5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.

10 Ways to Make Vocals Sound Modern & Professional

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Rob Mayzes, producer, mix engineer and founder of Home Studio Center, a site dedicated to providing valuable tips around recording from home studios.]

 

In most genres, the vocals are the most important part of the mix.

Especially in modern pop styles, there are a number of techniques that make a vocal sound modern, expensive and professional.

Once you apply these ten techniques, your mixes as a whole will improve.

1. Top-End Boost

This is perhaps the easiest and fastest way to make a vocal sound expensive.

Most boutique microphones have an exaggerated top-end. When using a more affordable microphone, you can simply boost the highs to replicate this characteristic.

The best way to do this is with an analogue modelling EQ, such as the free Slick EQ. Use a high shelf, and start with a 2dB boost at 10kHz.

Experiment with the frequency and amount of boost. You can go as low as 6kHz (but keep it subtle) and boost as much as 5dB above 10kHz. Just make sure it doesn’t become too harsh or brittle.

2. Use a De’Esser

When you start boosting the top-end, the vocal can start to sound more sibilant. To counteract this problem, a de’esser can be used.

These simple tools are a staple of the vocal mixing process, and required in at least 80% of cases. I find they usually work best at the very beginning or end of the plugin chain.

3. Remove Resonances

If you’re recording in a room that’s less than ideal, room resonances can quickly build up.

Find these resonances using the boost-and-sweep technique and then remove them with a narrow cut.

4. Control the Dynamics with Automation

For a modern sound, the dynamics of vocals need to be super consistent. Every word and syllable should be at roughly the same level.

Most of the time, this can’t be achieved with compression alone. Instead, use automation to manually level out the vocal.

I prefer to use gain automation to create consistency before the compressor. But regular volume automation works well too.

5. Catch the Peaks with a Limiter

Using a limiter after compression is another great way to control dynamics.

You don’t need to be aggressive with it (unless you are going for a heavily compressed sound). Aim for 2dB of gain reduction only on the loudest peaks.

6. Use Multiband Compression

As vocalists move between different registers, the tone of their voice can change. For example, when the vocalist moves to a lower register, their voice might start to sound muddy.

Instead of fixing this with EQ and removing the problematic frequencies from the entire performance, you could use multiband compression to control these frequencies only when they become problematic.

For any frequency-based problem that only appears on certain words or phrases, use multiband compression rather than EQ.

7. Enhance the Highs with Saturation

Sometimes EQ alone isn’t enough to enhance the top-end. By applying light saturation, you can create new harmonics and add more excitement.

8. Use Delays Instead of Reverb

For a modern sound, the vocals need to be upfront and in-your-face. Applying reverb to the vocal does the opposite of this, so is undesirable.

Instead, use a stereo slapback delay to create a space around the vocal and add some stereo width.

Use a low feedback (0-10%) and slightly different times on the left and right sides. I find that delay times between 50-200ms work best.

9. Try Adding a Subtle Plate Reverb

To add more width and depth to the vocal, try adding a subtle stereo plate on the vocal.

You don’t want the reverb to be noticeable, as discussed in the previous tip. Instead, bring the wetness up until you notice the reverb, then back it off a touch.

Start with the shortest decay time possible and a 60ms pre-delay to give the transients a bit more definition and room to breathe.

10. Try Adding a Subtle Chorus Effect

Another way to give the vocal a bit of depth and shimmer is to apply subtle chorusing.

Again, you don’t want the effect to be noticeable. Add a stereo chorus to the vocal and increase the wetness until you notice the effect, then back it off a touch.

Conclusion

The vocals are extremely important and will require more time mixing than most other instruments.

But once you apply the 10 techniques in this article, you can take a big step closer to a modern, professional sound.

TuneCore Closes Out Strong Year of International Growth With Launch of TuneCore Italy

Streaming Is On The Rise Across All International Markets

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – December 13, 2016 – TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration service provider, caps off a strong year of sustained and international growth with the announcement today of TuneCore Italy – the service provider’s fourth launch in the European market and sixth international expansion. Since the company’s inception in 2006, TuneCore artists worldwide have earned more than $783 million collectively from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams. As the only major global distribution service with a dedicated Italian offering, Tunecore.it features local content in the native language that caters to the Italian independent artist community.

As part of its continued commitment to support independent artists around the world, in 2016 TuneCore launched three international sites including TuneCore Germany (April 2016), TuneCore France (October 2016) and now, TuneCore Italy (December 2016).

TuneCore’s global expansion efforts have led to an overall increase in its year-to-date international customer base. Further, TuneCore’s local offerings in international markets have seen significant increases in customer growth, specifically in the France and Germany markets. TuneCore also identified Hip Hop and R&B/Soul as two of the fastest growing genres in each of its key international markets (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Germany and France). Additionally, TuneCore has seen the growing popularity of streaming reflected across its international markets, with a 340 percent year-over-year increase in streaming in Canada, as well as year-over-year increases in Australia (92 percent), Germany (71 percent) and the UK (67 percent). Streaming also continues to grow in the U.S., with a 65 percent year-over-year increase.

“As we head into 2017, global expansion is pivotal in furthering our mission to bring more music to more people worldwide, while continuing to establish TuneCore as a leader in the international digital music distribution market,” says Scott Ackerman, CEO at TuneCore. “Our global expansion into Italy – a market that previously lacked a dedicated local offering from a global distributor – is a natural fit as we continue to support our artists by giving them the local resources and tools they need to be successful.”

In addition to keeping 100 percent of their revenues, and retaining complete creative control and ownership of their music, Italian customers will have access to TuneCore’s robust portfolio of artist services, as well as local Italian partners such as Music Raiser and MusicOFF, and world-class customer service. TuneCore Italy artists can also opt to include their music in storefronts controlled by TuneCore’s extensive network of more than 150 digital partners across the globe, including iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon Music. In addition, TuneCore Italy customers will be able to take advantage of the company’s strategic partnership with Believe Digital. With an already existing office in Italy with more than 30 employees, Believe Digital will offer TuneCore Italy customers access to a variety of advanced artist services, such as international campaign management, trade and online digital marketing, video management and distribution, physical distribution and more.

With its expansion into Italy, TuneCore now offers local musicians in seven countries outside of the U.S. – UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – the opportunity to collect revenue from streaming services, digital download stores, songwriter royalties, and sync licensing opportunities, all in their local currency.

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About TuneCore

TuneCore brings more music to more people, while helping musicians and songwriters increase money-earning opportunities and take charge of their own careers. The company has one of the highest artist revenue-generating music catalogs in the world, earning TuneCore Artists $783 million from over 43.8 billion downloads and streams since inception. TuneCore Music Distribution services help artists, labels and managers sell their music through iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play and other major download and streaming sites while retaining 100 percent of their sales revenue and rights for a low annual flat fee.

TuneCore Music Publishing Administration assists songwriters by administering their compositions through licensing, registration, world-wide royalty collections, and placement opportunities in film, TV, commercials, video games and more. The TuneCore Artist Services portal offers a suite of tools and services that enable artists to promote their craft, connect with fans, and get their music heard. TuneCore, part of Believe Digital Services, operates as an independent company and is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with offices in Burbank, CA, Nashville, TN and Austin, TX, and global expansions in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany and France. For additional information about TuneCore, please visit www.tunecore.com or https://youtu.be/TSjGACrJyiY.

Apply To Play at Music Festivals in 2017

by Sam Taylor

As the new year draws closer, it’s time to start gearing up for the 2017 festival season. While festivals don’t really get going until around Easter, bookers will already be well on with preparations for selecting and booking bands for spring and summer. Our friends over at The Unsigned Guide have summarised their top nuggets of advice from their team, and also a few festival bookers and organisers, so that you can give yourself the best chance of playing the festival stages in 2017.

Research!

Spend a little time making sure a festival is right for you before you apply. Does the festival only specialise in certain genres and if so, is it suitable for your style of music? You can also check out other bands and acts that have played in previous years to see if you will fit the bill. Where is the festival located? If it’s too far from where you’re based is it practical for you to travel there to play? Are you available on the dates of the festival?

Get Web Ready

Festival bookers will be checking out your social media followers, how often you gig etc. to ensure you can draw a crowd at a festival and have got what it takes to give a killer show! Whilst a simple SoundCloud link will do for some festival organisers, others want more information on what your previous live experience is. Send a link to your website or press kit, where all info can be found in one place, rather than sending lengthy emails and numerous attachments. Make sure it’s up to date so they can read your biog, see recent gigs/festival slots, watch videos and check out your social media.

Start Local

No previous festival experience as yet? Rather than putting all your efforts into trying to get a slot at Leeds/Reading or Glastonbury, why not start smaller and get some much-valued experience on the festival circuit by playing at local or smaller scale music festivals. As a local festival grows, you may be asked back for more prominent slots if they’ve worked well with you in the past. Organisers of bigger festivals may be more likely to book your band when they see you have experience and have moved up the festival line-up.

Follow the Application Guidelines

Each festival adopts a different way to handle all their applications from bands, be sure to follow the guidelines they give you. Many accept submissions through online services such as Music Glue, Gigmit and Sonicbids, but others prefer you to send applications to them directly. Festival bookers themselves have told us that private Facebook messages and unsolicited emails can be a nuisance and distraction (unless that’s the advertised way to apply for slots), so make sure you respect their way of working.

Search the Festivals section of The Unsigned Guide directory to find hundreds of UK festivals that have slots for emerging and unsigned acts. Each listing tells you how to apply to play and you can search by deadlines to make sure you can see what opportunities are about to expire so you won’t miss out!

Be Professional

With so many acts on a festival bill, and a million things that can go awry, festival bookers and promoters want to know the acts they book for their stages are professional. Following application guidelines, linking to website & press kits that are up to date with everything required, and being polite are all goods ways to demonstrate you work professionally and can be relied upon.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Music festivals are typically inundated with applications from bands and artists so you will need to stand out if you want to be picked. Ultimately your music has to do the talking and fit in with the festival’s vibe. Make sure you send a decent quality track. If they are only asking for one song, make sure you pick your best.

Keep your biog brief – there’s no need for a potted history of your band – but make sure you succinctly sum up all your achievements to date. Good reviews, radio airplay, decent gigs or tours you’ve played. And of course, be sure to mention any previous festival performances. If you get chance to include any video footage of live gigs or previous performances that do you justice, be sure to do this so the booking team can check you out live as much as possible.


The Unsigned Guide is a UK music industry directory boasting over 8,500 music industry contacts & covering 50 areas of the music business, from gig promoters, festivals, record labels, studios, managers & much more. Until the end of December The Unsigned Guide are offering 30% off their annual subscription. Just use code TUG30S at checkout. For more info click here.

Engagement: Myspace’s Real Legacy for Indie Bands

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]  

I came of age in the world of independent music at a time when the key to launching a new band was a successful Myspace page. A diverse array of artists from Fall Out Boy to The Arctic Monkeys to Lily Allen owe a tremendous debt to their days creeping into millions upon millions of fan’s “Top 8”. In what was most likely unintentional defiance of the traditional business model for breaking a band, Myspace allowed artists direct access to promoters to book shows, connect with fans and other artists and create a viral spike all without the help of a label, publicist or radio campaign.

The biggest aspect of Myspace’s legacy, at least in terms of music, is likely that “viral potential” and “direct-to-fan” connection it created. Today, we have major streaming sites and social media to hold bands down in this manner even if Myspace has largely shifted their music focus to editorial.

Perhaps the biggest thing that new artists can learn from these Myspace success stories is that it takes time, effort and commitment to make the most of these services and parlay them into a financially viable career in music. There is much, much more to creating a ‘viral’ hit and amassing hundreds of thousands of streams than just putting up a catchy song and asking people to share it.

Here are five things that today’s independent artists can learn from the “Myspace Bands” of the mid aughts.

1. Use Your Page to Build A Brand

While pop-punk and other ‘local music’ wasn’t started on Myspace, it did become exorbitantly more popular because of it. People became “Myspace celebrities” and millions of ‘ego swoop’ haircuts flooded the site as a direct result of kids trying to be like the bands they loved.

Your band does not need an emo swoop.

What your band does need is a definitive approach to the vibe of your online presence. In fact, many savvy new bands and managers are forgoing a presence on all social media sites to focus solely on Instagram. The reason for this is twofold:

  • (a) the ability to really create a distinct visual, and
  • (b) to take advantage of the opportunity for reaching a new audience via direct interaction and proper tagging (both hashtagging and geo-targeting).

2. Sell Without ‘Selling’

Not to sound all “business-y”, but Myspace was great due to the fact it created a viable direct-to-consumer situation for bands.

Is your band playing in a new city for the first time? Go through people commenting on similar band’s pages and reach out directly. If you do it right, you’ll be playing in front of some fans that are familiar with your music instead of an empty room. You can still do that today, but the key is to keep that casual approach that Myspace bands were built on.

“Hey I saw you were a big fan of Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates is one of my favorite records of all time!” is a better first impression on a fan than “Hello, I play in Band X. We are playing in Aurora, Illinois tomorrow. Buy tickets now!”. Myspace taught us the key is to make people realize they want to be at your show, not just making them aware you’re in town.

3. Engage! Engage! Engage!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re an unknown band (or even a mid-sized one), talk to your fans. If you don’t another band will. It helps to reach out to new fans as well, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so at least reply to those that care enough about your work to reach out to you on Facebook or shoot a Tweet or Instagram comment your way.

4. Promote Your Promoters

Something bands and their teams often forget is that press and radio are two way streets. Yes, they are happy to promote your music, but they also have bills to pay and their own fanbase to grow.

I’m not saying you have to post every blog about your band to EVERY social media site but at least shoot them a tweet or retweet thanking them for writing the post. Same goes for radio play and YouTube, Apple or Spotify playlisting. This is something a lot of Myspace bands did great at and that’s why so many writers and radio DJ’s have been so loyal to them throughout the years.

5.Consistency Is Key

Myspace band accounts seemed to always have that green “Online Now” text flashing on their profile. This is because they understood that the more time they spent interacting with fans and building their network on the site the more it would translate to better attendance at their shows and more records and merch sold.

Don’t just sporadically post a Facebook status that you’ve got new music coming and then disappear for a few months. You don’t have to spend all of your time maintaining your band’s online profiles, but definitely make it a point to be active on it for a little bit each day.


You’re trying to grow a loyal fanbase. The best way to do so is to get fans onboard early and let them feel a sense of ownership towards your band. If you can’t afford to drop everything and tour 200 days a year, then social media is your best way to do so.

Just ask Tom.