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.

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.

 

How to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist

There’s no doubt that juggling the many tasks you need to do as a developing music artist is challenging. This is particularly tricky if you are also working around a full-time job or studies at the same time as trying to move your career music career forward.

However, prioritisation and time management is challenging at every stage of your career. As you become more established and more successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes easier. In fact, if anything, it can become even tougher – you’re more in demand, your team grows and then there is even more people and schedules to be managing. Priorities need to be clear and time management needs to be slick across the board, so that the entire team is working together cohesively.

How you prioritise the tasks which are most important and how you manage your time is an ongoing balancing act throughout a music career. But if you are working independently or are perhaps at the very beginning of your careers where you’re doing everything by yourselves, I know that this can feel even more overwhelming than usual. It’s sometimes difficult to find the energy to devote consistent time to your music career around everything else you have to do.

As an artist manager, I’ve had to perfect my time management and prioritisation skills down to a fine art – teaching my artists techniques and helping them to focus on priorities effectively. Times that by 3, 4 or 5 different artists you might be managing and you get the picture as to how crucial this is.

Here’s how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist:

 

1. Focus on the music first

If you’re at the very beginning stages of your career, you feel you’re still a new artist, or your sound is still developing, really focus on getting a clear sound identity down first.

If your sound identity is still unclear, i.e. you haven’t been able to narrow down and define exactly what your genre/style/defining musical motifs are, and what you want to be communicating musically as an artist, continue focusing on this until you’ve defined it.

Then focus on getting a really great product (and when I say product I mean high quality recording of songs that you’ve written or performances of your voice/instrument) under your belt. If you don’t yet have high quality recordings of songs or performances that you’re proud of, this is your starting point.

Make sure you focus on the music first. This is absolutely your top priority in the beginning stages of your career, because until there’s some singing, playing or songwriting of yours to showcase you can’t drive anything else forward.

 

2. Make audience-building part of your daily routine.

Audience building is one of the most important tasks of your job as a music artist. However, lots of artists make the mistake of thinking that audience building can’t start until they have a release to promote, or have played X number of shows, or until that have a manager – in truth, if you don’t begin building your audience til this point you are likely late.

A small and sustainable way of starting to audience build is to document your musical journey. For example, what are you working on each day that is a part of your music career that you can give a snapshot of for anyone who’s following you on social media. Been writing lyrics? Photograph them. Been rehearsing? Film a clip of it for your followers to hear. Playing a gig? Livestream a song from it for those that couldn’t attend.

Choose a social media platform and share just one behind-the-scenes look at what you’re working on musically each day of the week. By the end of the week you’ll have shared seven pieces of content that have given people some insight as to where you are in your music career, what’s coming in future, and what’s going on the behind-the-scenes!

There’s lots of other audience building strategies and approaches you can take further on down the line when you start putting campaigns into place around your music releases. In the meantime, you can start building your audience in this simple way now. You can even do it on the way to work!

 

3. Batch your tasks

Make a list of everything you need to do of a week – that might be songwriting new lyrics or material, recording, rehearsing, curating social media content, collaborating with co-writers and producers.

Then try and batch those so that you’re focusing on one thing at a time. For example, if your focus is on the music and you know that you need to write or record new material, make sure that you set aside a specific time to do that.

Maybe Saturdays are specifically dedicated to songwriting, Mondays are the days when you contact promoters and open mic nights about coming to perform, Tuesdays for a half an hour is the day that you really focus in on your social media.

During each time you will only focus on that time slots allocated task, rather than flitting from one task to another. Otherwise your focus becomes very diluted.

If you can, avoid trying to complete 20 different things that are your list all at once, or split your focus amongst lots of different tasks. I find it’s much more productive to spend intensive time focusing on just one task at a time.

Knowing in advance what you will be working on at a given time also allows you to prepare and organise around it much more easily. Crucially, you should find this allows you to complete tasks more quickly.

 

4. Eliminate unnecessary tasks

As a developing music artist, yes there is lots to do. But it can also easily feel like there’s even more to do than there really is – I’ll explain why. Instead of just keeping busy, you should really be thinking about if I task has a return on its investment of time. Is it a necessary task, in other words? Much of the work you undertake may not be. But how do you tell?

If a task isn’t either improving your craft, strengthening your brand, building your audience or making you money, it is likely an unnecessary task. Sure, there’s lots of little things you can do that might make minimal improvements in a certain area, but if it’s not having a specific return on investment it may not be worth the time it takes. For example, if you are playing a gig to help build your audience, does that gig attract audiences who fit your own audience demographic? Does it get good numbers of people through its doors? Are they likely to be responsive to the style and type of act you are? These are the types of questions you should be asking to determine whether this is a task worth undertaking.

It isn’t possible to do everything at once, especially if you’re working full-time or you’re studying so it’s important to prioritise. When time is at a premium, if a task doesn’t fit into any of these categories you can probably eliminate it.

 

5. Take one action every day (no matter how small)

If you want to make sure that your music career is moving forward consistently, make sure that you’re taking one action towards it per day. Whether you have 10 minutes to spare, or you have two hours to spare, make sure that you’re doing at least one action per day. This ensures that momentum is kept even when working around a busy schedule, and allows you to fee that you are not neglecting your music career.

If you save all your music tasks and do them on one day at the weekend, it can become quite overwhelming and very easy to procrastinate (hence falling behind with your goals) instead of breaking these into more manageable chunks. As a result, quite often what that means is that nothing happens because you don’t get around to it, or something else comes up and the time that you set aside to focus on your music career falls by the wayside. Sound familiar?

Break down your to-do list of tasks that you need to do that week into small chunks and do one of those things a day, even if that’s just sending one email or posting one thing on social media. That way you know that you’ve at least done something, focused a little bit on your music career that day.

 

Learn more

Those were my tips on how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist. I hope they help. If you have any more tips that you have found help you prioritise tasks in your music career, please do leave them in the comments to share with fellow developing music artists.

For more on this topic you can view a previous AR Seminar on this topic here and for more information on the ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career’ course, please register your interest here.

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.

 

George Michael: A Tribute – The Songs That Shaped Me

Like many of you, over the last few years I have seen the musical icons who influenced me the most tragically pass away. If you’re of a certain age, and especially if you are a singer or value incredible singers & songwriters as I do, the deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston will have impacted you. In 2016 this has been followed by the loss of David Bowie, Prince, and most recently George Michael. For me all have felt a huge loss, each accompanied with the nostalgia of my earliest musical loves, despite the rich bodies of work they leave behind them.

However, none of these untimely passing’s has impacted me quite as much as that of George Michael. At first, I wasn’t sure why I felt the immense sadness I have in these last few days. Arguably I was a less engaged fan of Michael than others; for example, I never managed to see him play live, though this was very much one of my future hopes. But then I realised George Michael was far more omnipresent throughout my life – he featured heavily at every individual stage of my musical education. I admired different parts of his work at different (and very influential) times, though not necessarily in a chronological order.

An introduction

One of my earliest, clear memories of his music was the release of ‘Too Funky’ in 1992 – it was a constant on MTV and soundtracked an entire family holiday that Summer. I thought the video, which featured many of the key supermodels of that time though almost no Michael, was unbelievably glamourous whilst not taking itself seriously at all. To my 10 year old self that’s exactly what pop music should be about.

Subsequently, my teens were filled with George Michael – with my love of dance music developing at the time, for me highlights included singles Fastlove and Outside. To me, the latter is one of the most important statements a popstar has made, and the evident sense of humour (and perspective) he had never overshadowed the quality of his songwriting. When a song turns into a chart hit or dancefloor mainstay, it can be easy to write it off as being flippant or lesser quality. But with George Michael his lyrics (often melancholy, always pointed) and his vocal performances (world class) ensured it was impossible not to take him seriously as an Artist.

Tour bus staple

This was evident even in his earliest years if you listen to ‘Everything She Wants’. At over six minutes long it’s a brilliant disco record but with a contrastingly dark tale of a dysfunctional relationship. Released in 1984 by Wham! as a double A-side with ‘Last Christmas’ I didn’t come to this til much later in life when, in my first professional Artist Management role, an act I worked with played this as a tour-bus staple.  At the time, I had landed my dream job and as a result this song will forever remind me of the most formative, and perhaps happiest time, of my career.

He was also one of the few Artists myself and my jazz musician Dad could agree on, once he released his album of classic covers ‘Songs From The Last Century’ which showed off just how accomplished a singer he was. And more so, just how classy a singer he was – it always remained on the right side of pop, and was full of soul and jazz inflections. He had a clean, clear, controlled voice with a beautiful tone, and he made it look effortless. I can still remember my entire singing class trying to emulate him on his version of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. For many in our vocalist network I don’t doubt that he will have been a large part of your vocal education also.

Thank you

Each of these periods were of huge influence to me and, crucially, to the existence of the AR Vocal Agency. He is undoubtedly one of the singers & songwriters who made me want to work so closely with Artists, and for this reason alone I wanted to pay tribute to him here – I, and many of you vocalists working in the commercial music industry, owe him so much.

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.

 

Introducing The Vocalist Network

2016 has been a year of huge transition at the AR Vocal Agency. Mostly, we have been thinking about how to best serve the incredible network of talented vocalists and topline writers we have built up.

AR receives so many questions from our vocalists about how to move forward in their careers, and it is a source of frustration that we haven’t had a platform to address these. Until today.

I have set up a private Facebook group called ‘The Vocalist Network’ and would love you to join us there!

The main purpose of this group is to offer a free source of advice and information for vocalists & topline writers, which you can apply to your own music career. It is also a great support network of fellow vocalists.

What you can expect from the group

Every Wednesday we will be holding a live seminar on topics such as how to secure backing and session vocal work, collaborating with music producers, topline writing tips, and how to market and promote yourself as an artist. Our hope is that this will help you to better self-manage your own career, especially as many of you work independently.

Support & Advice

In addition, The Vocalist Network will allow you to ‘crowdsource’ tips and help from your peers – offering the support of likeminded artists. Who better to answer the questions and understand the challenges you face than those who are on a similar path?

Join

Our aim is to make the AR Vocal Agency the most valuable resource for vocalists and topline writers working within the commercial music industry. Join us there now and help us do so!

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.

Creative design from the South

Get in touch with us!