29 posts tagged

Music industry

Talks on industry, scene, labels, and everything involved.

Time traveller’s archive — 13

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

Eduardo Briceño talk at TEDx Manhattan Beach

  1. Eduardo Briceño: How to get better at the things you care about. I like how Eduardo separate activity between learning and performing, and funny enough, I’ve been using pretty much the same technique for quite some time. “Research shows that after the first couple of years working in a profession, performance usually plateaus. This has been shown to be true in teaching, general medicine, nursing and other fields, and it happens because once we think we have become good enough, adequate, then we stop spending time in the learning zone. We focus all our time on just doing our job, performing, which turns out not to be a great way to improve. But the people who continue to spend time in the learning zone do continue to always improve. The best salespeople at least once a week do activities with the goal of improvement. They read to extend their knowledge, consult with colleagues or domain experts, try out new strategies, solicit feedback and reflect. The best chess players spend a lot of time not playing games of chess, which would be their performance zone, but trying to predict the moves grand masters made and analyzing them. Each of us has probably spent many, many, many hours typing on a computer without getting faster, but if we spent 10 to 20 minutes each day fully concentrating on typing 10 to 20 percent faster than our current reliable speed, we would get faster, especially if we also identified what mistakes we’re making and practiced typing those words. That’s deliberate practice.”
  2. Research this music industry. Great blog, as always from John 00 Fleming. It’s posted in 2013 but its value hasn’t become any less since then: “Also look into the mechanics of how this industry works, many will have a track released and expect the label to get them bookings? The job of a label is to get your track (and name) marketed making sure it gets to the right DJ’s, into the right shops for sale, air play on radio shows and online and in magazines. Labels don’t have databases full of promoters and club owners, they have no need? The gig side of things falls to agents, its two completely different businesses that many think are one. A good label with assist an agent due to the marketing they provide, it makes the agent’s job easier to get gigs due to the exposure the label is giving the artist. ”
  3. Native Instruments: Making strummed acoustic 2. If you ever wondered how those guitar samples that you probably have in your library has been made of, this is gonna be interesting reading for you: “For the recording sessions, we teamed up with three different guitarists – each brought a fresh perspective and lots of great input. We focused on staying in the creative spirit as we wanted every recording to have the feel of a real take on a real track. So we would always warm up with a jam, and instead of recording to clicktrack, we used various drum tracks to help the guitarists perform each pattern with a distinct attitude. It makes sense that the more musicality goes into the recordings, the more comes out in the final product. Recording lasted around 6 months.”

“Is it worth releasing on a compilation?”

Do you think it’s worth to sign a track on a compilation? I’ve got a message from one particular label that interesting in signing me up, they said they’ll do the mastering and stuff but I’m not sure whether I want it in the first place because that compilation seems to be a multi-genre medley. Perhaps you have some experience releasing on compilations?

Radio Dynamica

To answer this question, you have to make a research to see what kind of compilation it is because not all compilations are equally good.

Due to my nature, I often organise things by categories, so I came up with three tiers of compilations.

“Shitty” compilations

“Techno Trance 2014 – 30 Top Best Of Hits, Acid, House, Rave Music, Electro Goa Hard Dance, Psytrance” by EDM Records; “Space Trance Vol. 2 State of Universe, an Ultimate Voyage into Electro Trance” by GR8 Trance Music

The first and probably the most common compilation type I call “shitty compilations”, as you guess the name is self-explanatory. You can easily identify a compilation from this category by its terribly bad cover artworks and the titles like “100 Top Best Future EDM Psytrance Hits”.

The only reason why such compilations exist is because their labels want to make money. Artists, decency, and reputation are not the things they care about.

“Recycling” compilations

“Goa Culture Vol. 34” by Yellow Sunshine Explosion; “Universal Frequencies Vol. 2” by Digital Om Productions

These compilations usually curated by the label’s DJs, and basically they recycling tracks from the previously released albums and singles. Don’t get me wrong: recycling is a good thing. It gives listeners an opportunity to catch up some tracks they probably missed, and also gives some extra income and exposure to the label and the artists.

As you can see, these compilations typically has much better visual look as well. They also often hit the top charts because over time they’ve built a reputation of a quality content provider.

“Featured showcase” compilations

“JOOF Editions Vol. 3” by JOOF Recordings, “Full On Fluoro Vol.1” by Perfecto Fluoro

Featured compilations are long-awaited releases that showcase the label where it currently stands and where it heading to. The tracks selection is picked very carefully, sometimes artists make new track specifically to get into tracklistings so the compilation often includes previously unreleased works.

Typically, such compilations generate a solid buzz in social media and press and also hit the top charts. That’s the reason why most artists want to be featured on a compilation like that, but not everyone can get there.

***

I want to say it again, do your research first, see what kind of compilation is it, check the label and their previous releases. Is it a credible name? What other artists are released there? Otherwise you may end up on a compilation from the first category which would give nothing but a bad reputation. Or, perhaps, you should make a solo release instead?

Read also:

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.

Mar 1   Advice   Music industry

Time traveller’s archive — 12

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

John 00 Fleming doing his first Facebook livestream

  1. John 00 Fleming Q&A talk. John gave a nice almost 1,5 hours-long Q&A session prior to his set at Avalon and people asked a lot about the Trance scene which was quite interesting to listen. I like his advice for bedroom producers: “Best advice is keep it as a hobby and stay in love of it because a lot of people think they gonna hit ‘X-factor’, like a quick romantic story. It’s like you get a track, three months later you gonna be touring around the world, and that’s how the magic happens. But it is much more than that. It only happens for certain people. You’ll get angry, you’ll get stressed if you think that. Sort your day-to-day life first, get your day-time job which pays your bills, and slowly invest some extra money in music. At some point you’ll notice that your hobby will become more serious. But it takes a long time”.
  2. Making of “The Prodigy – Voodoo People” in Ableton by Jim Pavloff. This is quite an old video but I just stumbled across it recently. Great job on sampling. I didn’t know Liam Howlett sampled so many songs back then. Watching this video makes realize how I love Ableton, working with audio channels and processing are so convenient in this DAW. Watch also the other two tracks recreated by Jim Pavloff, you can find it on this YouTube channel.
  3. The Berghain Backstory: Building Berlin’s Most Legendary Nightclub. Some nice behind the scenes of one of the most important nightclubs in the world of underground Techno music.
  4. Rewriting bad writing. Nice advice, as always from the Basecamp team. This time on writing: “While writing isn’t an easy skill, people make it way harder than it needs to be. They think choosing complex language shows skill and smarts. It doesn’t! Writing plainly and clearly does.”
Feb 3   Music industry   Music production   Sound design   Time traveller's archive

Time traveller’s archive — 11

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

Richie Hawtin explains his DJ setup with gestures

  1. How I play: Richie Hawtin Model-1 DJ Setup. Despite that this video has a solo marketing purpose for promoting the Model-1 mixer, it’s still nice to know what happening in the mind of such an experienced DJ as Richie Hawtin.
  2. Roland TB-303 vs. TT-303 vs. TB-3 vs. TB-03. Great audio and visual comparison of the legendary TB-303 with its modern reincarnations, made by ADSR. This might be useful especially for those who planning to buy one of these synthesizers.
  3. Everything you hear on film is a lie. Nice and entertaining insights at TED from sound effects designer Tasos Frantzolas on how our mind tricks us when we hearing sounds; most “authentic” sounds (to our ears and brain) are actually fake. Now every time I watch a rainy scene I hear crispy bacon.
  4. 7 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me About Releasing Music. It’s good to read a confirmation of what I’ve written about myself. Particularly, this part: “There are lots of labels out there who may offer to release your music, but the reality is, unless they’re really putting in some serious promotion efforts, and have a strong, well established fanbase who are keen to follow the label, and not just the producers they have released, then you’ll probably not see much come from it.”.

    And this: “Let’s face it, you’re highly unlikely to make enough to live on just from selling music. Those making money from music are doing LOADS more than just releasing. We’re talking releasing music, remixing, DJing or performing live, doing sample packs or patches, tutoring, licensing, producing for other people, running events, and more. And even then, some will be doing other things to supplement income that are not related to music.”

Time traveller’s archive — 10

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

Millennium Falcon. I love this ship since I was a kid.

  1. Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction SFX. Nice and funny insights from sound designer Ben Burtt. It’s also a great example of the layering technique.
  2. The Truth About Popular Music. “The diversity of transitions between notes, chords, melodies, and other sounds has diminished over the last fifty years. [...] The study also found that producers are baking volume into songs at the production stage making them artificially louder. This over-compression has the effect of sucking all the dynamics out of a song. Everything is beginning to sound the same. [...] Now any stupid fucking bimbo or brain-dead twag can be dragged-off a reality show, chopped into a recording studio and have their shrill wobbling auto-tune for mass consumption.”
  3. The Biggest Home Studio Lie We Tell Ourselves. Good points from Graham Cochrane on being lazy: whether you’re composing, doing arrangement or mixing, never say “I’ll make it better later”. It’s like taking a bad picture on a smartphone hoping that Photoshop will fix it. You got to get it right in the first place.
  4. If you want to follow your dreams, you have to say no to all the alternatives. This is something I have problems with: I want to achieve so many goals, so sometimes I feel like I’m going nowhere. This article shows why you should focus on only one big dream in a funny visual way.

Time traveller’s archive — 9

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

Patrick Chen sharing insights about Psytrance scene

  1. Behind the Scenes: FM Booking. Some interesting insights from Patrick Chen: “In Psy scene, per an artist, DJ, or producer, the average price rate is about €2000 per gig. Nevertheless, prices can oscillate hugely. [...] price range can be from €500 up to €10 000 or €12 000, it all depends on the artist popularity. The most popular countries in Psy scene at this moment are Switzerland, France, Australia, Germany, Portugal, Israel. [...] There is something very important that an artist should have always: unique style”.
  2. D-Nox interview for Psymedia: “I run my labels to have a platform for my music or for my friend’s music. I don’t see it as a big business much more but rather as a space for the people I like.” Yet another confirmation of The truth about music sales I’ve written earlier.
  3. The Illusion of Truth, a nice talk from Veritasium about human psychology. I like this one: “The things we’re exposed to repeatedly feel more true”. It explains a lot of public figures.
  4. Will Music + DJ Gear Manufacturers Adopt USB-C?. It seems I will have to replace my old MacBook Pro for a newer model in the near future, so really hope to see a wider adoption of USB-C port among gear manufacturers.
2016   Music industry   Science   Time traveller's archive

Music producers mental fatigue is real

And what to do about it

As a music producer, I feel like I have too many things to do, production, promotion etc. I work 16 hours a day and still feel behind and running out of time, the world is just moving too fast! How to not being mentally exhausted in the pursuit of happiness?

Michael J

This is a great question with no simple answer. Such overall mental exhaustion is definitely an issue, especially for bedroom producers who trying to break through. Let’s try to find out the reasons of this fatigue and what we can do about it.

Why it happens

Back in the days, a music band would need a drummer, vocalist, and a guitar player just to write a song. Then they’d need a recording studio and engineer to record and mix the song, and a mastering engineer to prepare it for release.

Now you can program drums, chop vocals, synthesize leads, record, arrange, mix, and master all by yourself within a DAW. And even share it to the audience right away just in few clicks. Music producers are now one-man’s orchestra; it certainly has some benefits yet giving a double-edged effect.

As a modern music producer, you expected to have all of these skills and knowledge by default:

  • Digital audio fundamentals, music theory basic, synthesis, sound design, drums programming, DAW, MIDI, processing devices, routing, arrangement, structure, plugins, mixing and psycho-acoustic model , mastering basics, Djing, performance

We’re all know that having just great music alone won’t make you a career. To get an audience and do the business side of things, most likely you do the following:

  • Post at least on four major social networks, manage your website, run a podcast and record guest mixes, write blogs and guest articles, send newsletters, negotiate with labels, negotiate with booking agents, deal with press, bloggers, reviewers; plan ahead your promo campaigns

Besides, we’re living in a fast-paced world, gear and technologies are changing very rapidly. To keep yourself up-to-date, you probably:

  • Read magazines, articles, blogs and newsletters; attend seminars, tech fairs, shows; follow tastemakers on social media; study online courses; learn about management, marketing, and even laws

Sometimes I feel like a Swiss army knife, doing everything

The lists goes on. And that’s taking into account that most bedroom producers have full-time jobs to pay the bills, so realistically there are only a few hours a day available for all of these activities! Well, no surprise most producers who live like that not only feel fatigued, but also look like Earthworm Jim... without his suit (myself included).

But before you start to pity yourself, thinking to quit tough, unfair, and overcomplicated music industry for the sake of some ‘easier’ profession, think of the following.

You don’t have to be great

Yes, the music business is tough, confusing, and complicated, that’s for sure. But in reality, the reason of your mental exhaustion is not the profession you chose, it’s because you are trying to achieve something great.

Being great at something is extremely tough not only in music: ask any successful designer, lawyer, developer, scientist, surgeon, entrepreneur. It requires full commitment to what you doing regardless of what it is, whether you make music, write code, or run a business.

But the point is — you don’t have to. You don’t have to be great, being ‘normal’ is just as fine. Look around, there are plenty of mediocre workers (95% I’d say) in every shop, in every service profession, and many of those are happy people!

Even in music, ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place. Perhaps, just making music is what you need, without trying to climb to the top of the hill? Remember: you don’t have to. It’s your call, your life.

However, if you have serious ambitions in music as a career, then prepare to some sacrifices. There is no easy way. Here is what John 00 Fleming writes about it:

“This career comes at a heavy price, the sacrifice being the social aspect of my personal life. My life clashes with the regular World. [...] I spend most weekends in airports, hotels and clubs. The last thing I want to do if I manage to grab a sneaky week off is fly abroad and spend my time in yet another hotel. I associate airports and hotels with going to work. There’s no way I can relax in either of those places, my heads goes into work/DJ mode. So family holidays are out the question, as they wait all year for that annual vacation abroad.”

Cut the unnecessary

I don’t know a magic trick that would suddenly make your music producer’s life easier, and I doubt there any shortcuts. But I use a technique I call ‘cut the unnecessary’ which helps me to keep focused on what’s really important.

Every time you dig into new fancy plugins or read a review of a new DJ controller, ask yourself — “does it help me to progress toward my goals?”. Is it something you really need at the moment or it is your tired brain just needs some procrastination?

Re-energizing for music production after 9-6 work

We all are content consumers, we absorb new information through social networks and news media all the time. But sometimes (or most of the time?) this information gives nothing but a feeling of doing or learning something new whilst in reality it’s a junk ‘food’. It’s like if you would eat potato chips thinking you’re getting a protein.

Sometimes it’s good to have an informational ‘diet’ for your mind. If you cut the unnecessary, it might turn out that things are a little bit easier than you thought.

Recap

I know this blog might be confusing, so let me highlight three main points I was trying to say:

  1. Music business is tough and complicated. But there is no shortcut to success in any profession.
  2. You don’t have to be great, being ‘normal’ is just fine as long as you are happy with it.
  3. Focus on what really helps your progression.

On cover image: an illustration of Renton, a character of Irvine Welsh’s novel “Trainspotting” played by Ewan McGregor. His famous “Choose life” narration sums it up nicely.

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   Career   Music industry

Label re-released a track without my consent

Hi Daniel, I hope you can give me some advice. A year ago I released a track on the label. Today I’ve checked my Beatport artist profile out of curious and noticed that this release appeared on a different label without my consent. I’m pretty confused, is it a normal situation? Isn’t label needs artist’s consent for this?

William Paulsen

It depends on the deal you had with the label. Generally speaking, a typical record label deal implies transferring reproduction and exploitation rights to the label, which means they can use your music pretty much anything they like.

The problem is that most contracts are written in a too complex lawyer’s language, which only they can understand. Such contracts are difficult to read even for native English speakers, for non-natives it’s even worse nightmare.

To non-native speakers: learn English

To give an example what kind of rights you grants to the label with signing a contract, here are a few highlights in a typical contract and its “translation” to the human language:

Few highlights of a typical label agreement. This is just a single page out of 13, the list of rights given to the label is far beyond that. Click to zoom-in or open in a new tab

Now answering your question — yes, the label can re-release your music on other labels, unless the opposite is clearly specified. And they no need to ask for the artist permission or consent because you already gave it when signed the contract.

For example, back in 2015 I had an EP on Digital Om Productions called “Thru The Stars”. A few months later, the A-side track also appeared on a VA compilation released by Yellow Sunshine Explosion. To make it happen, YSE had to contact Digital Om to get the permission and pay for it. As you can see, this is purely label-to-label communication without artists being involved.

Thru The Stars, Digital Om Productions

Goa 2015 Vol.2, Yellow Sunshine Explosion

This process is called “sub-licensing”, and it’s absolutely normal. The good news is that you as an artist should also receive some extra fee for this, usually $100 per track. So my advice is to don’t panic, just wait for next royalty statement from your label and see if it includes the sub-licensing.

The truth about music sales

And read the contract carefully next time, don’t hesitate to ask your label to clarify if something confuses you.

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   Music industry

The truth about music sales

cover black

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

Best format to release: album or single

cover transparent white

Hi Daniel, I’m a Psytrance producer from Belarus. I just starting out and would like to release my music, but don’t have enough tracks yet. When releasing on a label, should I deliver an entire album at once or just a single track will be fine?

Andru Ab oVo

Generally speaking, there are no rules about this, it’s a question of your negotiations with the label. But here’s few things to keep in mind about the quantity of the tracks when sending a demo.

Insights on sending a demo

Album

Let’s say, you want to submit a 9-tracks album. Considering that most labels usually offer mastering service, doing mastering for nine tracks is quite expensive, with no guarantee that this investment will be returned as sales are very low these days, especially for the upcoming artists. Hence why label can reject your album simply because it’s too risky financially.

Mixing and mastering when dealing with labels

If you still would like to release an album, I would advise delivering a fully prepared and mastered tracks. This is exactly what I did with my first appearance on JOOF Recordings with my debut album “Chronicles of the Universe” back in 2014: I provided mastered tracks, cover artworks, and even a promo text. Perhaps this played a role in the decision.

Chronicles of the Universe

Single

Now, let’s say, you want to submit a single track. If the label accepts it, be ready to deliver a second track, so-called “B-side”. If you take a look and browse Beatport releases, you’ll probably notice that most common format is a 2- and 3-tracks EPs. Releases consisting of only one single track is rather an exception, usually for well-known artists.

Such EPs are a good way to start building an audience and draw attention to your name. Even if you’d have enough tracks to make an album, I suggest splitting them into few smaller releases, and only then make a big impact with the album.

By the time my first album came out, I had four singles, four remixes, and appearances on the various compilations, and I think it partly was the reason of the album’s success. Preparing the ground is important part of the releasing strategy, I suggest you consider this too.

Discography

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   Music industry
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