101 Techniques For Breaking Into The Music Industry
Breaking into the music industry is no easy task, but like anything there are better and worse ways of doing it. Here we look at over a hundred tips for getting your foot in the door of the music business, plus hear from some of the industry's biggest names.
Guest Post by Becca on Twine
For the past eight months, we’ve been sending out Twine Snacks – our daily tips and tricks to help you break into the music industry! But don’t worry if you’ve not subscribed yet, because we’ve compiled some of our best tips for you to peruse right here on our blog. And as an extra bonus, we’ve got some brand new tips from some big names in the music industry.
1. “One thing I learned from Tupac was to keep on making songs until one hits and shows off all your work.” @DJKINGASSASSIN
“To succeed in this music industry one must be patient and have the determination and motivation to never give up. One thing I learned from being around Tupac Shakur was to keep on making songs until that one song hits then it shows off all your embodied work throughout the years of working. In today’s digital world one must grab every important platform and social network and build upon them over time. The most important part of your character is the determination for greatness: stay humble and the rest will follow. ”
2. “You don’t need a platinum album to be a success, but you do need to define what success means to you.”@NateMaingard
If you want people to pay you for your music, then you are running a business… And you’re either running it well or you’re running it badly. Don’t pretend it’s not a business, that’s a recipe for mediocrity, and your art deserves more from you.
Your job is to create incredible art and get it to the ears and hearts of the people who will love it most. Commit to this.
You don’t need a platinum album to be a success, but you do need to define what success means to you, so you know what you’re aiming for and can adjust along the way.
3. “Be who you are meant to be and not what you think you can be!” @KaleelProdctns
Be who you are meant to be and not what you think you can be! If you’re meant to be a writer then focus your efforts on being the best writer you’re meant to be. In order to “do” you, you have to “be” you. Appreciate who you are!
4. “It’s not about fame, it’s about the love of the craft.” @FoenanderBros
The keys to success in the Music industry from our perspective are :
- Never stop learning
- Hard work
- Take chances
Have a reason to be a musician, it’s not about fame, it’s about the love of the craft, build a show, never just gig, know what you are going to do on stage before you gig, have a variety of music
Bring the right people on your journey you can’t do it all yourself.
5. “It means every single day of your life working on your craft.” @GillGraff
The truth is nothing else matters if you do not work on your craft. Your talent should be your priority. You can have the best promotion in the world, the highest quality recordings, but if the talent isn’t there it will not make an impact
“But I do work on my craft, what do you mean”? It means every single day of your life working on your craft and understanding some days will be good and others will be bad. Most people give up when things go bad or when they don’t get the feedback they wanted to hear. It means giving up the unnecessary things in your life like going out to a bar with your buddies, playing ps4 and Xbox, and watching Game of Thrones. I do however encourage working out to better your image since you now are a brand!
One of my favorite books is called “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It studies the qualities and stories of successful people. It states that people usually take 10,000 hours (equals to 10 years) to become an expert in their craft. That’s 1,000 hours per year, which equals to approximately 2 ½ hours per day. Granted, some may take longer or less time, but this idea helped me stay motivated when I wasn’t receiving the feedback I was hoping for. I’ve written songs since I can write, I’ve been striving in the music industry for 7 years, and it wasn’t until the last 3 months that I received my first song with over 89,000 streams. It may not seem like a lot compared to a lot of these signed artists, but when you are 100% independent it’s a great accomplishment. Let’s keep striving!
6. Hit the big three
The first step to making your website really effective is to make sure you’re addressing your three main types of fans and giving them what they want:
1.Potential fans – Is your website attractive? Is it easy to access your music?
2. Current fans – Are your online store and tour dates easy to access?
3. Super fans -Do you have limited edition content or a members area?
7. Record dry, add effects later.
Keep your recordings clean and add all the effects you want in post-production. Removing effects once the tracks are recorded is much harder.
This’ll give you loads more freedom and opportunity to be creative when you’re mixing and mastering. As this video shows, sound engineers have a hard enough time already!
8. Don’t be a loudness warrior.
Declutter your music by keeping all your plugins under zero and in the green. This is known as ‘gain staging’. Every DAW has a built in trimming tool to help you keep the signals under control, so make it your friend.
Don’t be a loudness warrior. If you need your music louder, just turn up the speakers! Just whatever you do don’t drive any of your signals into the red, as it’ll just introduce distortion and make your track look like a sausage. And no one wants that, unless of course you want a grungy Lo-Fi Sound.
9. Protect your rights
Giving your music away for free can be a great way to promote yourself and increase your fan base but make sure you assign a Creative Commons License first.
A Creative Commons License protects the rights to your music by making sure that people can only copy, transform and redistribute your work if they give you appropriate credit and make it clear if they made any changes to it.
Similarly, in this age of illegal downloading, watermarking isn’t just for images. There’s audio watermarking software out there too, which is a great way of making sure music you upload to social media is protected.
10. “Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm.” – @JohanVegna
Johan speaks from experience: “I got a song with 12 vocal tracks. His smoke detector is running low on batteries, so there’s a beep. That was two hours, just cleaning that up.”
11. EQing is a team sport.
Always try to EQ tracks in a group, particularly if you’re recording a band. Even if all the instruments sound great on their own, they may not sound good together. Good EQing is about making tracks sound great as a unit.
So don’t worry if, on its own, the bass sounds dull, a guitar or vocal sound thin. As long as when they’re played together they sound awesome that’s what matters. At a show, you play together—so that’s how you should EQ too.
12. Interaction can’t be automated
Programmes that automatically send emails to promoters or DMs to Twitter followers can be spotted a mile away. When you’re building a fanbase or approaching promoters, the personal touch is always better.
13. Skills make sounds, not software
Don’t feel pressure to have the latest and best music software. It doesn’t matter if your friend’s got the latest version of Pro Tools with loads of expensive plugins as long as your setup gets results you’re happy with.
The music producer Burial made one of his albums using Sony’s free SoundForge software and placed all the beats by hand! No software will tell you what sounds good or how to improve your work, it’ll just do what you tell it to. Use what you’re comfortable with, not what costs the most.
14. Think about things you don’t hear
The key to adding depth to your tracks is adding layers of subtle sounds very low in the mix. Experiment with a warm bass pad, a sustained drone, or even field recordings of rainstorms, whatever works for you. Even something simple like a vinyl crackle, even though it’s used a lot, can really bring a track to life.
15. Build a mailing list
Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to build a genuine relationship with your fans and get them to take action, whether that’s purchasing your music, leaving a review or watching your latest YouTube Video.
To build your mailing list, create a sign up page, post it across all your social accounts and provide links to subscribe in the emails. Some artists even pass around a clip board at gigs to collect email addresses. Don’t expect that just because you’ve built it they’ll flock to subscribe. Give incentives to signup, like free tracks or behind the scenes footage.
16. Label and colour tracks
Labelling and colouring tracks speeds up workflow big time. Your brain responds to colour faster than it does to words so you’ll be able to glance at busy projects and know what’s what immediately. Once you’ve done it your sessions will feel so much easier.
Make sure you’re using all the colouring features your DAW has to offer. Colour your events and channel strips as well and make sure it’s all consistent. For example, make drums green, bass blue etc. Just don’t let it become a mess as you’re work will suffer.
17. “A spot of tea” – @TheFoodAudio
As a producer/engineer one of the most important items in the studio cannot not be bought in your favourite music store, but, can be found in every grocery store! Provide your vocalists with (warm, not piping hot) green tea with lemon squeezed and throw in some ginger to taste.
This has soothed the roughest voices when sessions go on late at night. As for rappers and voice over artists, your throats will never feel clearer!
18. “Be a walking brand” – @KokaneOfficial
“It’s not about creating artists these days, it’s about creating walking brands.” Decide how you want to be seen in the public eye and make sure everything you do reflects that – your artwork, your songs and your image should be cohesive.
19. Bio or bust
A well written biography is crucial if you want to grow your network and keep the freelance work coming in. Here’s a few tips on writing good bios:
- Keep the bio structure concise. If it’s more than one A4 page then it’s probably too long.
- Don’t tell your life story. Keep your artist statement to a few lines (think of it as an “elevator pitch”).
- Earn your superlatives. Don’t say you’re the greatest artist in the world. Let other people judge that.
- Get it proofread and triple check spelling and punctuation. Errors and slang look unprofessional.
- Keep it up to date. An out of date bio makes you look inactive. If you’ve recently achieved a major milestone then let people know about it!
20. It’s so easy it hertz
It’s a great idea to always have a frequency key chart around. They show you the frequency ranges of different instruments and their harmonics so you can avoid clashes and know where to EQ. Print one out and put it on the wall or save it as your desktop wallpaper. Put it somewhere prominent so you can always refer to it and to help you memorise the frequency ranges.
The Independent Recording Network have an awesome frequency chart that’s got the frequency ranges of a tonne of instruments and even tells you, when you hover over them, which frequencies for each instrument are most important.
21. Promote yourself with playlists
Playlists are one of the most popular ways people discover new music. Create your own (defining either by genre or mood) and add some of your own tracks. Most streaming services are tied to social media, so it’s great way to get people to share your work.
DON’T make a playlist of just your music. People don’t like to be oversold to. Include artists that you think your fans would be interested in and sandwich in a few of your own tracks. Don’t make the playlist too long. It’s about quality not quantity.
22. To reach further think remix
Getting your work remixed is a great promotion tactic for one reason – it helps you reach out and interact with other artists and their audiences. Setup a remix competition or just send out your stems and sort out a simple royalty package.
23. Breathe life into your music
See every track you make as a living thing that’s constantly developing. No matter what genre you’re in you’ve got to change up the tempo, dynamics and structure to keep you’re listeners interested and build anticipation.
Incorporate builds and drops, quiet and loud sections, even subtly change the tempo. Live bands naturally speed up slightly in the chorus to create a soaring feel, so emulate that when building the track to capture that energy.
24. Make a video trailer for your new album
Video is one of the most effective and engaging ways of marketing your music. Think about how excited people get about trailers for upcoming films and try creating a video trailer as part of your next album marketing campaign. Don’t make it any longer than 30 seconds and set it as your featured video on your YouTube Channel and Facebook page. DIY Musician have a great guide to get you on your way.
25. Location location location
Always think: “in an ideal world, where would my track be played?” If you want to create a club banger, don’t just play it in the studio. Make sure it actually sounds good under club acoustics too!
26. Get groovy with ghost notes
If you want to get more groove in your tracks then you need to start adding ghost notes. Ghost notes are very soft, or unpitched, notes placed in between the main notes in a rhythmic figure and are notated with an X symbol. They’re normally used on drums but are also a key part of slap bass and can be used on almost any part of a track.
Ghost notes need to be subtle. If yours start sounding obvious or dominant then turn then down or thin them out.
27. Brand your cases
If you regularly find yourself carrying instruments around, stick a logo/your name/your band’s name on the case for some seriously easy promotion.
28. Add simple complexity with polyrhythms
Polyrhythms are an amazingly simple way of adding complexity to your tracks. They sound complex but they’re not. A polyrhythm is simply two or more rhythms in different time signatures played at the same time. Producers use them to create the ‘shuffle’ sound in their drums and create really sophisticated rhythms by layering simple patterns.
Start experimenting with simple time signatures like 4/4 and 6/8 and branch out from there. Dance music expert Jonathan Curry has an awesome guide to polyrhythms, with examples from Aphex Twin, Zomby, Disclosure and Henrik Schwarz.
29. “Never mind the grid” – @JohanVegna
Today’s tools makes it really easy to make everything dead perfect, both in timing and pitch. But if everything is “perfect” there’s often no life to the music. Use the grid when needed, but learn to let go of it and make things swing a little. Same thing with pitch, try to set some of your software instruments a little out of pitch.
30. Create a referral system
You can’t expect people to share your work and give you their email address without an incentive. Create a referral system so that every time someone they refer gets on your mailing list they get a freebie. Just make sure it’s something of value they actually want.
31. Don’t give up, follow up
If you’ve found a potential gig but not heard back for a few weeks then don’t just give up. People are busy so it’s really important to send follow up messages to give them a nudge. To make sure you don’t forget, schedule follow up reminders in your calendar. If you’re really serious about it then get a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) to help you manage it all.
32. Chain reactions
To take your music to the next level, you need to understand the entire signal chain journey from your microphone to your computer to your ear drums. Most musicians now do everything in the box, so you’ve you got to be a jack of all trades: music producer, mix engineer and mastering engineer.
Your starting point should always be EQ -> compressor -> limiter but the precise management of the signal flow is something that can only learnt with experience and even then won’t be set in stone.
33. The social media rule of thirds
Don’t just blindly post links to your music. Instead, use this handy marketing tip to split up your social media evenly between these areas:
1. One third can be directly promotional.
2. One third should provide value (e.g tips, advice, news)
3. One third should engage fans (e.g funny images, gifs etc)
34. Tiredness kills good music – @TheFoodAudio
Your ears can get tired! Fatigue occurs quicker when you listen to music in your monitors or headphones at higher volumes. The ideal level to mix your music is around 85dBs. If you can talk normally without shouting to be heard, you have it about right.
35. For killer drums get transient control
If you just slap a compressor or limiter on the drums then they’ll sound tight and controlled in the mix but might lack punch, definition and clarity. This is because the pros use something called transient control plugins. A transient is simply a high amplitude, short-duration sound, like a kick or a snare and these plugins allow you to control the attack and sustain of transients with pin-point accuracy.
36. Mix like a cameraman
If you’re struggling with an overcrowded mix then step back and imagine think about it like a cameraman. You have a limited amount of space on the soundstage in the same way a cameraman has a finite amount of screen space. The cameraman can obviously move further back from the subject in order to make room for more visual objects but what happens then? Things get smaller, you can no longer see the actor’s eyes, etc. The same thing applies to sound. It’s all about prioritising the elements in the mix so the important parts get the focus.
37. Avoid cliché photos
When booking a professional photographer for your photo shoot, make sure you know what direction you want your band to go in. Steer clear of those cliché shots like all of you resting one leg against a brick wall wearing sunglasses on a rainy day; you want to stand out from the crowd and portray your band in the exciting way it deserves!
38. Timing is crucial
The timing of your social media posts are vital, and according to studies, each platform as its own ideal posting times. Anything on Facebook will be noticed more in between 1pm and 4pm, and Twitter is 1pm to 3pm. Sites like Instagram and Tumblr are very different, with Instagram likes peaking during 5 and 6pm and tumblr posts between 7 and 10pm. Knowing when and where to post something is a vital part of marketing yourself and making sure your posts get seen by as many people as possible.
39. Go granular
Granular synthesis was invented by a Greek guy called Iannis Xenakis and involves breaking down sounds into tiny grains which you can then stretch, and move around to create crazy and wonderful new sounds! Download Hadron by Partikkel Audio for free and try it out, it’s a lot of fun! If you had fun with that plugin then try Mangle. It doesn’t cost much and shows the grains as coloured dots which allows you to be really musical with manipulating the grains.
40. Good tech rider means more gigs
When playing gigs, you might need to provide a “tech rider”. This is simply a document in which you/your band details all the equipment you’ll use when playing live. Always have a concise and practical tech rider to hand and your reputation as a live act will increase which may lead to you getting more bookings as you impress venues with your professionalism. A good tech rider will also help you save time and any misunderstandings during the soundcheck.
41. Who’s talking about your music?
Have you ever spent hours trying to track down articles on your latest music release? Enter your artist name into Google Alerts and it’ll monitor the web for new content and you can set it to notify you whenever you’re mentioned online. This means that you’ll know straightaway if an influential blogger has reviewed you so you can quickly promote it or get in touch with them.
For more established artists, Google Alerts is also good for keeping your PR company on their toes, because you can use it to see how well they’re doing with your online music PR campaign.
42. Mix up your chord inversions
If you’re finding that you’re always using the same root chord shape, and simply moving it up and down the keyboard, then try shifting them around by using different inversions. For example, voice a C Major triad E G C or G C E rather than the standard C E G. The awesome thing about this is that you can incorporate the bass part and make it really harmonically rich by shifting the chords around it.
43. Don’t wait for ‘perfection’
Waiting until you think your music is perfect before getting feedback on it is a mistake. Perfection is subjective; what may be perfect to you may not appeal to your audience. Show your potential audience what you have, and consider it a work in progress. If you don’t get the feedback you wanted don’t be down about it. See it as helping you develop your music in the right direction. Whether you agree with them or not, at least you know what your target audience thinks.
44. Collaborate with your fans
There’s a network of marketers out there just waiting to promote your music — your fans. So don’t be afraid to reach out and get them involved in your work. A fan is much more likely to share content they feel they played an active role in creating.
Use fan submitted artwork in your social accounts, album covers and music videos. Ask them to submit set lists for your upcoming shows and make cover song requests. In a recent study, 92% of consumers said that they trust adverts recommended by people they know. Fan generated content gives you validation.
45. Play with extreme pitch shifts
Whether you’re playing with pre-made loops, sampled bass lines, drum sounds, or recordings of live instruments, play with the pitch to switch things up. If you’re using loops then take it to the extreme. Try pitching them up or down an octave or even two. You might be surprised to find a lead instrument might be an awesome bass if you transpose it down dramatically.
46. Put out the whole deck
Every time you gig or organise an event you want to promote, exploit all the available marketing channels. Make video recordings, take photos, write a blog post and create posts on social media. It’s all about having one action, multiple outputs. It’s just a missed opportunity otherwise.
47. Cook your own drums
You know the deal: drum sounds are fundamental to most genres. So don’t just open a sound library every time you start a new rhythm. Cook your own drums. Blend pre-existing kick drums together and adjust the envelope so you end up with a totally new sound. If you’re really feeling experimental then get yourself an hardware drum machine. There’s nothing more satisfying then twisting the dials and getting a killer sound from nowhere.
48. Use clip gain
Music producers’ workflows changed overnight when clip gain was introduced in Pro Tools 10. For the first time you could change the volume of a clip without effecting the overall volume of the track it was on. This made inserting trim plugins to render gain changes seemed really old fashioned!
Include clip gain in your work flow to get total control over the dynamics and take some of the strain from the compressors. Clip gain with ninja speed with Pro Tools Extra’s guide to clip gain keyboard shortcuts.
49. Don’t be invisible. Research event hashtags.
By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. The same goes for live tweeting. Events and conferences can be really overwhelming and without solid preparation you might miss the most interesting content while searching for Twitter handles.
Don’t just guess the hashtag; you might find after a half-day of tweeting that no one saw your tweets. Browse through the event website, check the social media profiles and find the right event hashtag.
50. Offer the total package – @TheFoodAudio
You got skills, you got the equipment and you are ready to make money online…but you are struggling to get artisans to get take your quote seriously.
Consider packaging your offers. Like the latest iPhone, Apple allows everybody a similar experience and yet, not everyone pays the same. Similarly you can offer “project based rates” (not per hour) for…
- Mixing one song
- Mixing an EP (3-6 songs)
- Mixing an album
51. Record contracts aren’t everything
An ultimate goal for many musicians is to get signed and make it big. But getting a recording contract isn’t the be-all and end-all, and there are benefits to staying independent. You get more control over your creative image, can streamline your own marketing and learn to navigate the music industry without a crutch. What’s more, 95% of signed artists fail anyway…So are you willing to place your music career into the hands of a company with a 5% success rate?
52. Sample not fitting? Get the quick fix
If you’ve got a sample that’s just not fitting in the mix then you need something called ‘Quick fix engineering’. Basically, ‘QFE’ is a fast and easy way of sample swapping by having similar instrument type samples mapped to every key of your MIDI controller. It’ll save you having to spend hours deep searching through sample folders looking for that perfect sample you remember seeing around somewhere.
Making it in the music industry can be a long hard slog but when it’s your passion there’s little else you really want to spend your timing doing. There’s always ways you can use your talents to bring in income on a day-to-day basis. You could give lessons to aspiring musicians or play in wedding bands. Even if these jobs aren’t necessarily your long term goals, you’ll still get to do what you enjoy every day and make sure your skills don’t go rusty.
54. Play mind-blowing gigs
So you’ve finally secured that amazing gig. However, it’s all for nothing if you don’t make it memorable. Record your rehearsals so you can see what about your performances need improving. Ask questions, tell stories and if possible (especially at smaller venues) bring people up on stage. Throwing a unique keepsake into the crowd – even something small like a guitar pick or drumstick – will also excite your fans. After the gig, hang around and meet your fans. Be willing to chat, sign autographs and take pictures, as you don’t only want to be remembered as excellent musicians, but as someone who genuinely appreciates their fans.
55. Location location location
Always think: “in an ideal world, where would my track be played?” If you want to create a club banger, don’t just play it in the studio. Make sure it actually sounds good under club acoustics too!
56. Give your room a treat
Splurged on that high-end equipment but every track is still coming out sounding terrible? Especially if your studio is your bedroom or basement, it’s probably the acoustics where it’s all going wrong. If you can, invest in some bass traps and acoustic panels (or just hang some blankets around the place!) But if not, even small things – like moving your mic closer to your source – will massively improve the quality of your music.
57. When in doubt automate
Make your tracks more dynamic by using automation. Automation involves recording the fader, panning, effects settings either in real time or through snap shots. If you want to make awesome builds and drops you’ve got to use automation. There’s no other way. So even if it all feels too complicated for your skill set right now you should still get going on it. The sooner you get used to it the better.
58. Pan backing vocals
Lead vocal should always be front and centre, but you can get much more creative with harmonies, backing vocals and ad libs. Experiment and think outside the box, even panning them a little off to the left or right can make a track sound much fuller and it also ensures that they complement rather than compete with the lead vocal in the centre.
59. Make epic super saws
Over the past few years, super-sawing has been all the rage in prog house and future bass. But how can you make yours stand out from the crowd? You want your sounds to be wide, so the key is layering your super saws properly – pick your major super saw and then mix the others around it to get your sound really huge and epic. Pick your chords carefully too; seventh and ninth chords are great for getting an amazing melody.
60. Space pockets
Vocals are a really important instrument – but bedroom acoustics often aren’t ideal for getting them to sound the best (if only you could record in the shower, eh?) To cut down on editing and get your recording to sound really clean, you could try investing in acoustic sound blankets or a portable vocal booth. These will isolate your vocals and make your voice sound super fresh and polished.
What do you do when your vocals come out sounding a bit more snake-like than you’re comfortable with? A good de-essing plug-in can make you sound a lot less serpentine by reducing the sibilance in your track. But don’t go overboard – too much de-essing and okay, you don’t sound like you’re singing parseltongue anymore, but is the dalek effect much better?
62. Game on: video game sampling
With Pokemon Go a massive hit, this particular trend is more relevant than ever. Sampling 8-bit sounds from old Nintendo games (think the Lavender town theme tune) and other retro titles is a fantastic way to spice up your track and work nostalgia to your advantage.
63. Faders down
It’s a lot easier to balance the mix of a track by pulling each of the faders up from nothing. Pull all the faders down then start pulling them up, working in order of importance (kick -> bass -> vocal, etc.)
64. Target your promotion
Don’t send your music to random channels that aren’t relevant. A scattergun approach doesn’t really work – if you’re an EDM producer, sending your latest tune to a pop blog or heavy metal station isn’t going to go down well. Instead, focus your energies on EDM channels, who know a good track when they hear it.
65. Don’t be lazy with labeling
Always clearly label and name your tracks and project files. It really helps when revisiting projects and it’s so frustrating having to search through a folder full of files called ‘untitled’. Use a simple labeling system like [track name]_[purpose]_[date] where purpose is something like “mix” or “mastered” or “demo” or “for*clientname*.
66. YouTube Keywords are key
Make the most out of Youtube keywords. Ask who you want to target and what they’re searching for. If you’re a rapper, type ‘best rap’ in the search bar but don’t press enter; instead see what the suggested searches are and use them as your keywords – for example, ‘best rap songs’.
67. Create an email signature
Email signatures are a great way to promote your work, provide more contact details and link to your social accounts. They also make you look more professional and are quick and easy to make.
An email signature should contain your name, artist or band name, website address and links to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram or whatever social media accounts you have. If you include links to external sites then make sure you have a call to action like ‘click here’ or ‘download my new single’ to make it obvious what you want people to do.
68. Go back to the source
In the beginning was the sample and the sample was good. That’s right, make it a rule to always avoid samples with digital distortion, clicks and pops. Solo your samples and use your ears. If it sounds good, it IS good.
69. Saturation: Fatten things up
We want it to sound more “warm”, more “fat”, more “analog”! Saturation or coloring is one of the music production techniques which allow you to increase the harmonic complexity of a sample or track to fatten-up the sound. In other words, it helps you to add body to your mixes, when used judiciously. Run your individual audio tracks through a Saturation plug-in when you need to and apply harmonic distortion to individual tracks that lack body. Be careful to not overdo it. Let your ears and good taste be your guide.
70. Do your merch justice
Taking the time to display your merch properly goes a long way. At gigs, organise it well (or at the very least learn how to fold a t-shirt!). Get a table cloth. Make sure everything’s well labelled so that prices are clear and easy to find. And set up your stand somewhere obvious and visible!
71. It’s all black and white
The style of a music video really determines its mood. Shooting in black and white can be arty, somber, moody, glam or grungy (and anything in between). But don’t overdo it – black and white can also look super contrived and that might not be the aesthetic you’re going for!
72. Once upon a time in a YouTube description
YouTube descriptions are not the place to be concise. Tell a full-blown story about your video if you want. Why? Because the more detail you give, the easier it is for search engines to know when to show your video (as they’re hardly going to watch it!).
73. Invest in paid ads
When most people want to hire a musician the first place they go is Google or Facebook. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to reach a massive audience and explore paid ads. You can start with any size budget and build it up as you get more work.
74. Get social proof
You trust recommendations from friends because of social proof. Increase your credibility by getting endorsements from influencers. Get quotes from past clients, press clippings and reviews, or even the logos of companies you’ve worked for.
75. Experiment with instruments
Adding an unusual instrument to a track – for example a few notes from a sitar to an electro track – can add depth and spice up the genre. So mix it up and experiment!
76. Don’t work from MP3s
MP3 files are for consumers not collaborators. Once you’ve worked on a compressed file, you’ve reduced the quality and can’t get it back without starting again. For pristine audio, always work from lossless files like AIFF or WAV.
77. Collect postcodes
When you get people signed up to your mailing list, make sure you ask for their postcodes too. That way, when you’re planning a tour you can use this data to figure out where most of your fans live. This means you won’t just end up booking random venues – instead, you can go where is convenient for more fans. Plus, this means you can segment your emails so you’re not sending irrelevant information.
78. The trusty spectrum meter
Not sure how muddy your mix is? Always use a spectrum meter so you know what’s missing in the stereo field. Make it a habit to throw a spectrum meter on every channel, particularly when you’re blending the kick & sub bass.
79. When in doubt, zoom out
Drums sounding a bit off? Zoom all the way to the grid! Most of the time, there’ll be a few milliseconds gap, or lead up to where the actual drum hit takes place. Dragging your drum sounds a few milliseconds to the left can make a huge difference in the overall groove of the track, and can even fix some minor phase issues.
80. Master your frequencies
To become an expert producer you’ve got to know your frequencies inside out. Audio Check have an amazing collection of free audio tests covering everything from bit depth to bass extension. Practice them everyday and who knows where it could take you!
81. Set your input sensitivity
The whole purpose of your monitor speakers is to give you a flat, clean representation of your mix. If the input sensitivity isn’t set properly, however, they may be giving you a distorted representation of your mix. Make sure your monitors’ input sensitivity is set to handle professional-level balanced signals by setting them to +4 dBu. There should be a dial on the back of the speaker to adjust the sensitivity.
82. Start with a fantastic melody
Always start with a fantastic melody. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just needs to be catchy and hummable. Even the greatest of symphonies can be broken down to a right hand melody over left hand chords and it’ll still sound powerful.
83. Make a promo pack
If you want to be blogged about, written about, whatever…You should have a promo pack to make it easier for journalists. Include:
- A press release
- A short bio
- A CD
- Copies of past press coverage
- Contact info
- A good quality colour photo.
84. Roll off the bass
Always roll off below around 100 Hz on speech. Human speech doesn’t hit these low frequencies so you can cut out distracting bass rumbles without affecting the quality of the recording.
85. The magic of cover songs
Cover songs let you tap into bigger fan bases. If people enjoy your covers, it’ll get them listening to your original songs!
86. “Go genre crazy!” – @VigilanteBeats
“Experiment – try using sounds from different genres, you’d be surprised at what you find works together!”
87. Don’t rely on quantizing
Quantizing is a great tool to keep your tracks in time, but you shouldn’t rely on them or your music will sound robotic. Get yourself a metronome and practice playing your instrument or synth lines, adjusting the tempo faster and faster as you master each tempo.
88. “Understand compressor ratios” – @TheFoodAudio
“I believe every engineer has had issues with compression at some point. Understanding the ratio is key. Just imagine a boxer punching different objects.
If your compressor is set to 8:1 ratio that means for every 8dBs beyond the threshold, only 1dB is allowed. It’s like punching a mattress, it absorbs most of the energy of the punch.
2:1 ratio is a lighter ratio. Imagine punching a thick pillow, little resistance, but enough to be felt.”
89. Always bring spare gear
You can never predict what gear venues will provide, or what condition it’s in, so avoid embarrassing situations and make sure you have spare gear in the car or in your kit bag. You may never need to use it but you’ll sure be glad you did when a cable cuts out or the mic stand comes crashing down breaking the mic.
Mic stands, phono to jack leads, XLR leads, guitar strings, live vocal mic – think carefully about what you’ll need and cover all the bases, including what people you’re working with might forget. You don’t need to go overboard, but you should have the essentials.
|”When promoting an artist, it’s always a bonus to become friends as well as clients. Work then moves more smoothly and more opportunities open up than if it’s just a contractual relationship.”
91. Avoid ‘The Sickness’ – @TheFoodAudio
“Own everything in your studio! Avoid what I call “The Sickness”. Get out of the habit of needing the latest and greatest product just featured in this months producer website. ESPECIALLY if it has a picture of your favourite producer or engineer!
I have a discontinued vocal mic in my studio that I relearned to love, now I have artists booking the studio for the unique vocal clarity I bring to a record. This has allowed me to purchase more equipment I needed (not wanted) free of credit!!! My production chops have improved, I have self worth and I’m STILL married…phew!”
92. Balance BEFORE you process
EQ and compression won’t save a track when the volume balance is a disaster. Balancing your track should be the first thing you do once you’ve recorded and edited a song.
93. “Know when your song is done” – @JohanVegna
When producing your own music it’s easy to get into macro details on everything. That’s good, to a certain point. Learn when the tweaking does not make the song better, just different. Collaborating with someone else is a good way to get a second pair of ears to stop you from editing to much.
50. Vocals not working? Patch it up.
If there’s a word in your vocal that’s just plain wrong (ie, a wrong lyric or mispronounced word) and you don’t have any extra takes to comp from, try reconstructing the missing word using syllables taken from other words elsewhere in the song. If the same phrase appears in the next chorus then use that.
Your DAW has the editing power to copy, paste, tune and tweak the smallest fragments of audio, so give it a go. Bear in mind that many consonants (such as T, C, P, K, and S) are unpitched, so you don’t need to worry about the tuning – they can be taken from anywhere they occur in the song, regardless of the note the word is sung at.
95. “Looks can be deceiving” – @GODSON
How we think we sound or look as artists is usually completely different than how the world perceives us – figure out what they see and lock onto that with your branding. The most successful artists are able to make art that the world understands and enjoys listening to as much as they enjoy creating it.
96. Bass up your guitar
If you’re struggling to get a warmer guitar tone, try running it through a bass amp. It obviously won’t beat a multi thousand dollar tube amp but if you crank up the mids and highs to stop it sounding muddy then you can end up with a really warm, deep tone.
Fender introduced the Bassman in 1952 originally as a bass amp but it’s become one of the most revered amps by guitarists and it’s been used by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Kobain. So give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised by the wonderful tone you get.
97. “Being a true artist is all about being true to yourself.” – @BlackheartOrch
Play live as much as you can, continually strive to improve, watch other artists and learn from them and try not to be discouraged if not everyone likes what you do, being a true artist is all about being true to yourself.
98. Hold back on your busses
Don’t have a full fledged mastering chain on your mix bus until right up until it’s ready to be mastered. Otherwise if you make a mix then put a multi band compressor on it at the very end it will just throw you back to square one.
99. Get supporting
Struggling to get booked for gigs? It’s time to put on your support act hat. Get talking to slightly bigger bands and offer to support them at their next gig. It’s a great way to get exposure and work your way up the ladder, as well as get to know other musicians.
100. What ALL your music promotion should do
Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Remember that whatever music promotion you’re doing the basic goals shouldn’t change: attract, direct, engage and keep the attention of potential fans.
101. “There is no cookie cutter formula to be successful in the industry.” @KeenanCahill
A lot of stuff takes time in the industry and sometimes it can take months or even years before you actually start getting somewhere and by somewhere I mean a solid fan base or someone who is willing to put a lot of time in helping you get to your goal. There is no cookie cutter formula to be successful in the industry because there is no right way, so putting massive amount of effort in your music and making it stand out is key. Continually better yourself and practice because in the long run it’s 10x more satisfying.
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Becca is the Marketing Executive at Twine. She loves literature, music, film and make-up. She spends a lot of time complaining about the mismatched angles of her winged eyeliner and stalking drag queens on Instagram. Otherwise, she’s helping Joe by writing blog posts and keeping Twine’s social media running.