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.

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.

Featured Artist – Simon Lord

This week we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one of the artists from our Featured Artist roster, Simon Lord.

It would be impossible to have missed Simon Lord’s contribution to electronic music over the last ten years, not least as a founding member of electronic/indie band Simian. Having released two albums as Simian on Source Records in the early 2000s, the band splintered in 2005 with one half famously going on to form Simian Mobile Disco. However Simon remained prominent in their success when the iconic Justice Vs. Simian remix ‘We Are Your Friends’ was released in 2006 (Ten Records/Virgin). This was followed up in 2007 when Simian Mobile Disco also featured him in their hit single ‘I Believe’, taken from their debut album Attack Decay Sustain Release. Simon had by then formed The Black Ghosts with Theo Keating (Fake Blood/Touche) and has since embarked on critically-acclaimed solo ventures as Lord Skywave, Garden and under his own name.

In the time since Simon has co-written and featured on several prominent electronic records, always managing to retain his unique sound and distinctive vocal style. Most notably, Simon can be heard on tracks with Bent (The Handbrake/To Be Loved), Simian Mobile Disco (I Believe), Plastic Plates (Things I Didn’t Know I Loved), Kris Menace (Golden Ratio), Fake Blood (All In The Blink), and Arclight – to name just a few. Most recently Simon featured on Dillon Francis’ ‘Messages’ and ‘Drunk All The Time’, released on Diplo’s label Mad Decent in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Simon continues to be a prolific writer and we look forward to sharing future collaborations of his, to come later this year. In the meantime you can look back at a retrospective of Simon’s work here.

You can follow Simon online here.

The AR Vocal Agency exclusively represents Simon Lord worldwide – for any enquiries regarding collaborations with Simon please contact us via our website.

What To Look For In A Vocal

Before being able to find the right vocal for your track you have to know what it is you are looking for. Whilst this may sound obvious, producers often approach us for help in finding a vocalist or producing a topline with very little idea of what they want. Or, with an exact idea of what they want but without carefully considering whether the vocal they have in mind is the best fit for their track. Is it what the track needs?

If not, this is usually only discovered after having tried various different singers, recordings and vocal arrangements, all to no avail. This can not only use up valuable time and resources, largely for the producer, but it can also kill creativity for the producer, the vocalists and any co-writers involved. The outcome? Sadly, we have had many of the producers we work with tell us of their frustration at having to shelve tracks they loved, convinced that no vocal would ever fit.

To try and minimise this happening, the first step in our process when working with any producer is an in-depth consultation. Whilst we are happy to A&R vocals/toplines on behalf of producers, it is hugely important to us that their vision for the track is realised, whilst also advising them on what may or may not suit vocally. Not only does this mean taking into consideration the producers’ personal taste (voices they like, styles they favour), but also the genre they are operating in and their objectives for that particular track. Have they considered all the various directions they could go in with the vocal? Are they thinking broadly enough (outside the box)? Certainly, what we do know is that simply taking cue from what your producer peers are doing, the latest charts, or recent successful tracks is not enough. The process needs to be more refined than that, and tailored specifically to you.

So, what to look for in a vocal? If you are currently sourcing a vocal for your track here are some of the questions to consider before beginning your search:

  • Will this track be improved for adding a vocal?
  • Who/what have my influences for this track been?
  • What are my objectives for my track a) creatively, and b) commercially?
  • Which emotion does the vocal need to convey to listeners?
  • Which tones of voice do I most like/dislike? (Generally speaking)
  • Which style of voice might be best suited to my track?
  • Does the vocal need to be of the same genre as my track? Might a juxtaposing vocal be more interesting/original?
  • Do I already have a vocalist in mind for my track? If so, are they the best fit for the track, or just the easiest option?

Being able to answer these should clarify what it is you are looking for. As such an integral part of the record, a vocal should never be an ‘afterthought’ and due care taken at every stage of the process, including before even beginning.

– AR

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