The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs | Disc Makers

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mic2 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigsNot all gigs are created equal: how to get the right gig for you

So you want to play more gigs.

It seems like other artists you know are performing all the time, so surely there must be a secret formula to getting gigs. That, or all the other musicians up on stage are friends with the venue owner or have a manager getting the gigs for them, right?

Maybe. But nine times out of ten the singer up there on stage has no insider information, no manager, and no friendship with the venue owner whatsoever.

So the burning question is….what is the Secret Formula to booking gigs?

I could reel off a few quick bullet points to whet your appetite, but to be honest that wouldn’t help you very much and here’s why: if you came up to me tomorrow and asked me how to get gigs, the first thing I’d say is, “What type of gig do you want?”

You see, not all gigs are created equal. Some gigs will pay well but won’t help you build a following; some gigs will pay next to nothing but will be massive fan builders; and some gigs… well they don’t get you fans or money but can still be valuable if used properly.

Confused?  I don’t blame you.

You see, before you can get gigs you need to understand the type of gigs that are out there and what each one can do for you. Once you understand this, it makes going after gigs a whole lot easier because you can look for a gig that is going to help you with your business (yes, you are a business) and is suitable for where you’re at in this phase of your career.

Have a look at the Gig Matrix below. These are examples of just some of the types of gigs, placed into a matrix that works on a scale of high versus low pay and high versus low fan building.

Gig Matrix 620x650 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: This works for any musical genre; you just have to rename the gig slightly. For example, the musical theatre  equivalent of an ‘Open Mic Night’ is doing a community theatre show for free.

Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. The music industry is highly unregulated and I know that some musicians have done very well with ‘low pay/low fans’ gigs like busking if they go on a regular basis, however this is not always the case. To make things even clearer, let’s take a look at each of the areas of the Gig Matrix and find out what the benefits of each category can be for you.

Low Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

If after looking at the Matrix you thought that you would scratch Low Pay/ Low Fan gigs off your list straight away… well, think again. Every gig in the Matrix has its purpose and each is more accessible to you depending on what stage you are at in your music career.

For example, busking and open mic nights are a great way to test out new material or to gain performance practice when you are just starting out, and they are the easiest gigs to obtain; you can busk in most places by obtaining a simple busking licence and open mic nights take pretty much anyone.

In fact, I personally use both of these types of  gigs for this very purpose.  I’m currently working on some new folk material and am playing guitar for the first time (I’m usually a jazz performer and play piano and sing) so when I’ve got my material ready, I’ll hit up an open mic night to take my new songs and skills for a test drive.

Similarly, if you are in musical theatre, the best way to grow your resume is by doing free community shows. You’ll meet people in the industry and can work on your performance skills while you hunt around for new opportunities.

High Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

On the flip side of the Matrix  there are High Pay/ Low Fan gigs. These are what I call ‘Bread and Butter’ gigs because basically, they pay the rent. For contemporary singers, these might be bar/ club cover gigs where the venue pays you to play music their clientele will like, which usually means well known covers.

For me as a jazz musician, these are corporate gigs at some stuffy legal firm’s cocktail client night and I’m there to provide background music and look pretty. Yep seriously. Why else would they hire a band if they just want background music? It’s all for show. This is definitely not the place to pull out my massive ‘Nicola Milan’ banner, set up my merch stand complete with flashing lights and plug my CDs at the end of every set. You’ll be lucky if you get to hand out a few business cards during the break and get a quick thank you from the head honcho.

Use these gigs to fund the Low Pay/High Fan building gigs that we’ll have a look at next… and make the most of the free canapés while you’re there. icon wink The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: Some musos only want these types of gigs. This is when it’s not so much about building a name for themselves than it is making money as a musician without having to leave their local area (Which is totally fine by the way. I know plenty of very good musicians who make their living this way) — but for those of you who want to make a mark, raise your profile, and reach for what can happen when you do start becoming known (i.e. a higher charge rate, better gigs, a deeper connection with fans, getting your message out there, and all the possibilities that come with being a person of interest) then read on.

Low Pay/ High Fan Gigs

I love/ hate these gigs. I know they are going to be good for my profile but I also know I’m going to run at a loss and as someone who relies solely on income derived from music, the costs involved can bite.

Many support gigs with better known artists will fall under this category (initially at least.) As anything in the music industry, there will be exceptions but when you have no fans apart from your rent-a-crowd mates then you don’t really have much value (in terms of business dollars) to add to a gig and the opportunity to perform with a band that does pull a crowd is a good opportunity for you, because it means you get to play for fans of a similar sounding band. If they like that band, then they may become your fan too. However, it’s not such a good deal for the venue or the band with the bigger name.

The reason is because these type of gigs usually operate on a pay by door sales basis. If you have no fans then your ability to help with the door sales intake is going to be minimal and therefore you shouldn’t expect to be paid for something you didn’t provide. The catch here however, is this: if you are a singer who uses an accompanist or session musicians in your band, then you still have to pay your musicians and you will have to fork out of your own pocket to pay them. It is easier if you have a band dedicated to doing any gig they can to ‘break in’ but for singers, this is frequently not the case.

The good news is that if you make the most of these gigs, you should start building fans from the first gig and it does get easier. That, or you can do a heap of advertising to get people through the door… but that is a topic for another blog post.

The bad news is that every time you want to break into a new market (location) you will have to repeat the support gig process, unless of course you have a major radio hit and venues are clambering over each other to book you… and we all know this is definitely not the norm.

However, playing support gigs is the fastest way to go from zero to fans and get you one step closer to the juicy gigs we’ll have a look at next.

High Fans/ High Pay Gigs

Ah yes, now we reach the realm of the Rich and Somewhat Famous and I can hear you thinking ‘Now we’re talking. Ok Nicola, just tell me how to get heaps of these gigs, really well paying and in front of heaps of fans.’

My answer? “Patience, Grasshopper. They are not YOUR fans… yet.”

I’m not saying this to hold you back by any means because on average, festivals and promoted shows with advertising dollars behind them are hands-down the best way to get your name out there as an artist. The gig in itself would be enough, however most Festivals are accompanied by advertising dollars to spread your name further and have media salivating over the opportunity to get you on their interview list. Yes these are the best gigs to get, but they are also by far the most competitive.

Festivals are expensive to put on and so the Festival Promoter needs to ensure they will attract an excellent turnout each year. They do this by booking artists that they know will draw a crowd, which means that you need to be doing pretty well and have a solid following  to get one of these gigs (that, or be good friends with whoever is in charge.)

Don’t worry, there’s a catch to Festivals which is your secret way in. Create a list of the Festivals that support your type of music in your local area (and beyond if you can afford the travel costs). Most bigger Festivals don’t even accept artist applications so scratch those off initially. Your best bet is to target smaller festivals and then build up from there.

Keep an eye out for contests to play at bigger Festivals but realise the competition is going to be fierce. Some Festivals do offer busking opportunities which you can snap up if you perform solo and acoustic, then make the most of it; get your banner out, play loud and promote, promote, promote!

The other type of show that can sit either under this category in the Gig Matrix or under the Low Pay/Low Fans category is a show that you put on yourself. You hire a venue or agree to a split of the door sales and then it’s your job to book the support acts and get people through the door (this is where that rent-a-crowd friend base comes in handy).

These gigs are great for a reason to promote yourself in the local media and can be decent earners if your door numbers are solid. Do a good job and your rent-a-crowd might actually become true fans and bring more friends along next time.

So let’s go back to the start and revisit our original question: how to get gigs. Now that you can have a think about the type of gig that you want, doesn’t that make it easier to know where to start looking?

My advice is to pick the gig according to what your needs are as an artist. If you are just starting out, go for the Low Pay/Low Fan gigs where you can get some performance practice singing in front of a crowd. That way, if you stuff up, it’s not going to be such a big deal. If you’re past this stage, then have a look at the bands gigging in your local area that sound similar to you and reach out for a support gig.

Whatever the stage you are at in your music career, go for the gig that will benefit you the most… and once you have it, make the most of it.

—-

Author bio: Nicola Milan is a professional singer, songwriter, recording artist and vocal coach. On her website Singer’s Secret, she shares tips on how to improve your singing, gain confidence, and get gigs when you’re just starting out.

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Build a superfan base one video at a time | DiscMakers

by BEN SWORD

Engaging with your fans involves “check moves” – opportunities for positive interaction – and online videos are one way to build an audience on YouTube and beyond

build an audience on YouTube

This lesson comes from Ben Sword, founder of Music Marketing Classroom, with an excerpt from the “Superfan Building” module of their training. Click here for the whole shebang.

If you’ve done any research about music marketing, you’ve probably heard a lot of people telling you you need to be on social media “engaging” with your fans. Sounds good, but what does that mean? Good question! The mission of this lesson is explain what engaging means, give you practical steps you can do each day, and help you build an audience on YouTube and beyond in the ultimate quest to take your music promotion to new heights.

The “check move” theory

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure why I needed to bother engaging with fans until I discovered the “check move” theory. This concept tells us that the more positive interactions (or check moves) fans take with an artist, the closer the connection will be, and that will ultimately lead to more support – whether that be financial or with promotion bringing in new fans by word of mouth.

I think this is an especially powerful idea for musicians because it means we don’t have to hammer the fan base with slightly cheesy sales messages all the time, and can just focus on putting out super-duper stuff that they WANT to interact with.

It all starts with “capture”

In other words, get a smart phone and press record a lot, because often you can entertain your gang by just bringing them into your world and making content based around what you’re already doing.

The way this might look for a band on the road is that each member would be documenting the wild ride from their own point of view and posting it to Dropbox, and then your social media dude edits all the best bits for posting. (Of course, if you’re on a budget, the “social media dude” could simply be Bob the crazy drummer who likes playing with the computers).

But for some even that might seem like a little bit too much like hard work, so why not run a competition to have one of your die-hard fans come on the road with you to capture all the cool behind-the-scenes happenings? For an amazing example of this check out Ozzy Osbourne’s Facebook Page.

Seeing your journey from a fan’s point of view will mean they’re in a great position to know what’s going to be interesting and relevant. BOOYARR! You’ve just created a world class digital content strategy and it did not hurt one bit.

So how on earth do you set up a check move?

The mission here is to remove all the head-scratching from your social media marketing by giving you a set of tried and tested posts ready to go, and video is a great way to tell a story through more than just words. And you don’t need to just make a music video every week, there are dozens of ways to create video content that can help you engage with your fans. Don’t believe me? Here are 23 ideas to start with.

    1. Behind the music
      Let people in on your wild ride in the biz. Your first band, first song, first guitar, first love (or maybe not), challenges and setbacks, magic moments, and plans for the future. To do this, get a piece of paper and draw a picture of yourself as a just born baby on the left hand side, then draw a picture of yourself last week on the right. Now fill up the space in the middle with all the epic stuff that’s happened to you during that time. BTW, you don’t have to make a whole movie in one go. Bite-sized pieces will actually work better for holding interest.

 

    1. Interviews
      Interview every cool person you meet along the way – producers, managers, your crazy bassist, other bands, family, friends, fans, the sound man, tour manager and the driver who never seems to sleep. Here’s a good example to get you started. WARNING: There is a 93% chance this video will make you laugh, so if you’re at work maybe watch it later!

      how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 1

    2. Cribs
      Make a video to show folks around your home town and even your house if that doesn’t feel weird. Travel to important landmarks in your career like where the band got together, or where you performed your first successful stage dive. If you can’t be bothered to actually leave your house, you could do this using Google street view.

 

    1. Backstage
      Post dressing room shenanigans, the after-show party, and even that particularly tasty treat you got on the rider. And if Jimmy Page shows up and wants to play with you, film yourself getting ready for the gig!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 2
    2. In the studio
      Video yourself during recording sessions. This is an awesome method of keeping fans in touch while you would normally be off the radar.

 

    1. Live footage from your latest gig
      There is a cool tool called Switch Cam which will turn your whole crowd into one big massive film crew and then you can come back later and make a wicked movie using all those different viewpoints. It’s the future baby!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 3
    2. Tour diary
      Video diary updates when you’re on tour that include where you’re playing, how the shows are going, which band member is starting to make you crazy, what it’s like inside the van, and reviews of the accommodations.

 

    1. Sound check videos
      You might think this seems a little boring (and honestly I would agree), but folks outside of the biz love learning how things work from your perspective, and these kinds of music videos seem to get a ton of views. There could be interested people who will appreciate the look inside.

 

    1. Rehearsal footage
      Give your fans a sneak peek of brand new tracks from the practice room.how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 4
    2. Gear heads
      Show people around your gear and how you get your EPIC sounds. “This one goes to 11.”

 

    1. Music from your past
      Dust off those demos you made when you were a kid or in an early band. I think it’s cool to show people how you got to where you are now musically. Don’t be bashful about it!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 5
    2. Merch!
      Live from the merch booth meeting the fans and the people who run your table.

 

    1. Song-meanings and inspirations
      Share what you were thinking and feeling when you wrote a song, if that doesn’t feel too personal.how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 6
    2. Alternate versions
      Record yourself playing acoustic versions of your more popular songs.

 

    1. Covers
      Record yourself playing interesting arrangements of music you love. (Don’t forget to get a sync license if you’re doing this!)

 

    1. Covers by fans
      Post a little “guitar lesson” for one of your most popular songs and then challenge fans to come up with the best cover version on video and post it.

 

    1. Say thanks
      Make a real personal video to thank fans when you reach important milestones in your career. Jackie Chan did this when he got 50 million Facebook fans. Just look at the way he pops up. Classic!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 7
    2. Making of
      The “making of” your video with director’s commentary, like the extras on a DVD. This would basically be a couple of key players talking about how the whole thing came together.

 

    1. Answer questions
      Host an “ask me anything event,” online open mic session, or do what Noah Guthrie did and answer Twitter questions on video. It’s a multi-media bonanza!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 8
    2. Outtakes
      Compile outtakes and bloopers from your recording sessions and video shoots.

 

    1. Chat with a superfan
      Make someone’s day and make a video out of it.how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 9
    2. Shopping
      Go thrift shopping for stage clothes or props and document the whole adventure on video.

 

  1. Make a music video
    Every cool tune should have some kind of music video, even if it’s real simple. Here’s something I made with no budget in just a few hours. Moving forward, I’ll be making mostly “fans create the footage” music videos because then the check move factor goes through the roof!how to build an audience on YouTube ex. 10

Here is your action step

OK so now we’re at the end of this lesson you’ve got two options.

1. Close this page and think, “Hmmm, ain’t that Ben Sword a cool and sexy mofo, he gave me a ton of ideas that I really should use one day and I must buy him lots of beer next time he’s in town. But then, ha ha ha! Look at those funny talking cats dancing on YouTube … what was I doing again?”

Apart from the thing about buying me beers, that ain’t going to do anyone any good, so the only option you should really consider is:

2. Pick one thing from this list, do it right now, and give yourself an hour to complete it. Often work will swell to the amount of time you allocate, so setting a short deadline means you’ll be really action focused and proactive.

Then if you’re feeling brave, do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and for the next 30 days, until you got the habit locked in for the rest of your career. Being that consistent will pretty much guarantee you’ll find an audience at some point. It’s like a law of nature or something.

Sure, what you produce at first might be crappy, and that’s totally cool – in fact that’s what’s supposed to happen. But after a while, making great stuff will be just like eating maple syrup and bacon pancakes with a thick Oreo cookie milkshake (i.e. EASY!)

Good luck, I’m rootin for ya’ and please contact me if you got questions because I’ll be making follow-up lessons.

Ben Sword is the founder of the Music Marketing Classroom, on a mission to help musicians create sustainable careers with a simple four level marketing philosophy. Learn more at MusicMarketingClassroom.com.

Read more: Build a superfan base one video at a time – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/03/build-a-superfan-base-with-videos/#ixzz2wPyiDord

State of the Industry: 18 Ways Musicians Can Make Money | Bandzoogle

Dave Cool

One of the biggest challenges facing musicians is generating income. Gone are the days when a band could rely solely on music sales and touring to earn a living.

Part of the reality of being a working musician today is the need to diversify your revenue streams. Although sales of recorded music have gone down significantly in recent years, there are new sources of income available to musicians.

A mix of traditional and more modern income streams can help today’s musicians earn a living. Here’s a list of 18 ways to generate revenue for your music career:

18 Ways Musicians Can Make Money

1. CD Sales: If you’re going to be playing live shows, having CDs on hand is still a good idea. They make great takeaway souvenirs that can easily be signed by band members.

2. Vinyl Sales: Vinyl sales surged 30% in 2013. Again, if you’ll be playing live shows, printing a small batch to have at your merch table can help generate extra income.

3. Digital Sales: You should be selling digital music through your own website to make the most money, but also through online retailers. Keep in mind that online retailers take a percentage of sales (ex. iTunes takes 30%, Bandcamp takes 15%). Some digital distributors that place your music in stores like iTunes and Amazon will take a cut on top of that.

4. Streaming: Although per-stream payouts from streaming services tend to be small, they can add up over time. Keep in mind that these services also help new fans discover your music, and shouldn’t be seen solely as an income generator.

5. Live Shows: Money made from live shows can vary greatly, but it’s still one of the best ways to earn income. Not only can you make money from selling tickets, but it’s also one of the best ways to sell merch. Be sure to read our blog series “The 4 P’s of Playing Live” to make sure you’re getting the most out of your gigs.

6. Physical Merch: Income from physical merch can depend heavily on the amount of live shows you play. If you go out on tour, be sure that you have some t-shirts, as well as smaller items like buttons and stickers that you can sell to fans after the show. For more tips about merch, read: Get Your Merch On: Generating Revenue from Merchandise

7. Digital Merch: You can also sell digital merch items like PDFs, videos, and images to your fans. Things like lyric books, live concerts, sheet music, exclusive photos, artwork and more. Check out this post for ideas of digital items you can sell through your website: Using the new File Download feature: 20 Items you can now sell

8. Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding can be a great way to generate income for your music career. A well-executed crowdfunding campaign can help you raise enough money to offset the cost of producing and marketing your album. Read this excellent post by Dave Kusek (New Artist Model) about how to approach crowdfunding: Crowdfunding the Right Way

9. Publishing Royalties: You should be signed up to a performing rights organization so you can collect royalties on your music. This includes public performance royalties (radio, TV, live venues), mechanical royalties (sales through retailers, streaming, etc.), and sync royalties (commercials, film, TV).

10. Digital Royalties: Whenever your music is played on services like SiriusXM radio, Pandora, and webcasters, they must pay royalties. Sign up for a free SoundExchange account to make sure you’re collecting those royalties.

11. Live Performance Royalties: When performing original material, you can earn royalties from live performances. Whether you perform at a bar, restaurant, club, or other music venue, Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) will pay royalties from those live performances.

12. Licensing: If you get your song placed in a film, commercial, or TV show, chances are they’re going to pay you a licensing fee. These fees vary greatly, depending on the budget for the project, and how badly they want your particular song.

13. YouTube: On YouTube, whenever your music is used in videos that are running ads, YouTube pays a portion of that advertising money to the rights holders of the song. Digital distributors like TuneCore and CD Baby can help you collect that money, as well as Audiam.

14. Sponsorships: If you’ve built up a fan base, some companies are willing to sponsor musicians to reach those fans. Sponsorships can range from cash, to free products, services, and gear. Read this excellent guest post from Dave Huffman about sponsorships: Musicians: How to Get Sponsored

15. Session Work: Another way to make some extra money is to put yourself out there as a session musician. As a singer or instrumentalist, you could do session work for other musical projects, or even in advertising.

16. Songwriting/Composing: If you’re a songwriter, you could write songs for other musicians, or compose music specifically for film and television.

17. Cover Gigs: Playing cover gigs at bars, restaurants, weddings and other private events is frowned upon by some musicians. But those shows can pay really well, and allow you to get paid to play your instrument. There’s no shame in that.

18. Music Lessons: Many musicians teach their instrument to others to help generate revenue towards their own career. This can be a nice way to supplement your income, and allows you to hone your craft at the same time.

Tracking Your Income

With all of these different income streams, it will be important to track your progress. This will allow you to gauge which ones are working best for your career, and where you should focus your attention.

To help keep track of your income, you can download our sample music marketing budget here.

Why indies should still care about radio | Disc Makers

shutterstock 1941665841 Why indies should still care about radio[This article was written by Erica Sinkovic, CD Baby’s Web Product Manager and general music enthusiast.]

Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to an independent label, you’re sure to have a lot on your plate already. Between booking shows, debating merch, planning your next big marketing move, juggling social media-insanity, oh yeah, and writing new material, the last thing you want to add to your plate is a radio campaign. Indies have all but abandoned this once-career-establishing source. Some say it’s because their audience isn’t listening to radio anymore, some say it’s because radio is only for Top 40 major label artists, and others simply don’t have time or resources to even consider it in their marketing mix. I’m here to tell you: don’t abandon radio.

Even though many people, particularly teens, are listening to music via YouTube and other on-demand platforms, discovery tends to happen through other channels. Just two years ago, in 2012, Nielsen reported that 48% of people surveyed discovered music most often through the radio (compared to YouTube’s 7%). Today, in 2014, Nielsen reports that radio listenership is on the rise from 243.7 million in 2013 to 244.4 million weekly listeners in 2014. They cite the localization of stations and their curated content as a key factor to becoming so easily interwoven in peoples’ lives…something to keep in mind come tour time.

I’m not here to tell you “drop everything and focus all of your time and money on radio.” I’m here to tell you that radio is not dead, DJs are still the tastemakers in every town, and radio still has the power to bring artists of all genres to the next level in their careers, at every level.

In my experience of working with incredible artists, labels and distribution companies, I’ve seen the difference that radio can make – taking unknowns to globally recognized names (yes, there are many more millions of people listening internationally). Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Childish Gambino, Robert DeLong, these are artists that Glassnote Records took way up the charts in both airplay and sales by focusing much of their efforts on radio in every single market (touring also being a major factor). You can’t turn on a college radio station or satellite radio channel without hearing Arcade Fire (#1 on Billboard), Grizzly Bear (#7 on Billboard), First Aid Kit (#12 on Billboard Independent), Passion Pit (#4 on Billboard) and so on.

Don’t give up on radio because there are millions of people still listening, still trusting and still anxiously awaiting the next “new thing.”

How do you get your music on the radio?

Depends on your resources.

1. Radio marketing services such as Pirate! or The Syndicate. Some publicists offer this service in varying degrees as well, but relationships are key here.

2. Radio mailing services offered through boutique distribution companies for an additional fee (single or album-based).

3. Print out a one-sheet, get a box of promos, and start looking up key stations (Will you be touring there? Do you have sales there? Is there an influential tastemaker station there?) to mail or digitally deliver your music to.

* Helpful hint #1: your one-sheet should tell readers immediately why they should care to listen to your music.

* Helpful hint #2: if you want to confirm that someone has listened to your music, pick up the phone and call them.

Have you gotten your music on the radio as an independent artist? Did you hire a promoter, or handle the radio promotion yourself? Let us know in the comments section below.

Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks | DiskMakers

shutterstock 170956478 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks

[This article was written by Alex Andrews of Ten Kettles Development.]

The equalizer (EQ) is a very powerful tool that is EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Open up iTunes and click on the “Window” menu. There it is. As a musician, you’re going to see some form of EQ on virtually every soundboard and amp you play through. This is fantastic, because if you spend a bit of time developing your EQ skills, you’ll suddenly be able to bring a lot more control to your sound—no matter what venue you’re playing in. This article is for new bands looking to take control of their sound and bring it to the next level. Looking to get your head around the basics? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome.

Primer: what’s an EQ anyway?

There are many different types of EQs—graphic, parametric, semi-parametric, and so on—and though they’re each used a little differently, they all do a very similar thing: an EQ makes a group of frequencies louder or quieter. For example, think of the “Bass” knob on a stereo: it’s just a simple EQ that controls the low frequencies. Getting comfortable with the idea of frequencies is a great first step in gaining control of your live sound. 

iTunesEqualizer 1 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
The graphic EQ in iTunes controls 10 frequency bands

Let’s take a look at the iTunes equalizer (if you have iTunes, just click “Window” and then “Equalizer”). You’ll see a 10-band EQ like the one on the right. Those numbers at the bottom of each slider are the frequencies—e.g., the slider labelled “32″ controls the very low sound around 32 Hz. Our ears generally hear between around 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz (that’s 20 kHz), so this EQ has us covered!

Different frequency ranges have different qualities, different characters, different feels—and knowing this stuff is the foundation of your future EQ mastery! For example, too much volume around 1 kHz is going to sound nasal; too little 8 kHz will sound dull. Knowing this, we can just turn up or down the right sliders to fix the problem. We’ll hear some examples of this once we get to the video!

EQing the band: it’s a team sport!

Before we get into some specifics, there are two HUGE points often overlooked by beginners, and I can’t emphasize them enough:

1. Even if all instruments sound great on their own, they may not sound good together. EQing a group of musicians is about making sure they sound excellent as a unit. If you take a great sounding band and have one member play on her own, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sound great: a bass may sound dull, a guitar or vocal may sound thin. That’s OK! All these instruments leave a bit of space in their sound so they can jigsaw together into one impressive band sound. At a show, you play together—so that’s how you should EQ too. EQing is a team sport.

2. To make one instrument sound its best, consider everyone’s settings. For example, if the bass guitar has its highs turned up loud, the guitar may not pop through. Just turning that guitar up—instead of tweaking the bass’s settings—could cause more problems.

So what do you do? A rule-of-thumb for beginning EQers is to let each instrument own a zone. In a classic four-piece (guitar, bass, vocals, drums), give the bass the lows below ~200 Hz (turn these down on the guitar and vocals), give the guitar the mids (up to roughly 1 Hz), and let the vocals pop by owning the high-mids (around 4 kHz). A simple way to cut high-mids on an electric guitar or bass is with the tone knob usually found on many electric instruments. And this can be quite a small change too — even just a 1/8 turn can do wonders.

The vocals: making them pop

To get a good vocal sound out of a basic soundboard, you can do a few simple things. (We focus on vocals here, but many of these tips will apply to all instruments.)

Turn down the lows. Women generally don’t sing much below 200 Hz; for men it’s 100 Hz. So, any sound below those frequencies that makes it into the microphone is probably not what we want. Maybe it’s the rumble of nearby traffic, or some low-frequency electrical hum. Let’s get rid of it!

The next step depends on your equipment. You’ll likely have at least one semi-parametric EQ for the vocal track mids. (Wait, what’s a semi-parametric EQ? It’s just two knobs: one for the frequency, and one for the level.) Now listen to the vocals (with the whole band playing), and pick the problem that’s most obvious: muddiness, a nasal sound, lack of warmth, or lack of presence. Picked one? Then follow the instruction below that fits. If you have four of these semi-parametric EQs, then you can move onto the other three instructions when you’re done. If not, you’ll need to choose carefully!

SemiParametricEQ Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
A semi-parametric EQ controls the volume of sound at a specific frequency.

Turn up the presence range. Sometimes you put on a record or go to a show, and you can clearly hear everything: lead vocals, harmonies, guitar, bass, drums—it all sounds terrific. And yet, you find one particular instrument is highlighted—usually the lead vocals. While you hear everything, you find yourself listening to that one instrument above the rest. You can place an instrument at the forefront, just like this, using the presence range (around 4 kHz). For example, if you want the vocals to really pop through, turn up this range on the vocals and turn down this range on everything else. Changes of even 3 dB (that’s small) can do a great deal.

Cut the mud or increase the warmth. The muddiness/warmth region is around 250 Hz. If your vocals are muddy and the words just aren’t making it through, you may want to cut this region. On the other hand, if the vocals sound weak and need some warmth, you’ll want to raise it.

Reduce the nasal sound. The nasal region is around 1 kHz. If you find the vocals are getting too nasal, cutting this range a little can make a noticeable improvement.

Finding the frequency. Now that you know which frequency range to adjust, let’s improve that vocal sound! We’re going to assume you have a semi-parametric EQ control for mids (explained above). To start, crank the level knob most of the way high or low, depending on if you’re cutting (e.g., to reduce mud) or boosting (e.g., to increase presence). Then have the singer sing normally (not just say “Check.. 1… 2…”!), with or without the band, as you slowly turn the frequency knob around the frequency range you want to change. For example, scan from 2 kHz to 8 kHz for presence. Somewhere in that range the effect will really stand out—that’s the magic frequency, and it’s a little different for everyone. Bring the level back to something a bit more subtle, and you’re good.

Remember: when you’re EQing the vocal, your goal is to make it sound good with the band, not just on its own. Make sure you always do some EQing with everyone playing!

The caveats: EQing is great if

Building your EQ skills can lead to a giant improvement in how your songs sound to the audience. But, just like any effect, they aren’t a fix-all: songs still need to be awesome, and the performance should still be both engaging and tight. Music comes from the heart, makes its way through your instrument and sound equipment, and connects to your audience. Knowing your effects, like EQ, makes sure it gets there in one piece! And for you vocalists, know your distance to the mic! If in doubt and you’re using the usual SM58-style microphone that you’ll find in most clubs—stay very close!

Train those ears: enter hearEQ!

Developing good EQ skills involves building both knowledge and experience—and that practical experience can be tough to get at first. That’s where hearEQ comes in. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can check out the hearEQapp—a 99¢ app that teaches you about different frequency bands, and then helps you practice EQing using custom exercises—all on your very own tracks. Understanding how the different frequency ranges sound—so you can say “hey, sounds like the bass could cut the highs a little” or “vocals could be warmer, let’s boost around 300 Hz”—is a powerful skill and hearEQ helps you get there. We are super proud of this app, and we hope you find it as useful as we have. Check out our video below to learn more—it’s also got some cool EQing examples!

hearEQ: Ear training for musicians, engineers, and audio lovers from Ten Kettles on Vimeo.

Bio: Alex Andrews is an engineer (B.Sc. Engineering Physics, M.Sc. Electrical Engineering), active musician, and Founder and CEO of an app development company called Ten Kettles. After ten years working with some terrific research labs—from physics to music psychology to cochlear implants—founder Alex began Ten Kettles as a creative, productive, and thoughtful company. He is passionate about creating software and mobile applications that have a positive, meaningful impact. Based in Toronto, Canada, Ten Kettles focuses on apps for music and education.www.tenkettles.com

Pre-production tips for recording drums | DiscMakers

by DAN GONZALEZ

Every studio recording should begin with pre-production – here are tips to help you prepare for a drum recording session

pre-production and recording drumsThis post on pre-production tips for drummers originally appeared on Cakewalk’s blog. These tips apply to drummers, producers, and engineers preparing for a session recording drums. Reprinted with permission.

1. Practice to a click track
If the drummer in a session isn’t rehearsed, you will either spend a lot of time in the studio or a lot of time editing drums. Spending time in the rehearsal room practicing to a click track is much easier than spending hours and hours behind an editor. Sit in on rehearsals and even record them to get an understanding of timing and how proficient the drummer is. Here are some solutions for drummers who have a hard time playing to just a click:

• Have someone else in the group play along with the drummer
• Use song demos as guide tracks
• Record in shorter sections, instead of longer sections
• Try different percussion as click tones (e.g. cowbell, woodblock)

2. Demo songs before you record them
Prepping for a studio recording is the only way to successfully take advantage of the time you have and cut the best performances of your songs. Practice recording yourself playing your band’s songs to understand how your tracks will come together in the recording studio. Review your recordings and focus on the group and your parts to understand where improvements need to be made to lock down the tracks. Take the time to finalize specific drum fills, hits, and patterns.

Techniques vary from drummer to drummer: some play behind the beat and others will play ahead of the beat. Sometimes drummers do not realize how hard they need to be hitting the drums to get a proper sound for recording. As an engineer or producer, you want to eliminate all the possible surprises before entering the studio.

3. Find the right type of drum head for the music you are recording
Different jobs call for different tools, and pairing the right drum head with a music genre is an important factor in the final sound of any record.

Single ply. These are some of the most common drum heads. Their sensitivity is perfect for light hitters. Single ply heads produce high-end frequencies when hit, and their pronounced tone and sound can be useful in arena rock shows as well as quiet jazz ballads. Single ply heads are typically made from one layer of 7 mil Mylar and are considered the thinnest of all types of drum heads. Unfortunately this means their durability can be sacrificed if they are hit too hard.

Double ply. Double ply heads have two layers of Mylar and can vary in thicknesses, the most common being two 7 mil layers. Double Ply heads do not produce as many overtones and frequencies as single ply heads, and the two layers of Mylar provide more attack and better control of the sound. Double ply heads are typically easier to record in studio applications.

Coated. “Coating” a drum head means that some degree of dampening has been applied. There are many variations of this, but the goal is to soften up the sound of the head so that it produces a warmer sound. Drum heads that are coated are sprayed, covered with Mylar film, or have some sort of other substance applied to make the drum sound warmer and less like abrasive.

Pre-muffled. Eliminating overtones and resonant frequencies from a kick drum is common practice for many styles of music. Rock, metal, pop, and country typically keep the tone of the kick drum from ringing in order to achieve a blend of the “thud” of the drum and “thwack” of the beater against the batter head. Pre-muffled heads come pre packaged with foam or other damping features to suppress unwanted frequencies, which can be important in a recording studio setting.

Once you’ve found the head you want to use, start the session with new and seated (broken in) heads. Make sure to have spares on hand.

4. Tune your drum heads, and continue to tune them as you record
Drum heads always need a good tuning before any recording. They start to change in tone as they are played or left idle and should constantly be re-tuned as you record for long periods of time. Drum tuning does not necessarily mean the drums are tuned to a set of pitches. They are usually tuned so to sound compatible when played in succession. Each size drum head has an optimal range for its tone, and tuning your drums outside of this range can result in strange aliasing or cause other drums to be pushed out of their own optimal tuning range.

5. Prepare in advance for tempo and time signature changes
Tracking a session that has multiple tempo and time signature changes can get complicated if your metronome track is not set up in a way that makes sense to the drummer. Once you get your hands on some demos of the group, tempo map the songs so you can give the drummer a decent click track to practice to before entering the studio. Getting used to multiple tempo changes and time signature changes can be a tricky task, and you do not want to break the drummer’s spirits by surprising him or her with a confusing or inefficient click track while they are trying to record. Prepare a track before you enter the studio with cues and count-ins.

6. Consider using triggers
A trigger is a transducer that is placed on the head of a drum. Once the drum is hit, a signal is sent to a sound generator which sends the programmed sound of a drum or MIDI information. A drum trigger can come in handy regardless of what style of music you are recording. You can record the MIDI information of the drum for easier time adjustment, to enhance the acoustic sound of your drums by blending the two, or to use the information to better understand where the attacks of each transient are. In music styles that are kick-drum centric, a common practice is to use a trigger to level out the differing hits in order to achieve an almost inhuman sound. As an engineer, the use of triggers has not handicapped my session flow or drum editing at all. In fact, it has made certain situations a bit easier.

7. Be prepared
Here are a few items that you as an engineer or producer should always have on hand with you when tracking drums.

• Moving blankets. Use these to isolate kick drums, cover hard/reflective surfaces, and change the acoustics within a room.

• Spring camps. Helpful for holding loose cables and moving blankets.

• Bungee cords. For tying up blankets, loose cables, etc.

• Counterweights. Counterweights are useful when working with inexpensive microphone stands that can fall and lose their placement.

• Extra tuning keys. Tuning keys always get lost. Purchase a few of these to keep on your keychain.

• MoonGel. This is a blue dampening pad that you can buy to place on drum heads during recording. It reduces the ringing and decay of a drum.

• Measuring tape. When setting up overhead microphones, you need to make sure the distance from the snare to both overhead microphones are the same distance.

• Gaffers tape. This tape is great for the studio because it is strong and does not leave a residue when removed.

• Acoustic foam. It is always good to have extra foam on hand if you need to muffled drums.

• Pillows. Removing the front head of a kick drum and stuffing it with pillows can reduce resonance and bring out more attack from the drum.

• Cinder blocks. Placing one of these in front of the kick drum can keep the whole set from moving forward in a room with a slippery floor.

• Camera. Take pictures of the mic placements to save for the future in case you need to re-track.

• DI box (triggers). Most trigger outputs are quarter-inch jacks, you will need this patch into a tie line box that only has XLR inputs.

• Spare snare head. 14” coated snare head. A broken snare head can bring a session to a sudden halt.

Read more: Pre-production tips for recording drums – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/03/pre-production-tips-for-recording-drums/#ixzz31hIT592b

Sustain your music career – nine insights to help you do it | DiscMakers

The Nadas have built a 20-year career in music playing shows, catering to their fans, and treating the business end of their band like a business

 

The Nadas career in music is built on touring

Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith in front of ‘Meatloaf,’ their tour bus.

It’s been twenty years since Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith met in college and forged a partnership that has withstood many tests. Since then, their Des Moines, Iowa-based band, The Nadas, have felt the exhilaration of performing for 15,000 people at a sold out arena shows to playing hole-in-wall bars for a handful of folks. Through playing hundreds of shows and releasing 11 records of (mostly) original material, the duo has learned what works when building a sustained career in music and an audience that spans one-third of the country. They recorded and produced their 2013 album, Lovejoy Revival, in a local warehouse. I spoke with Nadas co-founder Mike Butterworth (guitar/vocals) and dug up nine nuggets of wisdom that have helped the band not only survive, but thrive for two decades. 

1) Organic growth is long-term growth

How did the band come together?
I was a year behind Jason in college but had been playing in rock bands in high school, so when I got to college at Iowa State University, the first thing I wanted to figure out wasn’t my class schedule but who I was going to play music with. A mutual friend introduced me to Jason, who at that time was in a campus band. I auditioned and was asked to join, but before I could go to my first rehearsal, the rest of the guys in the band left school, so only Jason and I were left.

he Nadas career in music started with Lovejoy Revival

The Nada’s 11th CD, Lovejoy Revival (2013).
We picked up our acoustics and started doing an acoustic duo thing. We started getting gigs right away at coffee shops and frat parties around the campus, and that started us on the path of growing our audience organically, one or two fans at a time. That’s been the cornerstone of our success throughout the years. Fast forward a few years and we found that we were able to build our whole career on focusing on the current student, having them become fans, graduate, and then go out in the world. 

We discovered that, almost anywhere we toured, there were between 10 and 100 people who knew us from college and brought their friends to that show in the new town. It was 100% organic growth. The only market we had any help in was Chicago. There was an indie radio station in the northwest suburbs there called “The Bear” and they found out about our music and started playing it, so the first time we showed up to play in Chicago, there was a crowd of people to see us.

2) Steady communication with a call-to-action is key

You were a top draw in your college town. After each class graduated, how did you keep in touch as they spread across the Midwest? 
The Nadas circa 1990s
We had a website, but before we put together our first email list, we had an actual paper mailing list and every month we’d create a newsletter and we would write articles about what we were doing, we would snap pictures of each other and then put it all together and print it up, We’d print and fold them up, hand-write the addresses, put a stamp on, and then drive them over to the post office. It grew to the point where that mailing list was so large that it cost us a couple of thousand dollars every time we wanted to print and send out the newsletter. Soon the band had a computer database and mailing labels to save time. After a while, we also started to put a little order form inside asking fans, “Do you want a record?” and that really ended up paying for itself, because quite often people would send the order form back to us with a check enclosed.

People really looked forward to getting these newsletters and kept them around. For instance, we’d head out of town to play a show and after the show someone would invite us over to their house for an after hours get together and there would be that newsletter hanging on a magnet on the fridge. So we knew it was working.

3) If something works, repeat the formula

How else did you grow your audience?
We decided to go to the next college town over from Ames and start all over again, just playing a club, but we weren’t starting out with zero fans, because a few people had heard of us and our existing fans would tell their buddies in that new town about us. Eventually, we built a circuit through the Midwest of these towns that all had colleges and we would hit each city every month, over and over, and in time, that built up a loyal audience that would come out to support us.

 

The Nadas career in music continues

The Nadas have teamed up with World Bicycle Relief to help provide bicycles to women in emerging countries.

Now the circuit stretches from Colorado to Chicago, and from Minneapolis to Kansas City. There’s probably a total of 30 markets in that region, so we would make that circuit, but we’d also make time to take a week and do a swing down into Texas, or down to Arizona, or we’d set up a trip to go all the way out to California, and then return through Arizona. We even made a trip to Florida and another one to Maine. All of this we did driving, and all from our home base here in Iowa. We saved up enough to purchase a 40-foot tour bus, a 1985 Eagle. We named her “Meatloaf” because evidently he rented it when it was new and the marquee sign on the front still had his name on it. 

4) Build relationships with bookers and other bands

As your fans spread out across this region, did you develop relationships with club bookers so you weren’t just picking up the phone cold each time?
We were eventually able to say to a club owner with confidence that we had so many people in that area and many of them would come out to a show, so that helped us establish ourselves with the venues. Around that time we also started to work with booking agent Eric Roberts at Hello Booking in Minneapolis to help us out with making the calls to club bookers and in managing our calendar. He’s been with us now for more than fifteen years.

We also learned to work closely with other bands and really, we wouldn’t have had the success we have had without the help of a number of other bands. For example, in the Colorado area, which is still one of our strongest regions, we had been going out there for a couple of years and beating it down, and it just wasn’t going that well. Maybe there’d be 10 at one show and 25 at the next one, and it was costing us money to be there. So we got to the point where we said, let’s give it one more try and see if we can’t do better, and if we can’t, we’ll have to write off Colorado and head east to build Ohio, which is the same distance away.

The Nadas

Club gigs continue to form the backbone of the band’s touring schedule.

 

So we went to Colorado and we played with a friend’s band called Hello Dave from Chicago, they already had a couple hundred fans that they drew. Well, the very next time we came back to Colorado, we had a couple hundred people who showed up for our gig there. It took sharing a show for us to be exposed to enough new people to get our base started there. Now, when we go out there, we play theaters to audiences of around 500.

5) Treat the business like a business

Are the live shows the primary way you guys support yourselves?
Yes, we decided from the start to run the band as close to a regular business as we could. We decided to pay the players a set amount for each show. We set aside money for expenses and agreed we weren’t going to use credit cards to finance the band or get any loans. We take the money we make and cover all of our costs and if there’s anything left over, Jason and I split that. While it’s not enough to completely support ourselves, we’ve gotten to the point where we have a salary and we supplement that income with other things we each do.

6) Understand your fans

As you enter your 20th year as a band, have you retained some of the fans from your early days?
It’s great, because we kept hitting the same circuit, and a lot of it was college towns, we did that circuit the four years we were in college, then repeated it over the following eight years, so we had triple the time to build our audience throughout the region we were touring. This ended up giving us a roughly 10- to 15-year age range between our younger and older fans. Then, about five years ago we started noticing that some of the audience who used to come to shows and maybe have quite a few drinks dance on the table, they were now showing up to our daytime outdoor summer shows with children. And then the other wave of people who started coming to shows were the parents of some of our original college-age fans. So now, the age range at one of our summer shows is one to sixty five-plus!

7) Be willing to supplement your income

You’ve built your business model around touring the circuit you created while in college. What other revenue streams have you developed?
Jason and I also do a number of acoustic shows, just the two of us and our acoustic guitars, which brings in a little money without any overhead. He’s developed a clientele for high-end photography in addition to our music and I have a home remodeling business that I run, which has the unique feature of employing a bunch of working musicians who all need some supplemental income. I have seven musicians who work either full or part time with me. I have an open-door policy, so any time any of them have a gig or a record to make, they can get the time off.

8) Plug into social media with a plan

How have your fan engagement efforts evolved from the kitchen table and hand addressing newsletters?
The Nadas year in reviewWe’re plugged into social media, but our philosophy is that it’s not enough to just be active on those platforms. You need to do something to really engage your “friends,” so we like to have contests and giveaways regularly. In 2009, we decided to release a new song each month of the year, which ended up becoming Almanac, an album that was a sort of musical snapshot of that year. Our most recent fan engagement effort, which is also our most successful one to date, is we are making a 20-year greatest hits recording and we’re putting the word “hits” in quotes because they’re not actual chart hits, and we are re recording fan favorites the way we play them now.

We’re shooting for releasing it this spring. We did a Facebook campaign and asked our fans the simple question, “What songs do you want to hear on this upcoming CD?” And we got 18,000 views and nearly 300 comments, so we went through and tallied up all the votes and that’s exactly what the record will be. So the fans really curated our greatest hits release. 300 people took the time to pick their favorite song and one super fan even went so far as to suggest all 20, to come up with a playlist of their favorites.

9) Nurture your fan base if you want to succeed long-term

Looking back over your career, what advice would you give to an up and coming band about building their career from the business perspective?
Your fans are what’s going to allow you to have any longevity in your music career. So take care of your fans, respect your fans, give the fans what they want as long as it’s not selling out your artistic vision.

Put yourself out there and never stop working. Play your heart out at every show even if there is only a drunk guy passed out at the bar and a bartender that wants to go home. That scenario actually happened to us in Oklahoma but someone remembered the band because a few years later, we got a booking to return there and earned five grand for playing a private show. Every time you play, no matter how many people are there, you make an impact and you don’t know what the ripple effect may be down the road. So honor your fans and listen to what they say as you build your career. Go and play everywhere they invite you to play.

Visit The Nadas online.

Check out The Nadas video channel on YouTube.

Indie-Music.com review of Lovejoy Revival

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.