A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘itunes’

The Recording Studio

Hey guys, first of all apologies for the blogfade, I’ve been really busy, especially since my broken wrist has healed and I am playing again. I have a few great new songs ready to be recorded, well two of them are ready to be recorded, I’m still working on the guitar solo for the third which is a jazz song.

I’ve said many times that you should sign up to your Performing Rights Association. I’m a writer member of APRA (If you are in the USA you can join either ASCAP or BMI) which looks after Australia and New Zealand. Actually I wonder why it isn’t called ANZPRA? As well as making sure that you collect your performance royalties, they do lots of other things like putting on the awesone S3 Song Summit Sydney which I went to and blogged about last year. They also support and sponsor lots of seminars like the one I went to at Depot Artspace yesterday.

Now I have of course recorded in a studio before, but this was a great workshop with the opportunity to learn more about recording, mixing and mastering. There were a couple of things that I came away with that I thought I would share with you.

First of all, with the economy as it is, many studios are quiet and you may be able to negotiate a deal, even if its just some extra practice time. Rates seem to vary from $25 an hour to huge sums. Don’t just go on price because you may get what you paid for, although some people may be very good, but either getting started or just want to help fellow musos or gain experience. So cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality.

A key bit of advice is to hear some examples of their work. Also see if they have experience in your genre.  Someone into electonica or heavy metal might not bring the best out of country or a solo singer songwriter with just a guitar. But then they might too. Anyway check what they have done and ask if they have testimonials or any hits under their belt.

Another good bit of advice is to collect a selection of tracks of artists whose sound you like and you would like your track to sound like. Then you can take those tracks to the studio for the team to listen to. You can say, I want my track to sound like that. The guys at Depot Artspace, said that if you do that, they will be able to come close, although of course a lot of it is up to y0u.

There was some discussion, instigated by me, as to what costs to expect for mixing, mastering etc. I wont preempt any pricing but you should be leaving at least a c0uple of hundred dollars. One of the suggestions was whether you were looking for a single or ‘just an album track’. I was surpised at that. Obviously some people want to put more into their ‘best’ tracks. The problem I have with that is that I want all my tracks to be the best they can be and often the track you like the best isn’t the one that becomes the hit. There is also the issue that in todays world of iTunes and downloads, its quite possible that most of your sales will be for single tracks. These days of most of the albums I buy, there are only a few tracks that I really like.

I’ve currently got my eye out for a few musicians that would like to record with me in the studio. I’m especially after a drummer and someone who plays pedal steel. I can’t pay them but they will get credit on the demos. I’ll do another blog soon about demos, this blog is about the studio.

For solo artists like myself (I do play with resident or jam bands but its been many years since I’ve been IN a band), keeping time can be an issue when you bring session musicians in. When  its you on your own people won’t notice if your timing slides a fraction and sometimes you even do it deliberately. I do that in my new jazz song Color Blind. If you can’t keep steady in a studio, it’s going to cost you time and money and annoy the other musicians. My Tascam home studio has a click track and I also have a metronome, but they are both so  boring and don’t give you the one beat. Fortunately my new Digitech Jam Man has a choice of 10 click tracks, they aren’t great, but much better than what I had before and I don’t mind playing with them. Maybe I’ll  be able to download some better samples. One thing the Jam Man doesn’t seem to be able to do is let you select the beats per minute, you have to tap it in, but I digress. The point is that if you make sure you are as ready as you can be, before you get to the studio, the better your result will be.

So shop around, do your homework, ask for examples of their work and ask liots of questions. People don’t work in recording studios for a job. They do it as a vocation. They do it because theyh love it. You will pretty much find all of them interested and happy to show you around and explain how they work. Remember, its about their reputation as well as yours.

How about leaving a comment and sharing your experiences in the studio?

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Everybody’s talking about, Slot Music

New York, Paris, London, Munich

Everyone’s talking about, Slot Music.

At least, it finally hit the NZ Herald today . Beaten by downloads affecting retail store sales, major record companies inlcuindg  Sony BMG, Warner and EMI have decided to make their music more accessible by putting it on 1GB Micro SD Cards.

They plan to still put them into CD cases and say that with the extra space, they can include the liner, liner notes and other information. They will be DRM free and you can even play your music on your computer by using the Micro SD Card with a dongle. The music will be in MP3 format at 320kbps they say on the info site, which they say is very high quality music. Really?

The say that hundreds of millions of phones, Personal Computers and in the future lots of car entertainment sytsms will be able to listen to this music.

Well hello! Do you think we consumers are thick? Let’s go back to the future and do a different thing in the same way and charge a premieum for convenience.

So here’s the thing. Back in the day we had audio casettes and vinyl. Audio casettes were cheap because they weren’t going to last long, especially on cheap walkman units that stretched the tape if they got dropped, got hot or for lots of other reasons. Vinyl was great, you got big liner art and photos, quite often big inserts with lyrics, interviews and more photos.

Then came the CD, which they said had far greater sound and extra space to put more information on. In the future, they said, they could include music videos, interviews, games, photos and much more. Of course we had to pay more for this amazing technology but it was going to be worth it. In many cases the quality was superior, even the nice ambience of the needle was no longer there.

But the extras? Well they are the exception rather than the rule. In most cases we got less liner information, because of the size. Inserts happened sometimes but not very often and the additional material? Sometimes there was a hidden track, that was fun. Occassionally someone would add a music video and a few like BB King, put out a CD ROM with interviews, games and lots more. I still have mine, it was cool. Of course I don’t play it any more, but I felt I got my money’s worth and was chuffed that an old timer like The King could do something so modern.

So here’s my take on this. I have large quantities of CD’s and DVD’s pressed, not of my music unfortunately, but for car navigation. I also have large quantities of SD Cards duplicated, also for car navigation. Firstly, even at volume pricing SD Cards are much more expensive than CD’s or DVD’s.

Universal Music is going to release about 30 ‘Slots’ to start with, from their eLabs Digital Music Unit. Sounds more like a test to me, but anyway, I do applaud them for trying new technology. I think it’s a good idea to try new technology, given that CD’s are losing ground rapidly to downloads.

Will they add extra information to the SD Cards? Maybe for some of those first 30, but then it wil be the same old story, new media for a premium price (for the convenience) and nothing more. If they had listened to people like me 10 years ago (Netguide wouldn’t publish my opinion), they could have reinvented a format giving loads of extra value, far more than people could afford to download and created a whole new generation of fans and collectors. But no, they just wanted to increase cash flow and profit. After all, they knew far better than we consumers, what was good for us.

In my humble opinion, they created the monster we have today where people download and share music for free. And it is a monster friends, because what is happening is people are downloading music for free and the poor songwriters and performers are getting ripped off.  Sure there are big bands making truckloads of money for themselves and their promotors, but they are the minority. Most of the people in your favorite bands have to work a day job in order to be able to write and perform music at night. This might not be the case if they got fair remuneration for their work.

I ask you this. Do you work for free? Do you expect to go to work and build widgets or whatever you do and expect other people to reproduce them for peanuts and give them to your mates? Will you accept a 90% reduction in your income because people have found a way to clone your products? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, after that minor digression, this is a storm in a slot. Sure they will make some of these. Then they will cry foul when people copy them (if they can be bothered). They will weep when these cards don’t get sold, except on eBay, Craig’s List or Trade Me after people have copied the music onto their computers and shared them with their mates.

I love new technology, but when I can go to iTunes and for a couple of dollars, buy the only song as a track that I like (because I am happy for the band to make some money from it), why would I buy a little SD Card that I will probably lose.

In my humble opinion, the music industry got this one wrong. Can they redeem it? Only if they figure a way to genuinely add value. They want to offer the music on iGB SD Cards. (Interesting that I struggle to even buy 1GB SD Cards anymore.) Why not do something smart and offer us real value. Do what you should have done years ago and you might find a couple of years of legs in this yet. Use 4GB cards. Load it with the music, the live performance video, the interviews, the music video, lyric sheets (the mechanical rights people can still get a share) and a personal spoken message from the band or artist. You could sell that for a premium and create collectors items that people will want to keep.

Of course when real broadband arrives, people are no longer going to buy music in hard copy. I’m sorry but they won’t. Why would you. The other day I sat down in front of YouTube an had a great afternoon watching videos and listening to music of my favourite bands of the past and the present. All it cost me was a bit of internet access (and I do have ADSL 2 from Orcon so speed wasn’t an issue.

I think the future will be:

New York, Paris, London, Munich, Nobody’s talking about Slot Music.

Do you know who your fans are? Part One

There is a market for every kind of music and it is important to know who your market is, whether as a songwriter or performer. You need to know who they are so you can plan your approach as to how to target them.

What is their age group, are they tweens, teenagers, young adults, old rockers? Are they mostly male or female? What is their lifestyle? Are they still at home with their parents or starting their own families, or have their families already flown the coop?

What artists do they listen to? One of the important things on many sites where you can upload your music is who do you sound like, who influenced you. These tags are there for people to find music similar to the artists they like. Make sure you are genuine because if you are like the artists they listen to, you will build up your fan base more quickly.

How do they buy music? Do they buy on the net? at iTunes? Do they buy CD’s in mainstream music stores? In Department Stores? In specialist stores like Marbecks or Real Groovy?

How often do they buy music? Do they buy music themselves or do othes buy it for them as gifts?

How do they discover music they like? Do they hear it on the radio? iTunes? Podcasts? Do they find them by reading reviews in magazines, online, from video’s, recommended by magazines?

Where would they go to listen to music? An art gallery? pub? Concert Hall? Cafe?

Where do they buy their clothes? Often the music playing in certain shops might influence them. If there is a cafe that people go to who like your music, give the cafe a copy of your CD and ask them to play it for you.

Have a think about who your fans are or could be and given the ideas above, how could you influence the situation so that people who like your music can find you. There will be more on this in the next few days.

Knowing who your fans are can help in many ways. It should influence what you write, the style, the lyrics (are they accessible to your demographic), how you market your music, where you sell your music and much more.

There is a target for every kind of music form Christian Death Metal to jazz fusion and opera. Obviously the place and way to target eac genre will be very different. Understanding these things means that instead of taking a scatergun approach, you can aim straight for your target market, winning more fans to buy your music, attend your gigs and tell their friends about you.

By the way, I’d really like this blog to be interactive. You don’t have to agree with me. I would love to make this a discussion, not just me rambling on………………………………….

What are the fans listening to? How to get your hitsong.

Some great advice I picked up somewhere was that if you want to write a hit song, you need to know what people are listening to. Whilst its true that there are song pluggers and the radio is very much influenced by the record companies, the fact is that if he radio are regularly playing songs, whether it is because they have an incentive or for any other reason, the net result is people listen to them.

I think it was Jimmy Webb at the S3 conference who said that if you listen to a song at least 5 times, it will grow on you and you will start to like it. This is a formula that they use to get you to buy or follow a track. The lyrics become familiar, the hook becomes entrenched in your mind and if it is pleasing to you, you may well find yourself singing along.

Hit’s are here the money is in songwriting. If you write a hit song, you will be well remunerated and also you will become noticed and in demand by artists and their team, looking for a new song, hoping that you weren’t a one hit wonder.

So is there a magical secret? Magical no, but the key thing is knowing what people like, what are they listening to today. It’s easy to find a market for your songs in today’s world with so many internet vehicles like MySpace, FaceBook, iTunes, Music Forte and hundreds if not thousands of others. But these are less likely to get you a hit for music’s sake, than the radio, which isn’t going away anywhere fast. Radio plays mainstream and mainstream is what it means, i.e. what most people are listening to today.

So in my humble opinion, if you want to write a hit song, rather than (as Ralph Murphy says) be a self indulgent songwriter, writing songs to play in bars after 10 P.M. when people are drunk or t least merry and mostly don’t care, you need to write something different. Something uplifting, which is often very different to what the average songwriter puts together. Murphy says that the hits are the songs that people listen to on the way to work in the morning when they want a lift.

So the first thing to do is to find out what they are listening to. I live in New Zealand, so if I want to write a hit song for the local market, I would go to RIANZ. “The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand Inc (RIANZ) is a non-profit organisation representing major and independent record producers, distributors and recording artists throughout New Zealand.”

RIANZ publishes the weekly New Zealand Top 40 Singles Chart. “The Top 40 Singles Chart is compiled based on a 75:25 split between physical / digital singles sales figures and radio play information gathered by radio data collection agency Radioscope.”They also publish a number of other charts including the Top 10 Radio Airplay Chart.

Like all charts they show the position this week, last week and weeks on the chart. A quick look through these will tell you what is popular in your local world. These charts are a mixture of everything, local and international. To give you an idea, the Top 40 as at Monday 28 July included 5 local acts and Number One on the chart was Phil Collins, In The Air Tonight which this time has been on the NZ charts for 21 weeks! Always on My Mind by Tiki Taane is number 3 still and has been on the charts for 14 weeks.

In my opinion, Always On My Mind is very much a polynesian sound and will be hugely popular locally with our youth and with a reggae flavour has some legs internationally, but I can’t see it being on the charts at Billboard, the other place I look to see what is popular, especially on the Country Charts because Country Music has a huge following in the USA, my major songwriting target market.

So now you know what people are listening to on the radio and what they are buying. What do you do next? Subscibe to my blog and I will tell you more, this isn’t a book after all lol.

If you think this blog is helpful, tell a friend. If you want to hear some of my songs, check out my MySpace page. Oh and please do leave a comment. Is my blog intesting? Is it helpful? Are there things you would like me to write about?

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