Music, technologies, and human experience from a Russian Psytrance music producer.
Website · What I do · Get in touch

Follow me on social media

Facebook is my main news hub where I share upcoming releases, gigs, photos, videos, and blogs. Typically, I post 3–5 times a week.

Telegram and Twitter duplicate what I post on Facebook, with occasional extra content.

On Vkontakte, I write in the Russian language for my fans out of from Russia and CIS.

I also upload vlogs and gigs videos on YouTube and share travel photos, selfies, and studio routine on Instagram.

Cubixx on marketing

Matthias Sperlich, also known as Dj Cubixx and the head of Iono Music, gave an interview to Mushroom Magazine talking about his love of the Psychedelic trance and about the music industry.

I’d like to highlight one particular part:

“Reality is that people who work in the music industry need to be paid the work they do. Whether it’s as artists, promoters, label owners. Nobody can survive on fresh air. Marketing is a necessary tool to spread the word in this global scene – to keep people engaged and attract a new generation.

Of course we do it for the love and the passion, and sacrifice a regular salary with the benefits of holiday, sick pays and unions – we do it for the love and because we believe in the power of music so much. But if everyone rips our music for free, and people don’t pay for tickets to parties, then the reality is we can’t afford to eat and pay bills, let alone maintain our studios, so we’d eventually be forced to quit.”

Marketing is a necessary tool to spread the word in this global scene – to keep people engaged and attract a new generation.

This is essential to understand for all nowadays producers. I know many think that music speaks for itself and marketing is a bullshit for commercial music only, but the reality is you as a producer have to do some efforts — quite a lot actually — if you want to be heard and pay bills for the work you do.

Dark iTunes

Finally, soon we’ll get what I’ve been waiting for so long — a darker user interface on iTunes. I think many DJs and producers who get used to a dark environment will appreciate the new system-wide dark mode, which affects Mail, Notes, Calendar, and most importantly, iTunes:

iTunes dark UI in macOS Mojave. Photo credit: 9to5mac.com

In the meantime, I’d like to remind that iTunes is the best tool for organising music library. If you don’t agree or just not know what iTunes is capable of, make sure to read my advice.

Jun 17   iTunes

Audience location

Do you remember Apple Music for artists that I’ve written about a few days ago? Turns out, there is something useful, and I’d like to share my observations.

Just out of curiosity I looked at the top countries where the most plays come from, and then I looked at the same stats on SoundCloud. Here are the numbers:

Top countries where people listen to my music from. A coincidence? I don’t think so

Just look how similar the data is between two different services. Top three rows are exactly identical, even the ratio is very close. How cool is that! I mean, it’s one thing when you see top countries at some particular platform, but when countries match across few sources it’s a whole another thing.

So, I’ve got a pretty accurate geographical picture. The numbers are basically telling me: “your audience is concentrated here”. The fact that I already played in four of these countries indirectly confirms this.

From now I think to use this data to target my promo campaigns more accurately. Clearly, I had to check that before any media planning, but I haven’t done it before (and thus potentially miss some of the key markets) is a mystery to me.

Fellow producers, where are your listeners from? Would be curious to compare the stats taking a music genre into account.

Live Q&A with John 00 Fleming and Tim Penner

Livestream highlights

The live stream’s banner

Two of my favourite artists, John 00 Fleming and Tim Penner, hosted a fantastic Q&A live stream yesterday that was full of insightful information and motivational speeches that every producer (myself included) should know. Seriously, go watch that video if you missed it live. It’s 2-hours long, but it’s worth it.

For those who don’t have two spare hours, I’ve written a quick summary to highlight some of the most important quotes from these two masters. And in such way, it’s also easier to come and read this again at any time.

On social media

I feel sorry for the next generation. Running a specialist label you definitely get to work with super talented producers and DJs, but they can’t make a career because they don’t know how to handle social media or they not doing it whatsoever. And it pains me because that person should be on main stages on the festivals and have a fruitful career, but they haven’t because they don’t understand social media and not doing what they should be doing.

Ace Ventura on social media

Music is used to be first, and if you were a good DJ, you’re good to go. Now it’s the other way around. If you good at social media, your career will take off regardless of what you got behind you, the music comes afterwards. Nail the social media, and then worry about the music afterwards. It pains me to say, but that seems to be the way it is today.

Nail the social media, and then worry about the music afterwards

On organising music

I can only answer from me personally. I organise playlists as the tools that I need in hand. I never pre-plans set at all, I woke up to every single gig whether I playing an hour set or a 10-hour set, I never know what I’m going to play until I step up to the stage. But the way I’ve got my playlists it’s the musical tools that I know, let’s say ‘Progressive’ which is deep and melodic, you got ‘Progressive’ which is dark and driving, you got ‘Trance’ which is driving, ‘Psychedelic’ which is deep. 

Organising music library

I must have to have about thirty different playlists, but the key to me is learning the tracks. It’s identifying by looking at the track exactly what it’s gonna do as soon as you start playing it.

Sometimes I secretly spy on other DJ’s playlists, when they come along playing before or after me and they got the USB connected to the players. It just pains me that some DJs will have just twelve tracks and nothing else on the USB. I couldn’t play like that!

When you first get tracks you don’t really know how good is gonna be until you play it in a live situation. It might sound quite driving at home but when you play it a club it’s not driving, so when I get back from the gig the first thing I do is spend an hour just going through memorising what I played and adding the extra notes.

What makes a good warm-up set

John 00 Fleming: The short and sweet answer is basically what you [Tim Penner] do. You got a respect the person that you warming-up for, you got to do your homework. And this is a big moment. What a lot of newbies think is their head is “Wow, this is my gig, this is my moment to shine, this is the moment my career going to take off!”, and they just want to play a headline set in that warm-up set. But it does the opposite, you just really upset the DJ you suppose to be opening for.

The importance of proper opening DJs

The point is you’ve got to get people in the room, you got to keep your levels down. You don’t want to walk in a club when everything is just screaming at you and you can’t go to the bar, get a drink and hang out with your mates.

You want to warm-up slowly, but then when everybody standing around the dancefloor that’s the magic moment — it’s knowing exactly when to drop a track that has a bit more energy or familiar track, and that’s when your levels come into play.

You got a respect the person that you warming-up for, you got to do your homework

Tim Penner: It is a really important job to be the most humble artist in that room: you’re setting the mood and you’re setting the vibe for the night. And the thing is that people are too smart now. They may not know that you are the best DJ in the world but they know that fit that motive perfectly for the night, and you set what that whole night is supposed to be about, people know this.

On productions skills

When new artists come into it, there is something that cool and hot at the time and that’s what they wanna make. So it takes time to become a skilled producer, and they’ll start to make that genre. So what you see now is all those artists starting to get better, they started to sound like that generic sound from four years ago. And when I listen to such music, I’m like “it’s not current anymore, it would’ve been four years ago”.

So the best turning point that also was for me is the hardest, is staying true to yourself but also looking ahead of the curve and seeing where the trends are going.

Keeping close to what you wanna make and expressing yourself through music while becoming more skilled as a producer, but not going by trends and trying to cut them off. Those artists that are cutting edge and trying different things, they are the one that stands out now.

On balancing production and life

This balancing production is a battle that every artist faces whether you touring or not, balancing life, in general, can be really hard. That could be one of the biggest hurdles for an artist to get over. You know, you have a family, a spouse, you have emergencies, and other things you want to do to fill your time with.

And wheater it’s touring or Game Of Thrones, there’s a balance between life and work. And you need to find that balance. Everybody faces this battle, and I think it’s a number one reason why people give up.

You need to find a balance, it’s a number one reason why people give up

On the mixdown

There are certain misconceptions about what makes a good track in the end. Mixdown and mastering, I think there are misconceptions about what that is, you know, a lot of artists will put sounds together and try to make a track and be like “well, we’ll fix it in the end”. But mixdown and mastering start at the very first sound that you put down, it’s very important to understand the physics of the sound and what you are trying to accomplish.

What is sound

One of the tricks with figuring out how to make music is how to make sounds sound full. A lot of people will just load their Ableton with a lot of sounds to make it sound full, when in fact the whole goal of making good-flowing music is to give each sound it’s own space to move.

So that is actually a backward concept where you make a sound and you need to let that sound work its magic in its own space. It’s not fighting with other sounds, and that’s the key.

On sharing the knowledge

A lot of people keep things in secret, and if anybody knows me that followed me over the years, I’m an open book. And I think being an open book, sharing your knowledge and helping people is the best way to strengthen our industry, as opposed to keeping it sheltered behind your own wall. 

Advice series

We want to be around for as long as possible, that genre and our feeling, and the way to that is to embrace young artists, help them to get over the hurdles so they gonna be there decades down the road.

sharing your knowledge is the best way to strengthen our industry

Read also: Futurephonic live with Chris Williams and Regan Tacon

Apple Music for artists

Just got a closed-beta access to the Apple Music for artists:

Artist’s dashboard

For some reason, I expected a lot of juicy insights or at least some useful data, but as it turns out, there are just a few generic metrics and that’s it. Even SoundCloud has a deeper statistics tool for a long time, and overall SoundCloud it has much more playbacks.

I know that beta version means subject to change, but I doubt that anything will be different once they launch it live. That’s sad.

How much I earned on the album sales

Behind the scenes in facts and numbers

Last year I released my second studio album 2000 Years Ahead, my the most successful release to date.

Success shows in different ways: followers’ growth, bookings, smiles on the dancefloor. But today I’d like to share specific numbers, and that is how I earned on the album sales. Just in time as I recently got a financial report from the label.

How many copies sold

The album was released in two formats: digital and physical. Label — Digital Om Production. At that time Bonzai Music was taking care of the digital distribution, whilst Arabesque Distribution for the CDs.

940 tracks and 140 CD copies sold so far

For the first quarter, people downloaded 940 tracks and purchased 140 CD copies.

Is that good enough or not?

Let me answer with the fact: the album was #1 on Psyshop and #2 on Beatport top charts for the whole month:

“2000 Years Ahead” in the top sales charts. Source: bptoptracker.com.

Overall, the album spent 18 days in the top-10 and 69 days in the top-100 on Beatport. Sitting in the charts for more than two months considered as quite an achievement.

How much I’ve got

Now comes the more interesting part. To be clear, all numbers below are net, i.e. after the deduction of the stores and distributors commission, which is roughly 50% depending on the platform and region. For example, when you see $1,99 retail price per track on Beatport, the real income from it is about $0,9. That’s the numbers I’m operating below.

Stores take 20—50% cut from retail price

So, this is what’ve got from all sources — digital sales (including streaming), physical sales and sublicensing:

Revenue  
Digital sales +€815
Physical sales +€610
Sublicensing +€200
Total revenue: +€1625

A thousand and a six hundred euros sound nice, right?

But revenue ≠ profit. The album also had some expenses on production and promotion that we have to take into account:

Expenses  
Mastering -€225
Artworks -€200
CD printing -€300
Logistics -€100
Marketing -€100
Total expenses: -€925

Now let’s calculate the profit: €1625 (revenue) – €925 (expenses) = €700. But we’re not done yet since all profit splits between the artist and the label — that’s a typical deal in the industry. So, then: €700 / 2 = €350. And that is how much I earned before taxes.

€350 is how much I’ve got a year later for the first quarter of sales

Now we can make a few conclusions:

  1. Once again I’ve got a confirmation of my own words that a music producer cannot make a living on the music sales alone. I’ve written about it earlier and talked on my master class.
  2. Music release is not only income but also expenses. And whilst you may not gain profit at all, it will cost you something for sure.
    It’s important to mention that in my case the label took all expenses since we already worked together and I got a trustworthy reputation. Keep in mind that not every label would want to invest a thousand dollars if you are a new producer with a debut release.
  3. People still buy CDs!

Why I’m telling this

Perhaps, not everyone aware of that, but we actually have a problem in the music industry: many young producers expect to make a living on the debut release sales, then they see a financial report with a 2-digit number (or nothing, at all), start to accuse everyone around and eventually quit their career.

I’m sad to see these things happen all the time and hence why I share my experience on how things work behind the scenes.

I’d love to tell you that “I released my album and bought a house”, but the truth is after a year of hard work and a fantastic appearance in the charts, the album sales directly gave less than a monthly salary of a janitor. That’s the true story.

That’s why you need to remove the pink glasses and start working hard — a something that musicians do not really like to do. And threat your music releases simply as a portfolio.

Bonus: stats

A financial report is not only about the money, it’s also a lot of juicy data. I’ll put some metrics that I find interesting down below.

Digital sales, by store:

Beatport 75%
iTunes 18%
Juno 4%
Google Music 2%
Amazon 1%

Digital sales, by country

USA 20%
United Kingdom 13%
Germany 12%
Australia 9%
Switzerland 7%
Japan 5%
France 4%
Canada 4%
Brazil 3%
Finland 3%
Netherlands 3%
26 more countries 14%

Streaming, by service

Spotify 50%
Apple Music 38%
Google Music 5%
iTunes 4%
Deezer 3%

Streaming, by country

USA 10%
Germany 9%
United Kingdom 7%
Mexico 6%
Russia 6%
Netherlands 5%
Switzerland 4%
Australia 4%
Japan 4%
Sweden 4%
France 3%
Canada 3%
37 more countries 25%

Rave Podcast 097

Special guest of the month: Ekahal

June’s podcast starts with some kind of a Techno’ish psytrance, which I believe we’ll hear more in the future as these two genres will emerge into something new and underground. Also, this episode featuring some well-known artists as well as some very new producers who just made their first track, it really warms my heart when I find such amazing talents.

And for the second hour, we have a really psychedelic guest mix from a Greece artist Ekahal. He just released his debut album on Digital Nature Records, and this guest mix is his album presentation.

Tracklistings

0:00:00 Allaby – Hiding To Nothing (Original Mix)
0:07:26 Triforce – Lifeblood (Original Mix)
0:10:32 Coyu & Antonio Pocai – Transportador (Coyu Raw Mix)
0:12:55 Martin Vice & Michael Banel – Interstellar (Original Mix)
0:15:55 E-Clip – Qoom (Original Mix)
0:19:43 Impact – Essence Of Life (Original Mix)
0:23:58 Waveform – Artificial Life (Original Mix)
0:27:59 Nerso – The Source (Original Mix)
0:31:52 Visua & Norma Project – Fractality (Original Mix)
0:36:41 Freqfield – Addicted (Original Mix)
0:42:08 3 Of Life – Be Square (Original Mix)
0:45:24 Ctrl4 – Circus Cheese (Original Mix) Unreleased
0:46:48 Zen Mechanics & Audiotec – Mechanical Dreams (Original Mix)
0:49:50 Dreamcast – Horizon Down (Original Mix) Unreleased
0:54:03 Sideform – Reflection (2018 Edit)

Ekahal guest mix

1:00:27 Ekahal – 12th Dimension (The Final Realm)
1:06:46 Ekahal – Ayahuasca (Live Mix)
1:11:45 Ekahal – Kiddo Weirdo (Original Mix)
1:18:47 Ekahal – Mr. Purple (Original Mix) Unreleased
1:25:43 Ekahal – A Bright Star in the Sky (Original Mix)
1:29:34 Ekahal – Haze Runner (Original Mix)
1:33:39 Ekahal – God (Original Mix)
1:46:22 Ekahal – Twisted Magic (The Wizard Mix)
1:53:51 Ekahal – A Moment of Clarity (Original Mix)

On audio formats support and DJs

CDJ-2000NXS2 plays everything on anything, but you probably won’t see this player on every venue

I’m wondering, do DJs play MP3s? As far as I know, there aren’t many models that support FLAC or WAV?

Is there any point in playing music with a higher bitrate than 320kbps? Does it make a difference at all? Or it’s up to the gear?

Sergey Khivuk

Sergey, let’s go through each of your questions and statements in order. At first, we go on the formats support, then what DJs play, and then about the bitrate.

Audio formats support

Let’s find out what DJ players support WAV for sure. To do so, just go over to the PioneerDJ official website and take a look at each model’s specs.

Pioneer.com

I’ll put it here at a glance and also add archived products as some of them still might be used at some venues:

Model Plays Sources
CDJ-2000NXS2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win
XDJ-1000MK2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
XDJ-1000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-1000MK3 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-1000MK2 CDA CD
CDJ-1000 CDA CD
CDJ-900NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-900 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC CD
CDJ-850 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-800MK2 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-800 CDA CD
XDJ-700 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-400 MP3, CDA USB, CD
CDJ-350 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-100S CDA CD

We can make two conclusions by looking at that table.

First, you shouldn’t really worry about WAV support: even among the archive lineup only three models playback MP3 by doesn’t support WAV: CDJ-1000MK3, CDJ-800MK2, and CDJ-400. All the rest either newer and support several file formats, either older and hence playback audio-CDs only.

Second, your audio source of choice is what you should be aware of the most. Let’s say, if all your music on SD cards but there are no CDJ-2000s at the venue, you screwed. Or if you have all your music on a flash drive but there are CDJ-1000s in the club, you screwed too. Or if you have all your music on CDs but at the venue you see any model of the XDJ range, you screwed again.

always have your music on several media sources

A simple rule that every professional DJ should know about: always have a backup. Even if you have CDJ-2000NSX2 in your tech rider and the promoter said it’s no problem, still bring some alternative media source which you could quickly plug-and-play in case some shit happen. And yeah, shit happens!

What format DJs play

I’d like to make a serious face and say “all DJs play WAVs only for sure” or “the majority of DJs play MP3s”, but the truth is, I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t have such data, and pointing out on a random fact is not what I consider right.

I can, however, speak for myself. Personally, I prefer AIF: it has the exact same sound quality as WAV, but supports extra ID3 tags and a cover artwork — which is very handy when dealing with a large media library or browse tracks on a DJ player’s display.

I do use MP3 too, but more like an exception for bootlegs, promos and all that kind of unofficial music.

Is it worth using WAV

In short, the answer is yes. Uncompressed audio obviously better than its compressed comrades, and if you want to go deeper in tech and nerdy stuff, read articles on one of the trustworthy sources like Sound On Sound magazine.

What Data Compression Does To Your Music. Sound On Sound, 2012 

But I’d like to talk about something different.

You see, the audible sound quality is a very tricky thing especially in the clubs and larger venues: the sound goes through a lot of processing before reaching our ears, and it’s very easy to mess it up on every stage it passes through.

For example, if a DJ plays 192 kbps MP3s, the sound will be shitty despite the top-class PA system. Or if a DJ screw the gain control on the mixer and plays in the red zone, the sound will be shitty again despite the audio engineer’s efforts.

And it works the other way around as well. For example, if a drunk sound guy messes up the PA equalization and calibration, the sound will be shitty even with a professional DJ playing lossless formats. Or if a greedy promoter saves some money on the gear rent and put the “100s” CDJs in the DJ booth. Or if a venue has no proofing whatsoever. And so on.

good sound on a party is the result of a teamwork

The point is, making a good sound on a party is a teamwork that relies on many people and things involved. Now answering your question on if it’s worth using WAVs — I think it’s up to a DJ whether he wants to work as a team and ensure the best sound quality, or not. To me the answer is obvious.

On easy money

Jiz Lee

I’m going to put here some quotes, and try to guess what I’m talking about:

“There are performers, there are lighting people, there’s a PA, there’s a manager, there are all of that people and that’s the production day. And then there’s post and editing. Even beyond just the set, the industry is so much more of a business than people realise. Like every company has a sales team and an accounting department. [...] There are so many people behind the scenes.

Just like any other job, there are some days that are like the most fantastic days ever and it’s ‘I like my job!’ and there are some days where it’s like you’re working. Not everyone in the industry makes a lot of money, but it costs a lot of money up front for sure. I put more hours into being a porn stat then I think the average person puts into their nine-to-five job.

People might know me for being up from the camera but I do marketing and I set at a desk most of my day. If you do it as a career, you end up wearing so many hats: some performers learn how to do a makeup, some learn how to edit [...] Creating your own content, creating your own mini-vids or clips for sale, learning how to edit and upload. All of these things are learning curve that you have to have in order to be a... I don’t even say successful, that steady working performer.”

All of these things are learning curve that you have to have in order to be a... I don’t even say successful, that steady working performer.

That’s must’ve been about the music industry for sure, right? Well, you’re wrong: these are the quotes of the porn stars interview for Iris.

It’s amazing how similar the expectations of newcomers to the porn business and the music industry: both seem to think that being a performer is an easy money and pure pleasure.

Many think that once you’ve learned how to mix two tracks, you’re a DJ. Or just make some music and the gigs will come along, automatically. Or act in a porn and just get some free sex and fun (and even get paid for that). Sounds easy!

Well, in reality, there’s a ton of hard work behind the scenes and not every performance gives you satisfaction. I think everyone who wants to make a porn music career should know about it.

Back to Russia

Dear fans, friends, colleagues!

After living for the last five years in Israel, this July I’ll be moving back to Moscow, Russia, where I originally from.

I don’t usually share much of my personal life, but I thought to let you know since a music producer’s location is pretty important especially for the business side of things.

As you can imagine I have a hell of a lot of things to do with this move, hence why I wasn’t quite active on my blog and social media lately. Sorry. Please bear with me.

A selfie from the airport

But changes are a good thing, and I have a few special messages.

To the Russian party promoters:
Starting this August, I’ll be available for bookings in Moscow. No more flight costs, no agency fees. If you wanted to book me for your event but these things stopped you, now it’s a great time to make this happen. Get in touch by email or Telegram.

To the foreign party promoters:
This move won’t affect my international bookings in any way, expect that flight tickets from Moscow are typically cheaper than from Tel Aviv. As I said, changes are a good thing! Nishan from Digital Om still will be handling my bookings worldwide.

To anyone in Israel who by any chance wanted to meet me for a cup of coffee, to make a collaboration, or for whatever else reason, keep in mind I’ll be here until July just like I said in the beginning.

May 8   I am
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