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The Music Biz

The Music Biz

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Friday, October 7, 2011 • User Submitted

As a new songwriter, you may be overwhelmed by all there is to do when it comes to moving forward in your career. I'd compare the approach of this article to eating the elephant one tiny bite at a time.

Original Article @ http://www.bmi.com/news/entry/552948

As a new songwriter, you may be overwhelmed by all there is to do when it comes to moving forward in your career. I'd compare the approach of this article to eating the elephant one tiny bite at a time. In other words, by being patient, organized and methodical in your daily work as a songwriter, you're guaranteed to make steady progress in your career. If you follow the suggestions below, the results won't be immediate, but when you look back after six months or a year, I think you'll be amazed at how much you've accomplished.

By Cliff Goldmacher

1. Do One "Business" Thing Every Day. This is the musical equivalent of eating your vegetables. They may not taste great but they're good for you. It's the same with the business side of music. We all know how much more fun it is to play the guitar, sing and even write compared to making phone calls, sending emails or following up on something you've already submitted, but if you're hoping to have financial success with your music, then they're all equally important. By making the rule that you'll do one business thing every day means that at the end of a year, you'll have done 365 things to further your career above and beyond your songwriting. I guarantee that's more than most.

2. Join/Start A Songwriting Group. Getting yourself to write on a consistent basis can be a real struggle. Writing is emotionally draining and tough for most of us to do in a vacuum. Ironically, I've found that even we creative types like assignments when it comes to our writing. By joining a songwriting group where you're required to bring in a new song or a rewrite of an old song every week, you'll have the additional motivation of being held accountable by more than just yourself. It really does work. If you're not aware of any existing songwriting groups in your area, make it a point to get to local writer's nights and reach out to other writers about starting a group. By simply showing up every week and doing the work, you'll find your songwriting muscles getting stronger no matter whether you agree with all the group's suggestions or not.

3. Don't Wait For A Publishing Deal To Act Like You Have One. If you find yourself thinking that if only you had a publishing deal then you could write every day, get great demos and have your songs pitched, then I'd humbly suggest that you've got it backwards. In order to get a publisher interested in what you're doing, you need to behave like you've already got a publishing deal. This means you'll be infinitely more attractive to a publisher if you can show them a body of work that's well written, well recorded and maybe even includes a cut or two. Don't wait around for the affirmation of a publisher to get up every day and do the work. In fact, if you get to the point where you can do all of the above on your own, you might look up to find you don't need a publisher after all.

4. Make One Song Pitch Every Week. Having exceptional songs and beautiful recordings of those songs is a great start but in terms of getting them recorded by other artists or placed in a film or TV show, they might as well not exist if you haven't shown them to anyone. I know this sounds obvious, but, as songwriters, we get so wrapped up in the creative process that we somehow, amazingly, seem to forget that until someone in the industry has heard our songs, they can't do anything with them. This means you need to begin your search for outlets for your music. There are industry pitch sheets and organizations out there that can help put songwriters together with industry folks looking for songs. Make it your business (see #1 above) to find out about these pitch sheets and begin the process of submitting your songs when you see an appropriate opportunity. If you do this once a week, you'll have pitched to 52 separate opportunities by the end of a year. That's a significant number.

5. Reply Promptly To Any Opportunity, No Matter How Small. The likelihood of Faith Hill calling you to ask if you've got a song for her is small but you should treat every email or voicemail from someone regarding your music as that kind of top priority. If another songwriter reaches out to say they liked one of your songs they heard you perform at a writer's night, reply quickly, even if it's just to say thanks. You never know when a causal contact could turn into something more significant. Our industry is full of stories of songwriters getting their material cut in the least likely of circumstances. All this is to say, there's no percentage in ignoring or putting off any opportunity no matter how small it may seem at the time. By acting professionally and responding promptly to anyone and everyone who reaches out about your music, you'll be sure not to miss something huge that might appear insignificant at first glance.

As I'm sure you know, there's no one way to have success as a songwriter. That being said, you can certainly improve your odds by staying patient, working consistently and treating your career with the respect it deserves.

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff's site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter and his company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville's best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

You can download a FREE sample of Cliff's eBook "The Songwriter's Guide To Recording Professional Demos" by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook

 
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 •

One of the most vital of these steps is the mix. It's not enough to have a great song; you need a great recording, and a strong mix is an essential part of that.

By Cliff Goldmacher
Originally posted at BMI.COM
 
Once you've decided to up the ante and put your music online for the world to hear, it's in your best interest to pay close attention to every step in the recording process. One of the most vital of these steps is the mix. It's not enough to have a great song; you need a great recording, and a strong mix is an essential part of that. The art of mixing (and make no mistake, it is an art) is not a skill everyone possesses. It's well worth your while, even if you've recorded your tracks yourself in your home studio, to seek out an experienced mixing engineer. While there is no substitute for a dynamic, exciting musical performance, a good mix can enhance every aspect of that performance so that the final result truly makes your song stand out. On the other hand, a poor mix can severely compromise even the best song and performance. Only you can write and sing your songs. That makes you an expert in those areas. However, unless you're also an expert mix engineer, I'd highly recommend going to someone who is.

Budget

I get it. Everyone wants to save money. I do, too, but there are places to save and places to invest. In an effort to keep recording costs down, many musicians have purchased their own recording equipment. This is terrific and there's never been a better time to buy affordable, high-quality gear. As long as you're as passionate about learning the engineering process as you are about your music, you'll do well. Owning your own recording equipment also takes a lot of the pressure off when it comes to experimenting in the studio. Finally, it allows you to record as many takes as necessary to get the performances you want without worrying about the clock. However, one way to make the absolute most of your recorded performance is to let an expert mix them. It's amazing what a talented, experienced mix engineer can bring out of a mix that might otherwise get lost or obscured at the hands of a less able mixer.

Before You Mix

Before I cover in greater depth what makes up a good mix, let's go back to performance for a moment. No matter how great the mix engineer may be, there are some things you simply cannot fix in the mix. To be more specific, there is no way to "mix in" a great vocal or instrumental performance. What makes a performance great might surprise you. For example, sometimes it's what you don't play that counts the most. In my experience, the best studio musicians are the best listeners. What I mean by this is that great players base their instrumental performance on whatever else is going to be played in the song so that all the instruments work together as a whole to serve the song and not their individual egos. Playing too much is the hallmark of an amateur studio musician. Secondly, the timely use of dynamics (where to play louder/softer or with greater/less intensity) is essential to a mix that breathes and has shape to it. Simply moving up and down a volume fader won't do the same thing. When it comes to singing, all the Auto-Tune and reverb in the world won't give a vocal performance real sincerity and emotion. Make absolutely certain that the performances are exactly how you want them before you start the mix process.

The Instruments

Finding space in the mix for each individual instrument is essential. This is often achieved through judicious use of EQ, compression, volume and panning. For example, the skill it takes to get great drum sounds, marry the kick drum to the bass while also giving the electric guitars rooms to breathe and sparkle is developed over time and repetition - a lot of repetition. When this is done properly, the instruments are exciting to listen to. Each has its place and role to play and when they come together, the song takes on a life of its own.

Vocals

A great mix engineer always makes the treatment and placement of the vocal a priority. Once the instrumental mix is where it needs to be, it's time to make certain that the vocalist is running the show. A combination of EQ, compression, tuning (if necessary), effects and volume-fader automation should all serve the ultimate goal of making it sound like the singer is in charge. There are several risks associated with improper vocal placement. If the final mix has too much vocal, then the instruments end up sounding small and weak. However, if the vocal is too soft in the mix, it loses its ability to communicate the emotion of the song. Every genre has its preferred vocal level. In general, pop music has the vocal more integrated into the instruments whereas country music (with its emphasis on the lyric) generally puts the vocal higher in the mix. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule but a good mix engineer will know the genre he or she is mixing in and do the right thing for the song.
 
On a related note, one of the best reasons to bring in an experienced mix engineer, even if you've recorded the song yourself, is a fresh, objective set of ears. It's been my experience that if the singer mixes their own project, they tend to keep the vocals too low for a couple of reasons. One is that most singers tend to get uncomfortable with their vocals up in a mix. There are precious few singers I've ever worked with who genuinely love the sound of their own voices. By keeping the vocal low in the mix, the vocalist/engineer won't have to leave their comfort zone but the mix suffers. The second reason has to do with the fact that the singer already knows the words and assumes that they're hearing the words when, in fact, they may be too low for someone who doesn't know the song and be difficult to understand.

Mastering a Good Mix

Mastering a mixed recording is a separate skill altogether. While this isn't an article about mastering, I'd recommend using a dedicated mastering engineer (not your mix engineer) when it comes time for this step. More to the point, the value of a good mix is that the mastering engineer will spend much less time (their hourly rates are generally higher than mix engineer rates) getting the finished master together. In other words, money you spend on a good mix will end up saving you money on a final mastered recording.

Doing It Yourself

If you're still intent on doing your own mixing, consider hiring an expert to mix a song or two for you and then ask them for the session files back. Assuming you're using the same recording software (i.e. ProTools, Nuendo, Logic), you'll be able to examine every detail of how the mix was done and use the finished mix files as a kind of tutorial so you can ultimately learn to do them yourself.
 
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter/engineer/producer/author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff's eBook "The Songwriter's Guide To Recording Professional Demos" is available as a free download from his site at http://www.cliffgoldmacher.com/ebook. Cliff is also the owner/founder of www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, a website that provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville's best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

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