Recently we talked with Shock City Studios recording engineer Tony Esterly, and he described what a music producer job is in the studio. Esterly records bands with and without producers, but successful recordings need someone to guide the process along and make tough decisions. This can be a achieved by someone in the band, but it’s better to find someone who is not too close to the music.
The Paperclips got their start as street musicians, playing every Thursday for spare change. They have since evolved into much more, gaining/losing members and are now accomplished stage performers featured all over the western half of Missouri.
The key to their success is not a complex marketing plan or spending all day on Facebook. They play great music, and they do it well.
On a standard Saturday night at the 400 Club the bar was packed, there was a line to get drinks, and every six inches, there was a different conversation. But, all that changed, almost instantaneously, when The Paperclips took the stage.
The focus in the crowd was something that seemed almost irregular for this particular venue–there wasn’t a single person in the bar whose eyes weren’t fixed forward. Despite the state of the bar minutes before, it seemed the conversation on everyone’s lips was based solely on the band that occupied the stage.
The club was a far-cry from the city streets that, only a couple years prior, the band used to play on.
“I think it’s important to talk about where it started,“ said Jake Briscoe, guitarist and lead vocalist. “We used to get together and jam on the street Thursday nights, before we really had this together as a band.”
At that time, the band was comprised of Briscoe on guitar and vocals, Chris Evans on drums and other percussion, and Nate Caywood playing bass, keyboard and backup vocals.
They ran into one problem.
Briscoe put it best. “It got cold.”
Eventually, the band began playing acoustic sets at the Tea Haus, where they met their current bassist and backup vocalist, Jason Richards.
Richards was, at the time, performing at the Tea Haus as a solo artist, singing and playing acoustic guitar. As they started performing in close proximity more frequently, they began starting to schedule shows together.
Richards played his set immediately before The Paperclips took the stage, and it wasn’t long before they started discussing the possibility of adding Richards to the group. This past March, he became an official member of The Paperclips.
“The Paperclips have been a really good group to me,” said Rafferty. “Before I was in the group, they were giving me projects for school.”
Being devoted to their craft, Briscoe did divulge one difficulty that they run into as a band.
“It’s a long road, figuring out, as a band, how to market yourself,” said Briscoe. “Because you can be a great band, a fantastic band and not have that type of mentality to where you can sell yourself.”
It’s a hurdle The Paperclips must overcome. However, after watching its show Saturday, there is no denying that the band does not lack talent or musicianship.
Tony Esterly, an audio engineer at Shock City Studios in St. Louis, gave us a tour of the largest live room in the Midwest and sat down with us to talk about the recording process for all levels of bands. In this first video, Esterly talks about the most critical aspect of a great recording, pre-production. Pre-production will save your band time in the studio, so you can save money. It will also help your engineer and producer do their jobs better.
In the next few weeks we will share more of Esterly’s great tips and advice on getting the most out of a recording without breaking the bank.
Music lawyer Donald S. Passman talked with us at Detone8.com about the current state of the major labels, getting their attention and the first thing every band needs to do.
Late last year Donald S. Passman released the seventh addition to his book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” and we interviewed Passman about the changes to the book caused by some dramatic shifts in the music industry.
“There has been a huge change from the last edition,” Passman said.
For fans, the most recognizable changes in the music business have been listening to interactive streaming music online with companies like Pandora, and it’s an issue the industry wrestled with right up to the publication of the book. Yet the biggest change to this version of Passman’s book is how the new 360 deals work.
The 360 deal is one of the last ditch efforts by record labels to stay afloat. Simply put, this new contract will not only split the profits from record sales with musicians and labels, but record labels now want a piece of every dollar a band makes. This includes digital sales, merchandise and even performance profits from live shows.
It’s an unprecedented way for record labels to stay afloat, although they have a strong argument in favor of the 360 deal Passman said. It’s not fair that record labels put up most of the money to get a musician off the ground and not share in all of the profit that comes with success.
And the worst part is that this maybe one of the best options for bands right now. As long as record labels are the key holders to major success in the industry, all other business plans are untested. Passman said he has yet to see any completely independent band break into the mainstream.
There is so much competition that even Internet sensations like Justin Bieber have signed with major labels to get mainstream exposure.
“There is what, 7 million bands on Myspace right now, so how do you break through that noise,” Passman asks.
Yet as much as the labels are hoping the 360 deal will save their business model, Passman has yet to see any results. “It’s too early to tell,” he said.
It seems even the experts like Passman are unsure of the future of the industry.
To sign or not to sign is purely academic if you are not even getting noticed by the labels in the first place. So, what is the first thing a band needs to do? Get it in writing.
You don’t need to cough up several hundred dollars it takes to create a business before you make any money, but Passman recommends putting an agreement in writing.
Before the band ever takes in one dollar you need to write down how the band will make decisions, who owns the name and assets of the band and how to kick someone out or bring a new person in. Then everyone signs it.
Passman warns it is harder than ever to get signed. There are less labels, less money and fewer deals made. But the keys to getting signed have stayed the same. You need to build a buzz, a story and learn to manage your fans.
Key Info from music lawyer Donald S. Passman: Before your band makes one dollar put an agreement in writing.
image from flickr.com user NobMouse
NOFX manager Kent Jamieson describes himself as “not that ambitious.”
For example, his lack of ambition lead him to create a highly successful, all-ages, punk club so he could bring top punk band from around the world to play in his home town. He then learned to work the sound board, and was hired to be the house sound guy for local and touring bands.
The band NOFX must have related to Jamieson’s lack of ambition. A Van’s Warped Tour mainstay, NOFX has being playing together since the early 1980s, recording more than a dozen studio albums, and have been touring for close to thirty years all over the world.
In the early 1990s NOFX was looking to bring a sound guy on a tour in Europe. Jaimeson called Fat Mike, singer and bass player for NOFX, about the job, and Mike immediately hired Jamieson.
A year after being their sound guy NOFX hired Jamieson to be their touring manager. The band continued to grow in popularity and eventually NOFX asked Jamieson to be their full-time manager.
“I manage them, I manage the tours, and I book most of the tours. We have an agent in Europe, but I do all of North and South America and the rest of the world as well. So, I essentially do everything,” Jamieson said.
Oh, and he manages Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a cover band of punk rock all-stars. Perhaps my definition of ambition is different than Jamieson’s.
The good news is that “non” ambitious people like Jamieson have found success in the music industry. Finding a way to work in the music industry in a small Canadian town helped him create the work ethic and the connections to tour the world for 20 years and more.
Jamieson has also seen the dramatic change in the music business over the decades. According to Jamieson, there was a belief in the late 1990s that bands could continue to make money of their catalogues of music even after a band breaks up. Yet now that money has all but dried up.
“Touring is defiantly the main income source for musicians now,” Jamieson said. “Putting out your music is really just promoting your band as a live entity.”
In the digital age of music there is not enough money for bands to live on. NOFX continues to have a large fan base, but too much of this generation of fans do not believe in paying for music. There is not enough money to sustain musicians who do not tour. “Selling music digitally is working out fairly well, but it ain’t nothing like it used to be,” Jamieson said.
The record labels are not helping much either. A few are making the transition, but most are not. And the ones that are struggling have never been know for their musician friendly business models. “Life for bands on major labels sucked for band in the 90s when things were good. I can’t image how it is now,” Jamieson said. “A new band should absolutely go it alone, because at this point a record label is going to want some of their touring merchandise.”
Yet as much as things change, making in the music industry has always been hard. “ You’ve got a one in a million shot,” Jamieson said. “There is still a chance to make a living at it for sure…the challenges really haven’t changed that much. You need to be good. You need good songs, be entertaining, and you need perseverance more than anything on top of that.”
“Really good songs are always going to be the mainstay of bands, no matter what the format they deliver,” Jamieson said. You will also need Jamieson’s questionable “lack of ambition.”
image by Edvill
Starting off Barefoot Truth was just two high school friends (Jay Discoll and Will Evans) writing and performing songs for their own enjoyment. When they started playing out they got such a good response that they decided to record an album. By the time they both graduated college Barefoot Truth was no longer just for fun. It was a full band, and it became a career.
Since spring of 2007 the members of Barefoot Truth have been working full time on the band. Recently they have received national attention and an undetermined amount of money from success on Pandora Radio. The internet radio site exposed Barefoot Truth to a much larger audience, and that audience can’t seem to get enough of Barefoot Truth. The band has had more than 4.5 million plays on Pandora.
Although the band had little influence on promoting their music on Pandora, their dedication to making quality music and their professional approaches to the band are key to this success. The band is doing everything right. They made the band into a small business and keep track of all of their money. They even get tax write offs at the end of the year.
Discoll took the time to help answer some our questions about Barefoot Truth’s success.
How do they afford to be professional musicians?
“We have a pretty good situation, we all live together. So a lot of the money we make as a band stays in the band going towards our own rent…it really just cuts down on costs.”
“When there is downtime…we’ll have our own little things going. Odd jobs and things are always coming up.”
What was the first step to becoming a regional band and getting shows in different areas?
“Show swapping is defiantly a big thing for us. It has been for breaking into new places…We’ve also been lucky to have interest from a lot of colleges and high school students [then we] go to their student activities board and tell them [the students] would like us to play at their school. It’s been cool to break into new markets. From there we try to get into local clubs.”
How does Barefoot Truth handle management responsibilities?
“Right now it’s pretty much mainly handled by the band. We’ve been though management a little bit and had booking agents and had some help with different tours…but beyond that we are constantly booking shows ourselves. We do a lot of the admin stuff ourselves which definitely gets tedious.”
Barefoot Truth’s first recording was produced by a Grammy nominated producer and has worked with the band Dispatch, how did that come about?
“We’ve always looked up to [Dispatch] and we went to what was planed to be their final show back in 2004. We happened to meet them, and we actually had a cassette tape. We played it for them in our car. They were really cool to us, and they said if we were really serious about making a CD we can hook you up with our producer Jack Gauthier. We said yes. We got to record our first few CDs where they recorded their CDs.
We’re never afraid to talk to people. We love meeting new people in the industry and learn how other people have gone about their career.”
The band has gotten a lot of exposure from Pandora, but how much has it helped Barefoot Truth?
“We started getting requests from different parts of the country to play, then we started seeing CD Baby sales from all different parts of the country. When someone buys your CD on CD Baby they get a chance to tell you how they have heard of you. About 80 percent was coming from Pandora, and we thought wow this is cool. Then our music got on iTunes, and we were making way more digital sales than physical sales…It’s grown exponentially.”
What advice does Barefoot Truth have for young bands?
“The biggest thing for us has been to put all the money back into the band. You can’t grow without putting money into recording, gas, graphic design or publicity. There is so much to put into the band you need to have a money flow. Just don’t get greedy with the money you make at gigs.
And don’t be afraid to play anywhere. One example that I remember we played a very small bar gig we were hesitant to play. We were pretty sure no one was going to come hear us who knew of us, but it ended up meeting a kid there who is an IT guy. He was able to do an internship for us, and he was able to build us an entire website and graphic design and get credit for it…you never who you are gonna meet and what each gig is going to bring to you.
And don’t drive in the snow…We got into an accident, and that sucked.”
Learn more about how to get your music onto Pandora, advice from Pandora’s founder and getting royalties from internet and satellite radio.
image by alexkerhead
Tim Westergren is an award-winning composer, a musician with more than 20 years of experience and has even owned his own digital recording studio. Yet, Westergren’s greatest impact on the music industry has been as Pandora Radio’s founder and CSO. Pandora Radio has grown to more than 40 million users, and for last year they paid out more than $20 million in royalties.
Still, Westergren has even bigger plans for Pandora and ideas on how musicians can utilize current and future marketing tools.
In late January we talked with Westergren about what Pandora’s value is to musicians, and his thoughts on how to find success in this new decade.
What is the Music Genome Project?
“[The Music Genome Project] is the connecting tissue that powers Pandora.”
“I spent a lot of time in bands and as a film composer as well. And specifically when I was writing music for movies, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why people like what they like.”
“I kinda developed this taste profiling method, an informal genome in my head. And that eventually became the foundation for the idea of the Music Genome Project.”
“The genome project itself is this enormous musical taxonomy. So it’s a collection of hundreds …of discrete musical aspects that collectively describe a song.”
How are royalties paid by Pandora?
“We pay a publishing fee and a performance fee for every song we play. And a publishing fee is paid to the composer and the performance fee is paid to the performer.”
“We pay the publishing fee to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and we pay performance fees to a company called SoundExchange. And they in turn distribute that money to artists and labels.”
“The nice thing is that musicians are getting paid. It’s been a real strain for us on a business standpoint, and I think it still remains a pretty unjust fee.”
Can musicians get feedback on play counts and thumbs up/thumbs down from listeners?
“It’s certainly something we would like to offer and eventually will. Where an artist can go in and investigate that, and ultimately make use of that.”
“So, not just find out what songs people are liking and who your fans are, where they are. But, communicate with them as well. So you can maybe plan a tour and e-mail all the people who ever thumbed up a song of yours to let them know you are coming.”
How can artist promote themselves on Pandora?
“[Musicians] can go in and buy advertising. That would essentially mean buying graphic visual advertising that surrounds the tuner, banners around the tuner. That currently is the only method we have for artists to advertise.”
What advice do you have for new bands starting out?
“I think it’s time now where if you’re a musician you need to take advantage of the web.”
“In order to do that you need someone to help you. If I was starting a band now, one of the people I would add to the band is a person whose job is to be the online member, not necessarily some one who plays an instrument…But, this person’s full time job is just to figure out all the ways in which you can take advantage of the web.”
“Think of that person as a member of your band just like anybody else. But they play a mouse instead of playing guitar…give them a cut of the door, credit them on the album and make them part of the band.”
How will musicians fair as labels are struggling to stay vital?
“I think there will be now a potential for a musician’s middle class. And in some ways you are going to see a compression overall where… the top selling artists aren’t going to make nearly as much, and that’s not news, so you’re going to have this layer of artists that [in the past] couldn’t quite make it that can start making it. Meaning, make a living.”
This is part two of a three part series on Pandora Radio. Part one was how to get your music on Pandora Radio.
The third part of the Pandora Radio series is on promoting your band and making money on Pandora. We will we talking with the band Barefoot Truth, a band with more than 4 million plays on Pandora Radio.
Michael Zapruder, music curator for Pandora, faces an onslaught of 400 to 800 songs every month. Yet even with a never ending supply of new music, Zapruder and his staff don’t cut any corners. Every song submitted to Pandora is analyzed by the experts at Pandora to be considered for inclusion in the collection.
“We are proud we listen to everything,” Zapruder said.
With over 40 million registered users, Pandora is not a market you want to miss out on. And, you should not. Submitting to Pandora is relatively easy, and all the steps you need to get on Pandora are steps you should be doing anyway.
The steps to getting your music ready for submitting.
- First, you need to have a CD copy of your music with a bar code. When a recording studio agrees to record and replicate an album a bar code is often included in the fees. But watch out, it can cost as much as $99 to buy a bar code. Pandora recommends Nation Wide Barcode which charges only $10 for a bar code. You can get it the same day.
- Once your music has been reproduced into a CD format, Pandora requires that the music must be available in the physical Amazon CD store. You will need to create an account for Amazon Advantage, but there are no fees to join. It cost $29.95 per year plus a 55% standard commission on the sale of your CDs. Don’t forget to enter in all the information that Amazon lists about your music. Most importantly you need to upload the cover art for the album.
- Speaking of albums, no matter how awesome all the other songs on a CD might sound you need the rights to use every song on the album. Once Pandora accepts your music they may use all the songs on your CD.
- It is also suggested that before submitting you should collect relevant information about your fan base, selling power and music reviews. This will not help with the Music Genome Project, but it can be a good indicator to Pandora if people want to hear your music.
The simple submission process.
- Go to Pandora’s submit music form and give them all the information you have prepared. You will want to submit your best two songs from the CD you put on Amazon. Zapruder also suggests not putting in more than one submission until you know if your first CD has been approved or denied.
You can check up on the status of your submissions, but be patient. Not only are there hundreds of submissions ahead of yours, the review process takes a long time. You just need to have the patience to wait as Pandora works their way through the songs ahead of yours. Zapruder said this process can take up to three months.
“We listen to the songs and if necessary and relevant we look up the supplemental information that the artist provided with their submission,” Zapruder said. “A decision is made on whether to accept the music or to pass on it, and that decision is added to the original submission.”
Once Pandora gets to accepts your submission, the Music Genome Project is used to analyze your songs. This process is a long list of music attributes that are rated by a group of music experts at Pandora. The rating process is extremely rigid so that all of the music analysts can give a consistent answer to questions like, “how distorted is this guitar?”
No matter what the genre, Zapruder is looking for quality music. Yet some of the more crowded genres, like four piece pop rock, can be difficult to get into. Also, some genres of music have yet to get their own genome, so Pandora would not be able to take any music of that genre regardless of quality. Don’t worry. It is very unlikely you would run across this problem if you are writing any kind of music heard in clubs in the U.S.
Good luck, and don’t forget to check out our interview with Barefoot Truth. They have over 4 million plays on Pandora.
This is part one of a three part series on Pandora Radio. Part two is an interview with Pandora Chief Strategy Officer & Founder Tim Westergren. He talked with us about how Pandora works, the future of the music industry and his advice for young bands.
The third part of the Pandora Radio series is on promoting your band and making money on Pandora. According to Westergren, 70 percent of the music on Pandora is from artist not on major labels, and Pandora pays royalties for every time a song gets played on the site. Last year Pandora paid more than $20 million in royalties.
image by Vanilla Twilight
Jet Lag Gemini has no gimmicks to success. There are no tricks up their sleeves. The band makes music, and they do it very well. The dedication to their music is the reason Doghouse Records put Jet Lag Gemini on their label and set up tours with bands like The All-American Rejects. It’s also the reason the band has spent a year writing their current album.
“Write good music,” Misha Safonov, lead singer of Jet Lag Gemini, said. “People pick up on it.”
Yet even with a unique sound, Jet Lag Gemini had to work to get fans. The scene in New Jersey, at the time the band was created, was ruled by screamo bands emulating Thursday. Jet Lag Gemini was the only band in the area with a cleaner rock sound. Safonov said that people though the band was weird. But, it never detoured them.
They set out to be a touring band from day one. As soon as the band was formed they booked to play their first show only three weeks later. They didn’t even have all of their songs written. There was no MySpace push or crazy contests. It was an old school approach to making it in the music industry, playing as many shows as possible, and focus on the music first.
As Jet Lag Gemini played more shows and started setting up tours, the screamo scene got old. People were looking for something different. As the scene moved onto AutoTunes and the latest hipster look more people begin to notice Jet Lag Gemini’s unique sound and dedication to their music.
“It’s word of mouth,” Safonov said. “People see us live and there is a steady growth.”
The band started to tour and trade shows with other bands. They learned to become economical and not drive to Florida before anyone knows who they are.
People took notice. The band formed around 2004 and by 2006 Doghouse Records learned about their music and offered them a deal.
Yet there is more to Jet Lag Gemini’s success than good music, it is a good attitude. Along the way they have tried to stay humble, learning to not be like the bands that act like they are owed success.
“Some bands think that just because they left town and are on tour that they are a big deal,” Safonov said. “Sure, you want to have mystery, but you don’t want to come off as a dick.”
The success Jet Lag Gemini has tasted has not consumed them, but pushed them to be even better. After two albums, Jet Lag Gemini spent the entire year writing for their latest album. Even before stepping into a studio, and working with their producer, the band has taken time to write and record all the songs for the album, so they can give their producer the best idea of how they want the album to sound.
With the amount of time Jet Lag Gemini has spent on the latest album, they will go over two years without releasing anything new. It’s not been easy for the band. Safonov has had to earn extra money on the side to help pay his bills. Yet, they are doing it they way they want.
“There is no easy way to make it.” Safonov said. “There are a million different ways to make it, but non of them are easy.”