We discuss all things vocals with music producer D.Ramirez

This week we caught up with music producer Dean Marriott, better known as D.Ramirez, talking all things vocals.

Ivor Novello nominee D.Ramirez is responsible for a multitude of ground breaking releases. These include 2009’s #1 underground anthem ‘Downpipe‘ with Underworld & Mark Knight, plus ‘that’ genre defining remix of Bodyrox’s ‘Yeah Yeah‘ Top 40 #1 in the mid-noughties. You may even remember him as The Lisa Marie Experience.

One not to be missed.

We discussed his experience of working with vocalists & topline writers (as well as vocal samples) in the studio, plus his comprehensive approach to vocal production.

This inspiring interview is brought to you straight from his London studio and is jam packed with useful tips and information whether you are a vocalist, topline writer or music producer!

Watch the interview back here now.

Guest blog: A season in the life of an independent Artist

It’s been 7 months since I quit my day job to work as a full-time artist. And I have not regretted this step for a single minute. The level of fulfillment from knowing that I’m working on developing my talents is the highest I could wish for!

There are challenges though, and that’s what I want to share with you. Not because I want to whine, but because this stage of any music artist’s journey of following their bliss is often not visible, communicated or celebrated. Yes, celebrated because, without this stage, you can’t pass onto the next one. It is one of the building blocks, and it’s an essential part of the foundations.

 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Mainly the feeling that I do all of this for nothing… Wait, what? You just said you found the work fulfilling! And yes, I did say it and yes, I do find it fulfilling. What is hard to overcome is seeing that many of the activities I did over the last few months are rather a long-term return on investment (such as building an audience from scratch, recording songs, being paid to perform) – something I didn’t foresee when I set out to do them.

So if I can share something with another ‘new’ independent artist out there, when you set out on this journey, work on your craft, your brand, build your audience and determine your short term and long term goals and income streams. And don’t be shy to put dates next to them. It might look disappointing/impossible at first but it will also give you a better handle on things.

 

SHORTLIST OF THE THINGS I’VE DONE OVER THE LAST 7 MONTHS:

So here’s a short list of things I’ve done over the last 7 months, most of which haven’t added much income to my wallet – mostly because they tend to have a long-term return on investment:

  • Studied and got a certificate from a songwriting course with Berklee online.
  • Written my first custom song for a lady who won it as a prize at an Xmas House Concert I gave. This was a gift since I wanted to gain experience of writing for someone else. The song is in its final production stage (mixing/mastering) and will be released as a single soon. I want to offer writing custom songs for others, too and I thought I would have started this earlier but I set no deadline for myself and so here I am… Did I mention that setting deadlines for yourself is important?
  • I’ve developed the concept of a donation based private concert tour in support of the Rainforest Fund and offered it to my audience via social media and my mailing list. I got a few likes and replies but that’s it… Why? I have yet to find out, but it probably needs more campaigning and a bigger audience than I have at the moment.
  • I’ve created a cover song program called “Pop Gone Jazz”, which meant learning circa 20 new songs. I’ve called about 50 – 60 hotels and event companies to offer them this program, often hearing ‘we like your music and we’ll get back to you when an opportunity arises” – well, so far no one got back to me… Why? It might need more following up, maybe my brand is not developed enough yet, maybe something else…
  • I’ve had one of my songs remixed for “Ibiza Beats Volume 10” Compilation CD (for a very modest flat fee). Nice to know my voice will be floating somewhere in Ibiza beach clubs… yet it probably won’t pay my bills. But hey, it’s a small success to celebrate!
  • I’ve played a number of open mics with a very positive response from the audience, often asking me to come back. It’s great to be wanted but these are all free gigs or they pay tips only. In addition to nominal payment, the challenge I often face is that I’m a piano/keyboard player and if no piano is provided, I would have to rent a car to bring mine… which costs money, while the gig pay won’t cover it. Hmmm, not a good investment strategy. Therefore, you don’t see me performing as often as guitar players do.
  • I’ve updated my website and have kept my social media up to date… While this is fun, it does take up a significant amount of time. And I’ve learned that I have a lot of tweaking ahead of me yet!
  • I’ve spent a good amount of time learning about and researching legal questions concerning copyright/songwriting etc. – which I needed for the contracts for the remix and the custom song. This has been very helpful and revealing. Definitely a good investment of time and money! But it’s still an investment, not a return on it.
  • I’ve done Facebook Live performances of my songs where listeners have a chance to support my music by contributing into a virtual tip jar. This is a great way to perform for people from the comfort of my own home, and gives my online audience a chance to support my music… this needs consistency and development on my part. I hereby pledge to work on it!
  • I’ve attended songwriting workshops and a Musicfair where I made new contacts in the music industry. This has proven to be a very worthwhile step, especially because I am now working on a new single with a producer I met there!

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ve quickly realised that I need help in determining how best to move forward, and develop my music career. The first step in this has been booking one-to-one consultation sessions with Anna Russell of AR Artist Management.

This is a very exciting step with quite lots of growth and new realisations completed in just a couple of sessions already. As I’ve found out, it can sometimes take much longer (3 years and over) than I hoped to ‘break an artist’ – i.e. get them to a point of a sustainable music career. And that’s provided that things go well, developing the right strategy and being consistent and disciplined in applying it.

Knowing this is both liberating and challenging. Liberating because I no longer hold myself to unrealistic expectations to get it all done within 6 months, and challenging because I realise I somehow need to support myself financially while working on the longer-term goals, alongside my short term goals. That will probably include doing work that is not directly related to my music, which often makes me sad. But giving up is not an option, as the alternative would mean becoming a bitter and disappointed person, and that’s not good for this world. And so I continue to look into my heart when making decisions at each intersection, while the beat goes on

This blog was sent to us by independent music artist Petra Jordan, who is based in Amsterdam. You can follow her development here at her own blog.

 

Learn More

If you would like support in your journey as an independent music artist from AR Artist Management, please register your interest in our ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course here.

Tips for optimising your Instagram as a music artist

An Instagram employee takes a video using Instagram's new video function at Facebook's corporate headquarters during a media event in Menlo Park, California on June 20, 2013. AFP Photo /Josh EDELSON        (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

If Instagram isn’t a platform you are already using as a music artist then you should be.

Not only is it one of the most used social media platforms in the world (300 million users log on every day – that’s a lot of music fans), but you also get a higher level of engagement on Instagram than you do on Facebook, which is crucial if you are focusing on growing your audience.

Finally, Instagram’s features lend themselves really well to music artists as you can not only photograph all the behind-the-scenes of what you do, but also share video and audio (albeit in small clips) and now that it’s launched Instagram live, it also allows you to broadcast activities and performances at any time you wish.

I want to highlight why you should be using Instagram as a music artist and how to optimise this so you’re getting the most from this incredible tool.

 

Treat your Instagram account as a music blog

As with any social media platform, it’s best not to think of your Instagram account as a promotional platform or a way of selling your music.

Instead, think of it as a way of building a relationship with your audience and sharing things which will be of value to them – things they’re going to be passionate about and enjoy. These are likely the same things you are passionate about and enjoy, namely music.

It follows that showing what you do as a musician – rehearsing, recording, songwriting, singing, performing – is going to be of interest to your online followers.

Instagram allows you to document your day-to-day musical journey, easily & quickly, creating a blog all about your music. However unlike a blog you don’t need to write long-form, as the emphasis is on the visual.

And because you are documenting rather than creating content with this approach, Instagram provides new and independent artists with a way of sharing value and telling your story in a sustainable way.

 

Use hashtags

Why? Simply put, hashtags allow your audience to find you when searching for content via hashtag. This means they immediately give you more visibility to those already seeking out #singers and #newmusic, for example.

It is worth doing some research on which hashtags are most used within your field or genre. A tool you may find useful for choosing the relevant hashtags for you is websta.me. This allows you to search hashtags relevant to your field to find the most used ones.

In fact, if you go to websta.me/hot you can also search the top 100 hashtags being used on Instagram right now. At time of writing ‘Music’ is currently number 42 of the top 100 used hashtags on Instagram.

You can also create your own hashtags, related to any current campaigns or musical activity (for example, a song name, EP release, a catchphrase you use, or something you’re known for).

Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post, however this can end up looking a bit untidy (and some would say spammy) if all added into the body of the post caption. To avoid this you could use 4 or 5 hashtags  in your main caption, but you may then also want to add a further 25 in a separate comment underneath to help ensure your post is ranked and seen by as many people as possible.

 

 

Make use of the features Instagram is pushing

At the moment, this means Instagram stories and Instagram live.

Don’t shy away from using these great tools, especially as engagement in the stories and live feeds tends to be higher than engagement on individual posts. They allow you to engage more directly with fans, especially in the live videos where you can address people’s comments and questions live. And how fantastic for fans to be able to open up their Instagram accounts and hear an artist they love, live from their living room! As a music lover, for me this is something that never gets old.

Instagram stories and Instagram live are also a great way of sharing several moments from your day, as opposed to feeling like you are spamming followers by posting 12 photos a day. This is particularly useful of course on a day such as an EP release day or the day of a big show, allowing you to document the day from start to finish, including all the behind-the-scenes.

 

Quick tips…

1. For brand consistency, use the same profile picture that you do elsewhere online and create a relevant biog.

2. In order to space the biography as you would like, you may need to type this out elsewhere (for example in ‘notes’ on your phone) then copy and paste it into your Instagram biography as the app doesn’t allow you to do this within it.

3. Link it to your main social media platform and/or place to hear your music (Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud etc).

 

4. Add your location to your posts wherever possible too. This further adds to the blog-like element of your account, and helps others who’ve visited that same location find you.

5. As a time saving tip you may want to type the 30 hashtags most relevant to your posts into the notes on your phone and then simply copy and paste these into a comment on your Instagram posts each time you post.

6. Engage with people – if followers ask questions, answer them, if they like or comment something you’ve posted, acknowledge them, and get involved with others on Instagram who you like (for example, fellow music artists). In short, show your appreciation.

7. Finally, Instagram is one platform that I think is best not scheduled in advance – for a more organic and natural blog feel, simply snapshot your musical activities as you go!

 

Learn more

For even more tips and information on how to optimise Instagram as a music artist, you can watch our AR Seminar on this topic here.

 

Not giving up on music: How to stay motivated

In this week’s blog I am going to be talking about not giving up on your music and how to stay motivated when times get tough. And by tough I mean those times (which can last hours, days, weeks, months, and beyond) where you feel stuck in your music career, you may have faced a rejection (or, let’s face it, several rejections), the actions you’ve been taking haven’t had the results you’d hoped for and you’re left feeling demotivated, disheartened and uninspired.

When that happens, it can be easy to temporarily lose your faith in the career path you’ve chosen, and worse, your love of music.

I don’t think there is anyone who has embarked on a career in music and not felt like this.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to stay motivated.

 

  1. Recognise that every music artist feels like this (even super-successful ones).

Recognise as fact that no one following a career in music escapes the feelings of rejection, demotivation or lack of inspiration you experience from time to time.

I can tell you from experience of working with new artists, right through to globally successful acts, that even artists who have achieved recognition and sold millions of records still face rejection, still have to carve out opportunities for themselves, and certainly still suffer periods of demotivation. I have had more than one conversation with very ‘successful’ artists who have been on the verge of quitting.

It’s simply not possible to avoid when you are doing something that requires courage and tenacity, and you’re doing it in an industry which can feel very uncertain. However, there are some ways you can lessen the impact of these – which brings me on to the remainder of my tips…

 

  1. Expect rejection

By the very nature of life, never mind the music industry, you are not going to get every opportunity you go for. Not every song you write will be released, not every song you release will be a hit, not every performance you give will be your very best.

Unfortunately, just because you’ve put lots of work in, you’ve spent the time, or you’ve done the research, doesn’t always mean something is going to go your way. There are other factors and variables of which you have far less control – timing, market trends, other artists and organisations, the music industry at large, world events, luck if you believe in that – which all play a part to some extent.

If you learn to expect that and become comfortable with the idea, the rejections have far less impact and the successes become that much sweeter.

However, what you can control – you should. The reason for this is that if you are rejected, or a performance or a release doesn’t have the impact you hoped for, at least you can walk away from it knowing that you did your very best. That you worked your hardest, or produced your best work. Because that’s all that any of us can do.

This brings me neatly on to my next tip:

 

  1. Have an objective for every action you take

For each action or activity you take, set a specific objective that you would like to achieve from it. Know why you are taking a certain action, and what return on investment you are hoping for from it.

Try to make this objective achievable (whilst still making it something you may need to stretch to reach) and find a way of being able to measure it. In other words, make sure there is a return on investment from every single thing you do.

For example, if you are playing a gig, your objective might be to test out a new song you’ve been working on in front of a live audience. Or to convert five members of the audience into subscribers to your mailing list.

If you reach your objective, you can be satisfied that you got what you needed from the exercise and it was a ‘success’, regardless of whether it then leads onto something further or not. If you feel you have achieved your objective and that it was worthwhile doing, then it was worthwhile doing.

In last week’s blog ‘How to prioritise tasks as a developing artist’ I talked more about having an objective for every action you take, and why you should only undertake tasks which have a return on investment. You can read this here.

 

  1. Take a practical approach

I am not one for telling and reminding people that the music industry is tough, or that there are no guarantees, or that you should have a back-up plan. To me, those are negative messages and falling back on them when things don’t seem to be going right doesn’t help you.

Instead, try taking a more practical approach and assess why something hasn’t had the response you wanted. Look for gaps in your knowledge, or mistakes that may have occurred, or shortfalls in your offering.

Because once you know these you can fix them! This should make you feel better immediately, because this means that most challenges do also have a solution. A solution which you can find, research and become better at.

Assess and then adjust for the next time. This is how you learn and grow.

 

  1. Be clear on why you are doing it

If you are a regular to this blog or the AR Seminars, you will have often heard me compare being a music artist to running a small business, and it’s true. You have to believe in your offering, you need to be entrepreneurial, you need create a great brand, implement a strategy and build an audience for your ‘product’ (your music).

You will also no doubt have heard the whopping statistic that 90% of all small businesses fail. In fact, I checked and according to 2016 statistics, 93% of all small businesses will eventually fail and that there is a 1 in 200 chance of succeeding overall. Now I couldn’t find any data, but I’d be willing to bet that the statistics for having a successful music career sound ominously similar.

Of course, when you are thinking about going into business everyone tells you this statistic, and I am guessing that as someone who has aspired and persevered with following a career in music you’ve no doubt been warned countless times how competitive it is; that you should have a back-up plan; that your goals are unrealistic. Am I right?

So, what makes us persevere, even with the odds stacked against us?

It’s got to be a bigger why. You must (subconsciously or consciously) know that this is something you want or need to do, that it’s a risk worth taking, that you believe deep down you can do it, and you must have an idea of why that is.

Think about your own personal why, write it down somewhere, and in times of doubt and demotivation, get it out and remind yourself of why you’re doing it. Consider what the alternative to following your dream is for a minute.

This is usually enough to re-gain perspective and drive you forward in following that why.

 

  1. Successful artists are the ones that don’t give up

This is stating the obvious, but bear in mind that any music artist who you deem to be successful, or even just slightly further on in their journey than you, is an artist who didn’t give up.

We’ve already discussed that there is not a single person following a music career who hasn’t faced rejections, or negative feedback or hitting dead-ends. With that knowledge, you can be sure that any music artist who is sustaining and succeeding in their music career, simply didn’t give up during the tough times!

In my experience, it is this single factor that often defines the difference between a successful artist, over and above their talent, music, or brand. Food for thought…

 

Learn more

To register your interest for the AR ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course, which leads you through how to create your brand, build your audience, implement a strategy to follow for your music career and monetise your music, click here!

 

How to make money from your music: Get in the right mindset

It is often said that profit follows passion – implying that if you simply focus on doing what you love, the ways in which you can make money from it will manifest over time. As an Artist Manager I disagree.

If you are a musician of any kind (be it artist, vocalist, songwriter, or music producer) you are already following your passion, but many of you may not be making the salary you need to live, never mind want.

Whilst those who are committed to making a career out of music may persevere until such a time they are afforded to be able to continue doing so, the journey needn’t be any harder or longer than necessary. Monetising your music is something you should be purposefully focusing on, as opposed to waiting/hoping/wishing to happen. This is why one of the modules in my Self-Manage Your Music Career course is dedicated entirely to monetising your music.

Yes, you love what you do, and perhaps would (and no doubt have) done it for free. But just because you have chosen to turn your passion into your career doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect or want to be paid for it. We tend to think of ‘jobs’ as work we don’t like so if you love what you do there can be some resistance to expecting to make money from it.

This is the first thing you need to remedy to make money from your music – getting in the right mindset. Without this, it will be hard to ever turn your music into a profitable, sustainable endeavour.

Here’s how to make money from your music:

 

Get in the right mindset

As a music artist you need to think of yourself as a business, and no business would launch without a clear idea of how they were going to make money, how much they needed to make and when they might expect this to happen. I want to encourage you to do the same.

You can’t simply follow your passion (creating and performing music) with a view to making a living from it, whilst neglecting the how’s, when’s, why’s and where you’re going to make that living. This is generally the first mistake Artist’s make when it comes to monetising their music.

You are the owner of the business that is ‘you’, so how are you going to make money from that business? It’s important to have a sense of the how and the when.

 

Know how you can make music from what you do

Do you know all the ways in which music can be monetised? Are you aware of the various potential income streams, and which of these might apply to your medium and skillset as an Artist (for example these may be different for a singer than they would be for a music producer)? If not, this is a good starting point.

At the time of writing, the top 3 income streams for Artists in commercial music are touring, songwriting royalties, and brand partnerships. These will not be applicable to all Artists, and it’s also important to remember that these may not be profitable before you have built up a strong brand and an engaged audience. However, understanding how Artists do monetise their music is important so that you can focus on the income streams which apply to you.

Viable income sources include streaming and sales of your music (recording), publishing of your songs, live performance, selling physical products (merchandise), music synchronisation (placement of your music in media, such as films and TV), revenue from social media and session singing or playing.

 

Be entrepreneurial & diversify

Having read the list of income sources above you may now be panicking slightly when you realise that, to make a living from any of these, you’re going to need to be able to do at scale – which means with a sizeable fanbase behind you. The good news is that there are far more ways to make money from your music than you may currently be considering.

It’s important to try and think outside the box with this. Using the musical talent and skills you already possess, what else could you do, create or facilitate that would provide an income stream from your music? This might be creating a product, turning one of your services into an online course, or facilitating music workshops either locally or online, which might not be as difficult as you think. Are you already doing something (or have a great entrepreneurial idea) based on your music skills which you could turn into a new income stream for your business? Get creative and innovate.

Also, diversify where you can – Artist’s rarely make a living solely from just one income stream, which is just as well given the impact that the internet had on record sales, for example…

 

Aim to make 100% of your income from music

If you do need to have a job that facilitates (and perhaps provides much needed funding) to support your music career, why not make this something music-related? In my experience of working with Artists, at times when they need a second job to help pay the bills, it often feels far more positive to them if this is music-related.

Not only do they find that this less draining than doing a job that feels a million miles from the musical life they want, it also inevitably provides them with relevant experience, knowledge and – perhaps most importantly – fantastic networking opportunities.

Any job within the music industry is going to provide you with all the above, which will no doubt be of use in your Artist career. This could include music teaching, music shops and venues, or an administrative role within a music company. If 100% of your income comes from your music and/or music-related work, this really helps to put you in the right mindset.

 

Set goals…

Whilst I agree that a certain amount of working for free can be beneficial early on in your music career, try setting income goals for yourself in the same way you would set career goals. If I were to ask you what you wanted to achieve in music this year you’d probably be able to tell me opportunities you hoped to secure, venues you’d like to play, and songs you plan to release. Try also setting some income goals for what you need to make monthly, alongside what you would like to make in the medium to long term.

Of the music work you are currently undertaking, which percentage of the monthly income you need does this provide? If you’re not reaching your income goal, what could you do to make up the shortfall now that you know how you can monetise your music? Be aware of the difference between short term income streams (session playing for example) versus long-term income streams (such as songwriting royalties) here. Your initial focus may be on cash flow, so what could you do with your skills in music that will make money now?

 

…& Prices

Lastly, whatever work you do take on as a vocalist or musician, have set prices for your time across the various work streams you undertake. Do you have an hourly or session rate for each of these that you are comfortable with? If not, drawing up a price list for your services can be a very useful exercise. Unsure what to charge? The Musicians Union have some guidelines on minimum rates for live performance here and recording sessions here.

Learn More

Want to hear more on this topic? Watch the Facebook Live video here. To find out more about how to monetise your music you can register your interest in our Self-Manage Your Music Career online course here, with an entire module dedicated to exactly that!

Top 10 Apps You Need To Easily Manage Your Music Career

Working as a vocalist or artist is no different from running a small business – there are lots of tasks to complete which are not necessarily your passion (performing & writing music), but are essential to your career progression.

If you are self-managed, juggling the musical aspects of what you do (singing, songwriting, recording,) alongside the various business aspects (branding, marketing, strategising, travelling, whilst also ensuring you earn a living) can feel overwhelming. Optimising your time and reducing the number of hurdles you need to jump is a priority. What holds most back when they come across one of these hurdles is thinking they don’t have the time, resources, or know-how to move past it.

However, today artists have many of the tools to manage their own music careers more easily right at their fingertips.

We have selected our Top 10 apps which can help (plus some additional ones we recommend checking out) below.

Evernote

For jotting down lyrics, song ideas, or reminders for yourself, Evernote allows you to capture notes using either audio recordings or writing text. Whilst not designed to be music-specific we think this is perfect for when inspiration strikes whilst you are out and about. Anything you make note of is stored to the cloud and so automatically syncs to your other devices, and can be shared with other users. A great organisational tool – think of it as a mobile filing cabinet. See also Slack; perfect for when you are collaborating with others and need to share group messages or files.

Trello

This is our favourite productivity tool, and great for when you have several different projects running at once. The app allows you to create a ‘board’ for each of your many projects (for example, maybe you split the boards into ‘Songwriting’, ‘Session Work’, ‘Accounting’) and under each you can list all the tasks that need completed, with the dates they are due to be done by. We constantly recommend this to Artists to help them keep track of everything they are working across. Crucially, it also helps track your progress so you can visibly see that your career is moving forward – essential in self-motivation. You can share your boards with others (band members or co-writers maybe) so any collaborators can also track how a project is progressing and stay on top of the actions required of them.

Dropbox

For sending and receiving music files directly from your phone try using the Dropbox app which allows secure sending and storage for large files such as mp3’s and WAV’s. This is ideal for exchanging music between vocalists and producers, including vocal stems, especially when you are on the go – not least as you can play the audio files from the app so you can listen immediately. You can also grant permission for several users at a time to access the same files. You will need to open an account with Dropbox (they have pricing tiers to suit all types of usage) however downloading the app is free.

Invoice2go

This app helps you create and send professional quotes and invoices, using a variety of templates which you can personalise with your own branding/logo. We highly recommend this as a timesaving tool, allowing you to send invoices whilst on the move directly from your phone (perhaps on your way home from your gig or recording session). It also securely stores all your invoicing paperwork so you can easily track who has viewed your invoice and when it has been paid. You can follow up with reminders direct from the app, and keep a record of all your receipts and expenses related to each job you complete.

WordSwag

The Wordswag app adds text to images, allowing you to create your own visual content for your social media networks. The app provides several typefaces and backgrounds to choose from, so you can tailor your creations to fit with your artist brand, even adding text to your own photographs or artwork. It’s exceptionally quick and easy to use, and the highest quality app of its kind we have found so far. If you are not able to work with a graphic designer for your visual content this allows you to take it into your own hands whilst still appearing professional. One of its very useful functions is the ability to create images to fit each of your social network platforms individually.

Canva

Similarly to Wordswag, Canva is a graphic design and photo editing app, only more comprehensive in terms of what you can create (social media images, flyers, posters, infographics, electronic press kits, for example). You can upload your own branding to it and then use these as the theme for each of your designs, ensuring consistency and uniformity of your brand across everything you create. A great tool for putting together each of the individual images you need to set up your social media profiles and even website, in the correct specifications.

VSCO

VSCO is a social media network of sorts, with users sharing photography and artwork. That makes it a great tool for sourcing visual inspiration and creating mood boards for your brand/visuals, however we specifically recommend using it to stylise your images for Instagram. You can choose from a wide variety of filters to give your images an original and artistic finish, turning your Instagram feed into a gallery which is fully aligned with your artist brand. If you’ve ever come across Instagram accounts that look particularly stylised and consistent it’s often thanks to this app. Our tip – for some inspiration on which VSCO filter to use for your images search ‘VSCO Instagram themes’ on Pinterest and see what that throws up. If you spot one that feels aligned with your brand, it will detail the exact VSCO settings to apply to your images.

Social Media

Whether you favour Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or YouTube for communicating with and building your audience, social network apps ensure you can engage (the most important factor in building an audience) directly with your fans. Once you have created content which is of value to them (hint: start with your voice/music) you can share it across the most suitable platform for that content.

Hootsuite

Save time by sharing and, more importantly, scheduling all your social media posts for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all from this one app. Plot out your posts for the coming week and then simply set-up.

Music Week – ten minutes a day spent keeping up with the latest music industry news and market trends can make all the difference. The ultimate UK music news source – read the magazine directly from its app.

 

Other apps to check out…

WhoSampled – we love this app for recognising samples in songs you just can’t place. Will let you know exactly which songs have been sampled by how many other Artists and who.

Shazam – Discover which song is playing in just a few seconds when you hear something you like – especially good for the clubbers! (see also Soundhound, which allows you to identify and play songs from a huge catalogue, even identifying melodies you hum into it).

Hype Machine – see which music is currently being most blogged about globally.

Which Apps have made your music career easier to manage? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

 

The real cost of a vocal topline – Part 3

Last week we looked at the costs incurred by a vocalist/topline writer in writing and recording a vocal topline (you can see this here).

For balance, and to help instil a mutual respect between vocalists/topline writers and music producers, we also wanted to look at the costs to a producer when working on a collaboration. Again, please note that these are based on average costs and only applicable where the producer has recruited the vocalist/topliner to write and record a vocal for them.

AVERAGE COST TO PRODUCER

  1. Time – an indefinite amount spent researching and sourcing the right vocalist/topline writer; working up the instrumental track; placing the vocalist’s initial ideas onto a demo; producing the final version of the track; mixing & mastering; liaising with the vocalist/topline writer, and shopping the track to record labels, for example.
  2. Production & marketing costs – Considerable: on studio time (whether hiring a studio or working from home with equipment purchased); mixing & mastering costs (if not doing this themselves); legal costs (for potential contractual agreements with record label, publisher and possibly the featured artist); artwork; marketing & promotion costs, including digital marketing, radio plugging, club promo and social media strategy, such as Facebook advertising.
  3. Vocalist session fee – traditionally, anywhere between £250 – £2000+ depending on the scale of the release and the level of the Artist a producer has asked to feature. As a benchmark, for a professional ‘demo’ recording by an experienced session singer (not the final featured Artist – this is often done as a ’placeholder’ vocal for the producer to work around) a typical fee can be £350. A separate fee would then be applicable for the final recording session. Obviously very established vocalists and topline writers, including ‘names’, will ask for whatever their current market value is deemed to be – this could be considered more a ‘feature’ fee rather than a ‘session’ fee. Whilst of course producers and vocalists often negotiate lesser fees between themselves, the Musicians Union currently advise a standard recording session fee of £120 for 3 hours, with overtime paid at £30 for every additional 15 minutes of time (correct as of 2016 – reference).
  1. Publishing split – the producer should expect to offer the topline writer a split of any publishing income generated by the track, as a co-writer on the track. Please remember that the vocalist and topline writer may not be the same person, in which case a split of publishing for the writer becomes even more pertinent.

In practise, the above scenario and related costs can differ hugely; it is a very competitive area of the music industry and there are several variables that affect exact costs and remuneration for the producer. We often (understandably) see shortcuts being taken (using uncleared samples, not paying singers/topline writers) by producers who do not have the same resources available to them as those who are very established/major label backed. This breeds innovation but too often this is applied to their business dealings, as opposed to their creative process.

So, what would help make sourcing affordable, quality vocals easier for producers? We’d love to hear your thoughts over at our Facebook now.

The real cost of a vocal topline – Part 2

On last week’s blog we began discussing the real cost of a vocal topline, having observed a devaluation of singers and topline writers within the electronic music community. We asked if you agreed with this statement or not and received some interesting responses from both topline writers and producers (you can see these and join the conversation here).

In order to gain a clearer understanding of the cost of writing, recording and producing a vocal topline we have broken down the topline process, determining the approximate cost to the vocalist/topline writer for each step. Please note that these are based on average costs and only applicable in a scenario where the vocalist/topline writer is collaborating remotely with a producer.

THE TOPLINE PROCESS – STEPS
1. The vocalist/topline writer writing the melody, lyrics, harmonies and full vocal arrangement
2. The vocalist/topline writer recording demo(s) for the Producer’s approval
3. The vocalist/topline writer making amendments to the topline in preparation for final recording
4. The vocalist/topline writer recording the final vocal topline stems (including comping etc.)
AVERAGE COST TO VOCALIST/TOPLINE WRITER
1. Vocalist/Topline writers time – indefinite; Vocalist/Topline writers training and experience – years
2. Vocalist/Topline writers home studio set-up and equipment costs – several £100 minimum; OR the Vocalist/Topline writer hiring studio time and engineer to record demo(s) – between £100-£350 minimum
3. Vocalist/Topline writer’s time – indefinite, depending on how many amendments the producer may want. Further recording costs may also factor at this stage.

If you are a producer who has requested the services of a Vocalist/Topline writer to feature on your track, recognise that the process alone means that they will be incurring several expenses – often into several hundred pounds. This does not account for possible lost earnings elsewhere, whilst they take the time needed to complete the above process. So, it could be that the vocalist/topline writer has spent largely on expenses and/or lost revenue, long before receiving a session fee and co-writing split, the norm which is usually agreed between the two parties.

Of course, no one size fits all, and every circumstance must be considered individually. The point we wish to make is that the business of making and releasing music is expensive. Whilst the overall return on investment in releasing music has declined, the time, skills and experience required to make a quality track have not. It is here where the disconnect which can lead to vocalists and topline writers being devalued comes.

Agree or disagree that you need to invest in your music, if it is to reach the standard you hope for? Head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment there now.

Next week we will be looking at the overall costs to producers in procuring a vocal topline, but for now we’d love to hear your thought on this topic.

The real cost of a vocal topline – Part 1

So, you want a vocal topline for your track? But you don’t want to pay for it, at least not too much.

But what is ‘too much’? Despite working hard to deliver quality vocals to music producers at reasonable prices, we have noticed a discernible devaluing of singers and topline writers amongst the electronic music community. Many producers feel they should work for free, and be happy for the opportunity to do so. It’s a complaint we often hear from the singers and topline writers themselves too, including many established names. It seems that singing, and even lyric and melody writing (the definition of a topline), are often not considered as skilled a trade as music production.

Speaking with many electronic producers, one of the reasons presented for this is ‘everyone can sing’, by which they mean that everyone has use of their voice – not the same as having incredible natural talent, a distinct tone, and years of singing training to ensure professional technique. By this same argument, anyone with access to a laptop can produce music – but this is not the same as having years of experience, an innovative use of sounds, or fantastic software/hardware, much less a great record. Another reason given is the fact that while a producer may spend several weeks working on one track, the singer and topline writer’s work appears to be done in the few hours they spend in the studio recording the finished topline. Little accounting seems to be made for the many hours often spent developing the melody and harmonies, writing the lyrics, arranging the vocal and rehearsing the performance of it to ensure the topline is captured at its best during recording. Let’s not forget the many years, finances and efforts invested into learning and perfecting their craft, just like the best producers.

That music production is any more-or-less skilled than singing or songwriting (and vice versa) is an argument we simply can’t get behind. We believe mutual respect between the two is vital amongst the electronic music community.

Agree or disagree? Head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment there now.

We will be breaking down, in real terms, the true cost of a vocal topline next week but for now we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Vocals We Love – Autumn 2016

We wanted to take the opportunity to share some toplines, vocal performances and vocal production/edits we have been loving recently. In no particular order, the below list have all been on the AR Vocal Agency office stereo on rotation in recent weeks and we hope they provide some inspiration whether you are a topline writer, vocalist or producer.

Robyn – Main Thing (Mr. Tophat Remix)

Emelí Sandé – Hurts

Becky Hill – Warm

Sasha – Track 10

Nao – Happy (Live)

Lady Gaga & Florence Welch – Hey Girl

Fono – Feet On The Ground

Kaytranada featuring Craig David – Got It Good

Disclosure featuring Kwabs – Willing & Able (Live)

The Golden Boy – Good To You (vocalist Jasmine Knight – one of our own!)

Which vocals have you been listening to recently? Let us know over at our Facebook page now.

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