“Wanted: Guitarist for up-and-coming band with major label interest.” There was a time when, if you were advertising for a musician, all you had to do was print the magic phrase “major label interest,” and the world would beat a path to your door—if you were foolish enough to include your home address in the ad. Once the masses arrived, you could qualify the statement with, “Well, there’s no money yet, and we have to travel far distances and play long hours at obscure and under-attended venues, but we have major label interest.” And to a person, the teeming throngs would cry, “Sign me up!”
Although I still see this cliché in classifieds, I’d like to think that musicians searching for opportunities and positions are a little more discerning these days, and wouldn’t fall for the “major label interest” hook—at least to the exclusion of any other compensation or benefit. Why? Because there is no “major label interest.” This is primarily because the majors aren’t majors anymore, and the surviving recording companies simply don’t have the resources to cultivate a band from obscurity to stardom the way they once did. You’ll have a better chance at winning the lottery than capturing the handful of slots available to burgeoning bands who play local clubs now but hope for a “major label” miracle to break them into the big time. More than likely, a record company will catch you halfway up the ladder of success, when an offer presents more of a dilemma than a bonanza.
So what should aspiring career musicians do in the meantime? In a phrase: Create your own reality. Bands these days should behave more like self-sufficient entrepreneurs than cogs in a machine. They should plan on doing everything themselves, from demo and master recording to press kit production to gig booking and event promotion to merch sales and music distribution. And the good news is, now they can.
With all the tools now available for the above-listed tasks—for virtually every aspect of building a music career and distribution network—it’s never been more accessible, affordable, or possible. Music technology pundits like to point out that digital recording democratized the recording process by making it possible for anyone to create master-quality recordings using the plethora of affordable gear. But that truism can be applied across the entire record business, where inexpensive and available technology exists all the way up the chain. For example, for about $1,500 you can buy a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera that’s more than capable of shooting top-quality publication-ready photos and high-resolution/high-definition videos. Programs like WordPress enable you to produce slick-looking websites with no special programming skills. And services like iTunes, CD Baby, TuneCore, and ReverbNation let you sell your music directly to the public—right alongside The Beatles, Beyonce, and Bieber. And promotion? Two words: Facebook and YouTube.
All of this means that you don’t have to wait for a sugar daddy, sponsor, or benevolent A&R person to get started in your personal empire building. You can start using any of these resources yourself today, and on any level of engagement. If you’re a good prose writer, take on the production of your band’s press kit, and learn the desktop-publishing programs provided in Adobe Creative Suite to produce the press releases, brochures, one-sheets, and publicity photos (both prints and high-res jpegs) of your band. The musically technical folks among you can marshal a DAW, an interface, and a couple of decent microphones to create your recordings. Perhaps a friend of the band can explore the website and social networking mechanisms. Any volunteer who contributes to the cause will be getting valuable experience in the process—experience that comes in handy as the processes are scaled up as the budget affords and the needs demand.
Perhaps the best part of having a hand in all aspects of the business is that you understand how everything works, and you get to be in control. Once you can afford to outsource any aspect of the business, the knowledge accrued from your early efforts ensures that you’ll always retain a basic understanding of the process. Understanding is the key to making informed decisions—even while actual technology outgrows your immediate ken.
So start getting involved in your own destiny. When making music a career, you need to touch, contribute to, and be engaged in all aspects of the business, not just with how well you play your axe. When I was much younger, I told a friend who was an intellectual property lawyer that I was only interested in the music, or the “creative” part of the business. Here’s how he responded: “Aw, that’s adorable. C’mon, grow up! The music takes care of itself; it is what it is. But the business part? Now, that’s where things really get creative.”
— Jon Chappell
|This Week on HC|
When we at HC see a good thing, we like to promote it, and even join forces with it, if possible. So we’re getting behind a new publication called Woofer, which addresses recording and audio issue for musicians, music makers, moguls, and maniacs. Woofer exists solely as an online digital magazine—in other words, there’s no print component. But this rich media publication offers text, photos, video and audio clips, as well as links to further reading.
Here's the publisher's statement:
Woofer: For Music Makers, Moguls & Maniacs
It's Ruff Being a Musician Today!
Woofer is a new and uniquely structured publication for musicians and the music industry from
In Tune Partners. It seeks to help readers create, perform, discover, and sell music in a new and rapidly evolving musical environment. Woofer is available starting in mid-November 2011 exclusively on computers and iPads. Distribution on Android-based tablets will follow in 2012.
Woofer’s electronic delivery allows for an extraordinary user experience, combining text, animation, video, audio, and reader interactivity never before available in a music periodical. Woofer’s distribution is through affiliates, typically music organizations, musical instrument and equipment manufacturers, retailers and others with large databases of, and messaging programs to, qualified musicians and industry personnel.
Harmony Central users can access the premiere issue either on the web or as an iPad app. Click on the image at right or here: www.woofermag.com. Be sure to enter in your promo code (HAC107) along with your credit card info to receive the discount.
By Craig Anderton
By Jon Chappell
A magnetic soundhole pickup for acoustic guitars that raises the bar for tone quality and realism
Recording loud guitar amps has a variety of issues—for example, you’ll probably need a mic with a pad switch, and if you’re close-miking, you might favor the ruggedness of a dynamic model. But another consideration is that a loud amp can vibrate other objects in the room, and while the loudness of the amp itself might drown out any obvious sounds, they’ll still be in your track and contribute something you don’t like—but can’t really identify.
The obvious place to start is the drum kit—making sure the snares are turned off—but there are plenty of other noise sources. Doors or windows that aren’t sealed can vibrate as can thin tabletops. Objects sitting on top of surfaces that vibrate can also cause problems.
One way to track down some of these potential noise sources is to feed a sine wave (e.g., from a synthesizer) into your amp and go for the cleanest sound possible. Turn it up, and because the signal shouldn’t have harmonics, it won’t mask spurious noises as readily. Use your ears, but also use your hands—touch a variety of surfaces, find out which ones are vibrating, and apply pressure to damp the vibrations and see if that reduces noises. Sometimes all it takes is a little magic from some duct tape, applied in strategic places, to neuter these nasty noises.
— Craig Anderton
|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Get the lowdown on the Epiphone Les Paul Ultra-III, check out clips and videos on DigiTech’s iPB-10 multi-effects, keep up with the latest Universal Audio plug-ins, find out why Geist has its own flock of fanatics, and more.
The Winter NAMM show is still about a month away, but the rumor mill is already buzzing about possible new pedals—and some have even been confirmed as official releases from press notifications and manufacturer websites. Get the scoop here!
What does it take to get a viable gig going as a solo or duo act? The thread starts off slow, but then the suggestions pick up—as do realistic evaluations of what, and what not, to expect.
Did someone say . . . modular synths? This thread is loaded with ‘em, and just in time for the ongoing modular synthesizer comeback.
The poster has narrowed down his lust to four amps—but is having a hard time deciding which one to get. So what does he do? Why, post a poll, of course . . . but it’s not just the poll results that matter, it’s also the comments.
Unlike rhythm section players, who develop their skills collaboratively, songwriters tend to work in a vacuum. Therefore, their sense of rhythm can sometimes be, shall we say, a little shaky. If you’re intimidated by the study of rhythm, meter, and time-keeping, heed the advice from songsmiths who’ve learned to deal with these issues.
As well it should be . . . and especially this time of the year, there’s nothing like an inspirational thread to get us all thinking about what we can do to help make the world a better place.
The advice in this thread is pretty useful to anyone who plays acoustic guitar and wants a somewhat smoother, darker sound.
Find out how to set up the correct gain structure on a mixer for a live band—with a highly useful thread that has references to some good videos, and cogent, helpful answers from experts in response to basic—but important—questions.
Should you apply EQ to drums as part of the recording process? Many DAW engineers prefer to save EQ for the mix, but when recording drums to a reel-to-reel multitrack with a finite number of tracks, a different approach may be in order.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor
Production Editor • Carrie Brown