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Behind the scenes

Later Ctrl + ↑

The truth about music sales

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Is it possible to make a living on music sales?


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

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.

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.

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   Music production   Sound design

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.


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).

2016   Advice   Behind the scenes   Management

Interview with Trance Magazine

TranceMag is a leading Trance music site who shares the latest reviews, interviews, and hosts TranceMag Sessions every Sunday. After making the guest mix, Daniel Lesden has been invited to chat with TranceMag stuff writer Florin about his background, second album, expectations, and opinion on the Psytrance scene.

Hi, Daniel. We’re glad you’re able to take some time to talk to us. Hope you’re doing well.
Hello and thank you for having me here. I hope you’ve enjoyed the guest mix I did for TranceMag Sessions recently.

We most certainly have! Thank you :-) Let’s start off with a little introduction for our readers. When did you get interested in electronic music, PsyTrance in particular?
Formally speaking, my music career began five years ago with the debut release on Ovnimoon Records, but my love and passion for electronic music has started long before that — around the age of 11.

Could you tell us more about your early musical background? How did it all start for you as a producer, and what were some of your influences?
Since childhood, I knew for sure I wanted to connect my life with music, and to encourage my initiative, mom bought me a Yamaha keyboard. The best present I could ever dream about! The same year (1999) I got my first ever PC, and that was a starting point of my experiments with music. In fact, I have written about my first music production experience — an article in two parts with all the behind the scenes details and even samples of my earliest music (spoiler alert: it sounds terrible, you’d better not listen to this).

As for influences, well, you have to realize that a 13-year old kid had very limited access to music at the end of 99—early 00’s. I desperately tried to find any piece of electronic music, so overall my musical taste was very broad: from Prodigy’s Breakbeat and Scooter’s Happy Hardcore, to Nitzhonot of Cyan, Goa Trance of Astral Projection, ‘Classic’ Trance of M.I.K.E. Push, and even some really crazy 180-BPM Trancecore stuff, like Beyonder and Rebellion. But I get used to calling all these diverse genres by one simple word — Rave.

I get used to calling all these diverse genres by one simple word — Rave.

What was the first track you heard that you instantly fell in love with? What about the first record you bought?
Speaking of Psytrance music, Astral Projection’s “Mahadeva”, Yahel’s “Last Man in the Universe” and Man With No Name’s “Floor-Essence” were definitely some of these tracks.

Taking a look at your productions from last year, one is treated to an outstanding line-up. However, Enuma Elish seemed to steal the show, due to it being widely supported by both well-known Trance artists and listeners, catapulting you into the limelight. What’s the story behind the track title and production? Could you share your experience while making it?
I’m glad you like Enuma Elish, and thanks for asking because there was an interesting story, indeed. I received a personal request from John 00 Fleming to make a “138-140 BPM driving monster”, the kind of real Trance he’s been hungry for. And that was perfect timing as I felt the same.

You know, all those modern dancefloor tricks like build-up and drops that we hear in today’s Psytrance music are fine, but sometimes I feel that ‘Psytrance’ misses the ‘Trance’ component. I wanted to make a straightforward track with a hypnotic vibe, a track that awakens emotions, even if it’s considered as old-school today. So, inspired by the old 00.db tracks, as well as by many of my personal all-time favorite Progressive and even Goa Trance tracks, “Enuma Elish” was born.

And just to tease you a little bit, “Enuma Elish” is gonna be remixed by a UK artist.

I wanted to make a straightforward track with a hypnotic vibe, a track that awakens emotions, even if it’s considered as old-school today.

Your work has appeared on some of the world’s best Trance labels (specifically those more underground Trance oriented) like JOOF Recordings, Pharmacy Music and Digital Om Productions. How important, do you think, is their support for a young and talented artist like yourself? How hard is to maintain the consistency and authenticity of your sound?
JOOF Recordings, Pharmacy Music, and Digital Om Productions are some of the best labels in underground music with a huge cult of followers. But what’s most important is the people behind label names: they are truly passionate about what they do, real professionals. Their support means a lot. And it is an honour for me to work and learn from them.

It is nice to have a unique signature sound of course, but when an artist uses the same sounds over, and over and over again with no any development, to me it’s more like laziness rather than “signature sound”. That’s why, from time to time, I go out of the comfort zone to make something totally different, and Surreal, released earlier this year, is a testament to this.

You are one of the most versatile producers nowadays, managing to successfully balance Progressive and Psy, integrating a lot of melodies, and pushing your sound in an exciting direction. What is most important to you when making music? What message do you want to spread with your sound?
I think the most important thing is to stay true to yourself, regardless of trends. It may sound selfish, but first of all, I make music to express myself musically. If you try to please everyone, you won’t please anyone. And I am very grateful to all the people that follow me throughout this journey.

If you try to please everyone, you won’t please anyone.

From what you announced recently, we learned you are working on your 2nd artist album. Could you share some details about it? What inspired the album and what sound dominates throughout?
I am a huge fan of cosmic exploration and science fiction. Pretty much every track I’ve made so far was inspired by one of these themes, and the album I am working on at the moment is no exception. The album is still in the making, but I would say it gets a more full-on-ish type of sound, more aggressive, more “high-tech” if I may call it this way.

Does the album have a name yet? Also, will it be released on JOOF, like your previous one, Chronicles Of The Universe?
It has a couple of working titles, but the final name is yet to be decided. As for the label, I’d keep it in secret for now. Let it be a surprise!

You have mentioned a few collaborations and a remix will be featured on the album. Could you tell us with whom you have worked? What were you looking for when it came to picking the producer (or producers) to collab with?
AudioFire is an amazing producer I have worked with, perhaps you’ve seen my recent announcement about it. The remix was done for some folks from Serbia, producers I admire a lot. I’m afraid, that’s all I can say for now.

When picking a producer to collab with, I look for similarity and otherness at the same time. Both of us have to like each other’s music in the first place, that is for sure, but at the same time, we have to use a slightly different approach. What’s the point, otherwise? Same as in a dispute, I believe the best solutions are born from the collision of different opinions.

I believe that a track has to have some storyline behind it, some plot that would open up the listener’s imagination.

Is there one track on the album that perfectly describes your style and sound you want to present to the listeners?
I think the album production teaser I’ve shared recently sums up the overall album vibe perfectly. If you enjoy that teaser, I guess you should love the whole album, too.

What is the most important thing for you in a track? Do the listeners have to search for a deeper meaning?
I believe that a track has to have some storyline behind it, some plot that would open up the listener’s imagination. Someday, I want to make music while also accompanying it with a short film and written a story, so people can experience my vision as a whole. So yes, listeners certainly can find some deeper meaning in my music.

What are your expectations from the album in general? What message do you want to send?
I had expectations before, and it didn’t end up well. Expectations are no more than guessing of the outcome, and the outcome is something that you cannot control. What you can control, however, is your own actions. So rather than set high expectations for something that may or may not happen, set yourself a habit of doing your work well, do it on a regular basis, and on the best possible level you can. And this is exactly what I’m doing with music now — just doing my best.

Expectations are no more than guessing of the outcome, and the outcome is something that you cannot control. What you can control, however, is your own actions.

What is your opinion on the current Psy-Trance scene and the modern sound that people are attracted to?
We can certainly see a growing interest for Psytrance music these days, some Psytrance acts are now playing at the world’s largest festivals along with commercial Trance and House DJs in the lineup — something that wasn’t possible just several years ago. And I like it, because a growing audience opens up more possibilities to the scene. As you probably know, I grew up in Moscow, and what I remember is that many good party promoters gave up on organising Psytrance parties simply because there were not enough attendees to cover the costs for a venue rent, good equipment, artist fees etc.

I believe that since Psytrance has gone mainstream, more people will demand smaller underground parties as well, which would give a second breath to the clubs, party promoters, and artists. Commercial and underground music are two sides of the same coin, like light and darkness, they exist only because of each other.

What do you think needs to change about the scene? Any producers out there at the moment that you are really enjoying?
I like the fact that entry threshold for electronic music in general becomes easier, and more people can afford making music. More people in the scene means more ideas, more talents yet to be discovered. And this is great.

However, the professional side of music has many more questions than answers available. As a result, we see a lot of low-quality tracks flooding music stores, or up-and-coming artists who have no idea how record labels work. And I’m trying to change it by making knowledge more accessible and widespread. That’s the reason why in August 2015 I launched the “Advice” series, where every Wednesday I answer the questions people send me. Together we make the music scene better, and I’m very grateful for the massive feedback I receive from the music community, fellow DJs, and producers.

As for producers I really enjoying — oh yes, so many good artists around. Just listen to my radio show!

We see a lot of low-quality tracks flooding music stores and up-and-coming artists who have no idea how record labels work. And I’m willing to change it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years, in terms of your music?
As I said above, I don’t want to fall into the trap of expectations, so hopefully I’ll just continue to follow my journey.

Let’s bring it a little closer to current events. This year marks the 5th anniversary of your monthly show, Rave Podcast, so congratulations! How does it feel to have reached this milestone?
Thanks! Frankly, it was unexpected. I was like, “okay let’s see what we have for the February edition… hold on, is it February 2016 now? I’ve launched the very first episode in February 2011, so this must be the five year anniversary, jeez!”. Time flies! I’m really amazed how many people became regular listeners of Rave Podcast throughout these years, and I really appreciate each and every one.

Staying on the subject of the podcast, what is the concept behind it? Following that, how do you choose your guests?
At first, I started the podcast just to share the music I love, and the basic concept was to show different music genres — hence the name, “Rave Podcast”. But Rave Podcast is more than just a show, reflecting my ever changing musical taste.

By the end of 2011, I had changed the concept to not stick only to Psytrance as the main genre, but also showcase artists from all over the world. At the moment, artists from 27 countries have made their guest mixes for Rave Podcast. Just imagine how big and diverse the Psytrance scene is!

Having a radio show with a loyal following is also a huge responsibility because at some point it affects people’s taste. When choosing a guest, I’m trying to showcase a very broad spectrum of musical beauty: from deep Progressive to uptempo Fullon, from mellow to harder sound, from up-and-coming producers to the world’s largest names. It’s a fine balance, and it looks like we’re doing well so far.

We’re curious, outside of DJing / Producing, what else do you do with your time? Besides the album, what else can we look forward to from you? Any confirmed gigs?
These days, artists have to do much more than just music, so when I’m not making music or DJing, I do everything else: business negotiations, work with the audience, marketing plans, website, blog, social media, dealing with the press, just to name a few. Speaking of personal time, I love running to keep my body healthy and mind clear.

Before the album, you’ll hear a remixes EP of my tracks, including my own 2016 mix for one of my older productions. This one is gonna be really interesting.

As for gigs, I have a lot of requests from both promoters and party people in USA, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Japan, Brazil and India, just to name a few, but none is confirmed so far. Maybe it’s for the best as I’m trying to use this time wisely to finish the album. Studio work and active travel are two things that can’t be be easily combined.

Is there a track in history you wish you would’ve written, or have been there to witness it being made?
No, I don’t think so :-)

Silly question, but do you have a pet? If not, what would your ideal pet be (you can even go with an imaginary one, if it’s more interesting)?
I don’t have a pet for now. I believe that a pet (whatever it may be) is not just a toy, it’s a living creature that needs attention no less than a person, and spending extra time is something I can’t afford at the moment. But if I had a pet, I think it would be a cat — I just can’t resist their cuteness!

Any last words for our readers and your fans?
I would like to thank all my fans, colleagues and the people I work with for their support and experience. I sincerely appreciate it. And thank you for the nice interview, TranceMag! Can’t wait to see you all on the dancefloors around the globe!

Link to the original post
Text — Florin Bodnărescu

2016   2000 Years Ahead   Behind the scenes   Enuma Elish   Interview   Psy scene   Rave Podcast   Surreal

Genesis: behind the scenes

And the three things I’ve learned

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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” has been at #9 spot on the Beatport Top-100 chart and been massively supported by the artists 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   Genesis

Preparing for a live set

Based on a true story


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

My Ableton setup explained, 2017

“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


  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 playing at one of my first live set. Forest Quest Festival, Russia, 2012.

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.


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:

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

2015   A&R   Advice   Behind the scenes   Music industry

Tracks concept arts. Part 1

My mind seems works visually: when I think about tracks, I “see” pictures rather than hear sounds. Thus I make some kind of concept art images when preparing new EPs for send to labels. This is how it looks like:

Life Simulation, JOOF Recordings
Thru The Stars, Digital Om Productions
Another Earth, Digital Om Productions
Aurora, Borderline Music
This one is actually yet unreleased, forthcoming on JOOF Recordings

These backgrounds are not made by myself, but they show the ideas very nicely.

Part 2 is coming later.

2015   Behind the scenes   Concept arts

My first production experience. Part 2: flashback to 2006—2011

Raves, break, and back to the dream

2005 was a very important year for me: finally, I’ve become 18 years old, which means I could go to all parties with no problem. Before that I heard PsyTrance only at home, I had no idea how does it sound like on big venues. So I raved a lot, exploring the psychedelic culture.

I’m in the handmade UV-fluoro painted T-shirt, 2005. Damn, I was such a freak!

Of course, it affected the music I’ve produced. I still used Reason that time:

This one was my favorite (the second half):

I was lucky to play as a DJ several times in between of 2005~2008, that’s when I seriously thought to make a career in music for the first time.

But circumstances was stronger at that time: I went to study in University and work, so I left my dream — for 3 years I didn’t even open any music software. It was the life of just a regular guy with a study, work, and occasional parties in between. But deep inside I knew I still to want make music.

In 2011 I made a decision: if I completely left music, I will regret about it all rest of my life. So, to bring my skills to a whole new level, understand the process behind the production and learn DJing, I went study to Moscow-based Audio School.

First track after several years break. Ableton Live, 2011. Clearly, at that time I had no idea how to organize projects

Two more months later:

That’s it. Since then, everything I do now you can hear in my discography :-)

Read previously:
My first production experience: flashback to 1999—2005 (Part 1)
“Genesis”, a story of creation

2014   Behind the scenes   Music production

My first production experience. Part 1: flashback to 1999—2005

ModPlug Tracker, Re-Birth RB-338 and Reason

Formally speaking, I count the beginning of my music career from 2012 when my debut EP was officially released. But in fact, my awkward attempts at making some music started a long time before that — more than 15 years ago from now. And I would like to tell you about this experience.

It’s all begun when mom bought me a keyboard, Yamaha PSR-330 — that was the best thing I could ever dream about. It was 1999, I was twelve. Normal kids are playing football and do some other things which supposed to be fun, spending all day long outside. I wasn’t that type as I preferred to sit home at the computer all day long after the school (or instead of school, sometimes).

It was completely different times than nowadays almost with no internet, every piece of information was on the weight of gold. So I started to learn every software I could find on piracy CDs, and the first one was ModPlug Tracker.

Jeez, these days I’d not even open this:

ModPlug Tracker: my first music sequencer

Unfortunately (or luckily) none of my ModPlug Tracker projects saved till present days.

A year later I discovered a program Re-Birth RB-338 which I was very excited about — it reminded me a spaceship control panel:

My favorite Re-Birth plugins (“mods”): MSM 2.0, Classic, and Pitch Black

It’s very simple, the entire program is made of two sequencers (one for the bassline, one for lead) and two drum machines. Yet still, I’m pretty sure a lot of early Trance music has been made in Re-Birth, for example, one of my all-time favorites track Venus by DreamTech.

Mine weren’t that cool, tho. For the first time ever I’ve got what the Cut Off is, as well Resonance and Distortion. Here are one of my first tracks made in Re-Birth, I was 13:

Around 2003~2004 I had a “breakthrough” and found another piece of software which I used for about 4 next years — Reason by Propellerheads, same developers as Re-Birth.

Despite that Reason have so nice graphic user-interface showing analog-like connections, cables, and wires, I had no clue how does it works — everything I did was intuitive

I never intended to release any of that stuff, nor even thought about it. Music production was the goal itself, process for the process, not for the result. Of course those attempts sounds terribly bad, but after all, I had so much fun!

2014   Behind the scenes   I am   Music production
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