.
With the diversity in music today we can all find something that draws our attention. Let's take a look at how the Musical Trinity of engineering, songwriting, and arrangement creates those songs that linger with us.
Some people may hear “engineering” as a dirty word when it comes to music. They start to think about the dreaded auto-tune and how someone has manipulated the recordings to make flawed artists sound like premiere musicians. Sadly, this has become more commonplace with more famous artists, as they want to have that absolute perfection to the recording. But what about the up-and-comers? They can’t all afford the studio time or the necessary equipment to put out that top-notch production. This has created an interesting gap between the self-produced albums and the label productions. Is one production better than the other?
Sure, you can hear a better fidelity with a label production but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the self-produced albums. The key thing to look for when listening to the production of an album is balance. Having that discerning ear to notice where instruments are placed in space, to notice if they all sound like they are playing in the same room, to be able to close your eyes and actually picture it, as if you are sitting in front of this group watching them perform.
The idea behind a modern recording studio is to record the sounds as closely as possible so as to not hear any of the environment around them. During the production and mixing of the album, the engineer will help to create the room that those sounds should be placed in. The engineer creates that width so we hear something from the far left to the distant right.
A lot of inexperienced engineers, though, forget that we don’t just hear in two dimensions when we’re listening. This means that they tend to forget to take depth into account. When we listen to a concert, are all of the musicians right at the front of the stage, hitting us at the same volume? No, of course they’re not. The drummer is usually towards the back of the stage, the singer is front and center, and the guitars and bass will be sitting between the two. We hear with depth, we recognize that a sound is far away or right in front of us (if you want to know more about that, look up the Doppler Effect).
It’s that principle of placing instruments in a three-dimensional field that is the foundation of balance in a recording. I say the foundation because once you’ve figured out where in the environment you are placing the instruments, you have to look at the listening environment and ask yourself the following question: if a sound is directly in front of me or far off, how much ambient noise or reflections in the room will I hear? That question tells you how much reverb and delay to use so that all the instruments will sound like they are playing together.
Tune in tomorrow for the second figure in the Musical Trinity - songwriting.
This guest post is from Josh Srago, an audio engineer and bassist that has played with dozens of acts around the San Francisco Bay Area, but his true passion lies with helping people understand the fundamentals of audio. You can follow Josh on Twitter and read some of his additional posts on his blog.
Three months after launch, Spotify has amassed 2.4 million monthly U.S. visitors says ComScore. That's a very strong start for a service that was initially invitation-only. Who are all of these new users?
Spotify is currently drawing an audience that resembles the traditional early adopter, according to Comscore.Nearly 3 in 5 visitors are male, 50% are between the ages of 18-34, and 24% are from households making at least $100,000 annually. Each of these demographic segments index significantly higher than average. That's significant because opinion-leaders often influence those around them.
SoundOff.fm launched to the general public late last month as a music discovery game and indie artist promotion site that allows musicians to upload song samples for participants to choose in battles between two songs. It's a very simple concept that they seem to be executing well yet they're also gradually adding features that fit with what they've developed to date.
The Basic Concept
- Artists upload the best 20 seconds of their music.
- Voters select a genre, hear two songs, and vote for the track they like best in a blind taste-test.
- As they vote, users earn credit to spend on the site.
Voting can be "Fair Shake" or "Snap Judgment". In the first, you listen to two samples, vote and then find out more about the artists. In the second, you're timed, vote on as many as you can without necessarily listening to the full samples and then you're given a batch of artists to check out when your time's up.
Credits can be traded for music downloads and can also be used for tipping musicians. Musicians get credits through sales and tips or by direct purchase and can then use those for various promotional options on the site. However, offering downloads is an option not a requirement.
The promotional options are well thought out and include being able to build an opt-in mailing list and announce shows as soon as an artist uploads music samples. Promo options that can be purchased with credits include obvious forms such as being featured or played more often, emerging marketing concepts such as sponsoring the sign in CAPTCHA and more interesting ideas like "Challenge A Track":
"In normal circumstances, SoundOff randomly selects two tracks within a genre. As a result, voters rarely see the same battle twice...using “Challenge A Track,” artists can pair against a rival track in the same genre so they always appear together. The two artists can wager on the outcome, and they can both share the link with friends, using the power of the SoundOff community to settle the score. These custom SoundOffs expire after a certain amount of time, and the winner is awarded the terms of the wager. Upon purchase, this will last for 3 days."
Though the basic ideas of users choosing the best of two options isn't new, executing a more complex concept while keeping the experience simple is one of the things that differentiate SoundOff.fm. Ideas like "Challenge A Track" suggest that they also have some insight into building on the concept in a manner that fits the basic idea. SoundOff.fm is a solid music discovery game that musicians can use to promote their music in the context of people having fun.
Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and also blogs at This Business of Blogging. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.
After a lengthy negotiation, independent label global rights agency Merlin has agreed to a global licensing deal with YouTube. The deal, effective immediately, includes such top indie labels as Earache, Secretly Canadian, Ninja Tune, Cooking Vinyl, Warp, Phonofile, Pschent, Morr Music, !K7 and Inertia.
Merlin represents some of the world's top independent labels, with a global membership including over 14,000 independents. Since launching in May 2008 Merlin has struck deals with Rdio, Spotify, MySpace Music, Catch Media, Simfy and Sony's Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity.
Chris Maxcy, Head of Global Music Partnerships at YouTube, commented, "We're continually looking for new ways to connect independent artists with their fans and we're thrilled to have struck a deal with Merlin that will help us do just that, while compensating them for their efforts at the same time."