Daniel Lesden Blog

Music, technologies, and human experience from a Russian music producer and A&R manager based in Israel.
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Track of the week: “Slap It”

Fantastic piece of a proper Progressive Trance known as a soundtrack to the Zion party scene in Matrix Reloaded. This track doesn’t have that level of details as nowadays’ production, but it certainly has some magic feeling. Or maybe it just a nostalgia? Well, I hope I’m not that old yet.

Artist Fluke
Title Slap It (Untitled No.3)
Label Appalooso
Year 2001
BPM 135
Key Em

“Is this standard practice for a label to share profits 10/90%?”

I have recently been contacted to submit a track for a compilation by a small label, Ghost Label Records. I know you have covered this before, but I have some questions about it. The contract I have been sent to sign seems a bit ‘dodgy’, specifically:

“a) All profits from sales of physical CD’s, digital downloads will be splitted 10% for the Licensor and 90% for the Licensee.
...
c) Payments may be withheld if sum does not match or exceed withholding amount of 1000 euro. The label’s accountant department will only contact the artist in the event their dues have reached 1000 euro. The label is not responsible for contacting the artist should their royalties not reach the withholding amount. ”

1, it seems a bit one-sided. Artist gets 10% label gets 90%? Is this a usual split? 2, it seems like they are saying that they will only pay me if the sales reach over 10,000 euros (highly unlikely). Is it standard practice to have a clause like this in a contract?

Having already been asked to re-do my mix as he wasn’t happy with the eq on the kick, which I did twice, I was then asked to re-write the first minute of the track because “the start of your track is very insufficient and poor. Till 01:10 the track has no meaning and sounds poor because only the kick/bass is playing”.

Is this standard practice for a label to ask for a rewrite of a track they have asked to include on a release?

Hamish Strachan

Hamish, it’s good you questioned the contract because the terms you’ve mentioned doesn’t seem promising at all.

Typically, labels and artists have a 50-50% split share. That’s the industry standard. I heard some purely commercial labels offer 60–40 and even 70–30 split deals, but never 90–10. It’s a nonsense. Here is one of the contracts I previously signed to give an example:

One of the contracts I signed. The standard 50-50% split is highlighted

But in this case the split share doesn’t really matter because of the second term:

“Payments may be withheld if sum does not match or exceed withholding amount of 1000 euro. The label’s accountant department will only contact the artist in the event their dues have reached 1000 euro.”

Some labels indeed withheld the sum until it reaches $50 or $100 just to make their accountant’s work easier, but $1000 is a scam. Don’t forget that stores and distributors also take their commission, so typically labels get only half of the price tag you see in the cart.

Let’s say, if an average price per track is €1, then the label’s share is 50 cents, which means your share would be 5 cents in this case. And that, in turn, means they would need to sell 20 000 copies just to reach that payable threshold of €1000 that suppose to go the artist. Basically, it means that’ll never gonna pay the artists, and I mean it — never, literally.

Don’t get me wrong, you should’t expect a solid income from music sales alone anyway. Releasing on a label has a marketing purpose. For example, I didn’t get a penny from my debut EP released on Ovnimoon Records back in 2012: they sent me a nice pack of CDs instead. That was a part of the original deal so that was fine by me, clear and simple. But when those guys from Ghost Label Records say they will pay you some money whilst in reality they won’t, I think it’s a scam. It’s up to you whether you want to deal with the people like this or not.

The truth about music sales

As for the second part of your question when a label asks to re-do the track, well, it depends. Generally speaking, I would say it’s a good sign, it means the label care. You can get an idea of what kind of feedback I give as an A&R at JOOF in the Tim Bourne’s success story. But looking at the contract terms above, I don’t think give a shit about the artists.

Jun 14   Advice   Music industry

Track of the week: “Mutation”

I’m not a big fan of Offbeat Progressive, but this track so masterfully crafted so I couldn’t resist. The production quality, the groove, and the dark theme are amazing.

Artist Egorythmia & Static Movement
Title Mutation (Original Mix)
Label Iono Music
Year 2017
BPM 140
Key D#m

Listen also to this track in the latest Rave Podcast.

Track of the week: “Strum” (Cid Inc Remix)

When it comes to proper Progressive House, a beautiful, deep, and hypnotic music, there is a one man always in my mind — Cid Inc. Somehow his music connects on a personal level; it’s safe to say that I like every track of him, which frankly is quite rare to me.

Artist Draso
Title Strum (Cid Inc Remix)
Label Wide Angle Recordings
Year 2016
BPM 124
Key Em

P.S. Compare this remix to the original mix. Cid Inc totally nailed it.

What do you need to play a live set

I have a couple of questions about playing a live act because I’m quite confused now about this topic. What do you need to do if you finished a few tracks and want to play them as a live act?

I watched some videos but I only saw people launching a few clips in ableton but I don’t understand how to play for example an hour long live act with many of your tracks. How to prepare your tracks? Chopping into kick, bass, leads etc? What about the arrangement? Sorry for the loads of question but I got lost in this.

Thanks for your help and also for this amazing advice blog I think it helps a lot for us!

Viktor

Viktor, I cannot answer your question in details saying like “chop it here” or “map this to that” because there are a plenty of things I don’t know, giving any specific advice without knowing your music or setup as least would be unprofessional.

First of all, the question is what do you want to achieve. Why do you want to play live sets in the first place? How exactly do you want to make your tracks played live different from playing a record? How would you like to build up the set, both musically and energy-wise?

The next big question is the musical genre you playing because there are some differences too. For example, is it a Techno or Progressive that slowly builds up over time? Or it’s a fast-paced Psytrance with several melodic layers played simultaneously? Compare these two snippets:

I would say, the more intense, complex, and fast-paced your music is, the less freedom you have on the stage. Well, no surprise: supposedly you have only two hands, so the numbers of things you can manipulate in a given time are pretty limited. And it’s important to understand your limitation because it allows to think of possibilities.

The next is equipment. Various gear allows to play and map things differently, hence your Ableton setup would be different as well. Let’s say, do you have a drum machine, sequencer, sampler, synthesiser, effects rack? Or you have just a MIDI-controller with 8 rotary knobs and that’s it? I’m not saying that having a MIDI-controller isn’t enough to play a live set, but again it’s a limitation that you have to be aware of to prepare the set accordingly.

At last but not least, where are you going to play a live set is another thing to consider because live sets require a certain type of event and audience. Most clubs don’t give artists time for changeover and sometimes there are simply no space in the booth for any extra piece of equipment. You have to negotiate and discuss it with promoters first, these are the real things you have to deal with if you are going to play live, it’s even more important that thinking of what button you should map on a controller to launch a clip.

I’m sorry that this blog gave you more questions that answers. We can theorycraft about preparing tracks for a potential live set of course, but I’d advise answering these questions to yourself first to get a bit of real-life sense.

P.S. Watch this amazing video by Minilogue playing a live jam studio session. They also have another video explaining this setup: what each piece of equipment does, how the signal flows is set, what’s going on in Ableton of each of their computer, etc. I find it inspiring. Perhaps, it’ll answer some of your questions.

Track of the week: “Plasma”

This track is easily one of my all-time favourites records of the late 90’s. Such an incredible energy and acid lines, I remember raving at this tune was insane. Surprisingly, not many people aware of it even among old Goa Trance fans, so hopefully this will shed some light.

Artist Radiotrance
Title Plasma (Original Mix)
Release The Russian E.P.
Label Transient Records
Year 1997
BPM 145
Key Gm

P.S. Listen also to Plasma (Unreleased Breaks Mix) in my Summer Solstice Mix at 17:30.

P.P.S. Watch also official video clip that has been broadcasted on a national TV in 97, filmed at abandoned atomic reactor. I doubt you’ll see anything like that in today’s television.

EQing individual bass notes

After reading your bassline equalisation advice, I’m curious because of the different harmonic positions relative to the note frequency, if you have a baseline that changes notes, should you / would you gain any benefit from having each note on a unique track with separate EQ, or automating the EQ to respond based on the note sequence? Or is that just overkill?

Michael Roy

To EQ or not to eq each individual note depends on the genre you working on and the results you’re aiming for.

For example, if you have a kind of a soft, smooth, and groovy bass like typically used in Full-On or House music, it’s probably not worth it:

On a contrast, if you aiming for a really crispy and punchy bass that typically used in Progressive-Psy or Uptempo Psychedelic, then I would say a yes to extra EQing:

Now I would like to share some tips on how to use different bass notes with each individual EQ.

First of all, having several MIDI channels with different bassline notes is certainly an overkill. For every tiny change in the bass sound you would need to change it manually on the other channels as well. It’s also not convenient working with MIDI that way and not efficient for the computer resources.

Picture 1. Having multiple MIDI channels for each bass is a bad idea, don’t do like that

And what if your bassline MIDI pattern is going crazy with changes every 1/16th notes? In case of having a unique track for each bass note, it’s simply impossible:

Picture. A pattern like this is impossible if you have several MIDI channels for the bass

A good solution that I’ve been personally used for years is using resampling. Just put an EQ on the bass channel, resample that one note as a piece of audio. Then put an EQ with different settings for another note, resample it. And repeat for any other notes. I know it sounds like a huge amount of work when you read it, but in fact, it takes just a few minutes tops if you know your DAW well.

Eventually, you should audio samples for each note. Like this:

Picture. Resampled notes, each with EQ tailored for its frequency

Now create a new MIDI channel and add these samples into a new Drum rack:

Picture 4. Bass samples loaded in the Drum rack

And now create a new MIDI clip and draw any pattern using these samples, as easy as it gets:

Picture 5. MIDI pattern played by different samples, all within one clip

You can hear this technique in action in any of my productions which has that kind of “jumping” bass pattern, for example like in Structured Chaos:

I hope it makes sense.

Track of the week: “Salvation Slumberland”

Whirloop is one of those artists whose music doesn’t fit any particular subgenre’s standard, it’s a musical journey that flows in a beautiful and unpredictable way. Such a shame Whirloop no longer in business, I would keen to hear more from him.

Artist Whirloop
Title Salvation Slumberland (Original Mix)
Release Watch The Skies And Keep Looking
Label JOOF Recordings
Year 2008
BPM 140
Key Fm

Insights on sending a demo to a record label. Part 2

It’s safe to say that my previous advice on sending a demo is one of the most popular articles on this blog: there are thousand of upcoming producers looking for a proper way to reach out record labels, and I hope these insights helped to shed some light.

Today, I would like to continue that topic and share five more short tips on sending a demo to record labels based on my experience of A&R.

“Void — A Sector To Avoid” art by Kuldar Leement. So as this artwork title suggests, in this blog we’ll talk about things to avoid

Send only finished track

People often say something like this: “here is a 15-seconds draft of my new track, I’ll finish if it fit your label”. What? How can label approve something that doesn’t exist yet? What if this 15-seconds snippet is fine, but then you will suddenly come up with something entirely different that not suits the label?

Demo is a demonstration of your best skills. So show a finished track, not a half-assed product.

Double-check your links

You’ll be surprised how many broken links labels see in their inboxes! From my experience, roughly every third link is broken due to incorrect privacy settings of the track or just because of copy-pasting a wrong URL.

Apparently, I’m not alone with this. Here is what Basil O’Glue, a manager of Saturate Audio, wrote on Twitter:

Producers! Please, double-check your links, be sure another person can open it.

Simplify your signature

Have you ever received an email with a signature that includes full sender’s address with ZIP code, fifteen links to all of his social pages, several international phone numbers, fax (who the hell still use fax nowadays?), and a huge wall of text of “dont-print-this-email-save-the-trees” and other bullshit? If so, you probably know this feeling: it’s annoying.

Such signature is nothing but a visual noise, it takes extra effort to scan the email searching for some meaningful text. Please, don’t do that. Keep it simple, your name and one link to your website are totally fine.

Don’t brag too much

Ah, this is my favourite: listing the entire discography, every single DJ’s support, and all chart appearances. Why, just why are you doing that? What the logic behind it? Every time I receive an email like this, I imagine two label managers having this conversation in my mind:

— A quite mediocre demo, not for us...
— Yeah indeed, not good enough...
— Hold on, he said his previous track has been supported by David Buretta!
— Seriously? Sign him up!!!

Jokes asides, please don’t show off all that stuff unless it’s relevant to the label or that particular track, it’s not cool.

“Please suggest some label where it might fit”

Sometimes, when I say that the demo doesn’t fit the label, some smart guys come back asking “can you suggest some labels where it might fit?”. This question sounds harmless at first sight, but just think about it for second. Imagine if you would fail a job interview and then ask: “do you know other companies that might be interesting in hiring me?”. Sounds, erm... not quite appropriate, don’t you think?

if you don’t make any attempts to learn the industry by yourself, how are you going to work in this field? This is where we came back to what Part 1 begins with: do your research first.

May 17   A&R   Advice   Music industry

Track of the week: “The Prophecy”

Today’s track of the week is the ultimate classic, one of my all-time favourite track from Astral Projection. Released in 2006, this track sounds fresh even today.

Artist Astral Projection
Title The Prophecy (Album Version)
Release The Prophecy EP
Label: BNE Records
Year 2006
BPM 145
Key Am
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