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.

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!

Here are the 4 things you should focus on as an artist

For any artist trying to ‘make it’ in music, the dream might be to focus exclusively on your passion – that is, the creation and performance of the music – for a living. The reality of course is that you will have found yourself wearing many hats, busy all the time with numerous tasks demanding your attention (from invoicing and managing your social media, to attending industry events and marketing), often whilst juggling a part time job or music studies.

Often this creates a sense of busy-ness without much sense of progression. It can be very difficult to know exactly which things you should be focusing on to move your music career forward.

As a result, many of the independent artists I meet are looking for the exact steps they should be taking in order to succeed. The truth is that this is almost impossible to provide because every artist is unique. They are different in style from one another, with different aspirations, different strengths and appeal to different audiences. The exact steps that may work for one artist can be completely wrong for another.

There are many variables and nuances to be considered, and it is only with full visibility and understanding of each of my artists unique set of circumstances that I can help them successfully navigate these. It is not surprising that every established artist’s route to success is so individual.

However, while there may not be a steps-to-success formula for artists, there are 4 things you need to focus on to succeed (whatever that looks like for you, because again this is also different for each artist or musician).

You should find that each of the individual tasks you undertake as an artist fit within one of these 4 key focus areas. If they don’t, ask yourself if they are essential or is it simply work without a return on its investment?

 

1.Create a brand

Having a strong brand as an artist is key – it is what represents you and your music to the world. If it doesn’t sound, look and feel aligned with the artist you are, you will find it hard to connect with both potential fans and the music industry.

So, what constitutes your brand as an artist? At the very core of your brand is of course your product (the music you create or perform), surrounded by your brand assets (for example your logo, website & social networks, your singles/EP’s artwork, your live show, your image etc).

Understanding exactly who you are as an artist, and making sure that your brand reflects this, will be a large part of your focus in the early stages of your career.

 

2.Build an audience

There is a misconception that you don’t start building an audience until you have the perfect body of musical work, which you release via a record label, to an unsuspecting public who then become ardent fans. This is rarely, if ever, the case. In my opinion audience building begins as soon as you have some music and a brand you feel is as strong as it can be at this current point in time.

It is having an engaged audience which gives you your leverage (and people to play to!) so you want to be building this continuously, starting as early as possible. When you do release music, it will fall flat if there is not an audience already in place ready to receive it.

You should be spending a little time on building your audience every day. A simple way of doing this is to document your day-to-day musical journey – why not share a snapshot from today’s rehearsal, songwriting, recording session or gig on your artist social networks? It is the behind the scenes that will always be most captivating to an audience.

 

3.Implement a strategy

You need to have a strategy – a plan – if you are going to achieve your career goals. It should detail your objectives, the actions you need to take to achieve those, and set clear deadlines for each action step. This gives you the roadmap to where you want to go as an Artist, and can also provide more structure and routine to your working week (very helpful as an independent artist).

No Artist Manager would work without a clear strategy for their artist, so as an independent artist you should be putting this in place for yourself. It will let you to see exactly which activities work for you and which don’t, allowing you to change tactics and direction when needed. More importantly, it allows you to track your progression and ensure you are in fact moving forward.

Without this, you can end up stuck in the rut of doing things as you’ve always done them – which may not actually be working for you.

 

4.Monetising your music

This is often the last thing that artists think about, much less focus on consistently. However, if your wish is to make a full-time living from music, at some point the questions of how and when you can monetise what you do must be considered. There are a few key income streams in music at present, namely live performance, songwriting, brand partnerships and record sales/streams. However, for most artists these are medium-long term methods of monetisation.

It is in creating a strong brand, building an audience, and following a strategy that you can eventually monetise your music. And the more your audience grows, the quicker you can get there. After all, it is your fans who will stream and download your music and buy tickets to see you perform.

This is not to say that making money early on in your career or as an independent artist isn’t possible, but it is difficult without consistently focusing on the four areas detailed here.

There’s no roadmap to success in the music industry

Ok, so each of these 4 areas are broad – this is not an article encouraging less activity, but rather encouraging you to focus on the right activities.

I stated at the beginning of this blog that there were no exact steps you can take to succeed in music. However, I believe each of these four focus areas can be broken down into a series of exact steps artists can take to ensure they create a strong brand, build an audience, implement a strategy (one that is tailored to them) and monetise their music effectively. This is the closest thing you can get to a roadmap to success in music, and it’s a journey you can take independently.

Learn more

Here at AR Artist Management I am in the process of developing an online course, which will allow you to work through each of these four focus areas in detail, ensuring you are focusing on the right things, in the right order. To learn more about this you can register your interest here.

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.

 

Free Weekly Seminars for Singers & Songwriters

As you may know we recently created ‘The Vocalist Network ‘ – a private Facebook group for our extended network of vocalists.

Amongst exclusive content, tips for developing your career and a support network of other singers & songwriters we hold free weekly seminars, every Wednesday at 12.30pm GMT. You can see just one of these here:

 

Answering your questions live (Seminar 3) – The Vocalist Network

 

These are fast becoming our favourite part of the working week!

The free seminars are open to all vocalists, singer/songwriters and topline writers – join The Vocalist Network now to attend.

 

Are Topline Writers & Producers equal in the collaboration process?

As you will know we have been putting the finishing touches to AR Vocal Agency’s ‘The Topline Library’ – a service which provides pre-recorded acapella vocal toplines, primarily to music producers. The Topline Library will be launching very shortly, and will be updated with new toplines every month. Since you are a subscriber you will gain exclusive access to the library on the first Tuesday of every month (like today) so mark it in your diary.

In order to make the service the best it can possibly be for both our clients (music producers) and our content generators (topline writers/vocalists), we have surveyed and interviewed several music producers, topline writers and vocalists from our community. You may be one of them. Hearing your thoughts on, and experiences of, the topline process has reaffirmed for us the fact that an industry standard – if one exists – is rarely adhered to. Furthermore, the contribution that both parties make during the collaborative process, and the respective rights attributed to both producers and topliners/vocalists, remains an area of huge misinformation and misunderstanding. This has become a topic of fascination at the AR Vocal Agency and we hope to better understand the opinions and feelings of producers, topliners and vocalists, so that we are able to better inform and add value to those within the music community. With that in mind we would love to hear your thoughts, and open a conversation around the topics which we see sparking greatest debate.

With that in mind, we would love to hear your views and provide a platform for the music producers in our community to converse directly with the 2000 topline writers and vocalists in our community, starting today. So, without further ado, whether you are a music producer (or someone who works with them) or a vocalist/topline writer we would like to hear your thoughts on the following question – in the collaborative process between a topline writer/vocalist and a music producer working together on a track, do you feel that the topliner and the producer’s contributions (skills, talent and time) to that track are equal?

Please comment with your thoughts here.

We hope that this will be both insightful and useful for you to be able to make direct contact with one another. As such, as well as our usual content, this will be a regular feature for the AR Vocal Agency community moving forward.

Join us over at the conversation now.

Know Your Rights: Topline Writers, Producers & Vocalists

The collaborative process between music producers, topline writers and vocalists (who may or may not also be the topline writer) in creating a song, should lead to an end product which all parties can be proud of. However, when it comes to the respective rights of each person involved, it can also lead to conflict and misunderstandings – like this example of Avicii and Leona Lewis.

In the complexed and multi-faceted area that is copyright and royalties it’s not hard to see how confusion can ensue. However, there should be no excuse for failing to recognise the rights of topline writers and vocalists, as well as those of producers, whom have jointly created music together. Unfortunately, we see too many cases where at least one party has not had their rights recognised nor registered with the necessary organisations. These are most often due to a lack of understanding and administrative oversights, as opposed to malice. This is why it is so important that topline writers, vocalists and music producers all take responsibility for being as knowledgeable in this area as possible and ensuring they are discussing terms from the outset of a collaboration. In turn, record labels must also take responsibility for recognising the Rights of all parties involved in the creation of a record and reflecting this in their agreements.

As a vital aspect of making and monetising music, we will be writing about this in more detail and offering resources to topline writers, vocalists and producers on this in future. However, let’s start with the basics. Whether you are a topline writer, songwriter, producer or vocalist, if you have collaborated on the creation of a song in any way these are the rights you need to be aware of and what you can do to ensure these are being administered correctly.

 

Songwriting Splits (Copyright)

If you write any part of a song, whether it is the topline melody, the lyrics or the backing track, you are due a songwriting split (and in turn a share of publishing income – mechanical royalties and performance royalties) of that song. Therefore, this would be relevant to topline writers and lyricists, as well as music producers if their production constitutes songwriting work (i.e. they wrote/produced the instrumental parts of the song, as is typical in electronic music). You would not be eligible for a songwriting split (or any publishing income) if you recorded vocals on a track as the singer, but did not contribute in any way to the writing of the song (please note – in rare cases there could be exceptions to this if you had been expected to do a large amount of vocal arranging, create (write) extensive harmonies or heavily ad lib). It is also not unheard of in electronic music that a featured vocalist who did not contribute to the songwriting may still be offered a songwriting split, in lieu of a session fee, by way of payment.

The way in which songwriting splits are decided are often determined by a few different factors – for example, how many people have been involved in the songwriting process or how much you contributed to the song. Historically, the lyrics and topline melody of a song would make up 50% of the song, while the instrumental/backing track parts would make up the remaining 50% of the song. However, in electronic music these two features of a song aren’t always equal. Furthermore, whilst a song may be split 50/50 between a topline/lyric writer and a producer, it is common practise that both parties will actually own 50% of both the topline/lyrics and the track – despite who wrote what. More on songwriting splits and the complexities of determining each writers split here and here.

Whichever splits are agreed between the songwriters, it is important that this is stated in writing (as early as possible but certainly before the song is exploited in any way) and that each writer then registers their share of the song so they receive the correct publishing income which may arise. To ensure you catch all the types of income which are generated from owning any musical copyright you must register your songwriting splits with both the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) here.

 

Mechanical Rights

Mechanical Rights compensate the writer(s) of a song when that song is reproduced or distributed either in physical form, such as CD or DVD, or streamed/downloaded from the internet. Therefore, you are entitled to Mechanical royalties if you wrote any part of the topline melody and lyrics, or indeed the instrumental backing track, and thus it is relevant to topline writers, lyricists and producers. It is not relevant if you only recorded a vocal without having written any part of the song.

If you have written any part of a song which is due to be released on a record label, you should be awarded mechanical royalties even if you are not the named or main Artist of the song. This is often overlooked if you are a topline writer collaborating with a producer or Artist who signs the song on which you collaborated to a record label. Labels do not always use due diligence in checking how many writers were involved in the creative process and will sometimes agree mechanical splits with the main Artist/producer without including the topline writer. This is a too-often occurrence in dance music.

Therefore, if you are a topline writer you should be ensuring that your contribution to the writing is reflected with a share of the mechanical royalties, and that both the Artist with whom you are collaborating and the label releasing the song are fully aware and in agreement – ideally before the song is signed but certainly before release. You should also be a member of the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) who will collect the mechanical royalties due to you, on your behalf.

 

Performing Rights

Performing Rights compensate the writer(s) of a song when that song is played (in either live or recorded form) publicly at concerts and festivals, as well as being broadcast on radio, TV and certain digital platforms, or played in clubs, venues, shops, and public business establishments such as gyms etc. Therefore, you are entitled to Public Performance Royalties if you wrote any part of the topline melody and lyrics, or indeed the instrumental backing track and thus it is relevant to topline writers, lyricists and Artist/producers (in the context of electronic music). It is not relevant if you recorded a vocal without having written any part of the song.

If you are the writer of any part of a song, in order to receive your writer’s share you need to ensure you are registered as a rights holder member with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) in the UK. You can do so here.

 

Neighbouring Rights

As with the above, Neighbouring Rights also relate to public performance of a song. However, while public performance rights compensate the writer of the song when their music is publicly performed, neighbouring rights compensate the master holder (usually, the record label) AND the performer when a song recording is played in any public forum. Therefore, if you perform on a song (for example, sang the vocal) you should be awarded neighbouring rights even though you did not write any of the lyrics or melody. These rights therefore apply to lead vocalists, backing vocalists, session singers and all instrumentalists who perform on a song recording. This means you will be awarded royalties (the ‘Performers Share’) each time a record you perform on is played on radio and TV, or in clubs, venues, shops, and public business establishments such as gyms etc. If you are the performer on a record, in order to receive your performers share you need to ensure you are credited as a performer at the time the song is registered with neighbouring rights societies – Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in the UK. You can do so here.

Please note that neighbouring rights aren’t paid in the USA, and therefore not applicable to US plays of your record.

 

Disclaimer: please note that rights, royalties and how they are administered can differ from territory to territory – the above are specific to the UK. Most other territories have equivalent societies as all those mentioned above.

Artist or Singer?

There is a distinction to be made between an ‘artist’ (in the musical sense) and a ‘singer’, which is rarely acknowledged when discussing vocals.

To be clear, both are an art and both possess a clear skillset. This skillset may vary from artist to artist or singer to singer, but can be strikingly different between an artist and a singer. So what is the difference?

In the broad sense an artist is most often someone who writes or produces their own music, as well as playing and performing it. They may of course sing –  their voice could even be their most defining feature as an artist (Adele springs to mind, despite her songwriting prowess), but it will seldom be the sole focus of their art. The genre of music they create, or their own individual style and distinguishing musical features, may remain fairly consistent throughout their career.

A singer is someone whose primary talent is their voice, which they may have trained through years of study and practise. For professional singers, their voice – and possibly this alone – is their stock and trade. Their accompanying skillset may be based around vocal technique, range and ability, reading music proficiently enough to sight-sing, harmonising and vocal arrangement, microphone technique, genre-versatility, plus knowledge and maintenance of their vocal health. They do not necessarily write music or lyrics.

It goes without saying you can be both an artist and a singer, and there will certainly be crossover of the varying different skills both employ. However, how a vocalist identifies them self – artist or singer – can make for huge differentiation in how they approach their vocation and the transactions between themselves and those they collaborate with. If you are a producer, this is of importance when deciding which type of vocal you are seeking for a project.

In artistic terms, you have to ask what it is you need your collaborator to bring to the table creatively. Do you need music and lyrics written as well as vocals delivered? Is there a specific voice, tone or vocal range you require? Are you hoping that your collaborator’s profile will add credence to your project? What type of parameters are you working within?

Is the role you now have in mind better suited to the skill set and assets of an artist or a singer? In practical terms, this differentiation also extends to how each is remunerated for their art. An artist may be seeking (or already engaged in) recording and publishing deals; potential ‘passive’ income from royalties being how they monetise their art over the long term. To this extent, their own songwriting and recordings are of most value to them. The business transaction between a professional singer and anyone employing them may be far more straightforward – their time and vocal efforts will be exchanged for a fee. They are a session singer and will expect payment for each session or performance they do.

Securing the right type of vocalist for your project, and the subsequent smooth running of your collaboration, depends upon understanding this differentiation. Once this has been defined, identifying the right person for your project – whether artist or singer – should be clearer. Furthermore, ensuring that in turn the vocalist identifies themselves the same way and mutually agrees the expectations under which they are working is key.

As always, there may not be a definitive ‘category’ for each vocalist you work with and, like you, their careers and sense of self professionally can and will evolve. But an understanding that there can be a difference between artist and singer should be kept in mind when seeking vocals for your respective projects. Likewise, some food for thought for vocalists and the career paths they choose to follow…

Singers – are you bringing your best self?

As a vocal agency we are committed to ensuring that our clients are presented with the best suited vocalists for their needs, whether this be as a featured artist on a track, a session or backing vocalist job, or performing live on worldwide tours. We need to be sure that anyone we are putting forward is right for the job. But we also need to ensure that same person is prepared for the job – that they will be bringing their best self to each and every project. As an aspiring or professional singer, we assume that you are equally committed to being your best self. But what does that actually mean as a vocalist?

Undoubtedly, you must have the ability to sing – whether your voice is strong and powerful, soft and sweet, honed through years of training and experience, or a raw talent which provides the basis for a promising career. However there is so much more to being a successful vocalist than this. Indeed, each and every one of you will be working with a different skill set and part of being your best self is in identifying your strengths and working to these as much as possible, whilst also bolstering any perceived ‘weaknesses’  and plugging the gaps in your knowledge. Those who feel that being the ‘best’ singer is enough would be mistaken.

Obviously there are the practical musical skills you may possess to be considered – for example, are you practising as regularly as you could be? Can you read music? Do you sight sing? Is your ear as keen as it could be? Do you play any other instruments? Do you have formal music training or qualifications? Furthering your musical education can only ever be a good thing.

Then there is the preparation you can do specific to each individual project you work on. Have you researched the producer/musical director/artist/client you are working with, so that you understand their taste, requirements and method of working as much as possible? Have you asked if there is anything they may like you to learn or prepare in advance? Have you listened extensively to the genre you will be working in to ensure you are familiar with it? This is key to making the client feel that you are invested in the project, even if it is not your main gig.

How about your health? Do you know how to look after your voice effectively? Have you taken steps to avoid doing damage to your vocal chords? Are you keeping fit, ensuring that you have the stamina to sing extensively? Are you avoiding the food and drink that cause either clogging or dehydrating your throat? Do you smoke? Have you considered the impact that your mental health can have on your voice? We are strong believers that the two are intrinsically linked.

Last but certainly not least, something every singer can do is to ensure that they are practising professionalism at all times. More often than not we find our clients will opt for singers who are reliable, deliver consistently, arrive on time, are easy to work with, pleasant to be around, keen to learn, enthusiastic to be involved, respond to communication quickly, and come prepared – over those who no doubt have incredible voices, but bring less of these desirable assets to the table. A positive and proactive attitude will always attract more work for a vocalist.

There is a lot to consider and in future newsletters we will be exploring each of the above areas in more detail. In the meantime, we would ask you to consider where there may be room for improvement in your own practice? Are you bringing your best self? And – because we believe in taking consistent action in your professional development – is there something you can begin doing today (just one small step) towards achieving this?

Creative design from the South

Get in touch with us!