7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings
by Jessica Brandon
Today, I’d like to give you 7 ways to help you meet your music recordings and help you grow yourself as a music artist.
A lot of musicians/music artists waste a ton of money on demos/recordings because they haven’t spent enough time choosing the right sound for their music act. Get clear about who you yourself as a music artist/band and who your audience is. Once you do this, you’ll cut your waste to zero and start getting maximum results from all your music.
If you are still comparing and competing with other music artists, then your Sound needs work. We get comment from music artists describing themselves “I sound just like Ani DiFranco, but better”, or “I sound like the band “Kings of Leon, but more acoustic sounding”. Create a sound that makes your music the clear and only choice for your audience.
When you have run of ideas, you may want to co-writer with another songwriter or producer who may bring other ideas to the table to help you with your next song.
Are you tired of your homemade recordings, sound and need fresh ideas? You may need to look for a professional recording studio and seek a music producer (with whom the recordings that the bands you recorded you respect).
If you have a regular gig at a club (or try out at an Open Mic event), you may try performing your song and see what kind of reaction from the audience you get. If it doesn’t work, you can always tweek the lyrics and chord progressions when you get home.
Competition for attention of you and your songs are at an all time high. Too many music acts are sloppy and don’t give enough care to creating good, relevant, compelling songs —consistently. Learn the fundamentals of crafting compelling songs and resist the temptation to just whip something up and get it out. Poor songwriting will alienate your audience—sometimes permanently. While a consistent compelling songs will get them wanting you more.
You might be surprised how many of your great music and song ideas have “gone missing”. Record your ideas on your smart phone or voice recorder as you go through your day. Just a one line change, a lyric change, a chord change may dramatically improve your song and go from good to great!
Doing one of these things will improve your recordings. Doing all of them could make a tremendous impact. Pick one or two to start and once you’ve implemented them; move on to another one (or two) on the list.
To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:
Musician Tips: Music, Marketing and Me
by Grant Genske
Music is one of the few things that come quite naturally for me; I don’t know why I love it, but every day I wake up and know that I am excited to keep writing, recording and singing. It’s been that way for a while now. I spent most of my gangly, awkward childhood listening to my father’s old Led Zeppelin CDs, stumbling through piano lessons, and waiting until my family left the house so that I could practice shout-singing My Chemical Romance songs. Though my tastes have changed, music has always been at the center of my life.
Although musical expression is almost instinctual for me, ideas surrounding “brand awareness and development” have, for a long time, felt clunky and awkward. I think that this stems from being genuinely shy as a child and disdaining self-promotion, or maybe from being raised protestant (I learned early on that God doesn’t like a show-off).
When I first began recording myself, I felt uninspired doing cover videos, which, for many artists, seems to be the most viable social vehicle in the YouTube/ Soundcloud era. I hated sitting in front of a camera, with no audience, and presenting myself for all the world to critique. I generally thought, “I am very bored watching myself do this, so why would anyone else want to watch me do this?”
I did not see much potential for advancement of my career until I discovered my ability to write music. At that point, I became highly engrossed in the process of creation – currently, I write anywhere between 1-3 songs per day and record demos almost as frequently. I rediscovered a passion for music and dedicated my life to writing and recording, and that was when I ran into the problem: how do I get people to listen?
I am happy to say that my work as a social media marketer continues to provide answers to that question. It has made me more confident in my self-promotion, and it has made the process of audience development feel a lot more natural. The following lessons are my musings on what has worked well for me – they may or may not work for you, but I think there is some universality in all of them.
Your personal network is important and highly relevant to your success, but at the end of the day your career is reliant on capturing the attention of people who you may never meet. I was very good at getting my friends to pay attention to my work, but once I started collaborating with people around the world, I realized that I needed to be working to get people who had never met me to engage with my music.
As much as we love to glorify the X-Factor stars and social media sensations who seem to become successful overnight, most musicians have been working for years to gather fans before they hit their big break. It makes sense to assume that you are going to have to build your fan base yourself if you are truly committed to having a sustained career.
There are many ways to organically do this; you can design graphics to give engaged users a shout-out, you can give away signed merchandise at your shows, or plan surprise shows and invite your most active fans as a reward. I would also suggest looking to curators to grow your reach – these include YouTube/ Soundcloud accounts that post new music and bloggers who write about your genre. You cannot do all the legwork yourself.
Technology cannot replace originality and authenticity, but damn if it doesn’t help with making the work easier. I am a strong advocate of using tools like Crowdfire to organically grow a Twitter following or utilizing websites like EDM Lead to convert Soundcloud downloads to follows. If you have money to spend on marketing, investigate how you might run a targeted campaign with Facebook.
Nothing good happens overnight, so be wary of “get followers quickly” schemes – they aren’t worth your time and they rarely work. Get comfortable with tools and with doing something small every single day to keep your fan base growing.
Over the past 2 months, I used social growth techniques to to more than double my Twitter following, triple my Soundcloud following, and increase my Facebook likes by 125%. I never spent more than 15 minutes per day doing any work, and I saw strong returns because I learned how to integrate organic interaction and technological innovation. More importantly, though, my followers are engaged and interacting with my posts, and I am actually cultivating a community around my music.
Instagram is the platform where we see the most brand interaction, and studies on Instagram success point to brand consistency as being a really important factor in conversion to follows. This means both posting with some regularity and posting content that is somehow thematically linked.
Brand fundamentals include color palette, tonal consistency and anything that makes you unique, be it your product, sense of humor or simply an idea. Any choice to change these things is permitted, but it should be a choice, not a result of ignorance or laziness.
If this is to be truncated into one sentence, just try to think about how your friend would describe you to someone else: “Oh, he or she is the _____ girl/guy/person. He/She/they does _______.” If you can’t fill in those blanks, it’s important to think about why and strategize about how you might be able to do it better. It’s definitely my biggest challenge.
Looking at YouTube, Soundcloud, Twitter or Facebook, it is really easy to see that the same logic applies. The most successful producers on Soundcloud are constantly posting their own new material and reposting other content. The most followed YouTube accounts are incredibly active, uploading new content as frequently as every week.
It goes without saying that, as much as you want consistency, you also want people to remain engaged with you and to feel some growth. Look for ways to keep things fresh – identity collaborators and work together on something new, find a partner who can offer a new spin on your same photo arrangement, work current events into your brand content. Never let things get stale – the social world moves incredibly quickly and you will get left behind.
It is really easy to lose your identity as you try to grow. When you are attempting to capture and keep someone’s attention, it is natural to think about what they like and how you can conform to that. The stakes are pretty high for music artists; audiences have so many choices, and it can be tempting to try and be all things at all times. But the reality is that, if you are doing something that feels artificial, bland, or trite, it probably is. If you are doing something because someone told you it would make you successful, and it hasn’t made you successful, you might want to stop. It may be time to switch up your strategy.
For me, I realized that I wanted to focus less on covers and more on original music. I spent a lot of time not getting any recognition for it and being really bad, but then I got better at it. I am constantly getting better at it, and I am feeling momentum.
(Reprinted by permission)
Grant Genske is a marketing associate with BEGIN who works primarily with indpendent artists in their talent division, New Music Empire. But that’s just his day job. He’s also a singer and songwriter living in Los Angeles, California and a producer of the College Star competition that produces talent competitions on college campuses.
To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:
How to Set Your Rate, Negotiate & Survive in Town or On The Road
By Matt Starr
Ever think of yourself as the owner of a corporation? Guess what…you are. If you’re a working musician, a session or tour player, your company is called YOU, Inc. The music industry is the wild west when it comes to the business side of things, so here are industry tips about knowing what you have to offer and what it is worth is the first step to creating a sustainable career. The intersection of art and commerce doesn’t have to be tricky. Jimmy Page and Keith Richards are rich. Johnny Thunders and Sid Vicious are long dead. Choose your role models wisely.
1. SET YOUR RATE: The music business has a wide range of compensation depending on who you are and who you’re dealing with. Create a Rate Sheet. What amount of money would you need to show up with a great attitude and feel good about your time spent? Consider the effort required to fulfill the task as well as travel time, expenses, the amount of preparation needed. Count all the hours and get a realistic idea of what you are making per hour. It can sometimes be eye opening. Add 25% for difficult clients.
2. ASK AROUND: Ask the more successful musicians in your circle what they charge. When you do this, be objective. This is business. If the coolest dude in the hipster scene rides a bike and lives in a studio apartment, and the big phony sellout lives in the Hollywood Hills and drives a Tesla….ask the phony in the Tesla. You can be the arbiter of your own integrity. Do not ever confuse that with making money. And don’t let others manipulate you into taking less using that argument. Get paid.
3. NEGOTIATE: Some musicians prefer to ask, “What’s your budget?” and take it from there based on the client’s reply. The other approach is to quote your rate and let the client reply. The first approach can be motivated by the fear of quoting too high and losing the client or the hope that the client will quote much higher than what they would have asked for. For me that’s kind of messy; I like to just quote my rate and let them reply. Also, the Universe has a way of paying you what you feel you’re worth no matter what you say. Either way, use your rate sheet so you have some basis to work off of.
4. SEE FOR YOURSELF: Once you have successfully negotiated and are now working, how does it feel? Are you feeling underpaid, overpaid or about right? The more you work you will see what you like doing and don’t like doing. You can charge more for the jobs you don’t enjoy as much or focus your marketing towards jobs you want to be doing more of. At first the goal can be to just get paid, but once you are up and running you’ll see that the choice is really up to you and that you are creating your career.
5. GETTING A RAISE: The more clarity you have on what you’re getting paid vs what you’re contributing, the more likely at some point you will feel motivated to ask for a raise. Any request for more money should be accompanied by your reasoning as to why you deserve this. “I have been touring with Artist XYZ for two years”; “I have taken more responsibility than when I started”; “I am getting a lot of offers from other artists and I want to make sure I am making the most of my time.” Use your instincts, but if they tend to be of the under-earning nature then go back to your more successful musician friends and get some input from them. Note: you can talk to the other musicians in the band and go to management as a team, or go it alone. Both options have their good and bad points.
6. MAXIMIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY: Whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “Who would benefit from this?” At the very least it’s a source of inspiration to up-and-coming players, so post it! Reach out to any company that you endorse or would like to endorse––email them, tag them in social media posts along with pics of your gear. Is there an opportunity for the company to be involved with the artist you’re playing with on a bigger level? Making introductions that lead to bigger opportunities is a good thing for all. Think like a business person and think BIG. Becoming an asset beyond playing your instrument has value and word will get around.
7. DIVERSIFY: So you just got the gig with Lenny Kravitz and you are getting paid $7,000/week—awesome! But now he decides not to tour for the next two years. What are you going to do for money? Having as many income streams as possible is ideal. You have many talents that you are not aware of or don’t think of as having value. Make a list of 100 things you can do to earn money. Anything, just open your mind up. If you can work at Target, list it. This will get your thoughts flowing and help you come up with some great ideas. It will also increase your network. This process led me to start what has become a very successful and rewarding business as a Career Consultant.
8. INVEST IN THE FUTURE: Touring is a great way to make a living, but you are trading time for money. To bring in additional money, look at passive income streams such as publishing royalties, writing books and inventions. Ever heard yourself saying, “Man, I wish they made a thing that did XYZ.” Make it! You’re not the only one who has thought that, which means there is a need for it. Creating opportunities that pay you––literally while you sleep—is a great way to build your income, network and value.
9. GET REAL: Saying “I’m an artist” has been used an a excuse for being lazy, disorganized, broke and drinking too much, more than any other phrase in history. Think of yourself as a business person first. It does not mean you will make inferior music. It just means you’ll get paid for it. Let go of the phony romantic idea that true artists don’t get paid and that if you do ask for what your time and talent are worth, you’re not really in it for the right reasons. Andy Warhol’s net worth was $220 million at the time of his death.
[Reprint Permission granted by Music Connection magazine]
MATT STARR is a Los Angeles-based touring and recording drummer (Mr. Big/Ace Frehley), clinician, educator and Career Consultant. To contact or hire him, go to www.mattstarrmusic.com.
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com
Do You Have a Band Partnership Agreement Yet?
by Glenn T. Litwak
Why even have a written agreement between the members of a band or group? Entering into a band partnership agreement is advisable, not necessarily because you don’t trust your band mates, but because it forces the members of the band to address difficult issues and hopefully reduce misunderstandings. To paraphrase Timothy B. Schmit, bassist/singer with The Eagles: “In my experience, all rock & roll bands are on the verge of breaking up at all times.” Yes, disputes will arise and you will be in a better position to deal with them if you have a comprehensive band agreement––in writing.
Band Name: The agreement should indicate the band name and any logo. It should also indicate who owns the band name. This issue has come up with some famous bands, like The Beach Boys. When a band breaks up, the question often arises as to who owns the name and, consequently, who can record and perform using that name. There are alternatives for ownership of the band name. For instance, the agreement can provide that the band owns the name, and departing band members have no right to use the name. Or let’s say two members were instrumental in forming the band; the agreement could say “should those members leave, the band shall cease using the band name and logo.”
Other Projects: The agreement may provide that band members can participate in other music projects (solo albums, solo performances, side artist appearances, etc.) so long as it does not interfere with band obligations.
Representations and Warranties: The agreement should include typical (“boilerplate”) representations, such as: members have the legal right to enter into the band agreement; they will not do anything to harm the band partnership; that members are under no restriction that would interfere with the agreement; and that they will not sell their interest in the band without the consent of the other band members.
Profits and Losses: The simplest way to divide profits and losses is to provide in the agreement that the band members will share equally in them. This provision should also provide for a specific definition of “net profits.” And it should specify expenses: such as band salaries, accounting, legal and office expenses. However, splitting band profits and losses may not be equitable to all band members under certain circumstances. For instance, where one band member does all the songwriting, is already famous, or invests most of the money in the band, the profits and losses section can have special provisions for that
Publishing: There are a number of options with regard to splitting publishing income. The band agreement can provide that the band will split all music publishing income (writer’s and publisher’s share) equally among the members. Or a more complex formula can be used such as publishing income is shared equally, but songwriter income is to be equally divided among the writers of the composition. It all depends on what is fair under the circumstances. Where one member does no writing or one member does all the writing, the agreement should take this into account. If a band publishing company is set up it can have the worldwide exclusive right to administer and control the copyright ownership in the recorded compositions and the right to enter into sub-publishing agreements or otherwise deal with the copyrights.
Meeting and Voting: The agreement should provide when there will be meetings and may provide that any member can call a meeting. It should also provide what types of things require a majority or unanimous vote. For instance, perhaps it will take a unanimous vote to expel a member, or a majority vote to admit a new member, or for bonuses, or entering into band agreements.
Books and Records: Books and records on the band’s business dealings should be maintained and available for inspection by any band member.
Adding New Member: Adding a new member can often lead to disputes. The procedure for adding a new member should be spelled out in the agreement. It should specify if all members have to agree to a new member. And it should require any new member to agree to the band agreement. In addition, a new member should usually not have any right to income from recordings created before the new member was admitted.
Leaving Member: The agreement can provide for voluntarily or involuntarily (death, disability, being expelled) leaving the band. It should specify what will constitute grounds to expel someone from the group. One possible provision could be that any member who leaves must give 30 days notice and that written notice will be given to any expelled partner. It should also provide what a leaving member is entitled to: share of net worth, royalties, etc.
Binding Arbitration: Providing for binding arbitration of disputes is usually a good idea. You will often have a quicker and less expensive resolution of your dispute. You could also provide for mediation (informal settlement conference with a retired judge) before an arbitration to try and settle without the costs of a binding arbitration.
General Provisions: There are a number of typical provisions included in a band partnership agreement. These include: California law applies to any disputes; email signatures on the band partnership agreement is sufficient; the agreement shall be binding on each member’s successors-in-interest, and if one provision of the partnership agreement is held invalid by an arbitrator or court, the remaining provisions shall remain in effect.
Finally, each band member should have an independent attorney represent him or her with regard to the partnership agreement and each band member should receive a copy of it.
[Reprinted with permission]
ABOUT GLENN T. LITWAK
Glenn T. Litwak is a veteran music and entertainment attorney based in Santa Monica, CA. He has written numerous magazine articles about the music biz. Litwak is also a frequent speaker at music industry conferences around the country, such as SXSW and the Billboard Music in Film and TV Conference or check out his website at www.glennlitwak.com
For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: