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.

29 posts tagged

Behind the scenes

Pros and cons of my career decisions

Vlog 003

I’ve got great comments to my previous vlog, in particularly, Elimelec Domínguez asked the following:

“If you had to start again in your career, what would you focus on? What skills and areas are vital to the success that you already have? What things would you completely rule out?”

Wow, I love it. I recorded a new vlog episode to answer these questions, I hope other upcoming producers will find it useful too. So there you go, pros and cons of my career decisions:

Thanks to Digital Om Productions for the nice t-shirt :-)

Sep 22   Behind the scenes   Career   Vlog

Managing a record label duties with Trello

An insight look at an A&R routine

When I joined the JOOF Recordings team as an A&R assistant in 2015, things were done using the typical tool that everyone uses — email. Each release goes through various steps, such as getting the mastering done, getting the artwork done, arranging remixes, making sure everyone got what they need etc. So as a big label that typically has a few dozens of upcoming releases in the pipeline, we had a bunch of emails sent back and forth. The problem was obvious: it was difficult to get an overview of the pipeline and hard to track individual status of each release.

Eventually, I came up to using Trello as a mission control centre for our releases, and in this blog I’d like to tell more about it. Perhaps, my experience will be helpful for other label managers out there, and for regular listeners, it might be just an interesting insight look at an A&R routine.

What is Trello

If you never heard about Trello and don’t know anything about it, I suggest watching the Getting Started With Trello or read the Beginner Tips for Using Trello first to get an idea of what this service is all about.

Basically, Trello is a free web-service for organising stuff. One of its common application is using it as a Kanban board, with cards moving across that represents a task in a production process. Like this:

Drag-n-dropping a card in Trello feels very intuitive and works really well

This concept allows you to get a big picture and see each individual task simultaneously in a nice visual way, something that a typical to-do list fails to achieve. It is commonly used for software and web development, marketing, customer support, and other teams and businesses.

The workflow

Our board has lists that represent the workflow and cards that represent releases. Here are the lists:

Forthcoming For releases that we’re expecting in the foreseen future, usually from the label’s artists. E.g. “A follow-up EP from John”
New demos For incoming demos that we found something worthy and for the releases from the previous list once it’s done. Here we have our internal discussion whether this particular release fits or not
In Progress For approved releases from the previous list. A release in this list means we’re currently working on the mastering, the artwork, the remixes etc
Submitted For releases that are good to go and submitted to the distributor. Once a card is here, we just waiting for the release date
Released For released titles that are out in stores, our back catalogue. It means our job is done here
Rejected For tracks that don’t fit JOOF for any reason. Rejected demos go straight here from the second list above
Profiles For cards that include our artist information: name, contacts, address, pictures etc. We use it a shared contacts book and for the contracts

Feel free to use these lists as a template for your label board too.

Here is the overview of our JOOF board just to show you how these lists look like visually (all text labels are pixelated on purpose, for obvious reasons):

Trello board with JOOF pipeline

Even through the pixelated filter you probably see some colour strips on the screenshot above — that’s the labels, a sort of a tags system built in Trello (I will call it tags to avoid confusion with the word “label” in this context). You see, recently JOOF Recordings launched two more labels under its wings, JOOF Mantra and JOOF Aura, so formally speaking we’re managing three labels at once at this Trello board. And this is where those tags come really handy.

Here are the colours of the tags we use corresponding to each:

  JOOF Recordings
  JOOF Mantra
  JOOF Aura

Such colour code helps dramatically as I can instantly tell what’s status in each of our label just by looking at the board. And of course, I can also filter these tags or just search when I need to find something specific.

Card details

You probably noticed some square icons on the screenshot above, they are visible even through the pixelated filter. Let me show you a zoom-in screenshot of a card:

Trello card

See my user icon at the bottom right corner? Since here at JOOF we have several people receiving demos, we assign a person who managing that particular release to avoid miscommunication. A kind of “account manager” in sales and customers relationship.

For example, if I see an icon of my fellow colleague Gary, I know that he’s taking all communication with that artist regarding this particular release.

If you open up a card, it shows all the juicy details such as attached files, lists, due date, and the chat our team have about this release. Here’s how it looks like:

Trello card detailed view

Well, that’s pretty much it. Trello is a great tool for collaboration and management, but its application can go far beyond this. Personally, I also use it for tracking my radio show, vlogs schedule, gigs database, and so much more.

Feel free to ask if you have any question, I’ll keep the comments box below open.

Read also: Managing social media with Amplifr

Sep 13   A&R   Behind the scenes   Management   Music industry

My Ableton setup explained

Vlog pilot episode

Many people find my humble advice blog useful and I’m happy to hear that. However, the number one request that I get asked all the time is to make videos, not just articles in the written form. I find myself watching more and more YouTube channels lately, so I totally get that.

Well, you asked — you get it. In fact, I’m thinking to make this whole vlog thing on a regular basis, although I’m not entirely sure yet. Think about this video as a pilot episode.

I know some people prefer to watch a video on Facebook, so I’ll put that link here as well.

Three fun facts. I had to cut almost half of the content from this video, otherwise it would be 40 minutes long. This video took me about 20 hours to make, not including time spent on a couple of failed attempts. Since it was the first montage I made in Final Cut Pro X ever, I’ve watched 70 video lessons alongside with making it.

Aug 17   Ableton   Behind the scenes   DJing and performance   Vlog

Backstory series. Part 3

Getting to a new level

Previously I told about my first local gigs in 2006 and shutting down the community website in 2008.

During the next three years after these events, I lived a normal trying to make a career in a totally different field of work. No music production whatsoever, I’m not sure I even listened to music — I guess that is how strongly burned-out I was because of the study, the job, and the toxic relationship I had back then (tough times of being a teenager).

So, 2011, I was 24. That was the time when I realised that not only I want to come back to music production, but also make it a big part of my life and eventually make a living on music.

It was sound like a nice plan, right, but where to start? After a 3-year long break, most of my connections in the industry had gone, basically, I had to start from the very beginning.

That’s how eventually I found Audio School — a Moscow-based school of electronic dance music that offer courses on production, DJing, VJing, music theory, and other related disciplines. In total, I spent six months learning the basics and nuances of the profession and studying there was one the best decisions I’ve made.

The final exam on DJing discipline at Audio School. Performing on 4×Pioneer CDJ-1000, DJM-800, and an external SFX-processor by Korg. Moscow, 2011

Also at the same year I started my radio show, Rave Podcast, actually a several months before my education. Now it’s funny how clearly you can hear the difference in my mixing skills before and after the study. I know those first episodes sound terribly bad, but that’s exactly why I keep them — it’s a reminder to myself of where I started.

All in all, education at Audio School gave me a great head start and saved a tremendous amount of time because learning all of this by myself would take me a way much more time. Eventually, the track I’ve made for the production discipline final exam is the track you know as “Contact”, my debut release signed on Ovnimoon Records.

Advice: music career has many pitfalls and nuances, so if you have a serious intention to make music as your profession — learn from someone who already mastered these things. It can be a school, online courses, master classes, blogs, vlogs, whatever. Always raise the bar and never stop learning, that’s the only way of getting to a new level. The time and money you invest in self-education will always eventually pay off.


Always raise the bar and never stop learning


To be continued.

Jul 30   Backstory series   Behind the scenes   Career

Celebrating 100 articles in the advice series

What I’ve learned and what’s next

In August 2015 I launched the advice series to help aspiring producers and spread the knowledge. And last week I posted the 100th article in this series. Hundred articles on music production, sound design, DJing, industry insights, marketing, and career advice. This is huge.

I thought such round number would be a nice moment to thank everyone who sent me the questions and contributed to the blog. So thank you guys, thanks for your curiosity and strive for knowledge which drive this series forward. You’re awesome! <3

And taking this opportunity I would also like to tell a bit of what I’ve learned for the past two years of writing this series and what comes next.

What I’ve learned

  1. Good always wins
    When I introduced the advice series, all sceptics were saying that people will steal the tricks and ideas I share, that I will look stupid by trying to teach other people whilst I’m still an uprising producer myself (“You know nothing, Jo... Lesden”) and more criticism. Well, I had no doubts that none of this will happen and I was right. I was amazed how many people found this blog useful and genuinely shared their own techniques as well. I have a feeling that over time we’ll see more producers sharing their knowledge, too.
  2. Knowing ≠ understanding
    I realised that knowing things is not the same understanding those things. When you explain things to other people, your mind process it differently and you certainly learn something new even if you thought you knew it before. I can’t stress enough how much I’ve learned from this.
  3. Content marketing works
    This whole advice idea came out purely out of altruistic initiative, I didn’t think about it as a marketing tool. But turned out, many people — including industry professionals — have discovered my music because of this advice blog. A kind of a side effect but in a good way. I certainly recommend other producers to start blogging, it helps people and increases the overall awareness about your name with no money investment needed, something that a classic advertisement can never do.
  4. Writing consistently is tough, but boosts your skills
    Back in 2015, I asked myself: can I possibly write a new article every week on a regular basis? Frankly, it was quite a challenge. I’m not a full-time writer nor a blogger, I’m a musician and DJ that writes about music and that’s a totally different thing. Writing a single article is tough, but writing a new piece of advice every week is quite a challenge indeed! Nevertheless, I have to admit that consistent writing helped me learn how to explain myself clearly and even become a tiny bit better in English.

What’s next

The advice series will continue to come out on Wednesday, but probably not every Wednesday. More like of When-I-can-s-day.

I want to keep delivering a thoughtful and well-made content that other producers hopefully find useful while experimenting with its frequency a bit — sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-monthly, sometimes less often.

I also have a few really cool projects on the way (won’t spoil it here), but sacrificing the quality of one project over another is the last thing I want to do. Quality > quantity, not the other way around.

As a consequence of this changing schedule, more questions will be stacked up in the queue. If you ever wanted to send me a question, I would suggest doing it today as from now on it will take a longer time to post a reply.

Jul 26   Advice   Behind the scenes

The benefits of “no”

Success story: Tim Bourne’s behind the scenes on reaching out goal through rejections

“Per aspera ad astra”, 1894

One of my daily duties as an A&R at JOOF Recordings is listening to incoming demos we receive on a regular basis. And whether I like it or not, I have to say a “no” as an answer very often. Artists react to rejection differently: some of them never reply back, some others get angry. Well, no surprise: getting a “no” answer is tough, I know it myself perfectly.

But one guy stood out: every time I told him “no”, he came back with the updated track asking for new feedback. Four months later, he managed to make an amazing track that I was happy to sign on the label.

The guy I’m talking about is Tim Bourne, a 22-year-old aspiring music producer from Indonesia. I invited Tim to share his progression in this blog and I hope other up-and-coming producers will find his experience useful and motivating.

From there, Tim tells:

“To me, this drive of wanting to get accepted into JOOF started two and a half years ago when my friend introduced me to the label, ever since then my perception towards electronic music completely changed (in the best way possible). Since that it was something that I had to do, it was more than just a goal for me to make a track that lives up to the standards of the label.

I wanted to know where I sit when it comes to producing, am I really making something that is up to par — quality wise — or am i just making tracks that only sound good to my own ears, even then, my ears wasn’t really catching the small details of music production, I was missing out on so many essential parts of production.

I knew that it was going to be very tough because in my country there is very limited access to production courses or even Psytrance producers, so I had no one to really guide me on what to do technically or musically.

I started sending out demos to the label since 2015 — 20 years old by that time — and it was just no’s after no’s after no’s. In total, I’ve probably sent over ten tracks and one of the tracks I had to re-do and re-edit over five times due to song length, sound design, not enough variations, you name it... and it was still a big ‘no’. It actually got to a point where I was so pessimistic about myself and my music that after a couple of days after sending ‘The Wounded Healer’ I emailed to Daniel again and assumed that the track got rejected.

But alongside the no’s, Daniel was kind enough to actually give me very useful feedbacks, he gave me constructive criticism that was essential for my learning. And to be completely honest, I would have never evolved with my music production if it wasn’t for no’s and rejections. It was through this that I was able to learn and not just force any kind of sound into a track.


I would have never evolved with my music production if it wasn’t for no’s and rejections.


Here are some of the conversation we had on the track:

Of course, it was really hard to accept the fact that my music wasn’t quite cutting it, but either I stop and give up or just push through and make a track that I would have never imagined I’d be able to make a couple of years ago.

It started with this very flat sounding bassline loop with no melodies at all, just a pitched down FX:

Then I played around with the sound, added a little bit of processing, added hats and a clap and i played around with the notes because my ears were so exhausted of hearing the same note playing over and over again. Came up with this kind of groovy bassline:

As I was trying to fiddle around with the bass, I found a vocal sample that was perfect for creating anticipation for the groovy bassline. So I decided to add the vocal alongside a drum fill. I also added more processing to the kick and bass to make it sound more thick:

After creating what I thought was a strong body to the track, I know I have to accompany it with also a strong melody:

But i was not pleased because it felt like it was forced and it didn’t go smoothly with the track, so I changed the sound and came up with these two melodies:

Then comes the breakdown which I really enjoyed creating. I always have a thing for breakdowns, to me it creates the emotion of a track. This was the very first version of the breakdown, very empty and the arp melody just didn’t feel right:

So I decided to completely change the arp melody because turns out that it was the melody that made it sound a bit weird. I changed the arp melody, brought back the FX’s and i added some ethnic percussion which drew the breakdown more into the theme of the song:

I created this melody as a draft but It just didn’t sound right to my ears, I was okay with it but i wasn’t happy with it:

I tweaked the notes of the melody a little bit, got rid of the acid and added more saw’ish sounding synths to layer. And this is what i came up with:

And alas, ‘The Wounded Healer’ was born:

I want to say thank you to Daniel who has given me the opportunity to tell a little bit about my upcoming EP, The Wounded Healer and also the story of how I managed to pull through after so many ‘rejections’ and ‘no’s’. ”

2017   A&R   Behind the scenes   Career

Backstory series. Part 2

First local gigs as a DJ

Previously in the backstory series I wrote about the Psychedelic community I created, and today I’ll tell how it affected my career.

Let’s get back in 2006. Psyplanet became a quite large website and our team grew up to twelve members. As a community founder, I had to do a lot of coordination, negotiation, and all in all it gave me a huge experience.

Psyplanet helped me to know the scene inside-out: I knew pretty much every professional and enthusiast involved, such DJs, artists, promoters, agents, deco designers, flyer designers, photographers, street teams. And to be fair, the Psytrance scene in Moscow was quite big at the time.

But it wasn’t just that. It also helped to build a trust. I didn’t have ambitions of being a professional DJ back then, but due to relationship with the party promoters, I played as a DJ too.

Flyers of the Psytrance party series in Rotonda Club, organized by Syntex Lab. The big flyer on the right is one of the first parties where I played as a DJ. It was July 6, 2006. See also Psytrance flyers 2005—2007

Here some are of the tunes I played at that time just for you to feel the mood:

For various reasons — mostly, financial — I had to shut the website down. Psyplanet didn’t make me rich, but it doesn’t matter because it gave much more than that — a priceless experience, networking, and industry insights from which I learnt a lot from.

Advice: playing local gigs is a good way to start a career, but don’t just come to promoters saying “Hey, I’m a DJ, do you want me to play at your party?” because the answer is most certainly will be no. Go to their parties a few times first, find out who is the main person in charge for artists, have a little chat. Ask if they need some help, perhaps volunteers or a street team to promote an upcoming event. Slowly but surely, you build a trust. And now compare it to that random guy who came up and said “Hey, I’m a DJ”, — who do you think have more chances to be a warm-up DJ at the next event? The answer is clear.

2017   Backstory series   Behind the scenes   Career   DJing and performance

Backstory series. Part 1

Psyplanet, the Russian Psychedelic community

I remember back in the days when I was a teenager deeply passioned about music, I was always wondering how did artists reach out their milestones, such as the first local gig, the first international gig, the first studio album etc. That curious and passionate music lover guy still lives inside me, but now being also a music producer, I have experienced all these milestones myself.

So, I decided to write a kind of “backstory series” with behind the scenes of my past career goals and how I managed to achieve them, and with some career advice along the way.

***

To really understand where I am coming from, I have to begin my story with the Psychedelic community I created almost 13 years ago, which probably not many of my nowadays’ followers know about.

The year of 2004. At the time I just graduated the high school and, as most teenagers, I was thinking what should I do next. After some time, I came up to learning HTML and CSS and building a website. I was one of the few lucky ones who got the very first PC earlier around 1999, so learning the web and these languages in particular came naturally to me.

So, armed with the “HTML for noobs” book I started making my own website. I never hesitated what the website should be all about, because the answer was clear — about Psychedelic culture, of course! At the raves I was one those guys with white gloves and fluorescent clothes, so making a website about Psytrance was also naturally to me.

Slowly but surely, in 2005 I launched “Psyplanet”, the Russian Psychedelic trance community. We had a forum board, events announcements, party photos, artist profiles, free download music (oops!) and more goodies. Quickly it became one of the leading Psytrance websites in Russia.

Keep in mind the Internet was very different from today’s, it was a time before Facebook opened registrations and before Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone.

Here are some of the screenshots I found on my disk:

Psyplanet.ru final look before it was shut down in 2008

Advice: when thinking of what you suppose to do in your life, always trust your gut instinct, no matter what is currently trending or what your parents say. Doing what love to do is always pays off.

2017   Backstory series   Behind the scenes   Career

Album behind the scenes: from drafts to finish

Since I posted my second album production announcement followed by the album is complete videos, people keep asking me when it will be released, why it took me so long to make it, how I’ll call it, what inspired me, and more questions.

Come closer my friends, make yourself comfortable and grab a cup of tea as I’m going to answer these questions and share some thoughts behind the creation of the album.

Why album

In this fast-paced world, singles and EPs are the most common releases format. Well, no surprise: consisting of only one or two tracks, artists can make several such releases per yer and keep the buzz going. I’ve released a couple of singles this year too.

Albums, on the other hand, are counter-productive on that matter: they take much more time and efforts to make, both physically and mentally. But I guess I’m an old-fashioned guy because albums are very special to me, it’s like an exam, a milestone that showcases artist’s progress.

My debut album titled “Chronicles Of The Universe” was released in 2014, two years later after the very first release. It’s a musical story dedicated to our Solar System with each track representing a planet, and this album summed up my current taste and skills at the time.

Chronicles Of The Universe
JOOF Recordings, 2014

So around October 2015, having numerous releases after the first album, I thought it’s time to make a new album.

The first step is always the hardest

In the new album, I wanted to create more tech-driven, robotic, and futuristic feeling. Being always fascinated by science fiction, I came to my favorite novels, films, and concept arts in searching for inspiration:

Some inspiration for the album

So I started to work on the first track which later will be called “The Dream Of Electric Sheep”. Here is how one of the first drafts was sound like:

It was shit. Seriously, it has a poor sound design, lack of drive, and not satisfied quality. Perhaps, for someone it would be okay, but I didn’t wish to agree on just “okay”. I replaced the main lead, but still it wasn’t good enough:

Don’t do shit

It was so disappointing so I was about to abandon this idea entirely. I realized that I wasn’t ready yet — I wanted to make something fresh whilst my current skills held me back. But then something interesting happened.

The unexpected side of help

Now we have to go back in time for the three months before I started working on the album. On August 2015, I launched the advice section where I answer the questions people send me.

Introducing “Advice”

Turned out, the advice blog that suppose to help other people, helped a lot to me too.

Every time I answer a question, it forces me to dig deeper, to learn something new. Because knowing things is not the same as understand things and being able to clearly explain it to the others. To my own surprise, throughout the past year I’ve learned a lot of new things about sound design, mixdown, and other aspects of production simply by helping other people. How cool is that?

Going back to “The Dream Of Electric Sheep”, here is how it sounds now:

Back on track

Slowly but surely, the album progressed pretty well. But despite that I’ve improved my sound quality, one thing keep bothered me: the musical parts.

At some point I just opened all my drafts, played it back, and realized that some of the tracks I’ve made were too cheesy. To give an example, here is another track from the new album, it called “Machinery”:

I asked myself: “Does it matched the concept of a technological, aggressive, and futuristic sound like I wanted to make it in the first place?” Clearly, the answers were “no”.

I had to take a break to figure out where should I go musically. One month later, that track turned into this:

Yet still, having all those aggressive and futuristic sounds, I wanted also to have some atmospheric and euphoric build-ups. That’s how “Arrival” was born:

Coming soon

That’s it folks, I hope I answered your questions. Oh yes, and here is the cover artwork:

Title 2000 Years Ahead
Tracks 9
Playtime 67 minutes
Release on CDs January 11, 2017
Release on Beatport January 16, 2017
2016   2000 Years Ahead   Behind the scenes

The new album is complete!

Half year ago I announced my second album production. And today, I’m totally delighted to say that the album is complete!

It’s a full-length album with eight previously unreleased brand new tracks and one remix. The album will be released on my home label, Digital Om Productions, in early 2017 — in few months from now. And just in few weeks I’ll start sharing the album’s title, cover artworks, and course audio previews.

Being an introvert person I hate doing public appearances, but for this occasion I’ve recorded a video announcement with short teaser:

2016   2000 Years Ahead   Behind the scenes
Earlier Ctrl + ↓