9 things that can be heard on a recording that may not be noticed in live performance..

While the list can be extensive (it can range from a technique flaw, tuning (or lack of), to un-prepared equipment or vocal, etc) – here are a starting 9 things that I would suggest to look out for.

1. Instruments: Old strings, reeds, etc really affect the sound captured. Old strings will sound dull and lacklustre compared to a new set. Make sure you put on a new set of strings a couple/few days before recording (allowing them to settle in to stay in tune for at least a song length) and check tuning in between every take. Old reeds can let more air in, soften and diffuse the sound, flutter unnecessarily, etc. Make sure you have new reeds in place (and in both cases, as in any consumable that can be damaged, bring spares in case of breakage during the session).

2. Guitar: The plectrum hitting the lower edge of the tone hole just below the strings. This makes a clicking sound that is very strong when a guitar is miked correctly. Sometimes changing the angle you hold the guitar or just changing your stroke a little can fix this.

3. Vocals: Short, seemingly unimportant notes sung out of tune.

4. Vocals: A lack of contrast in the vocal performance. Live sound systems don’t have as much detail as professional studio microphones and gear. In a recording studio, sometimes the microphone alone costs more than the PA system used in the local venue. Good microphones pick up the smallest details in the vocal and this can be both good (and bad). Don’t be afraid to sing really softly in a studio. Soft sounds can sound huge and warm on a recording, but may be completely lost on stage. It’s still fine to sing loud also, but just when it’s most needed.

5. Vocals: Dwelling on -s’s and other sharp consonants can cause issues Regardless what your singing teacher may have told you (and while pronunciation and diction is definitely important), you do not have to dwell on, or emphasis your -s’s in the studio….especially if multiple singers, As with ‘hard -t’s or emphasised -b’s and -p’s– most engineer would prefer hard consonants be minimised. They can cause major issues (even clipping in some cases) and can cost time (and therefore more of your money) to correct in post production so everything sits together in the mix. As mentioned already, good studio microphones capture detail and so soft or minimised consonants will be picked up –concentrate on the vowels.

6. Guitar: intonation is causing chords to sound out of tune, especially as you move up the neck..

7. Guitar: Fret buzzes. Some are OK, but if you allow the strings to buzz a lot, then the tone of the guitar is compromised.

8. Too much movement from the guitarist or the singer can limit the miking choices in a studio. If you need to move to play/sing in your style, that’s OK, but it’s a good idea to also practice keeping quite still either sitting or standing.

9. To save money, record to a ‘click’ (and make sure you have the right tempo and time signature set (at least for the basic structure tracks). How does this save money? A recording made to a click that is generated on the right bpm and time signature can be used further down the track. If the If you’ve made a great vocal and now want a band, there’s no need to re-record the vocals – the band can play to the click! Also, if any midi or virtual instrumentation is to be used, loops to be incorporated – even copying section s of vocals, having the right markers makes substituting, overdubbing and synchronising everything a lot easier. But you don’t have to do this, as you may prefer to keep your music more free. As long as you are aware of the constraints on this for re-recording if a mistake, or getting another musician to play exactly to the groove – then that’s fine – It’s up to you.

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Recording, like performing is something that needs practice.
While you need to practice your lines, ensure delivery is right, you know your part and how you want to convey the music –  don’t wait until things are “perfect” before coming to the studio……..you could be waiting a very long time.
So prepare and practice but be prepared to learn as you make more recordings (every person who records learns something new in every session).

Again if we can help further with any of the above or other aspects of our service offering, please do not hesitate to contact us.
For example – Along with our normal pre-production and arrangement options – before recording (with us or someone else if they dont offer the service), you are more than welcome to contact us and arrange to get together for a quick pre-production rehearsal and meeting. I can listen to you sing and/or play to let you know how to best prepare for your pending session. The session is 20 minutes and costs just $25 (possibly plus travel if too far away). It may be the difference between making a great recording or just an average one.

Cheers till next time.

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What Are The Essential Features Of a Hit Record?

(An article from Music Clout in a newsletter today)

We have all heard those hit songs that can be considered  ‘timeless classics’.

Whether it’s a hip hop track, a rock classic or an 80’s power ballad, these songs share some essential features that ensure they will be on the airwaves for years to come.

Obviously there is not one hard and fast rule for this as every song is different, but here is a list of features that many of these hit records share.

A ‘catchy’ song
Let’s start with the obvious, a hit record must be a great song.

Above all the melody must be strong, as this is what a listener focuses on and this should be accompanied by some great lyrics and a good groove. You can apply the best production techniques possible, but if the song is weak then the record will sink without a trace!

A strong vocal
Having a great vocal is a real asset to any record. If you have a quality song and you have a strong vocalist to sing the melody, then this can be the golden ticket to creating a hit record.
A great vocal does not necessarily need to be technically proficient, but more to do with how a singer can successfully interpret the emotion in the song i.e. how they can convey the message in the lyrics.

A creative arrangement
After the song and the vocal, you need to ensure you have a strong arrangement. This involves using the right structure and ensuring each section of the music is interesting for the listener.

This can be achieved by adding extra instruments, adding a counter melody, changing the drum pattern, or changing the key etc. Have a listen to some hit songs, and pay attention to the subtle differences between each section. How is verse 2 different to verse 1? How is the last chorus different to the first? How is the bass providing bottom end movement and adding to the dynamic? How is it genre correct?

An accomplished performance
You may have the heard the crude expression “You can’t goldplate a turd” and this definitely applies to creating a hit record.

A track must sound like there is ‘life’ in the performance and no amount of editing in the studio, fiddling with EQ’s, compression or reverb can replicate this. It can be hard to put your finger on it at times, which is all the more frustrating, but sometimes one take just sounds better than another. If you have musicians who put there all into a performance and play with real emotion and intensity, then the production phase becomes far easier!

A well produced track
Although there are examples of hit songs which don’t technically sound very good, generally the really big and timeless records do sound excellent.

A well engineered record does not guarantee it will be a smash, especially if the song, vocal and performance are not up to scratch, but it can add an extra dimension to the overall sound, if the EQ’s are well balanced and the right amount of reverb and compression is applied.
(Ian’s note – don’t forget well produced doesn’t mean “perfect” in every little detail, to the point it sounds robotic (unless that is the goal) – if mean enhancing the emotional position, feel, bring out the ‘mojo’ in the song and the performance)

The timeless factor
Despite having all the previous factors in place, if the track sounds like the last trend, and the musicians or band members look like it too, then the record might not take off as you would like. Having said that, a ‘retro’ look and sound to a band can work out really well if you go back two or more trends.

Are all the above factors essential for every hit song?
Well in short, no.
There will always be some songs which become hit records and cannot be explained. You will find some songs with weak vocals and melodies which take the charts by storm. However, on most of the really big hits, you will find they contain the majority, if not all, of the factors in this article. Songs like “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade will be heard every December in shopping malls and on the radio. Other hits like  “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Imagine” by John Lennon will be played all year round for many years to come.

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There are obviously a lot of other detailed elements and individually specific considerations  – but we hope you found this general information of interest.

As always if you want to discuss more on any of these areas, or how we may be able to help – do not hesitate to contact us.

pavmusic.com 

BRANDING – a musician’s marketing necessity

If you were to describe your band’s brand right now, what would you say? Can you do it at all?
And if you can – is it just something generic like “pop rock band” or “electronic musician”?

What does that even mean? If you had somebody tell you they were in a pop rock band, would you really know what they sounded like? …….Absolutely not.

It’s like walking into a bar with 25 different beers on draft and asking for a beer. The bartender will just look at you funny and ask all annoyed, “what kind?”

 Genres are so encompassing and especially now borders between genres are becoming greyer with more crossover/fusion, that when somebody says they play “the blues”, “jazz” or “pop rock” I am really no closer to knowing what kind of music they actually play. I can guess, but that guess could be totally wrong.

Take someone who says “I play country” for example ……  is it down the rockier end closer to the style of Keith Urban or more older style like John Williamson? Is it folkier or more country pop, etc – I have no way of knowing.

 The trick is in the branding.

 For example – Which do you think works better:

  • A) “I’m in a pop rock band”        or
  • B)“I’m in a pop rock group that’s like a modern version of Fleetwood Mac with a female lead vocalist and a combination of acoustic and electric guitars”

 To me its obvious.
If you were talking to a band that you wanted to book for a function, open for or you were a concert promoter or venue booker, I’m betting the second description will give you a much better idea of what they sound like and what could be expected.

Branding yourself and being descriptive about your music is one of the important first steps towards marketing yourself as a musician. Being able to describe yourself in a sentence or two that really captures what you do and what makes you interesting or unique – is critical in capturing attention and attracting potential fans and concert venues.

 So what is your brand? And what is your descriptive phrase?

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Again, if you want some help putting all this into perspective, finding your marketing edge etc – dont hesitate to contact us.

pavmusic.com.

Cheers till next time

Ian

Overnight Success Possible? Or being prepared to take advantages of Opportunities

Success doesn’t happen overnight…does it?

Being aware of “making it” in the music industry is one of the most important things to understand for anyone who is yearning to make a career out of it. Knowing that there is no guarantee of becoming successful as a musician should be one of the first things you make yourself aware of. Some people say you never really ‘make it’ but are alwasy on the journey towards it – and the journey is what it’s all about.

However, there are things you can do to increase your chances of reaching your desired level of prosperity.

First off, start asking yourself some questions –

  • What makes you different then the millions of other people making music every day?
  • Are you versatile?
  • What genre do you play?
  • Can you perform?
  • What other aspects of the music industry can you contribute to your success?

In today’s world the best chances of success are often attributed with being multi-faceted and the ability to handle more than just the creation of music, which is an art in itself.

Everyone has heard the saying “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and most people might not think too much about that statement and the truth of the power it holds.

Many people may be waiting for that record deal or some funding to come out of the sky so they can record their big album idea. One thing they might not be considering is the preparation it takes to fully take advantage of an opportunity like that, if and when it comes.
There are incredible amounts of smaller, equally valuable opportunities that have a greater probability of being landed by an independent artist and the benefits of pursuing these opportunities could lead to that “one shot” that you are waiting for.

One thing that everyone can control is setting personal goals for yourself musically.

  • Practice learning an instrument, memorizing your songs,  enhancing your sound, becoming more vocally diverse, taking vocal lessons,
  • performing locally or even for small groups of family/friends,
  • continue writing/recording songs, 
  • engaging fans on social media sites, and
  • many more things that are controlled by you the artist.

These things will make a huge difference in your own personal and artistic development and will definitely begin separating you from the crowd of musicians that are not doing more to stand-out. 

So even though there is no clear path to overnight success, there are plenty of ways to make the dream more of a reality.

(Adapted from an article posted thru musicclout recently)

Forgotten Revenue Streams for Musicians and Labels

In a previous article on this blog we discussed that our view of the future of revenue for artists (outside of performance) will consist more and more of multiple small streams of income adding up to a reasonable (or better) overall revenue.

We have in previous articles listed a range of these and made some comment about each. Yes, for most avenues you need lots of hits, feeds, streams etc because the individual amounts per unit are small – – but it all adds up. Why do I feel it necessary to bring this up again – Because it’s important.

a)  if you think of it as a marketing avenue not just an income stream – then it makes sense to do it  – you are exposing you to a heck of a lot more people than your own networks or gigging can
b)  it is leveraged income – money that flows not dependent on you gigging, money that flows even if you’re sick, etc – and most artists generate all their income from their own efforts and so if unable to work………
c)  Because the sooner you get into it, market it, accept the positioning – the sooner it starts to grow and generate

 I get people saying “streaming sucks”, “Spotify is bad, they rip us off” etc “I’m not going to do it” etc  – and that is their choice. Yes, they don’t pay much, but remember, the music is free to the listener – and there are millions of listeners. With data capacity only increasing and becoming cheaper, streaming will become more and more a way for general public to listen to, and find out about, music and artists.

So here is a thought as to one strategy. Think of Spotify purely as a marketing vehicle. A marketing vehicle you don’t have to pay for (and in fact pays you a little bit). Only put a couple of really good songs up there to gain people’s attention then have them directed to your website etc etc when they want more. …… see its how you look at it and use it to your advantage.

Another – – IF your music gets accepted onto Pandora radio (remember they can say yes or no – and their site pays too) – you go into rotation with that big name artist you ‘sound like’ – – so everyone who selects XX to listen to will hear your song in the rotation – and if you are good enough will want to find out more.

Anyway – for those clients I mentor and advise, taking advantage of every stream, avenue that will possibly generate traffic, build a following and add something to the revenue stream (especially leveraged) – is definitely included in their marketing strategy.

So here is an article by Janette Berrios, Marketing Manager for Symphonic Distribution in the US. – just to put some thoughts out there again.
Please remember this is US based –(pretty obvious from some of the wording and spelling I know) – but find out, or ask, how to apply it to your geographic region, which organisations are in your country etc – and see how elements may work for you.

Cheers

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Being a musician in today’s music industry not only requires musical talent. It also requires you to become a quick-thinking, creative mastermind in order to generate the most revenue from your music. There are many ways that musicians can earn money from exploiting their compositions, sound recordings, live performances, and brand. Here is a list of 6 revenue streams you should be capitalizing on – other than just selling your music.

1. YouTube Monetization
Although most don’t usually consider YouTube to be a revenue-generating outlet, it very quickly has become one of the most popular outlets for discovering and listening to music in the world. Check out some of the crazy statistics they have on their site. Tell me what musician or record label shouldn’t be part of this ever-growing community!

• More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
• Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
• 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
• 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
• YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
• According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
• Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year.
(YouTube Statistics, 2014)

Not only do they have one of the largest user bases in the world, but they also get tons of exposure, allowing you to expand your viewership and fan base.

2. Publishing Administration
Publishing Administration is an animal that has recently been tamed for the ease of the independent musician community. More musicians are now aware of this vital revenue stream, which in past years many have been missing out on. So what is Publishing Administration? In the music industry, publishing refers to the ownership, control and commercial exploitation of musical compositions. It further involves the collection of all royalties ensuing from the usage of musical compositions. Music publishing is the business of songwriters, composers, and lyricists. So how does this help you make money?

Well, if your music is:
• Being streamed
• Performed live in medium to large scale public venues
• Played on the radio
• Played on TV
Guess what? Your songs have been generating publishing royalties (which include performance and mechanical royalties). If your songs aren’t registered with Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) or mechanical royalty collection agencies, you ARE NOT collecting all your mechanical or performance royalties from your music. Unless you register yourself AND your compositions, you will never see these royalties. So it’s really important that you get yourself registered. You could of course (Ian’s note – US article remember) get a Publishing Administrator that can do this on your behalf at an affordable cost. Most will charge you anywhere from $100 – $75 and will register your works in collection societies around the world. Plus most Publishing Administrators will keep anywhere from 20% to 10% of the royalties they collect. Be wary though on how much control they will have over your music! Some companies’ bundle several services into one and will not only collect your publishing royalties, but will sometimes handle your Sync Licensing exclusively as well. But if organised you can do it yourself as well.

3. Sync Licensing
Sync Licensing (short for “synchronization licensing”) refers to the making of your music available for opportunities in film, TV, commercials, video games, and any form of visual media. In this realm the key decision makers are called Music Supervisors. While you can try and handle this area yourself – it is really about networking. Not only having the contacts, but knowing what they are after and when – and having product ready to pitch at that time.

4. Background Music Licensing
Similar to the sync licensing program, there are companies which administer your rights/collection for music as background music. These companies’ clients, such as stores, hotels, restaurants and more will use that music in their establishments. (from Ian – for example in Australia it is PPCA).

5. Neighboring Rights
If you’re a record label/master rights owner, and your master recordings are being publicly performed and broadcasted, you’re earning neighboring rights royalties. This is completely separate from the field of music publishing, in which songwriters and composers earn performance royalties from public broadcasts of their musical compositions. These types of royalties are collected when music is:
• played on Pandora
• played on BBC radio
• played on Sirius XM
• played on cable TV music channels
• played on terrestrial radio outside of the USA
•  played in businesses as background music (restaurants, retailers, hotels, etc.)
• played in clubs / live performance venues
• played on any internet radio platform
• played on any satellite radio platform
• played on various new online medias
A lot of the time companies handling rights administration services in this area will only deal with eligible labels who are distribution clients – but you can also investigate these avenues and again handle it yourself.

6. Merchandising
Selling merchandise is one of the best ways for generating income for your band, record label, or artist brand. As a matter of fact, it may be the only source of income that you as an artist can easily control. If you are a record label or musician, the most important thing you have, besides your talent of course, is your fans. Take care of them and come up with some cool options for branding your music, and have your merchandise available at all your shows and on your site. Not only will it be a nice treat for your fans, but you’ll also have free walking advertisement. 

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 As you can see, there are several things that today’s musicians and/or record labels can do in order to maximize the revenue potential of their music.

If you are going to do it yourself, it’s possible – just make sure you allow the time to investigate and become informed, and then the time (on a regular basis) to administrate and market into those areas. BUT most people can do it themselves if they take the time to educate and activate.

 If you don’t have the time or inclination – find someone to help…. but don’t ignore (in my humble opinion anyway).

Cheers till next time