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Songwriter/New Artist Advice

Music Career Corner

“Recording Artistry Chapter 1”

It’s my theory that music business folk don’t listen to a new recording looking for something to like. When they listen they are looking for the reason to reject your masterpiece because they're inundated in new recordings daily. That’s why when you make a recording it needs to be the best recording you can make. Technical flaws in the performance, composition, or recording can be a definite hindrance to your otherwise brilliant career.

You may be in love with your brand new song but there's a variety of reasons why you shouldn’t do a slap dab recording on your boom box or laptop mic and upload it to YouTube ASAP. Number one being as soon a music pro you tell to go listen hears that loud pop of the record button or other audio faux pas, your opportunity has gone to the back of the line behind the jillion artists and writers that have great sounding demos

So how can you become a legit recording artist?

First meet the Production Triangle. It has three sides: cost, speed, and quality. Choose two. Option A: If you want a great recording and you want it fast, then that will likely cost the most. Hire the best Producer, studio, musicians and engineer etc. and you can get into five or six figure costs fast.

On the other hand you can get great quality at low cost but it can take a long time. Option B – “I’ve got this friend….” The hills are alive with serious gear and engineering schools are cranking out graduates. Now graduating does not make someone a world class engineer but one of the beauties of all this total recall gear is you can keep tweaking a mix until you get in the neighborhood of the sound you’re after. Time keeps ticking but you should not try to get people to listen or buy a bad mix, as you don’t get that proverbial second chance to make a first impression.

Now if you have an engineer’s or scientist’s personality yourself, in addition to being music’s next big thing, you could do it all your self. This has worked occasionally. But good gear costs money and doing your own engineering can detract from your artistic pursuit, particularly when you are pulling your expensively coiffed hair out at 3 AM because your hard drive just caught fire.

Also you can loose perspective working in a vacuum. So think about Option C. You should be able to hire an experienced professional with the gear for something like $500 to $1,000 a song (give or take some hundreds) to make you sound like $1,000,000 or at least really good. Of course you need to be moderately ready for prime time yourself but we will cover that later. And the slow side of the production triangle comes into play here too. If your producer isn’t slammed you may be able to make a deal for their spare time or in some other way (offer a share of publishing, or co-writing, etc.) get a reduced rate. Or $1,000 might be the reduced rate. But I believe any really talented producer is easily worth that.

But whatever deal you make with a fellow companion music traveler in any case, get it in writing. I repeat, get it in writing. If it’s worth figuring out it is worth writing it out. Who will own the master? If you sell copies are you going to pay any royalties? Do you own all the song copyrights. If your producer or engineer improves your songs during the process have they become co-writers? Do you get to keep copies of all the files that make up your sessions as you go (a good idea)? What rights do you have if things aren’t done to your satisfaction or if you get a re-mix elsewhere?

And get releases from musicians and singers if you can so that you have the right to use their performance in a film/video/game license without further payment.

Happy music making to all ...

Leonard Wolf is an Emmy winning Composer/Producer and has worn most every hat available in the music business.


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