When getting your album mastered – are you including all the embedded information/metadata you could/should?

Thanks to an initiative by the Music Producer’s Guild, who championed the importance of the ISRC codes being associated with recordings “all the way from mastering studio to royalty management systems”, the ability to embed ISRC’s in mastered albums has been here for a while.

I think ISRCs are essential inclusions in every mastered song or accompany every digital song’s upload that is going up for sale ( see other articles in this blog for more detail on what ISRC codes are and their importance).

But now there is so much more you can embed in your master wav files for pressing (DPP or disc versions) so that the information comes up on all the modern systems, ipods, radio etc that read and display metadata/embedded nformation.

Here’s a list of what can be embedded:

  • Cover art
  • ISRC (to me mandatory)
  • Track title, artist, album title, album artist
  • Genre
  • Composer
  • Year/date
  • Track number / total number of tracks
  • Disc number / total number of discs
  • Comment
  • Compilation check

The downside is that iTunes won’t read the embedded information in WAV files, however the same information can be embedded into AIFF files, and these can be read by iTunes.
So whether uncompressed formats, WAV and AIFF, or compressed formats, MP3, MP4 (AAC), FLAC and Apple Lossless, all can store information for your release – – — –and this is done during the mastering phase of the process (PS while the ISRC code information etc may be able to be done by the home mastering guy – it usually takes one of the specialists with all the right gear to put in the cover art etc.).

Do you need any of this? Well yes!!! If you are wanting to market through those avenues – but also – without ISRC codes at least payment of possible mechanical/recording royalties especially from overseas sources just wont happen (simplified answer for this blog)

What to do – Matthew Gray (Matthew Gray Mastering states) “If you are planning a digital-only release, or requesting uncompressed files that aren’t embedded in a CD master or DDP, then we highly recommend that you ask your mastering house to embed the ISRC’s, cover art and other information into the WAVE/AIFF files. And mmake sure you have it all in place when loading to CDBaby, TUnecore etc (who will ask for ISRC codes etc anyway). Of course, some pre-planning is required to ensure the cover art is available at the time of mastering.”

Do you include all that already? Most of that? Or none of it?   Should you? ……personally I would suggest all product going to be sold needs at least the ISRC code and some basic info – the rest is up to you.

So talk to whoever you are getting to master your next CD  and see what they can do and plan what you need and when before you get to that stage (so you can have it in time).

(As mentioned there are other articles within our blog about ISRC codes, royalty payments etc  – do a couple of searches or scan back over the last 3 years of articles – you may be surprised what you find that will help you or add some more information into your decision making and career directions).

Cheers till next time.

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How much should I be spending on getting my record done?

In a previous article (May 27 of last year) I gave an example outline of why a top level commercial quality CD can cost as much as it does. If you havent already read that article, then it may be worth doing so in conjunction with this one.

The reason for this article – One of the ongoing areas I get asked by emerging artists is “I know I need to spend some money to a quality CD done ….but presuming I had the money (or can work out an arrangement) .how much should I realistically expect to spend on getting my recording done?”

Now while there are some basic quality considerations such as – – if you are planning s commercially competitive CD vs a demo (and even more if wanting to be a product that competes with the ‘big boys’ in your genre), – size of production (orchestra vs a band, duo or solo),  you want some people involved with ‘names’ to help get interest, – need a lot of musicians/session players helping etc…………

All valid and all considerations – but to me the starting point is a basic financial one…. Calculating a rough breakeven point – and if that is acceptable and can be achieved – then you have a basis to work from in the rest of your decision planning.

As you delve into the detail for each person’s project this can may to be quite a complex process  (and too much/too individual to into in this blog)… but the initial ‘ball park’ figure is quite easy to establish……Let’s look at an example.

First let’s put some parameters around the example.

  • Let’s say you are an emerging independent artist – so no label funding/size expectation, etc
  • Let’s presume we are doing an album, not an EP or singles
  • Let’s say hard copy to digital album sales ratio is estimated at 6:4 (ie for every 10 albums sold 6 will be hard copy, 4 will be digital)
  • Let’s say for the exercise you sell hard copy album for $20 and digital albums for $14, and,
  • We are going to ignore digital single sales off the album for this exercise and also (as considering emerging artists and not taking into account other business/incomes) you are probably earning less than the GST required income level, so no GST tax need be factored in on sales figures

    You can always easily adjust any of these parameters to suit your own project specs.

So based on that

  • On 100 copies sold -revenue (gross) is 60x$20 + 40x$14 =$1,760
  • On 500 copies sold -revenue (gross) is 300x$20 + 200x$14 =$8,800
  • On 1000 copies sold – revenue (gross) is 600x$20 + 400x$14 = $17,600
  • on 5000 copies sold ….”……”………………………………………….= $88,000

OK so far?

Now the first consideration for any artist should be what I call the ‘breakeven spend spread’ …….. Basically, from knowing your followers, fan base etc etc really well (so ignoring freebies to family, friends and PR needs, etc) – How many albums (hard copy and digital) could you realistically expect to sell in say the first 3-6 months? Be super conservative and use whatever time frame you want… But that’s what I would use.

Take that figure of numbers, do the calculations and THAT becomes your rough break even spend guide. As everything after that is choice, profit, accumulation for the next album, etc

Once you have that ball park figure in your head (and added any ‘extras’), then it’s a matter of working with your producer, studio, musicians, networks, etc to get as much ‘bang for your buck’ as you can within that budget (and keep under it by as far as you can while not sacrificing expected quality).

The one MAJOR proviso to doing any of this –is that you know your business well – you know your fan base/followers etc as they stand  well enough to be able to realistically estimate initial sales (without factoring any growth to the fan base – allow that to come into the profit area)

Couple of points

  • First one (and before I get lots of responses) – yes of course, there may be a number other factors, reasons and considerations in your individual situation where you want to, or have to, spend more. Even a special musician’s input for example or, you need to add an extra 25-100 copies more into the cost for promotional purposes and giveaways, or you ‘really’ want to have the keys recorded on a 7’ Bosendorfer piano or whatever ….. But, as a basic calculation this helps you to get a very quick, rough guide to a viable and sustainable production budget estimate.
  • Remember as part of your longer term thinking that, while the initial outlay on an album including all the production, mastering, pressing and marketing is high……it is finished at the end of the process.
    So most of that is a fixed cost that doesn’t occur again (only pressing, mailing and ongoing pr are additional direct costs) and as you continue to sell product and exceed your breakeven point, the cost to press more and the overall amortization of that initial spend drops the ‘unit cost price’ down to a very manageable level (and of course the bigger the numbers pressed at any one time the cost per item reduces even further).

Final point in this article – discounting all the other issues and funding sources, etc –
What if you have worked out the budget needed and you just can’t get enough funding for the album in the way you want to do it? ……….. Don’t give up – change your mind set and look at other options that allow you to retain quality. For example

  • do an EP instead of an album and use the profits from that to fund a second one with the rest of the songs
  • Do a series of singles and sell those – then bring it all together with the final songs into an album
  • Reduce the arrangement (acoustic versions etc)
  • See if can get others to invest in the project (even with their time not just $$) – maybe your skills could be of use to them on one of their projects and a contra deal can be established
  • Just wait and save the money – putting it aside as you get a spare bit here and there until you do have enough to do what you want
  • Sometimes if packaged properly (with some other, even altruistic, intention as part of the outworking) – there may be grant options worth pursuing
  • And there are a range of other options –

If you can’t think of any that really suits your situation – talk to someone about exploring options that might work for you (even us LOL) – but be prepared to be real with them so realistic ideas can be pursued. Therefore they need to be people you can trust enough to be open about your circumstances and that have the knowledge and experience to possibly have ideas to help…… and not necessarily just in the music industry, if they are project people in other industries, finance, fund raising background or management savvy for example they might have ideas too.

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As an aside – in another previous article (also on May 27 last year) I went into some thoughts on funding options for a CD  – just a few thoughts to expand your mind into possibilities -so check that out.
But in reality its not really possible to give a ‘sure thing’ funding option on this blog as again, there are too many variables and too many (or lack of ) options all based on the individual’s situation. That really needs a one on one discussion. However, two general comments I will put forward here as an adjunct …….

  • Unless they advertise the option – please don’t expect most producers/studios (who aren’t a mate/family) to even consider looking at some sort of “sales based” deal with you unless you can quite easily demonstrate a feasible return on investment with analysis and you are commercial enough to support the figures. We are in business as well and need to be sure of our cash flow and returns/sustainability – and most will only do something along those lines (if at all) on a ‘sure thing’ where there is the chance of a ROI (return on investment) – profit potential and if they can afford to put in the time at that time.
  • And secondly – as a general rule – regardless of incentive programs within it (and which was mentioned in that other article)…….
    Crowd funding only really works if you have enough people you are ALREADY in touch with to make it work. And a there is enough people within that number who would buy your CD anyway (so only pre-purchasing) and will spread the word/help you promote. In other words – if you have only 200 followers of which 50 or even 100 may be potential buyers of your CD, there is no way you are going to come close to funding any reasonable size project through the crowd funding method. So dont do it – a failed crowd funding campaign doesnt build confidence in those considering investing/helping you. Better to try options with a good chance of success (even if for only part of your funding need).

Look forward to your comments and thoughts and again, if we can help with some of the analysis, advice and input into this area – please contact us.

Cheers till next time

Ian

You are self employed and full time in the music industry and complaining about the money……really? Full time? Let’s check..

OK the ‘ bee in the bonnet’ is coming out again……..
In the last week I have had a few people contact me about how to make a living from this industry….each said they were full time and wanted to discuss the basics…. Not the left field stuff like sync rights etc. but just ‘normal make an living’ stuff

After a few questions it was obvious why they were unsustainable and having issues…. even though they asked for input, they were not happy to have the mirror raised (some do but most don’t it seems) and quite offended and a little disrespectful….So I thought I would put this post up and then I could just share the link from now on rather than having the angst.

So let me start with a couple of scenarios

Scenario 1
Let’s say you are doing private instrument/vocal tutoring …and let’s say you had 30 students a week – would that be a good number of students to have you think?  Do you have that many?.

In reality that = 15 hours of actual face to face
And if you are working to a basic teaching plan don’t fool yourself that it’s more around another 5 hrs a week in preparation as most of it is regurgitating similar training patterns and just adapting examples that are relevant…or you are doing it wrong (note I said basic teaching plan so beginer to intermediate students which is where the majority of instrument/vocal teachers spend their their time)

Scenario 2
If you are a gigging musician /singer and SAY you are getting regular gigs 3 nights a week, every week.
And let’s say they are all functions … so 3*45 minute sets (rather than just a 20 minute set’) …
Most would be now saying ‘I wish’  (are you?).
And lets add a bit of an allowance for bump in/out (discount dinner but add something for travel) .

Result……….Each of those add up to ONLY about 20 hours a week max!!!

Consider
If you have 60 students a week or, 6 night/arvo gig bookings regularly or, doing both at that level …….. then you are doing the same hours as a full time employed worker and would probably getting commensurate $$$ (whether the same as a production worker or middle management – that gets down to a separate discussion on charging levels etc) …………….. you would then have at least a base sustainability – – but I dont know of many (a small handful only) who have that many students or coming even close to gigging that much,,,,,,,,,,,, or the combination.

So my question then is,,,,,,,,,, if not, what are you really doing with the rest of your time to call yourself “full time”???????

In most other industries (and I am sure you know many), most people who are self employed/ running their own businesses are working 50, 60 or more hours a week ….whether that is someone running a retail outlet, the guy with his coffee van, the plumber or carpenter, the business consultant, etc.
But it seems often in the music industry (and other areas of the arts too) we want the independence of being our own bosses, the income of a senior executive, but are only willing to put in the hours of a part timer………… and at the same time be complaining about the lack of support, reducing income streams, not the same as it was, lack of understanding by others, etc etc etc etc……

I’ve even had one person quote me the income of someone as an example of those ‘doing it’ for minimal time. Not only did it happen to be one of the top of the industry (who are probably less than 1% of the whole sector and who did the hard yards in the past  -somehow that being forgotten). ….. but it happened to be a friend and I was able to draw their attention to all the other things he was doing when not up on stage or in the studio etc.

So again I ask  – what are you doing with the rest of your time?
Because if you claim to be full time and are only putting in part time hours – dont complain about the money!!!!!

Now, I am not saying all the hours are, or should be income based – but if not, they should be orientated towards income generating (marketing, contacting, networking, getting bookings etc etc etc) until you have the work and cash flow that you need and that is sustainable.

Let me do this differently

Start with one thought – $40 an hour * 40 hours a week * 48 weeks a year = $76,800 gross – so if you were an employed office worker, say low/middle management that would be your expectation (if not more)…. plus holiday pay, super etc etc

“But I am ‘worth’ $80 per hour or even $100 per hour” I hear some say.
Really????

Then why aren’t you charging (and getting) $50 per half hour lesson? Or invoicing (and receiving) $500 per person in a group every gig for a 4 hr gig + travel? ………………….

And if you are, why aren’t you doing more of it???
Because $100 ph * 40 hrs * 48 weeks = $192.000 pa…… And you wouldn’t be complaining if that was the case eh?????
Even $100 ph *20hrs *40 weeks = $80,000

So you may think you are worth that much money – but if you cant get it, then in reality, in your market you are not. And if you want that income level for the hourly rate you can get ……..you have to do more hours, or do it smarter or do something else or something has to change.

But I am a creative – I need my freedom, unbridled, unshackled by the constraints of modern society, a regimented life and I need to have time to just be and allow the creative juices to flow” …….etc etc etc …..blah blah blah…
Now dont get me wrong while that might sound condescending or disrespectful to those who make that choice its is not meant to be – I totally support you making your life choices…… – – – but dont then complain you are not getting enough income at the same time.

Your lifestyle and work level choices have ramifications to your income and other areas of your life. Just as much as your choice of location for living and working does.

(If you dont want to do the “other stuff” but want the income of those who do-  maybe in the long term its worth getting someone else to to that for you – whether management, marketing etc etc – but thats a whole other discussion and has its own ramifications)

So time for a reality check people (or for those that want to). Put the spotlight on yourself. Step back and take a dispassionate assessment of ‘your business’.

  • What do you consider to be the hours of a ‘working week’ for you (including all the time needed for back end stuff, marketing etc and allowing for life and family etc)? 40? 60? 80? 20?

Then really analyse your ‘working week’ and what you are doing within those hours you have said ..

  • Count up the hours of what you are actually doing and see if you are comfortable with that or not
  • what are you actually doing in those hours – comfortable or not?
  • Compare the hours to the dollars and see if you are comfortable with that or not

And then decide that you are fine and be happy ………. or set in place change to get where you want to be.

What changes? well that depends on your individual situation. But some quick examples may be

  • increase the marketing level (whether for yourself, your merch, your songs etc etc direct. online etc)
  • increas the days and nights you are available to gig or run lessons etc
    For example, private lessons arent just before/after school and weekends – there are day time lesson opportunities all the time  – eg think adult and think say retirees, shift workers, school mums  etc (as well as some options within adult education and schools themselves depending on qualifications and way its established etc)
    Similarly, gig potential is are not just Thursday -Saturday night and Sunday arvo.
    For example lots of  clubs have stuff on during the day, or specific functions in local community etc
  • think outside the square
    For example, maybe investigating internet gig options (like StageIt) or pay per view options as ways to be ‘gigging more in front of paying people’ (but remember there is a heap of marketing, pr and planning hours needed behind these areas to be successful) – or set up your own gig space (see other blog articles where I talk more about getting gigs etc)
  • considering to get some/more merchandise to add to sales at gigs etc to increase the bottom line(stuff thats interesting, attractive that people will want and can sell at a premium)
  • working out the viability of getting someone to help or joining up with others in your field to do some combined ‘stuff’
  • spending a bit to get an independent advisor to delve in to your world and come up with ideas and plans that you can then implement (sometime the view from a distance adds some clarity)

If you are really happy with where you are and what you are doing then great, Ignore this article and keep on keeping on and be happy  – the saying, “if it aint broke dont fix it” comes to mind.

But if not, then there is another old saying ……”You want get anything different to what you are already getting if, you dont change what you are currently doing” Think about it!

Cheers till next time.

Ian