I decided to follow up the last article about commercial production, with the funding article a little quicker than planned –and write it today –  so that they flow closer together.

 Note: this is not a comprehensive list but gives a few general ideas on funding your CD project to help you consider options and achieve a result that allows you to get your music out there and out there with the goal from the last article being – to do as much as can, budget as high as can – so quality and end product is the best it can be to have the most penetration and affect from your music.

 So here are some of the funding options you may consider


Save it till you get it
Obvious but often forgotten. Delayed gratification is not a pleasant thing to do – but it is the simplest option.

You not only have the satisfaction of having accumulated the funds but it is your cash, you are in total control of the spend, etc.

So whether a solo performer or band – gig your butt off, reduce social activity that costs money and save, spend less on ‘now non essentials’ etc, maybe even get a second job/part time work until funds accumulated – may take a while but if the project is worth it – so is the effort and time.

Borrow from family and friends? Mmmm!
Too many friendships and family relationships have been adversely affected over money – and false expectations as to a positive return on investment (in you) can be the cause of relationship breakdowns, especially when the money wasn’t that disposable to the lender in the first place. So unless you are going to be totally honest about the chances of recovery of their money (and the real chance of never seeing any of it again), maybe this is one of the options you may consider as a last resort or for the final small amount needed to get you over the line……… if at all. 

Instead of borrowing – pre-order sales
I have a philosophy in business and fund raising that has stood me in good stead for many years – “If all you can get is a ‘no’ and you can handle the ‘no’ with grace/well – why not ask the question?”
You see I am not afraid to ask people for help – even family and friends – but I want to be content if they say no, be sure I manage expectations and don’t burn relationships in the process. 

So rather than just getting them to give you money, or borrow money – why not ask them to invest in you by pre-purchasing one or more copies.

Maybe even go the next step and ask them to give more for some extra benefits in return. For example,
– for $XX they can sit in on one of the recording days, or maybe,
– for $$XXX+ they can be in the chorus, BVs and noted in the credits as well (make sure only offering this to people who can
   sing of course :-))
Effectively you are setting up your own mini fan funding campaign just within your own circle of influence – and their friends (those involved can really help you by getting on to their friends and networks to get involved as well).

The one suggestion I have here – make sure you keep a record and also put the money aside. That way, if targets aren’t reached or circumstances change for any reason and the recording doesn’t go ahead – you can give back the money (again ensuring no friendships burnt)

Fan Funding/ Kickstarter//Crowd funding
The next stage of development of the pre-sales idea.

Between you, your band members and family have you a wide circle of friends and followers who would be interested in ‘investing in to the future project’ and helping you succeed? Then definitely consider the fan funding alternative. Sometimes by doing it through an organised facility it is seen as ‘easier’ to give – but also there is a chance to extend beyond your own networks.

 This to me is a very worthwhile way to raise all or part of the funds needed for a CD. But be warned – a lot of people have jumped on this band wagon recently, and a lot have failed – – MOST failed because;

  1.  They didn’t have enough friends and supporters to get the whole thing kicked off and some momentum in place – both from directly investing themselves but believe enough I the project to help  extend the reach/spread the word to their friends and networks etc, and/or,
  2. They didn’t get the preparation in place properly, target levels determined etc, and/or.
  3.  They didn’t spend the time and effort to market ‘outside of themselves – to broader communities nor have the resourcing/support to get the following they did have leveraged to work their networks for the project. And these programs require you to work it hard, especially in the run down to the deadline.

 There is a lot of information on the web about how to cost, promote, incentivise, etc a kick-starter or crowd funding campaign. Just Google ‘crowd funding’, ‘kick-starter’ etc, go to Pozzible’s website or check out and posts like it (and this one gives a great example of how they costed their project)

 Angel Investors
Angel investors are affluent people who have a little extra cash and enjoy investing in start-ups and creative projects. Angel investors often offer smaller amounts of money – maybe $5000 or $10000 – and enjoy watching the projects they support flourish. Often, for their money they retain ownership equity – share in the profits. There may be friends of friends or family who fit into this category. If not, there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping small business owners (and that’s essentially what you are) find angel investors. Find one in your state or country and set up a proposal. You may have to supply other details like a budget, business plan and resume, as well as samples of your music.

Remember, usually an angel investor owns a share of your project (your company if you will) and is entitled to a percentage of profits ongoing. However, the advantage of Angel investors is that the quick injection of capital can be a great way to quickly grow a project to completion.

Small Business Promotional/Sponsorship
Sponsorship can be another great way to fund a music project.  Businesses pay you money, which goes toward funding your project, in return for having their logo and marketing message displayed. Competition for sponsorship is intense, but with a unique idea and the right attitude, you might find yourself partnering with a brand.Companies are usually looking to sponsor events, because they’re more likely to attract media attention and offer greater opportunities for displaying the brand message, but albums and other projects can be sponsored, too. If packaged properly (and legitimately) the company may get the sponsorship as a tax deduction under their marketing/advertising budget. 

First of all, as in most of these ideas, you need to know how much money you need.
Producing an accurate budget of your project will show you the level of support you require. You need to approach companies that have this level of money to offer – your local record store probably can’t give you $20 000, but a major energy-drink company might.
The company will want to know what you’re offering in return for their money, so make it worth their while.
Show them you’re capable of bringing in a crowd and attracting media attention and they’ll be happy to help.
In addition you can offer, for example, signed pre-release copies of the recording, their name and or logo on the CD and release posters and mention of the sponsor in your newsletter and on your website – packaged to allow them to justify to their board or investors the return on investment is worthwhile. Make a list of companies that would fit will with your project.

Do you or your family have contacts with small to medium business owners that may consider this a win-win investment? Who do you know who would know?
Then – Think of products and services that would appeal to your fans and approach only those companies.  
This is important in demonstrating your integrity to fans as well as others (and yourself). If you don’t have a personal contact, contact their PR and marketing departments and put in an application. Try and see someone with decision making authority and personalise the approach, making an appointment if possible.

Grants and arts funding
While grant funding for some commercial projects is possible as part of a total artist/arts promotional strategy approach – – – If there is a specific purpose/ benefit to others from the project – there are a lot more portals open to you.

So if your CD is to benefit/involving a community or special interest group, especially regional or the proceeds from the project go to raising money for charitable purposes – and you, or someone you know are confident in writing a good presentation – start googling and investigating suitable funding/grants programs.

Be creative in your packaging and application – for example, if the grant is for regional touring and music promotion into regional areas – can you combine the production of a CD that you give away on tour, with a tour itself in to the those areas (and then do further pressing and sell ongoing into the future if needed).

By the way, it is probable you are not a registered charity or have tax exempt status for charitable purposes – and so deductible giving, grants required to give to non taxable entities etc are out of the picture – so don’t even bother. Look at opportunities within portals where you exist (music and the arts) – there are plenty.

Having said that – if the project is for charitable fund raising or special group/interest awareness etc – you may be able to approach a registered charity or organisation working in the field and do a joint submission/joint venture.

Small Business Funding
This is different from the above. This is tapping into the private/corporate market. If arts funding isn’t there, but you’ve got a savvy business head on your shoulders (under all that wild musician hair) you might even find success looking for a small business grant.

Small business grants are offered by various organisations to help people get started running a small business. They’re often seeking creative, off-the-wall ideas, and your musical project might just fit the bill, especially if it’s something designed to make a profit into the future or is a lead in to something even more inovative.

Start by joining your local small business associations and getting on mailing lists of any awards or grants available in your area. Then apply for any that your project might conceivably fit with. To apply you’ll need to produce a business plan, create a budget and compile a resume. The business association will have advisers on hand who can help with this.

** Be careful not be get confused with grants and loans – you’ll be required to pay back a small business loan with interest, whereas you don’t have to pay back a grant.

NOTE: I STRONGLY recommend that you DO NOT take out a bank loan nor especially use a credit card facility to fund your CD project – unless you are very experienced, really know your potential sales and absolutely sure of breaking even/paying out the loan quickly.

You have to sell a heck of a lot of CD’s very quickly to repay the capital and not have the interest bill hurt you. This is especially true when your credit card interest is 12-14% or even up in the 20%. Remember at 20% a fully drawn $10,000 credit card facility (if you can get it) is costing you $2000 a year in interest – — that’s another 200 CD’s you need to sell just to cover the possible interest bill).

Even an extension to your home mortgage, personal loan at current low interest rates – not only do you have all the set up costs, mortgage docs etc – but again the interest is more debt and more potential CD sales required to break even.


 I hope that gave you some ideas to help fund your next CD project or possibly increase the level of production possible and therefore increase the potential return/commercial positioning of the project.

 If you would like assistance developing any of these areas further, again please contact us. 

And as an aside – if needed, and as a part of the pre-production process, we often help clients who have committed to working with us in the production area, look at their funding and, where possible within realistic expectations and project boundaries, assist gaining the best avenue of funds to ensure our joint project achieves maximum results.

Cheers till next time.



WHY DOES A COMMERCIAL CD COST SO MUCH? And why you are probably spending that much anyway if you costed it properly

(Be warned  – this is a VERY long article LOL – but one I felt necessary to do, and do in one blog) 

Often when emerging artists especially start to look at recording a CD that is to be ‘more than a demo’ – the budget required can be daunting,

They hear figures of $30,000, $60,000, $100,000 or more to produce a CD before you start marketing and like a deer in the headlights get totally stunned. Often they can be put off totally without really looking at what is behind those figures, what sales are expected (and therefore how quickly the project will break even), who was involved – and why, etc – or what can be adjusted to make it work.

Sometimes they still want to proceed but there is the decision to do it cheaper without really working it out methodically. Maybe it is a grab at

–          using mates who are ‘not so good’ musicians but free or really cheap
–           cutting corners on post production processes when they really don’t know what they are doing – mix it themselves or even
            master it themselves

 Often this corner cutting can result in

–          False economy of scale by the time they get to the end product (in all the  extra time, extra takes and redos, etc)
–          A product that doesn’t compete in the genre they are in against professionally produced product (at a commercial level )

Yes, sometimes it works, they can almost ‘fluke it’(and in some limited genres and distribution scenarios it can be the way to goal) but generally when talking commercial level production –  most of the time they end up with a product that is truly not satisfying, doesn’t show the artist in the best light, one they are ‘really’ not proud of ……or worse – a product in which they have immersed themselves in so much that they lose objectivity, can’t see the difference (and won’t listen to people who would like to help them), and then – wonder why (truly surprised) that it is not getting air play or sales outside of close family and friends, – upset they still have 3-400 CD’s under their bed after3 years and still havent recovered costs.
And then get put off from doing it again.

I will talk about possible CD project funding options in an article that will be posted in the next couple of days after this, but in this article I want to break down the costs/activity for one scenario of putting together a commercial CD and then look at some discussion around that.

First some qualifications and base parameters

  1. There is a strong case for the ‘home grown’/ really good demo product in some very limited genres (mainly in the blues and roots end of the market) – but in most of those cases these artists and genres are selling at gigs, to a specific following, etc. I am looking at commercial product that will sell itself on quality once heard  (so lead to sales outside of your direct network if marketed), commercial radio level finished, can compete alongside the rest in a store shelf etc.

Having said that

  1. We are going to look at a commercial CD for an independent artist/small indie label (so not necessarily a beginner but not a major label either) Accordingly, there will be some compromises that a huge budget production wouldn’t make but ones that don’t reduce the quality for the competitive market we are entering this product in (and I will mention these along the way)

However, there is a fundamental in production that “the better you can get the source material (recording of each part) the better the end sound and less post production is needed” – so compromising too much on the recording stage of the project is a false saving – as the end result will be diminished (usually exponentially)

  1. We are going to presume our artist is a singer  – with fairly basic, if any, instrumental skills and so needs to have most instruments etc provided by others 
  2. Because of 3. I am negating certain genres – especially in the EDM area where artists need to have the synth, virtual instrumental skills to service those particular genres well and also can do a lot “in the box”  – so looking at more traditional genres where ‘real instrumentation’ is involved (and before I get a response – – that is not a comment on the EDM area as love virtual instrumentation and tracks – just an assumption for the article)
  3. We are also going to presume that all the pre-production processes have been taken care of and the artist and songs are ‘recording ready’. By this I mean – the songs have been worked through, commercially arrangement and instrumentation selection    decided, parts decided and charts written, etc) – the artist is practiced, rehearsed and ready to walk in and record – and the guide demo has been recorded to tempo and click So I am not costing in any real time for all this process to have occurred, but in reality this is one of the most important sections in the process – as this is when the project is truly defined, the end result visioned and a commercial CD is defined (this area was the subject of one of the original articles in this blog and one for further articles in the future)

So we are NOT looking at

  • the $1500-3000 a day studios – but still need a reasonable studio with the gear needed and engineer to run it efficiently
  • the top of the range ‘name’ mastering people or producers (again who can be up to $150-250 an hour) but still one in each area with the experience and knowledge to do the job properly
  • (and this is one of the big budget vs smaller compromises) hiring for example, a full string section in a room to do those parts (which is always better as get the swelling room combined sound and reflections) but use really good single instrumentalists doing multiple parts

So let’s break down some figures and see where we end up

(NOTE: please read through to the end before some of you get too discouraged as there is some discussion afterwards)


 Let’s start with Per track calculations (billing that is done on a track basis)

  • Based on the parameters above  (and having charts and the guide already) we need to get the instrumentation down- so engaging Top session musicians to do remote recording of their parts
    If the musicians are good and experienced in this form of session work (not all good live musicians are good as session musicians and visa versa)- and we can give them specific notes as to what is wanted, the feel etc – we don’t need to oversee them (or have a producer with them in the studio etc) and so allowing them to do in their space (presuming they have) and their own time (within overall constraints) usually can allow some savings (as they can do after hours, multiple takes etc as fits around other work).
    While this is a ‘per track calculation – even if we brought them in to a studio session, you would have studio time on top of their day rate and so overall would be a similar figure per track if not higher.

    Say we need keys, guitars, drums and strings or equivalent (with producer or artist doing the  rest) @ $250 per track each on average = $1,000 for all the session musicians per track.
    Note: for this you are getting really good musicians who will ‘get’ the project and deliver the final version first time most of the time.

    (By the way, this is still being conservative  – as even if the producer or artist was able to do the rest of the instrumentation – there is time and possibly studio hire to record and time to edit ….also on complex albums this can be a lot higher again as more musicians required/added) 

  • Then we having Mixing say conservative $400 per track if reasonably complex
    (around 6-7.5 hours per song is average to do it right). 
  • And then Mastering is also usually costed on a per song or album basis – say $140 per song

So $1540 per song so far

Now let’s look at Per Album cost estimates

  • Vocal recording … A good singer can maybe lay down 5-6 songs a day in the studio.
    Through experience this is about the upper limit of most considering a few takes and over dubs and being at ‘best’ before they start to tire (often can be less).
    So not counting the vocalist’s time (as they are the artist whose product this is, but this is a compromise on full costing again) We have say – studio time at $550 per day (to get a studio with reasonable vocal chain equipment and engineer) – allow a day to edit and do a rough mix of vocals with instruments before give to mixer at say $400 ( presume BV’s are done on the day after artist tires or in a cheaper set up)
    So $950/6 tracks each day = $159 per track

So $1699 per track so far

(of course this is more if need to hire studio for more days for BVs, etc)

Now let’s consider the Producer’s time

Obviously there is a lot of discussion about whether you need a producer on a project or can do that role yourself etc….. and in reality “it depends”.
A good producer knows what will ‘sell’, knows genres and how to make product fit the market (both in arrangement, sound looking for in each recording, when they hear the ‘right take’, editing, what to include – and what not to include, etc) –
After a few years or few CD’s you may feel you can do this role – but there is a reason the big labels and long term successful artists use a producer – so let’s include at this stage.

A producer is usually involved from the get go on a project  – they will look at everything from
– pre-production/arrangement (arranging/rewriting can involved)
– Connecting, arranging musicians etc
– Edit, rough mixes of tracks for each next recording stage and as guide to mixer 
– attending/supervising recording (or managing path with remote musicians),
– additional instruments/programming, 
– supervising mixing, and mastering 
– interaction/communication between parties as go, back and forwards with edits/redos etc

So costing? Mmm taking out pre-production as we have said, and say, allow a day for main activity above per 6 songs and half a day for communication .so conservatively let’s say 4.5 days @ say $400 (which is only $50/hour for a 8 hour day – most will charge more than that)

So say $1800 or another $300 per track

So now we are up to $1,999 (say $2,000) per track so far

So a 12 song CD is going to cost around $23,988 to this point


Then there is pressing of the hard product.
Again whether hard product or just digital release, style of packaging etc – these decisions are just as much genre based as budget based.
For our purposes let’s look at a ‘standard emerging artist run’ of say 500 CDs professionally duplicated in crystal case. Printing say 8 page booklet, cover, back plate, label and delivery.
Current pricing around says this would be about $1,100 all up and for a 12 song CD – that works out to approx $90 say per song.

Plus cost of graphic designer to get artwork done to the right specifications for pressing If artist/producer supplies all material and photos and has an idea of what want etc  …maybe they can get away with the graphic person just doing the ‘draw up’ with bleed etc etc  – and get away for $3-500. So for 12 song CD – around $40 ish per song.

So now up to around $2,130 per song….

And we are up to around $25,560 for the album on the door step ready for sale (and then they need to start marketing, etc).

Again, please note, we are still being relatively conservative here as there may be other actual costs that may be incurred and require reimbursement / and be amortized (travel, accommodation, phone, meals, strings, stationary etc etc). which could easily add up  – which is why every project needs to be costed individually – but let’s leave those out for now …..

So …..can they afford to budget for the full commercial experience????

More importantly can they afford not to? – Let’s take a look

So the analysis then becomes –

  • Are they gigging enough? (as 98% of artists still sell 98% of product thru gigs)
  • Do they have enough of a following? A real following  – who will buy product outside the freebies that need to be given to family and close friends
  • Will they put the time, energy and possibly some more $$ to market enough? And market effectively

The goal of the analysis being to determine if they can sell enough CD’s to break even within 3-5 months (6 on the outside). As that then gives them a 12-18 month run to generate profit from the project (2 years being the industry ‘average’ CD promotion/shelf life – and before you say anything, yes. there are always exceptions)

So how many CD’s do they need to sell to break even?

Let’s ignore the marketing ongoing expenses – – and do the simple calculation.

Rounding the ‘cost to doorstep’ to $25,000 and say CD will sell for $20/copy ………25,000/20 = 1,250

So 1,250 CDs need to be sold to break even on costs of the project obviously that is reduced a bit with digital sales, streaming royalties’ etc if large quantities).  


If that level of sales is achievable – then great, it’s then just a matter of funding the project (another article topic to come).

If not, what will be reduced or where will compromises be made?
The decision on ‘adjustments’ should be made constantly considering a goal to do as much as can, with a budget as high as can/needed -with the goal of quality and end product is the best it can be.

Some areas where compromises are often considered
– less professional session musicians? Players not genre expert? Or mates?  (may be a false economy of scale but …)
– ‘cheaper’ studio with maybe reduction in quality of gear?
– use midi, virtual instruments for some sections? Will that be good enough or cheapen the whole project if replacing ‘real’
  instruments?  Again genre and skill specific (EDM is all about midi and virtual instruments for example)
– do more themselves? If they can?
– produce themselves? If you know the market, what to look for, what makes a commercial CD etc then possible
–  do own graphics? Again if have the programs, know the printing requirements, CYMK etc – but maybe the whole style of
    packaging can be reconsidered if in the right genre (eg. Very raw works well in roots or folk genres)

A lot of these decisions if made emotionally can lead to a significant compromise in the end product – but not all compromises need to reduce the end product commercial appeal. For example;

– select a producer that has their studio/can record elements Or an engineer that can produce as well – if they know the genre
   and the market there may be the chance to combine those elements and costs
– select a producer who is a multi-instrumentalist but don’t compromise on the ‘producer knowledge’ just to get the musician?
   It would be better to use session musicians who may be able to help on more than one instrument
– The artist may actually be able to play one or more instruments
– If you are gigging heavily and there is the chance of a real chance of profitable returns, some producers will discount their
   upfront fee and work partly on a percentage of sales and royalties?
– They could also consider cutting down arrangements? Be more acoustic/unplugged/minimal
– Do just an EP? Or release a single at a time (so some sales help fund the next etc) 
   (IN fact there is an increasing industry trend to get the economy of scale by recording all the tracking together – but then doing
   the post production and release in a series of singles that give some return along the way but also build anticipation and
   interest in the CD at the end of the campaign.

 So the choices and decisions are many – Again the goal should be to do as much as can, budget as high as can – so quality and end product is the best it can be

For each this is different because each is on a different path has a different need (and even ‘break even’ may have different importance if funds/outreach/charity purpose, etc involved), BUT regardless of your particular situation ………

Make sure that you spend the time necessary to do the analysis & calculation, budgeting along with time lines etc, properly before you even consider starting on the rest of the process   – that way you manage expectations towards a known result.


One final point in this very long article – because the sceptics and ‘those who know’ will be saying

“But I did a CD for only $5,000, so that’s all rubbish0” or maybe it was $10,000 or $2,000.

Now if only a cut down acoustic – you and guitar/keys – and you had a great space to record – then maybe it is possible.
Whether it was of the same commercial quality of end product or just a good demo? Well, there would have to be some listening to determine that.

BUT with a figure like that, even (or especially if a commercial quality product– what I am sure of is –  you havent costed in is all your time, the free stuff done.  And that needs to be included and added to the actual outlay to get a true ‘production cost’ figure!

How much is that? Well…………. what do you earn in your normal job per hour? That’s your “opportunity cost” or “cost of materials” that needs to be included. Let’s do some final figures.

Let’s say you teach an instrument (keeping it musical) at say conservatively $25/half hour lesson.
That’s $50 per hour  – $400 for a 7.5 hr day  (*or around $100,000 p.a. if could do it full time 38 hours a week).

So that is your ‘opportunity cost’ figure (ie if you weren’t recording what would you be earning) – $25/hour.

Then you add up all the time you spent on the project– – time recording (all the time including redo’s) – time doing instruments, synths or whatever – time with other musicians, studio etc – time in production, mixing, checking, etc In other words all the time being with the project in one way or another – including time listening to mixes and thinking time ……………..And multiply all those hours x $25  – -And then add that figure to the actual $$ you paid out.

What’s the figure???? Surprised?

THAT is your REAL production cost and how you need to recover to REALLY break even.

So even though your ‘actual dollar outlay’ was low I think you might find (presuming the project was equivalent quality and so direct comparison) the true figure of production was relatively close (if not more) than the figures I presented above. Is it?

(Even those in the EDM market, which we negated for the purpose of this article – if you cost out your time and effort along with collaborations etc  – the true cost of production for those I know working in that area is significant.)


So there you have it.

As I said  – a very long article but I thought it was better to put it all in one lot than be a bit disjointed and spaced out over a number of articles.

Love to get feedback and hear from you – agreement, disagreement (but please remember the qualifications at the start).

And, as always,  if you need any help going through the analysis process and looking how to complete a real budget for your project (or bring us in to the producer role to help throughout) please do not hesitate to contact us.

Within a few days I will follow this article with one on some possible options and a strategy (and ramifications) to get the funding if that is needed.

Cheers till next time.



An interesting article for songwriters by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion

Many of my all-time favorite songs are “growers” – album tracks that don’t really grab you the first few spins, but eventually dig their hooks in and don’t let go. Few artists these days have the luxury of writing growers, because listeners aren’t willing to invest that kind of time. Unless the artist is proven to deliver, the listener will tune out and move on. While I’m a huge fan of the album format, it’s hard to deny the shifting focus from albums to individual songs. Every one of those songs needs to grab the listener’s attention and hold it until the last note – preferably longer! In order for your songs to be grabbers rather than growers, they must have clear and familiar structures.

The textbook pop song structure is verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge (also known as the “middle eight”) – chorus. At its most basic level, structure is repetition. If no element of the song repeats, it has no structure. Every repetition of the verse and chorus is another chance for the listener to fall in love with the song. The one section of the song that doesn’t repeat, the bridge, has been phased out in favor of a short break or instrumental solo. Don’t get me wrong – plenty of popular songs still have bridges, but it’s not the staple it once was. As much as I hate to dumb down my songs, I recognize the wisdom in simplicity. Until you’ve got a substantial following, two sections – a verse and a chorus – is plenty.

Not to say you have to follow the traditional form to the letter! There’s plenty of room for variation. You could:

  • Start with the chorus
  • Throw in an extra verse before the first chorus to allow further exposition
  • Substitute a third verse for the break for the same reason
  • Cut the first chorus in half, in which case you’ll probably want to…
  • Add an extra chorus at the end

To extend the structure a bit further, you could insert a prechorus (also known as the “build”) between the verse and chorus. While the prechorus ups the complexity by adding a third section, the crucial difference between the prechorus and bridge is that the former repeats. Should you choose to go this route, I suggest eliminating the break in favor of a third prechorus (V-PC-C-V-PC-C-PC-C).

OK, so you’ve got a catchy verse and an explosive chorus. You’ve got lyrics laced with concrete imagery that tell a universal story in a fresh and imaginative way.Too much repetition can be annoying, but it takes more than most songwriters are willing to dare. How do you arrange the song to include just the right amount, so that it repeats without sounding repetitive? Here are some ideas (I’d love to hear yours in the comments!):

  1. Break up the groove. Start the song with sparse instrumentation and stagger the introduction of rhythmic elements over course of the first verse. Or, drop the drums and bass at the end of the verse to explode into the chorus. Solo the vocals for a few beats. If you’re ending with a double chorus, thin the arrangement for the penultimate chorus to make the ending seem huge. Filter the whole mix and automate the cutoff frequency. Drop to a half time feel, or bump it up to double time. The possibilities are endless.
  2. Add a new element. A new guitar line or synth arpeggio can make a verse feel fresh, even when everything else is the same. Maybe it’s as simple as playing eighth notes on the hi-hat instead of quarter notes, or dropping the bass down an octave. Be careful not to clutter the midrange, or you’ll compete with the lead vocal.
  3. Layer the vocals. Highlight important words or phrases with harmonies, yells, or whispers. Double the chorus lead vocal, and gradually stack harmonies over the course of the song. Ad lib over the final chorus, R&B style, or superimpose lines from the verse.
  4. Vary the lead vocal treatment. Automate the reverb to swell on a long note, add a delay to the last word of each phrase, use a bandpass EQ for “radio voice,” or if you’re not afraid to jump on the bandwagon, do the autotune thing.

While there’s more to a great song than clear structure, a song without obvious repetition is destined to fail. Don’t equate sophistication with quality. Win listeners over with simple strong structures. Write songs that can be easily appreciated, and they might just promote themselves


Thoughts? Sometimes it comes down to “I want my work to be my work, pure and unadulterated and I dont care who likes it” vs “I’m in the business and need to make money as well – so as long as the essence is there, arrangement can be what is needed” etc.

Where do you sit?

Need help or advice? Contact us. 

Australian based? Looking at Digital Sales of a cover song? Wondering about- Licenses? Does this help or confuse more??

Hi guys  – hope all well out there

OK  – situation – in April last year I made inquiry with APRA about licensing needed if you do a cover only for digital sales  – and received an email of which the contents were ………

Digital Licensing iTunes: It is APRA/AMCOS’ approach to license the Digital Service Provider (DSP) directly for all of our works sold over their service within our territory (Australia & NZ). This is because it is the DSP (such as iTunes Australia) that authorises the communication and reproduction of the works. The DSP provides us with quarterly reports and we invoice them directly and distribute the royalties to the relevant copyright owners .If you would like to make copyright musical works available from iTunes Australia or any other licensed Australia DSP you would not require an additional license from APRA/AMCOS. This approach is similar to most territories in the world except the USA .

In the USA procedures are notably different if you are recording a cover version of a work and wish to sell it as a digital download on a US-based download service such as iTunes US and Amazon. In the USA, DSPs generally do not have an obligation to pay mechanicals and in our experience it is unlikely that your digital aggregator (e.g. CD Baby or TuneCore) will obtain a license for you. Accordingly, you are required to take out a license with the Harry Fox Agency (AMCOS equivalent in the USA). Go to and head to their Songfile Mechanical Licensing tool.

Digital Licensing Personal Website: It is APRA/AMCOS’ approach to license the Digital Service Provider (DSP) directly for all of our works sold over their service within our territory (Australia & NZ). This is because it is the DSP (such as iTunes Australia) that authorises the communication and reproduction of the works. The DSP provides us with quarterly reports and we invoice them directly and distribute the royalties to the relevant copyright owners To be able to make the works available for download from your website you would require a DMS agreement as you are acting as the Digital Service Provider. You will also be required to pay an upfront fee . This is a minimum of $200 which is non-refundable but can be recouped against your royalty fees. You will also be required to submit quarterly sales reports to APRA/AMCOS. You will be required to send APRA/AMCOS sales reports on a quarterly basis.

The DMS will cover you for downloads within APRA/AMCOS’s licensing territory Australia & New Zealand. If you would like to make downloads available in other territories such as the UK or US you will need to obtain the equivalent licenses from the collection society in each territory.

Digital Music Services Scheme 2011 Key Terms (all amounts and rates are expressed exclusive of GST) 1.       The percentage rate for music downloads is 9% of retail price and for music video downloads will remain at 8% of retail price. 2.       The minimum fee is 9¢ for single track music downloads and 8¢ for single track music videos. APRA|AMCOS will provide an update to the EDI specifications in due course – but in the meantime you should indicate music video downloads from your March Quarter accounting onwards by the use of a new digital delivery type code “M” in the Delivery Type fields DWD-12 and DPD-10. 3.      The minimum fee for albums (bundles) is dependent on the number of tracks on the bundle and is set out below.

No of Tracks comprising Bundle Calculation of minima
2 to 10 tracks 6.5c per Track
11 to 26 tracks 65c divided by the number of Tracks
27+ tracks 2.5c per Track.

4.       These minimums apply to ‘normal’ and dual downloads.
5.       The treatment of ‘premiums’ has been changed such that promotional download campaigns:
6.       that do not represent that particular songs or groups of songs (as identified by songwriter or title) are associated with or promote the sale or provision of any goods or services; and/or
7.       where the consideration payable to you for the download, or the right to receive the download, consists wholly of money,
8.       are now covered under the standard terms of the license scheme and license fees will be calculated on the relevant purchase price. However, given that this area is probably the largest structural change in the new scheme, we strongly recommend that you discuss campaigns with APRA|AMCOS whilst you are putting them together. Through discussion, we would hope to eliminate potential hiccups, and in any event it is likely that in some instances you will need to report such sales separately.
9.       The supply of composer details is no longer compulsory, but you are required to use reasonable endeavours to obtain such information. Composer details greatly improve data matching and ensure that license fees from the songs downloaded from your service reach the right songwriter as efficiently and quickly as possible.
10.   The license scheme no longer covers subscription or advertising funded digital music services. Please contact APRA|AMCOS if you require such an agreement.
11.   The Promotional Download Code cannot be amended prior to 1 January 2012.

Digital Licensing iTunes: It is APRA/AMCOS’ approach to license the Digital Service Provider (DSP) directly for all of our works sold over their service within our territory (Australia & NZ). This is because it is the DSP (such as iTunes Australia) that authorises the communication and reproduction of the works. The DSP provides us with quarterly reports and we invoice them directly and distribute the royalties to the relevant copyright owners .If you would like to make copyright musical works available from iTunes Australia or any other licensed Australia DSP you would not require an additional license from APRA/AMCOS. This approach is similar to most territories in the world except the USA .

In the USA procedures are notably different if you are recording a cover version of a work and wish to sell it as a digital download on a US-based download service such as iTunes US and Amazon. In the USA, DSPs generally do not have an obligation to pay mechanicals and in our experience it is unlikely that your digital aggregator (e.g. CD Baby or TuneCore) will obtain a license for you. Accordingly, you are required to take out a license with the Harry Fox Agency (AMCOS equivalent in the USA). Go to and head to their Songfile Mechanical Licensing tool. In cases where the Harry Fox Agency do not represent the work, you may be able to obtain a compulsory license via RightsFlow – see and head to the Limelight licensing area


This week I asked for further clarification and asked to simplify the situation – that they respond to 4 scenarios The scenario, their answers and summary are below:  

A.      Joe Bloe is recording a cover and only going to put it up on iTunes for sale. For iTunes Australia/New Zealand no further licensing is required as we have agreements in  place with the DSP. As explained APRA AMCOS’ approach is similar to other societies , except the USA. The advice you were previously given below on this will best direct you on  what you would need to do to make the works available for download in the USA
B.      Pete is doing the same thing but going through CDBaby to all their partner sites. The advice here is the same as above. Assuming CDBaby is distributing to licensed services.

C.      Sally is doing a cover  – only digital sales and going to put up on iTunes and her website. As above for iTunes. For her site she would be required to take out an additional licence. APRA AMCOS is in the process of updating their current licence agreements for smaller services. We currently have the Online Mini Licence Available. This agreement has reduced administration and in lieu of a security has  an up-font licence fee which is a minimum of $275.00 and covers up to 1,500 downloads.  

Further information can be found at the link below.

D.      Andy has already got a license for a cover he recorded for CD release and now is putting that same recording up on digital (so no changes, not a new recording or license). We are currently working on an integrated Physical / Digital agreement. However, at the moment you would need to take out the Mini Online agreement mentioned above if the download will be available on Andy’s own website, if the download will be on iTunes then the iTunes licensing applies.

In Summary

  • To be able to make downloads available in Australia on iTunes or any licensed DSP you do not require a licence from APRA AMCOS. The DSP reports to APRA AMCOS on your behalf.
  • To be able to make downloads available in the US on iTunes US or Amazon you will need a license from The Harry Fox Agency.
  • To be able to make downloads available on your own personal website you will need to take out our Mini Online Licence.


So there ya go! Again “it depends”

We are continuing some discussions and interaction on various levels within this topic area and as things develop will update this post.




And again if you need help understanding your individual situation and how best to navigate a path for your plans – dont hesitate to contact us.