Friday, December 14, 2012

What a Producer Does and Why You Should Consider Using One

What a Producer Does and Why You Should Consider Using One

Working as a producer for the last twenty years, I’ve recorded with all kinds of artists from “fresh off the boat” newbies to artists whose experience in the world of music doubles or even triples my own. In every case, my role as a producer stays essentially the same. It’s that role that I’m going to describe in this article.
What is a Producer?
The best way I know to describe what a producer does comes in the form of this analogy: A producer is to a recording as a director is to a film. When it comes to making a film, the buck essentially stops with the director. It’s the director who steers the ship working with everyone from the actors to the technical editors in order to achieve his or her overall vision of the movie. It is exactly that way with a producer when it comes to making a recording. Not only must the producer have the experience to work with the studio engineer (often possessing the technical expertise to engineer the project themselves) but a producer must also have the musical understanding to help the artist with everything from song choice, structure and arrangement, to the all-important vocal performances that are vital in giving a recording its personality. In short, a producer provides the experience and necessary perspective to guide a recording from start to finish.
Producer Backgrounds
Producers can come from a variety of backgrounds. Here are the four most common and what each brings to the process, but, typically, producers have experience in more than one of these areas.
1) Producer/Songwriter – Since at its essence, a recording is dependent on the quality of the song, the producer/songwriter is heavily involved in the song selection process. Not only does this type of producer have experience in knowing what does and doesn’t work when it comes to pre-existing songs, but often this producer will co-write songs with the artist for a given project.
2) Producer/Musician – Here, it’s often an instrumental and music theory background that gives this type of producer their experience. They have first-hand knowledge when it comes to working with musicians and knowing what instrumental approach will work best in a given situation.
3) Producer/Engineer – In this case, the producer’s primary experience comes from actual recording (i.e., placing microphones on drum kits, recording vocals and mixing albums). By becoming an expert in the nuts and bolts of the recording process, an engineer/producer can make the recording process a smooth one for the artist.
4) Producer/Music Fan – This is someone who lives and breathes music and has the instincts to guide artists and session musicians through the recording process without necessarily having had the “hands on” experience of being a songwriter, musician or engineer themselves. They often bring great perspective to a situation where being too close to any one part of the process might compromise the overall recording.
What Do Producers Do?
Producers can be involved in many different aspects of a recording. Some producers are very “hands off,” acting mostly as the voice of experience and perspective for artists who already have a fairly clear idea of who they are and where they’re headed. On the other end of the spectrum are the producers who are involved in every element of the recording, from co-writing the songs, to engineering, to playing one or even all of the instruments. In some, but certainly not all of these cases, the resulting recordings have such a distinctive sound that the producer becomes as associated with the recording as the artist themselves. For the record, no one way takes precedence over any other for producing a recording. The only measure of a producer that matters is whether or not the resulting recording is satisfying to everyone involved. As most producers operate somewhere in between minimal and complete involvement, here are the main areas where most producers do their work.
1) Pre-production – This includes working with the artist to decide if the songs are as good as they can be and, ultimately, which songs would work best as a group for an album release. It also includes deciding on the overall sound of a recording which involves deciding which session musicians/instruments would be best suited to achieve the sound and feel of a particular song.
2) Instrumental Recording/Arrangement – At this point, the producer works with the assembled musicians and helps direct their performances in the studio in order to achieve a cohesive sound for the recording.
3) Vocals - Finally, because the typical music listener responds first to the voice of the singer, one of the most important roles of the producer is working with the vocalist to help them give their best and most sincere performance of their material. It is extremely difficult for even the most experienced vocalists to have any perspective on their performance while it’s happening. For this reason, a producer is the voice of reason and experience who knows how to encourage a vocalist to do one more vocal pass or helps them realize that it would be better to take a break and come back to fight another day.
How Do I Find A Producer?
For those who are new to the process of recording, whether it’s an album project or even a song demo, it is unclear where to look to find a producer for your project. Generally speaking, word of mouth in your music community serves as the best, most organic way to find a producer right for your project. Another effective way to find a producer, particularly if you’re interested in doing a whole recording project, would be to look at the liner notes on some of your favorite independent CD projects made in the city where you plan to record. Often, those producers are available for hire and it’s just a matter of getting their contact information, which the CDs usually include. Finally, there’s no rule that says you can’t contact a well-known/successful producer whose work you admire. Maybe they will be too busy or too expensive to work with, but you never know. If you’re respectful in your request, there’s no reason not to try.
At the end of the day, it’s a good working relationship and the trust between artist and producer that makes for the best results. So, be sure that you not only like a producer’s work but feel comfortable working with them as well. You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and trusting them with your art, so make sure that you feel like the producer you choose is willing to give you and your music the attention necessary to get a great recording.
Good luck!

Friday, November 2, 2012

How To Utilize Your Social Networks

If you’re using Twitter a channel for promoting your music, then you know the importance of getting retweeted. A retweet can extend the reach of your post exponentially, and should be one of the main focuses when using Twitter to promote things going on within your music career.

Thankfully for your sanity, there have been hundreds of studies into just what kinds of post get retweeted the most. Here are 10 very easy tips and also some helpful information that will help you get your tweets retweeted as often as possible.

There are many things to consider when created a post to get potentially retweeted. You need to take into consideration the time of day your posting, what type of demographic you have as followers and many other little factors that are specific to your style of music. If your followers come alive at night, then make sure you’re posting tweets during that time to increase the chances of getting retweeted.

Below you’ll find 10 very easy to implement tips to help you get retweeted.

  • Ask questions.
  • Help your followers learn stuff.
  • Stop just tweeting about yourself.
  • Don’t tweet the same thing all day.
  • Post quotes or creative messages.
  • Include a link in your tweets no more than 50% of the time.
  • If you enjoyed a certain post, tweet that author and let them know.
  • Make sure you have a profile pic and not just the Twitter egg.
  • Share other people’s tweets often.
  • Make sure your followers are targeted to your demographic.

Whether you want to agree on it or not, Twitter is a very powerful tool. By doing some or all of the above recommendations on a consistent basis you can see a big increase in your content getting retweeted.

What Are The Essential Features Of A Hit Record

What Are The Essential Features Of a Hit Record?
We have all heard those hit songs that can be considered ‘timeless classics’.
Whether it’s a hip hop track, a rock classic or an 80’s power ballad, these songs share some essential features that ensure they will be on the airwaves for years to come. Obviously there is not one hard and fast rule for this as every song is different, but here is a list of features that many of these hit records share.

A ‘catchy’ song

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

A strong vocal

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

A creative arrangement

After the song and the vocal, you need to ensure you have a strong arrangement. This involves using the right structure and ensuring each section of the music is interesting for the listener. This can be achieved by adding extra instruments, adding a counter melody, changing the drum pattern, or changing the key etc. Have a listen to some hit songs, and pay attention to the subtle differences between each section. How is verse 2 different to verse 1? How is the last chorus different to the first?

An accomplished performance

You may have the heard the crude expression “You can’t goldplate a turd” and this definitely applies to creating a hit record. A track must sound like there is ‘life’ in the performance and no amount of editing in the studio, fiddling with EQ’s, compression or reverb can replicate this. It can be hard to put your finger on it at times, which is all the more frustrating, but sometimes one take just sounds better than another. If you have musicians who put there all into a performance and play with real emotion and intensity, then the production phase becomes far easier!

A well produced track

Although there are examples of hit songs which don’t technically sound very good, generally the really big and timeless records do sound excellent. A well engineered record does not guarantee it will be a smash, especially if the song, vocal, arrangement and performance are not up to scratch, but it can add an extra dimension to the overall sound, if the EQ’s are well balanced and the right amount of reverb and compression is applied.

The timeless factor

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

Are all the above factors essential for every hit song?

Well in short, no.

There will always be some songs which become hit records and cannot be explained. You will find some songs with weak vocals and melodies which take the charts by storm.

However, on most of the really big hits, you will find they contain the majority, if not all, of the factors in this article. Songs like “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade will be heard every December in shopping malls and on the radio. Other hits like “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Imagine” by John Lennon will be played all year round for many years to come.

Would you like some great tips on how to write a song and compose music in any style? Download a FREE 10-page guide on “5 Essential Elements On How To Improve Your Music Making In Any Style” at

What's The Real Cost Of Signing A Record Deal

What’s The Real Cost of Signing A Major Record Deal?

If new artists are akin to California fires, the intensity is still the same as it was 20 years ago. It's just that more people now have matches. Sadly, they're all choosing to light up in the same spot. Everybody wants a major deal. It makes you wonder how many more crooked deals will be dealt before newcomers finally decide to promote their art independent of the strings of majors. Aligning with a major label offers few benefits beyond the spoils of fame and the facade of a panoramic lifestyle. Let's examine the merits and demerits of being on a major label, shall we?

Sure, having the long-reaching tentacles of majors will help deliver your product to the masses and bring you ample exposure. The problem is that new artists often get peanuts on their percentages in exchange for fame. Who wants to be a broke but famous star?

It's true that you're likely to get large advances from majors. That said, just remember that you have to pay back the advances and recordings costs from your royalty rate as applied to actual sales. When your records no longer shift those monstrous units, you'll find that you're stuck making money for a label even if the passion and financial benefits are long gone. It's like taking a loan that ties you to your creditor long enough to limit your long-term success.

Ah, the main objective of everyone who's ever picked up a mic. If you made an argument in favor of sales 12 years ago, I would've nodded in agreement and slapped you hi-five. A cursory glance at the record sales within the last 5 years, however, shows an industry that's on its knees. Every dime spent on promoting an artist's record, from video production costs to radio promo, is recoupable from his royalty points (with few exceptions, of course). When, say $300,000 of income goes to the label, only about 10% of that goes towards recoupment. This way, you'll have to shift a bazillion units to see substantial revenue from royalty points.

Major vs Indie
It's a surprise that newcomers, who clearly have respectable artistic goals, aren't deciding to pass up opportunities to sign to majors. Drake, for instance, had an opportunity to buck tradition and stick it to the majors. He had already gathered reams of buzz. His mixtapes were moving like hot cakes. He had an opportunity to debut in the Top 10 as an independent artist. In the end, he chose to play ball with the same people that passed on an opportunity to sign him when he was just Wheelchair Jimmy. The world is waiting to see how his deal with Universal will impact his craft. On the flip side, Chicago outfit the Cool Kids and New Orleans MC Jay Electronica have shown that it's possible to attain reasonable success sans the backing of a major. Did you hear the one about Cool Kids co-headlining a North American tour with the Clipse in 2009? That's an indie act with no full-length album co-headlining a tour with a major act. Lucrative deals with the likes of Nike and EA Sports stand as a testament to the Chicago duo's ability to leverage their music for indie success. Similarly, Jay Electronica, who's affiliated with New York-based indie Decon Records, has managed to build a cult-like street following while churning quality music. Indies like Rhymesayers Entertainment, Duck Down and Stone's Throw Records have all managed to stay relevant for decades while consistently dropping quality albums. Everyone seems to be jostling for the top spot these days, but the smart ones have figured out that the middle is where the gold lies.

Quality vs Quantity
One area that illuminates the disparity between majors and indies is album packaging. Sometimes it takes an album that offers a combination of quality music and unique packaging to get a consumer's attention. Brent Rollins, the mastermind behind many classic hip-hop album covers (including Freeway & Jake One's Stimulus Package) laments that big labels are more reluctant to invest in superior packaging. "When I work with large labels," says Rollins, "it’s like pulling teeth just getting them to use something like a metallic ink on an album cover. Sometimes they talk about something like 5 cents out of a dollar extra to do something. I know that adds up when you’re printing a lot of them, but we’re talking about giving something back to people." While large record companies are typically less enthusiastic about embracing new ideas, independent labels have always been synonymous with creative liberty. Others might continue to seek the rat race that is wooing a major label, but diligent artists will seize every available opportunity to steward their future and change the game. Take it from Courtney Love, who's seen both the good and the ugly side of major deals. "If a record company has a reason to exist, it has to bring an artist's music to more fans and it has to deliver more and better music to the audience. You bring me a bigger audience or a better relationship with my audience or get the f--k out of my way.

Summing It Up
This is not to suggest that major record cartels are irrelevant. Previously undiscovered artists benefit from the huge promotional break a major has to offer. It takes a ton of funds to break a new artist -- funds most artists don't have on their own. But it's important to weigh the pros and cons of signing to a major before making the plunge. What's the real cost of signing a freaking 5-album major deal in the long run? What does it mean when an artist has to recoup, say $250,000 of her promo budget while the label earns 10 times that amount? Keep in mind that most artists makes $0 from royalty points until recoupment is clear. That's sad. The music industry is a burning house and people are running into the building with more gasoline instead of trying to douse the fire. Will this be the generation that finally capsizes a broken system or will it be the one that settles for the okey-dokey? Will this be the generation that revolutionizes music business or will it be the one that settles for a stint in the belly of the beast? That question lies in the hands of the Drakes and the Jay Electronica's of this world.

How To Get Your Music Published

Getting your music published is usually one of the first goals an artist looks to accomplish in a developing music career. However, lots of up and coming musicians are lost in the dark when it comes to understanding how to get their music, instrumentals and beats published. What we decided to do for those who are in need of this information, is layout the basics of getting your music published in today’s music industry.

First and foremost, you will need actual recorded music to make this whole thing possible, so if you’re not at that stage in your career, that’s going to be the first thing you need to complete. Once you have recorded music the next logical step is making sure those recordings are protected from copyright infringements by registering them with the library of congress. This step protects your recordings for basically your entire life plus 70 years, so make sure you don’t miss this step.

Once you have your music, instrumentals and beats protected by the library of congress, you’ll want to then create a spreadsheet where you can add in all of the music publishers that you’re going to be researching. Once you have the spreadsheet created, the next step is going to be researching music publishers who work with your style of music, instrumentals and beats. When researching publishers for your music it’s important to note things like non exclusive or exclusive deals that they offer to their artist. This is a very important step that you don’t want to miss because it can possibly have a major effect on what you would like to do with your music in the future. Ideally, finding more non-exclusive deals is the best possible option for most new independent artists.

When you have your spreadsheet filled up with at least 100 music publishers, you’ll need to create an email template that you can send to all the companies listed on your sheet. Make sure the first email you send is somewhat short and to the point. All you should try to accomplish on your first email is permission to send another email with an MP3 attached or a link to your music for them to consider for their roster addition. As you start getting responses back, make sure you’re noting them on your spreadsheet and also responding back with all of the information that they are asking you for. In some cases, they’re going to request you send them a physical CD. If you have one, send it. If you don’t, just be honest and let them know that you only have digital recordings of the songs that they’re requesting, however you have no problem getting them on a physical CD if needed.

One thing to keep in mind is that as long as the music publishing deals you’re signing are non-exclusive, you can always look for and work with more publishers for those same songs. However, if the deal is exclusive, it’s going to be a guarantee that the publisher you signed the contract with is going to be the only one who can work with the songs that you signed with them.

Once you get this down, the only thing left is to repeat this process over and over as often as possible. Like most things, with more people out there that are working your songs the more likely you’re going to start getting placements on a consistent basis.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kendrick Lamar Reveals Meaning Of "good kid, m.A.A.d city" & Collabo With T.I.

Kendrick Lamar reveals the meaning behind the title of his album "good kid, m.A.A.d City" and discusses working with T.I., J. Cole, and Scoop DeVille.
West Coast hip hop is being revolutionized and Kendrick Lamaris at the forefront. With his first major studio album dropping next week, K.Dot has been making the media rounds to promote good kid, m.A.A.d city and finally comes clean as to the meaning behind the decoded title. He also discusses collaborating with T.I. and his project with J. Cole, and recording with producer Scoop DeVille.
The title of his album is an obvious ode to the city he’s from, Compton, but Kendrick had not actually divulged he meaning of “good kid, m.A.A.d ity”, but now says it is double meaning, “Two meanings, the first one is...My Angry Adolescence Divided,” and adds the second meaning is, “My Angel’s on Angel Dust.” Apparently the Cali rapper smoked a bad batch of weed once that was laced with angel dust, “that’s the reason I don’t smoke...that was me, that the guy laced...It was just me getting my hands on the wrong thing at the wrong time.” As for the capitalized “As” he says it is just a style choice, “I just wanted that to stand out – on the capitalized As.”
Recently he called T.I. onto stage during a performance, and Lamar admits that the two had recorded something together, “We got something, on his album – with Tip...It’s a crazy joint.” As far as the anticipated collabo project with J. Cole, Kendrick remained tight lipped, “Ya, we gonna drop that out the sky, I ain’t givin no dates, no nuthin.”
His single “Poetic Justice” which is a smooth track featuringDrake and production by Scoop DeVille. K.Dot talks about working with the producer, “me and scoop go back, all the way back to like ’08. He always just had crazy beats...I finally got a chance this time around to just lock in with him...he’s thinking out the box, man.”
Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city drops October 22nd.

Missy Elliott Talks "Supa Dupa Fly" And Titles For New Album

Fifteen years later, Missy Elliott talks about "Supa Dupa Fly" and discusses her recording process and possibly titles for her upcoming LP.

Partially responsible for revolutionizing the role of female rappers, Missy Elliott recently spoke about the fifteen year anniversary of her seminal album Supa Dupa Fly. Miss talks about how she feels that album was far ahead of its time, and then discusses possible album titles for her new project and her recording process.
When Supa Dupa Fly dropped in 1997, people did not know how to digest it, as it was a unique flow, and the visuals that accompanied were completely different from anything else people were seeing on TV. In her interview withFuse, via Rap-Up, Misdemeanor talks about how she feels it was ten or so years ahead of its time, “Everything about it, you hadn’t heard it before...even the rap flows was different. I think it was 10 years ahead, 15 years ahead.”
Discussing possible titles for her comeback album Missy mentions a Ustream session she had with fans, and how now she’s stumped on what to call the project, “Somebody said Class Dismissed sounds like class is over. Class In Session sounds like you’re taking people to school. I gotta figure it out.”
It may be fifteen years later, but when creating music goes, Missy believes in sticking to the formula that has worked for her over the years, “My approach to writing and producing, compared to when I did it in 1997. I don’t think it’s any different.” Missy adds that she’s always trying to stay ahead of the trends in music, “ I think I go in the same way, I try to write what is relatable to the people, not necessarily just what I think is hot... As far as producing, even back then, I try to do the opposite of everything I’m hearing.”
She was tight-lipped about features, but did hint that “Not Tonight (Ladies Night)” part two, which originally featured Eve and Lil Kim was a “great possibility”.