23 posts tagged

Behind the scenes

Details behind my music and personality.

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.

Bonus reading: The importance of proper opening DJs

Mar 19   Behind the scenes

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 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.

In the next instalment, I’ll tell how Psyplanet affected on my career.

Mar 5   Behind the scenes

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
Dec 26   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

The truth about music sales

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Is it possible to make a living on music sales?

Daniel

TL;DR version: you certainly can make some money on music sales, but most likely it won’t be a substantial amount to make a living just from the sales alone. Here is why.

Producers have false expectations

I would like to go a little bit deeper because many producers have false expectations on that matter. A typical story looks like this:

A young and talented producer submits his tracks to a decent record label, and the label accepts it. The producer is very thrilled about this because it’s all he was dreaming about. Afters months of excitement and waiting, it’s finally out. The release climbed up in Beatport’s Top-10. Wow, what a success!

Half year later the artist receives a royalty statement with a total payable amount of $50. “What, just fifty bucks? No way, my release was in top charts! The label screwed me!” — the artist thinks. So he starts to blame label that this statement is a lie, while ‘greedy label took all the credits left him with no money’. The whole music scene now looks unfair to him, and eventually, he giving up his music career.

The worst and the saddest part of this story is this actually happens with many producers, I even know few people in person who was thinking that way.

Beatport Top-100 is overrated

First things off, let’s dispel the myth about Beatport charts: it takes only about 30 sales to get in a Top-100. Yes, not millions, not thousands, not even hundreds — just a couple of dozens sales, and you’re in Top-100.

Subtract taxes, Beatport’s cut, distributor’s cut, label’s share, mastering fee, artwork fee, and you’ll be lucky to get even those fifty bucks out of this. So next time you’ll see your release appeared in Top-100, it’s certainly nice but doesn’t mean you’ll be a millionaire, it’s overrated.

Here are some real numbers. My debut album “Chronicles Of The Universe” released back in 2014 skyrocketed straight into the Top-11 spot, and overall was in Top-100 chart for about five weeks. Pretty nice results for a debut album.

Chronicles Of The Universe

The album’s evolution in Beatport Psytrance chart, data from bptoptracker.com

In total, I’ve got roughly €400 from the album sales. Is it a lot? Well, it may look fine at first, but as a matter of fact, it barely covers mastering, artwork, promotion, and other expenses on post-production and advertisement.

If I would count sales only, all the money I’ve got so far in my 5-years career, which includes more than 30 releases on one of the most credible labels in the scenes, wouldn’t even cover my gear investment yet.

Home studio basics: gear costs calculation

Sales are over, streaming is screwed up

The truth is people simply don’t buy that much music that they used to do, people now stream music. The only way to get a substantial income from music sales is to sell millions of copies, which is only possible in a pop music world, e. g. Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift.

In the last 8 years, Lady Gaga’s sales dropped from 15 millions to 700 thousands of sold copies per album. Source: Wikipedia

Speaking of streaming, despite the growth of services like Spotify and Apple Music, royalty rate per track is so miserable so it makes no chance for a bedroom producer to make a living on streaming, too. At least for now.

$0.001128 — the average payment to an artist per stream. Source: The Guardian, 2015

Bottom line

If you wanted to release your debut album and left your ‘normal’ job because of the decent income you suppose to get from sales, I strongly suggest reconsidering this plan because it not gonna happen.

I’m sorry to tell you such things, I know someone may find it uncomfortable and even depressing. But what’s even more depressing is seeing how such an incredibly talented producers quit music career because they didn’t get money from music sales, which in reality is simply too high and wrong expectations in the first place.

There are plenty of possible income sources for bedroom producers, music sales and streaming are just occupies the smallest part of the pie. Yes, music business is tough!

I advise treating music like a marketing tool for getting an audience, it’s a business card that you show to the world which gives gigs and other opportunities in return.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   Music industry

Making atmospheric effects

Hey Daniel, I’ve always wondered how does well-known psy-producers (such as yourself) create atmospheric SFX? This also includes complex zaps, squelches, just the overall SFX that you often hear in today’s psy-trance. How is it made? Do you make it from scratch? Or use samples? Thanks :)

Timothy Bourne

Timothy, I can’t speak how other producers do their atmospheric effects, I can only tell how I do this. It’s also hard to say how to make some sound without knowing exactly what kind of sound do you mean by ‘atmospheric effects’, so I’ll go over general idea.

In my opinion, two things are crucial for making effects: knowing how to use audio processing devices and creativity. If you know how to use reverb, delay, gate, compressor, phaser, vocoder etc, you can turn pretty much anything into an effect.

Here are a few examples how I do atmospheric effects in my production.

Reversed ‘woosh’ with gate

A simple detuned chord stab:

Adjusting ADSR envelopes and adding a long reverb:

Then I reverse it and add some gate:

Making a reversed and gated “woosh” effect

Rolling texture

Now something different, with more texture. I’ll start with some simple saw wave stab with a bandpass filter:

Then I turn on the arpeggio to add some rolling pattern, and also add some long delay to keep this roll going longer:

This already sounds good to me, but we can make it more interesting by adding a high-pass filter and a pinch of metallic flavor:

Making a rolling texture with reverb, delay, panning, filtering, and ‘metallic’ flavor

Pitch-shifted gate pad

For this example I’ll take some ordinary string:

We can achieve some interesting pitch-shifted effect simply by modulation Pitch-bend wheel on top of some extra reverb:

Let’s make this effect more driving by adding gate:

Making an atmospheric pitch-shifted gate effect

Background atmo lead

Now let’s try to change some ordinary lead into a smooth background atmospheric effect:

Tweak the synth a bit, add reverb, filter automation, and auto pan as a ‘sidechain’ effect, and we’ll get this:

Just to put into perspective:

Making a background atmospheric lead

This is it, that’s how I usually do effects. This is not a ‘how-to’ guide, but rather just one of the way of making it, approach.

Some of these examples are taken from my forthcoming album

Zaps and squelches you’ve mentioned have slightly different approach, it’s more about synthesis rather than processing and maybe I’ll go over it next time.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   Music production

Template this

How templates can help to deal with routine

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Please tell us about personal efficiency and how you deal with the routine.

Daniel

I used to think that being a music producer is all about creativity, and well, you know, music production. Later I realized that it’s not really is.

Music producer’s routine also includes dealing with record labels, agents, other artists, and press; doing marketing communication with the fans over social media, websites, emails, and newsletters; and much more. And it’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed with it.

The situation gets even worse if you add a full-time job to this scenario, which many upcoming producers have besides the music. Doing all these producer’s routine seems impossible!

Re-energizing for music production after 9-6 work

It’s good to have a manager or some sort of personal assistance that would take some of those tasks off from your shoulders, but in reality, not every producer can afford to have one, or actually need it.

Artist manager

So, I’d like to share few tips on how to save your precious time using templates.

Use templates for emails

As an A&R at JOOF, one of my responsibilities is listening to incoming demos, and I receive a few dozens of demos every day. Some tracks are great, some are not quite, some others are absolutely out of format, like a pop dance song with some vocal.

Most labels simply ignore the demos that didn’t fit, but I believe leaving a message with no reply isn’t really polite. So I do reply to every single demo, however, I would spend half a day if I’d actually write every email from scratch.

Here come the templates. I’ve written templates for all possible occasions, and all I need to do now is to simply copy and paste the right template. Takes 10 seconds, literally.

Here are two just to give you an idea:

“Here’s my Dubstep demo for your label”, a funny name for a template used when the demo is completely out of place

“Maybe next time”, a template for promising demos

I’m using Evernote to keep all my templates library, but obviously, there are plenty of other tools: Google Docs, Notes app, Trello, simple text files in a shared folder, you name it.

I also have templates for any other kind of emails, such: when a party promoter sends me booking request, or when a fan asks when I’ll be playing next, or when a DJ wants to make a guest mix for Rave Podcast.

And guess what happens if I don’t have a template for some specific request? Right, I make a new one!

Use design templates

Do you often use similar images, or making press releases, or sending a newsletter? Invest some time and money to create a good template once, and it will serve you for years.

I use templates for pretty much every kind of graphics I share on a regular basis: Rave Podcast covers, announcements, mockup templates for the website, and more. And it saves a lot of time.

Templates used for various graphics

Use project template

When I work in Ableton, I always put a limiter on a master channel just for the sake of precaution, especially when dealing with a filter resonance while sitting in the headphones.

I also realized that every track a guaranteed has a kick, a bassline, a set of standards drums like closed hi-hats, open-hats, snare drum, and crash cymbal. So I was thinking, if I always have these layers and a limiter on the master channel, why not pre-made all these channels and save it as default? And in fact, I did.

Now when I create a new project, it looks like this:

A default project in Ableton

This default template doesn’t have any actual sounds or plugins, it just a structure of pre-made channels, labeled with proper colors and text tags, just the way I like it. It allows me to instantly dive into creativity and start making actual music as soon as I open a new project rather than do some boring organizational stuff.

Organizing music project

It saves time, too.

To save a default template in Ableton, go to Preferences (⌘,) → File/Folder tab → “Save Current Set as Default” → Save.

Bottom line

Templates are huge time-savers. Take notice of what you’re doing repeatedly, whether it’s replying to similar emails or posting the same kind of images in social media, and make template accordingly. This is when a creativity comes in!

I hope your routine won’t be the same frustrating as before.

On cover image: if I’d had my templates library existing in the real world, it would look like this. A frame of Jedi Archives taken from “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (2002).

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   Management

Genesis: behind the scenes

And the three things I’ve learned

cover black

A couple of months ago I promised that I would tell you a story behind the creation of “Genesis”, a result of my collaboration with Cosmithex released on JOOF Recordings.

Genesis, 2015

I’m about to share some really, really rough drafts and show how the track progressed from point “A” where it all started to the point “B” — the version of the track you all know as the final one. You’ve been warned! This is something that most other producers never do, but as I listeners myself I was always curious how things were going behind the scenes, so this is my present for you.

October 2011

I’ve instantly become a huge fan of Cosmithex when I heard his music for the first time. That was a track titled “Projection” from his upcoming album by that time, thanks to John 00 Fleming’s radio show as he always supports new talents. And I told myself that someday I wish to make a remix or to collaborate with this guy because his music was like a fresh air to me.

Visions of Sound, 2011

June 2014

I had an album released a few months ago, so I’ve got some confidence in myself. I sent a message to Cosmithex asking if he’d interested in remixing or collaboration, and suddenly he said “yes”.

You don’t ask—you don’t get

By that time I had some new project started, so I sent him this:

This one sounds really far from the “Genesis” you know but bear with me. In fact, this very first sketch has few elements that went into the final production: 133 BPM tempo, C#m key, the pad sound, percussion which you can hear at 0:43, and the melody at the end. And obviously it was a super rough draft just to demonstrate the idea, don’t take a look at the arrangement and sound design as I know it’s terrible.

Also, as you can hear that track quite different from my usual sound, and that’s what I call “out of comfort zone”.

Getting out of comfort zone

I was always wondering how people collaborates technically when they are a thousand kilometers away, and even using different programs (DAWs)? It turned out you can easily set up a shared Dropbox folder and send WAV files to each other. So basically you just rendering all layers as separate files, and it doesn’t matter which plugins or DAW both musicians use because it sounds the same. And it worked for us pretty well.

August 2014

After some work, Cosmithex sent me back his vision:

Dark and tripy, we both certainly liked this one.

On that point, I’ve decided to add some stabs, textures, and effects, while Tanel adds his famous ‘303’ acid sound. Also, I’ve added the voice speech, which pretty much defined the final track’s title:

In meantime, Cosmithex experimented with the bassline and more melodics, which led to this:

We found upper bassline really likable but decided to get rid of these strings. In the meantime, we render out and share with each other more layers to experiment with the kick drum, the stabs, and other sounds.

Discussing the details

December 2014

Oh yes, it happens. Almost 4 months passed quickly with a routine as we both had full-time jobs, so almost forgot about the track. Luckily, our enthusiasm hasn’t gone yet.

After some serious thinking, tries and fails, I’ve come up with the all-new melody, which now you know as the main track’s theme:

Then Cosmithex made a fantastic job by putting everything together, including his acid sound by the end, which I love that much:

January 2015

New Year is a tough period for getting things done as everyone is quite busy. Also at that time I’ve moved to a new flat and had to build-up a new studio space, which again took me away from the production.

A new studio

I guess I’m a tough person to collaborate with, because if I don’t like something, I say it straight as it is. And I’m very thankful to Tanel that he didn’t give up.

Changing the environment and new studio allowed me to hear the track differently, so, in the end, I’ve decided to mixdown all layers by myself as we both felt that the project needs some fresh air.

Finally, this version made us totally enjoyed the result. Hurray!

This is it? Not quite yet, because few more things were still left: get the mastering done, sign it on the label, get remixes done, and then finally release it (hint: it’s been released in August 2015).

As you can see it was quite a long journey, so when I posted a video teaser, my excitement was totally real.

Project overview

What I’ve learned

Three things I’ve learned from this project:

  1. Whether you are under pressure of routine, or thing just doesn’t go the way you want, you always have a choice. A choice to give up, or to pull yourself together and finish what you’ve started.
  2. Never agree on “okay” result, always aim for the best. I’m really glad both Tanel and I didn’t said “sounds okay, we’re done”. It was quite a tough project, but eventually, we’ve got an excellent track that reached out top charts position and huge feedback from the audience.
  3. Set yourself a deadline, it’s a must. Without specific time frame you risk to stretch out a project for too long, as the result, we have nearly abandoned the project!

And here are the things wish I knew before:

“Genesis” had at  #9 spot on the Beatport Top-100 chart and massively supported by the acts like Jordan Suckley, Christopher Lawrence, Alex Di Stefano, John 00 Fleming and Mark Sherry just to name a few, not mentioning huge fans support for what I am immensely grateful. This blog has been written with consent from Tanel aka Cosmithex.

Read also: My first production experience: flashback to 1999-2005 (Part 1)

2016   Behind the scenes

Preparing for a live set

Based on a true story

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Please tell about your first live set: what kind of equipment did you use, what preparations have been made prior to the event technically and organizationally, and all that stuff in details. Once you agreed with promoter to play on that event, what was your next steps? I really wondering how all these things works behind the scenes, everything from the moment until you get to the turntables.

Evgeniy Dolgih

Evgeniy, I’m not sure that you’ll get anything useful out of my story because every artist’s experience is unique. Some things that worked well for me doesn’t necessary will work for you, and vice versa. Also, keep in mind that preparation for a local and international gigs are quite different things. But anyway I’ll try to answer your questions and add some practical tips by the end.

I started to play live in 2012 — before that I played with a DJ sets only. At this point I want to clarify: I call set a “live” when you do some live real-time manipulations and edit/transform or change tracks on-the-fly (and these tracks doesn’t necessary have to be yours), as the opposite to traditional DJ sets when you simply mix track A with a track B. It was a Progressive-Psy night with Serbian headliners, and I was a closing artist. Obviously, as an up and coming musician, I was very happy about this opportunity.

Live and DJ sets difference

As soon as my set was confirmed, I asked promoter to show full lineup and timetable — who and when is playing. I’ve checked every single artist (including local DJs), found their social profiles and listened to their music. Also, I went to the venue website to see photos from the previous events. That allowed to me to get an idea of what can I expect from this event, whom I’ll meet on the stage and what music they gonna play.

Once I’ve got all need information, I started preparation of my set. Don’t be confused here: “preparation” doesn’t mean pre-record a set as some people think — at this point, I just test tracks to see what works together, and edit arrangement if necessary — cut too long breakdown or fix non DJ-friendly intro/outro. I always keep in mind those pairs that work nicely, so when some track is playing to the sound system, I know which track will fit in the mix next.

How to make smooth mixes

I was nervous a lot, obviously. That was my first live set, after all! To calm down shaking hands and get more confidence, I practiced hours and hours long. By practice I mean turn the world “off”, and playing 1-2-hour sets like if I would playing on the stage for real. And this actually helped a lot.

At that time my setup was the following: Novation 25 SL MKII MIDI-keyboard/controller connected to a MacBook Pro by USB, and external audio interface Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 connected to a DJ-mixer via stereo RCA-cable to Line-In channel.

I’ve chose this midi-controller due to it unique specifications: 8× encoders with infinite rotation, 8× 270° knobs, 8× channel faders, and the keys. Faders are quite rare things on the MIDI-controllers, and this is exactly what I wanted to use with my setup. As being said at the beginning, this works for me, but doesn’t necessary will work for you too, so please don’t buy this equipment just because you read about it here. Just for the record, nowadays in 2016 I use Novation 25 SL MKII in the studio only.

Ableton Live is the heart of the setup. In 2012 I posted my Ableton setup I used at that time, so if you don’t mind I’ll just quote myself:

My Ableton setup for performance at stage, posted on Facebook on July 31, 2012

“I’m using from 8 to 10 channels. The first three Audio channels – main decks for mixing. Channel #4 is for mashups (melodies, voice etc). On top of this channel – a sidechain-compressor with 4/4 kick pattern from another MIDI channel to prevent kick overlay. Channels #5-6 for some extra hats and percussion loops. On each of this channels – EQ-Eight with Hi-Pass filter. Then some MIDI-channels with VSTs – I’m using it for live versions of my own tracks, playing some melodies or modulate synths in real-time. Then Send/Return channels with various effects such Reverb and Redux. I send these effects to other channels via return, except several effects, for instance, Beat Repeat. All of these things and many more such as scene select, play, stop, pitch control, filters, and more I control in real-time using MIDI-controller Novation 25 SL MKII.”

So that is how I’ve spent last few weeks before the event — preparing, practicing and tweaking the setup.

The day “X” — the party time. My set time was 5 AM, as far as I remember. I’ve made a little mistake and came up around 1 or 2 AM, so I had not a chance to check out and see the stage routing in details prior to the event. I went to the stage in about 15 minutes before to my set, put equipment on the desk, and plugged cables. Okay, now is the time. People applauses, I pressed the play button... and heard no sound from the sound system. Damn! Luckily, I realized that I connected my sound card to the wrong channel on the DJ mixer and quickly fixed it, but it was the scariest 20 seconds of silence in my life!

Promo video 2012, recorded at that event

Recap:

  1. Do research: learn more about other artists in the lineup, local DJs, and venue.
  2. Prepare your set: make sure you know each track in your music library perfectly.
  3. Do rehearsal. This way you can get more confidence and take away the stress.
  4. Double-check your equipment. Make sure all your software and hardware piece of gears are up to date and works properly.
  5. Arrive at the venue prior to the doors opening, so you could do a soundcheck, get to know the venue and the crew.
  6. Take your fee on arrival if you get paid by cash.

Perhaps, dear readers would like to share their first live set experience in the comments below?

On cover images: myself is playing at one of my first live set. Forest Quest Festival, Russia, 2012.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   DJing and performance

Insights on sending a demo to a record label

And how to increase chances for response

cover transparent white

Hi Daniel, as far as I know you are an A&R at JOOF. Can you share some insights on sending demo, how to increase chances for reply, what are common mistakes and how to avoid them?

Brian Timms

It’s almost a year now since I’ve joined JOOF Recordings as an A&R Manager. It’s not much yet, but enough to see the picture from both camps. Brian, I’ll be glad to share my experience and try to answer your questions.

A new role

Do research

Surprisingly, how often producers sends non-format tracks that don’t match labels genre. it may sound obvious, but first of all do a little research before submitting a demo, make sure it is totally suit to style and concept of the label.

Some producers use mass mailing in hope that at least some label will pick their track up, but I assure you, chances to get released on a decent label by mass mailing are very, very low. Unless you want to get picked by “some” label that probably doesn’t really care about your music.

Personalize

In additional to the previous point, I advise personalizing your submission. Rather than simply say “Hi, here is my demo”, which may indicate that you probably sent this demo to other labels as well, add that particular label name in subject line, or in track title, or in track description, or wherever.

This little trick instantly gives a feeling of personal demo sent specifically for this label. And this is important. If you don’t care on which label you want to be released, then most likely label won’t care much about you either.

Use official contact

Pretty much all the people in the music industry have public accounts: on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Google+, and other social media. But the fact that you know these accounts, and each has a “send a message” button, doesn’t mean that labels would be happy to receive your demos there. In fact, it might be quite the opposite.

Personal and business communication are different things, and not all people like to mix it together. I advise to respect the privacy and do not send demos in personal messages on social media.

Instant messengers vs. email for business communication

For instance, Facebook has a sort of protection mechanics, and once a person reached out a certain amount of friends, he no longer receives notifications about new messages and friends request. This said, sending a demo via Facebook is not only disrespectful in terms of business ethics, but also has a very high chance that your messages will not be visible, at all. Think about it.

I recommend using label’s official contact for demo submission instead. Go to the label’s website or Facebook page, open contacts section, check the procedure. If they accept demos via form on their website only, then send via form. If they ask to send an email to specific address — send an email to that address.

Send links, not files

Never ever attach audio files to the email message. Firstly, because some mail servers and filters have a limit on incoming file size, you risk that your message won’t be delivered at all. And secondly, well, it’s a question of business ethics.

I recommend uploading your files to one of the trusted and reliable platforms, such as SoundCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or WeTransfer. Make sure to name files properly with artist name and track title, rather than something like “ID1.mp3”.

Personally, I prefer SoundCloud links most of all. But there are three things to keep in mind when sending over SoundCloud:

  • Turn on download option. Yes listening online is super handy, but sometimes a person who make a decision may want to download this track to listen in another environment, let’s say on the phone while flying on the plane.
  • Keep your uploads private. Labels want to get exclusive material that no one heard before, so public uploads significantly reduce your chances to get it signed.
  • Make sure you send a private link. This one is a common mistake: to get a private link, you have to click on the “Share” button, and then copy text from the “Private Share” line. Double-check it: the link should include some few random digits at the end. If you just copy-paste regular link from your browser, everyone but you will see this:

Send a brief, but specific message

It’s surprisingly how often I receive emails like this:

Hi,
I hope you’ll like my new track!
Sent from iPhone

Who is the sender, what’s his artist name? What a track he sent, and for what purpose? You can only guess! Most likely, eventually such message will be simply ignored in a favor for other incoming messages in the queue. Remember, credible labels with good reputation receive huge amount of demos, dozens on a daily basis! But please don’t write a huge wall of text either.

Best practice is to briefly introduce yourself, tell something about this track and why do you send it. It’s okay to mention some other tracks or artists you like from the label, this shows you as a fan of the label, which is always a good sign.

A good message may look like this:

This is an example of a clear, simple and polite message, and you can be sure, this one get higher priority to listen and reply among all incoming queue.

Feel free to use this as a template: one short paragraph about yourself, one or two sentences about this demo, and signature with the main website link.

Be patient

Don’t expect to get a reply back instantaneously. Good manners and business ethics implies to wait for the response at least within a week, this is one of the main difference between online chatting with friends and business communication.

Instant messengers vs. email for business communication

Keep in mind that A&R Managers are often acting artists that have a busy schedule with music production and touring.

It is okay to send a reminder if you haven’t got a reply in 2-3 weeks. But don’t fall into a trap of false illusions: probably, you won’t hear back at all. In one thing you can be sure: if your track is really amazing, well produced and totally fits the label, you will get a reply for sure.

Learn to accept “No”

Being an acting artist myself, I perfectly know how frustrating it might be. But don’t be afraid of “no” as an answer. In fact, this is the only answer that helps you grow up as a producer.

Frustration. How to move forward

Here at JOOF, we give advice and do a sort of mentoring to those artists in who we feel a potential. I’m sure other labels do the same. This is how all together we make our beloved music scene better.

I hope it helps. Good luck with your submissions!

Read also: When sending a demo, should I do mixing and mastering by myself?

On cover image: astronomical radio telescope at the Atacama Desert. Sometimes sending a demo to label is like send a radio signal to outer space.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2015   A&R   Advice   Behind the scenes   Music industry
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