How To Build A Professional Music Team

Music Team

Music Team

So you’ve recorded a cd, played some pretty big shows, and are making some noise in your local scene…now what? Do you know how to take your career to the next level? After a certain point, bands need to start looking at putting together a team to help them get further in the industry. This is where the Artist Professional Team comes in. This is your elite team of industry insiders that are diligently working to get your music and your band out to the public…or at least that’s what they should be doing. It’s important to know the role of each member of your professional team so that you can hire the best person for the job.

Personal Manager

Probably the most important person working for your band, the personal manager is essentially the quarterback of your band. They’re responsible for coordinating all efforts between the band and your record label, radio promoter, publicist, publisher, booking agent, and business manager and all other music contacts. Your personal manager should be the first member of your team that you choose, and can then help you assemble the rest of your team. The manager will also usually make some business decisions for the band, assist in the creative process, as well as working with your record label. Personal Managers usually take about 15-20% of a band’s gross income.

Business Manager

You may not be able to afford a business manager at first, but the more money you start making, the more likely it is that you’re going to need a business manager. The business manager usually collects royalty checks for the artists, takes care of their bills, and makes sure to properly handle all taxes and investments on behalf of the artist. Business managers are usually CPAs and can either take 5% of the artist’s gross income, or work for an hourly rate or flat fee.


Probably the most powerful member of your music contacts will be your attorney. The attorney deals on your behalf with all the major power brokers you encounter during the course of your career. Your attorney should be heavily involved in negotiations whenever you sign contracts with publishers, labels, managers, and agent. Many of the most prominent entertainment attorneys are based in New York and Los Angeles, but others have been spreading to cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Attorneys can either take 5% of any deals they negotiate, or can work for an hourly rate or flat fee.

Booking Agent

Having the right booking agent can make the difference between playing a good show and playing a great show. Agents are responsible for scheduling live performances for artists for either individual dates, or regional and national tours. You want to find a talented agent that has established relationships with many of the big name venues all throughout the country. Booking agents can sometimes be the most difficult member of your team to secure because you often need to convince them that you are worth their time and effort. Agents usually take 10% of the artist gross for live performances, not including merchandise.


The publicist’s job is to obtain media coverage for clients in print, tv, and electronic media. Their responsibilities usually include securing media coverage, mailing/emailing press kits to music writers, communicating with the manager/agent/record label, and hiring hair and makeup teams for tv and magazine shoots. Publicists can get paid anywhere from $1500-$5000 per month and usually begin work several months before major releases and announcements.

By Ryan J. Colburn

Hi there!

Hi there!

Vinyl is growing out of its niche

Thomas Bernich, who founded Brooklyn Phono in 2000, at his factory, which he says now produces around 440,000 LPs a year.  Photo: Andrea Mohin

Thomas Bernich, who founded Brooklyn Phono in 2000, at his factory, which he says now produces around 440,000 LPs a year. Photo: Andrea Mohin

Weaned on CDs, They’re Reaching for Vinyl -  By Allan Kozinn

There were always record collectors who disdained the compact disc, arguing that an LP’s grooves yielded warmth and depth that the CD’s digital code could not match.

But the market largely ignored them. Record labels shuttered their LP pressing plants, except for a few that pressed mostly dance music, since vinyl remained the medium of choice for D. J.s.

As it turned out, that early resistance was not futile, thanks largely to an audience of record collectors, many born after CDs were introduced in the 1980s.

These days, every major label and many smaller ones are releasing vinyl, and most major new releases have a vinyl version, leading to a spate of new pressing plants.

When the French electronica duo Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” in mid-May, 6 percent of its first-week sales — 19,000 out of 339,000 — were on vinyl, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures music sales.

Other groups with a predominantly college-age audience have had similar success: the same week, the National sold 7,000 vinyl copies of its latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me,” and 10,000 Vampire Weekend fans opted for the LP version of “Modern Vampires of the City.” When the Front Bottoms, a New Jersey indie band, posted a photo of their players carrying stacks of LP mailing boxes on their Facebook page recently, their label, Bar/None, racked up what Glenn Morrow, who owns the label, described as “phone orders for $2,000 worth of LPs in 10 minutes.”

A growing number of classic albums — including the complete Beatles and early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan catalogs — have had vinyl reissues in recent years as well.

Michael Fremer, who monitors the LP world on his Web site,, said: “None of these companies are pressing records to feel good. They’re doing it because they think they can sell.”

About a dozen pressing plants have sprouted up in the United States, along with the few that survived from the first vinyl era, and they say business is so brisk that they are working to capacity. Thomas Bernich, who started Brooklyn Phono in 2000, says his company makes about 440,000 LPs a year, but a giant like Rainbo Records, in Canoga Park, Calif., turns out 6 million to 7.2 million, said Steve Sheldon, its general manager.

One plant, Quality Record Pressings, in Salina, Kan., opened in 2011 after its owner, Chad Kassem, grew impatient with delays at a larger plant where his own line of blues reissues was being pressed. His company, which runs four presses — acquired used, but modified to run more efficiently — now makes LPs for all the majors, and lists Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Nirvana reissues among its recent projects. He is currently pressing 900,000 vinyl discs a year.

“We’ve always had more work than we could do,” Mr. Kassem said. “When we had one press, we had enough orders for two. When we had two, we had enough orders for four. We never spent a dollar on advertising, but we’ve been busy from the day we opened.”

There is a limit to how much the vinyl business can expand right now. When it seemed inevitable that CDs would supplant LPs, the companies that made vinyl presses shifted to making other kinds of machinery. The last new press was built in 1982, so relatively recent start-ups like Quality and Brooklyn Phono searched out used presses (the going rate is about $25,000) and reconditioned them. Most plants have deals with local machine shops to make replacement parts.

Some pressing plants have looked into commissioning or building new presses but have found the cost prohibitive — as much as $500,000, said Eric Astor of Furnace MFG in Fairfax, Va. “Since my partner also owns a CD/DVD plant,” Mr. Astor said in an e-mail, “we’ve been testing using the methods used in disc manufacturing to make a new breed of vinyl record, but that R&D is slow going and not looking promising.”

How are LPs selling? That is a matter of dispute. David Bakula, Nielsen SoundScan’s senior vice president of client development and insights, said that his company tracked 4.6 million domestic LP sales last year, an 18 percent increase over 2011, but still only 1.4 percent of the total market, made up mostly of digital downloads (which are increasing) and CDs (for which sales are declining). This year, Mr. Bakula said, vinyl sales are on track to reach about 5.5 million.

But manufacturers, specialist retailers and critics argue that SoundScan’s figures represent only a fraction of actual sales, perhaps as little, Mr. Kassem and Mr. Astor said, as 10 to 15 percent. They say that about 25 million vinyl discs were pressed in the United States last year, and many more in Europe and Asia, including some destined for the American market.

Mr. Bakula countered that manufacturers are speaking of the number of discs made; SoundScan tracks how many were sold. But the manufacturers argue that LPs, unlike CDs, are a one-way sale: labels do not accept returns of unsold copies. Therefore labels and retailers are careful to order only what they think they can sell. Moreover, LP jackets do not consistently carry bar codes — Mr. Kassem, for one, leaves them off his discs because, he said, “they’re ugly” — and therefore cannot be scanned at the cash register. And many shops that sell LPs are independents that do not report to SoundScan, although Mr. Bakula said his company weights its figures to account for that.

There are other measures of the health of the field, including figures from ancillary businesses. Heinz Lichtenegger, whose Vienna-based Audio Tuning company produces the highly regarded Pro-Ject turntable, said in an e-mail that his company sells 8,000 turntables a month. And Mr. Fremer has sold 16,000 copies of a DVD, “21st Century Vinyl,” that shows users how to set up several turntable models.

Vinyl retailers are thriving as well. Mr. Kassem of Quality Record Pressings also runs Acoustic Sounds, which sells LPs as well as turntables and accessories, including cleaning machines and protective sleeves. Music Direct, a Chicago company that owns Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, a storied audiophile label, has a similarly broad stock, including a selection of turntables that ranges from the $249 Music Hall USB-1 to the $25,000 Avid Acutus. Josh Bizar, the company’s director of sales and marketing, said that Music Direct sold 500,000 LPs and “thousands of turntables” last year.

And the buyers, Mr. Bizar said, are by no means boomer nostalgists.

“When you look at the sales for a group like Daft Punk,” he said, “you’re seeing young kids collecting records like we did when we were young.”

“We never expected the vinyl resurgence to become as crazy as it is,” he said. “But it’s come full circle. We get kids calling us up and telling us why they listen to vinyl, and when we ask them why they don’t listen to CDs, they say, ‘CDs? My dad listens to CDs — why would I do that?’ ”

Things to Consider When Recording


Things to Consider When Recording

Part 1: What should you be recording?

It is increasingly becoming fact that at the moment, album sales are decreasing . iTunes and digital downloads have become the main way to get music out to the public. The audience wants instant access to the songs they want to hear, whether it be a download or streaming.

The audience’s attention span has also decreased. Without regular updates about what your band is doing, the audience can tend to get bored or distracted away from your band. You need to constantly update and keep fans aware of what the band is doing. The audience needs to feel connected to the band, and wants to hear new things!

There are a number of ways to keep your audience aware of your band. It can be uploading videos from live performances (try to get a desk mix to put with the video, no one likes to hear distorted audio, they will stop listening!!), videos behind the scenes at rehearsals (showing the band working on new material), studio diaries etc.

Another option is recording singles. If a band of 4 people put $50 aside each week, they can record a new song every 6 weeks. This can keep audiences interested as they will keep coming back to hear new songs. By the end of the year, the band will have 8 songs recorded. If the songs are released via iTunes or or and even MySpace, you can track which songs have the most downloads/plays. Pick the most popular 4 or 5 songs, and at the end of the year release this as your E.P. Your dedicated fans will still purchase the EP even though they have heard the songs, because they will want a proper physical copy. You could also record a new song to add to the EP so there is further incentive for the dedicated to purchase it.

The most important thing, is that you have a solid EP that is already made up of your most popular songs, so now you need to do a large tour to play to new audiences, impress them with your live show, and they will purchase your EP, and be blown away by the fact that it’s a solid EP full of great songs. This new audience will then tune in to you releasing a new song every 6 weeks. At the end of that year, release another EP of the most popular songs, impress new audiences and build a solid reputation as a great band. If you put out a couple of EPs full of songs that have been proven to impress audiences, more people will take notice and there is more chances of the band breaking through!

The other benefit of this is that you don’t need to save up thousands of dollars and take a week or so off work to record your EP. By spacing it out, the money isn’t one large sum, plus it’s easier for the band members to all get 1 or 2 days off work every 6 weeks.

Why record an album?

Recording an album to find a label and get signed is kind of like hiring a reception hall; buying the rings and wedding dress, then waiting until you find a bride… That’s not exactly the right way to go about it. If a label has already expressed interest in you, and asked for an album to see what you are capable of, that’s a little different. If you are recording an album before you have a solid fan base, it’s going to be extremely hard to get people to notice you. Build your name and reputation first, create a demand for your album, make people want you to record a full length.

The best reason for a band that is still relatively unknown to record an album is purely for the love of music. Not to make money. You are making an album that you want to listen to and hopefully some more people will hear it and enjoy it too.

Part 2: How Can You Promote/Release Your Music?

In the past there have been numerous formats to release music to cater to what the audience was using for music playback. Over time, some have dramatically decreased (vinyl), while others have pretty much died (cassettes & 8-tracks). You need to look at your target audience and find out what format suits best.

How many people do you see walking around today with a discman?
How many people are actually buying CD’s? (Musicians, dedicated fans and older people are buying more than the general population).
If the majority of your target audience isn’t purchasing CD’s, why would you get so many CD’s duplicated?

There are plenty of sites to release your music online –

The first thing you need to ask yourself, is “Do I want to make money from the songs I record, or do I want to reach as many people as possible and create a fan base that will give me larger audiences at gigs?

If you want to create an audience and fan base, then the best thing to do is give your songs away. If more people are able to listen to your music easily for free, that can equal a larger audience. Not everyone who downloads your song may like your music, in which case, you have lost nothing but they may have friends who they think will like your music, in which case you may gain some fans. If people who download your music for free DO like your music, they will turn up at your gigs, giving you an audience, and if you have merch for sale, they may buy some of that too.
It isn’t so much about losing money as it is about gaining an audience. If you are selling your music and you only have a small fan base, once they have bought it, there will be no more sales. You need to draw as many people as possible in, so when you have gigs, albums or shirts for sale, there will be more people to buy them.

What about after a gig, when people want to purchase your songs while still on a high from your performance and/or alcohol? tries the concept of selling a card which enables people to download the songs when they get home. You get the cash there and then. The audience gets the music in a format they can instantly add to their iPod.

An idea that is still new and used by a couple artists (Blink-182, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu) is to use USB sticks.
A bulk purchase of USB sticks can be in the area of $5.50 to $13 per unit depending on the casing itself, the memory size and the number ordered. You can even get custom-made USB sticks shaped like the band logo or a guitar or pretty much anything!
The benefit of a USB stick is that you can store more than just your music on it.
You can put album artwork, video clips, the behind the scenes footage you shot during rehearsals and recording sessions, desktop background images, phone background images, photos, a complete Electronic Press Kit, links to your website/facebook etc…

Not everyone enjoys listening to MP3’s, some still enjoy the quality of a higher resolution. On the USB stick you can have a folder with the MP3 versions ready to be put onto the iPod, as well as a folder with the full quality WAV files so people can make their own CD.

Plus, as you record new songs, you can very easily add these to the USB stick so it’s updated ready for the next gig…
While the initial purchase of the USB sticks can be seen as expensive, because they can be added to and updated over a couple of years, they are more likely to recover their cost over time, and because people can delete the data off the USB once its one the computer, it has the band logo/name on it, so when they take the USB to school/work/uni the band name is clearly on display just like a t-shirt.
If you release a new EP you can have it bundled with the previous EP on the USB. That creates a stronger incentive for people to purchase as they are now getting 2 EP’s as well as the extra data in one package. Plus if the band has evolved and there are songs no longer relevant to the sound of the band, simply delete them from the USB sticks.
Because the USB sticks are easily changeable (just takes the time to load your content on each stick, but this can be done by each band member at home while watching TV), you will never have old stock sitting under your bed that you can’t sell.
You could also encourage people who bought the USB stick previously, to bring the stick to the gig to receive the new EP and content transferred to their USB for a lower price, that way they aren’t purchasing a new stick every time you have a new release, just the data.

As I said above, there are still some people buying CD’s, so there is still incentive to release CD’s, but probably not to the point of duplicating 500-1000 copies of an EP.
Here is where you can cater specifically to your dedicated fans. By creating a package that is exclusive or limited, you create a demand among the dedicated.
If you print up 100 CD’s with exclusive artwork in nice packaging, the dedicated fans would want to get their hands on it. Years later these may be the releases of the EP collectors pay hundreds for, the band before they got big.

Well known bands are doing similar things on a larger scale. Nine Inch Nails released a deluxe box set of Ghosts I-IV for $300 and limited to 2500 copies which were sold in a flash. Smashing Pumpkins are releasing 11 EPs over the next 2 years as free downloads for anyone, but also releasing a limited number of boxed sets for the dedicated fans.
Dead Letter Circus released a limited edition version of their album with bonus DVD as well as 5.1 mixes of the album this was limited to 2000 copies and has been selling very well.

While “limited” numbers for these well known bands equals the thousands, a good band that is building its reputation while playing around Australia should look at the size of their dedicated fan-base and cater to that (even if its 150 CDs at $30 for example). Doing this method with a strong enough fan-base, it’s actually possible to cover the cost of recording, duplication and make a profit based on the limited edition copies alone.

When artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Josh Freese (who offered different packages with his album, including selling his car ) and Radiohead are looking at new ways to release music, shouldn’t the up and coming bands be looking at new ideas and concepts on their own scale?

The old methods of releasing music are dead or dying.

Part 3: Where Can We Play?

Being a great live band that plays shows around a wide area is the best way start to building the band’s name. If you only ever play the same venue to the same group of friends and family that seems to be getting smaller and smaller each gig, you are probably over-saturating your local venues with your presence.
Venture out-of-town regularly. Put on a great show to whoever turns up (even if its only 5 people). Building a reputation takes time, but is also exponential. Once there is enough groundswell you will find gig attendance take off, but you need to play as many shows as you are able to get to in as many places as you can!

The most important thing is that the band is entertaining to watch. If there is no stage presence or the band is boring and dull to watch, you are fighting an uphill battle. This doesn’t mean you need to be extravagant with a stage show, but watch some of your favourite bands for inspiration on how to be comfortable and relaxed on stage.

Image these days is very critical (this can be a positive and a negative depending on your attitude…). It doesn’t mean you have to dress in matching clothes or dress like you are in Good Charlotte… It means finding a style and image that suits the band. A lot of bands have a tendency to wear on stage whatever they normally wear everyday. This can sometimes lead to a band on stage looking like the guitarist is a skater, the drummer is a metalhead, the bass player is indie and the singer is into hardcore. While these clothes may represent the individuals, is it a good representation of the band as a whole entity?

People go and see bands for different reasons – some have heard and like the songs, some think the lead singer is hot or the guitarist is amazing to watch live and some may be there to see the other bands playing. These are the people you need to try and win each gig. You friends already like you (or at least say they do).

Let’s say you have a fan-base made up of friends and local people as well as from the outside areas you have been playing for the last  6 months – year. If you have been releasing a new song every 6 weeks (see Part 1), these fans have heard the songs, downloaded/bought them, they know the words and have been telling their friends about you. When you play a gig, a percentage will be from this fan-base and their friends, but most likely, a larger amount will have never heard of you before.
Play an amazing set that will blow the other bands off stage. Make sure you play the songs that are the most popular downloads, as obviously these are your stronger songs.
The fans that have heard these songs will be singing along, which will impress the people who have never heard you before. A lot of bands hire a bus to play venues outside their local area. This is a great idea, the more people you can bring, the better you look to the audience that don’t know you as well as looking good to whoever books/promotes the venue if they think you draw a large crowd (this will lead to more gigs).
Hopefully a percentage of this new audience buy the CD and discover that most of the best songs you played at the gig are on the CD. These new fans will follow your band on the internet and tell their friends about the band so that the next time you play, you will have a larger percentage of the audience there to see you, many will have heard of you, but not seen you live yet, now you have to blow them away with your live set!

All of this is going to take a lot of time and a lot of gigs!

So where can we play?

This depends on how far you are willing to travel and how often.
When they were first trying to build their reputation, NOFX used to travel all over American playing gigs everywhere. Playing small towns that very rarely have bands playing is a great way to pack out a venue; the smaller towns have been known to turn up at venues simply because it was something different! NOFX traveled almost the same tour path for a couple of years, playing at established venues as well as small towns, all while they were still an unknown band. They built up a solid fan-base all over America simply by playing shows everywhere. By the time the band was starting to break through, there was already a large crowd of followers.
This was done in the days before you could run a search on the internet, find a list of venues and pubs and plan out a tour itinerary using
There are a lot of country towns and mining towns throughout Australia. Once a year, in support of your latest release, you should do a tour hitting as many venues as possible. Not all venues will be able to pay the same amount, but some of the smaller country town venues can provide food and accommodation which is good when you are on the road for a few weeks, others may only have a budget that covers petrol money to the next venue, but if you put on a great show, you should be able to sell some merch!

During the rest of the year, it’s important to play outside your local area more often than you play in it. If you play too often at your local venue, even your dedicated local fans won’t mind missing a show because they know they can see you again there in a couple of weeks.

On your website/Facebook/MySpace have an area people can either request where they want you to play, or where they are from. If you are able to create mailing lists, you can look at creating targeted lists for different areas. If you are playing a gig in Sydney, contact the people who have said they live with 2 hours of Sydney, etc.

The main thing that I cannot say enough, is that it is going to take time, money, effort and a lot of gigs to create and maintain a fanbase, but without a fan base eventually the only person turning up to your local gigs will be your mum… if she has nothing better to do.

Part 4: Do We Need a Video Clip?

In a short answer, Yes

You tube is currently the 3rd most viewed website, while MySpace is 9th…

More and more, people are going to you tube to find music, where as a couple of years ago, MySpace was the destination to hear music.

So if you don’t have a clip up on video sites, there are potentially people looking for your music but are unable to find it.

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when making a clip.

What is the aim of the clip?

Is it to show the band in a performance set up so people can get an idea of what to expect live?

Is it a story video clip telling the story of the song or relating the themes of the song in a visual representation?

Is the aim to have a video that will go viral whether it be comedy/graphic violence/porn etc?

Naturally, each of these has their pros and cons…

First let’s look at Viral Videos

The viral video is a trend that has taken off over the last few years. Sure it can lead to thousands if not millions of views and a lot of buzz, but then after the initial attention, if the song in the clip is not a great song, the band will fall aside and be forgotten.

If the song is good and there is more interest, then the problem of what to do for a second clip arises. Does the band need to then rely upon gimmicky videos to sell their songs, if the band stops with the gimmicks and tries to appear as a band, will it be the start of their downfall?

OK GO are an example of a band who are known not for the traditional reasons of great songwriting or live shows, they are a band who has become global sensations for their videos with each new video being listed as a must watch by the online community as the next viral video, often before it is even released.

They have so far managed 3 videos which are unique and have millions of views each.

The video which launched them as a global phenomena

4 million views at time of writing

Their follow-up video;

25 million views at time of writing

Third video;

9 million views at time of writing

Obviously the band’s success depends on how good the band are at writing songs and how they want to present themselves visually, but the important thing to remember with quick success and attention is that it can be gone just as quick when the next gimmick comes along.

The hardest thing about creating a viral video is coming up with the idea that will cause the video to become viral.

An example of a video which is far more memorable than the song is the video for “Ritalin” by Dancing Pigeons. This is a video which is truly memorable, but it makes the mistake of being a video which is more memorable than the song. To the best of my knowledge the band are not in the video clip and it could be any song being played over the video.

A quick search of YouTube for “flame thrower vs fire extinguisher” shows up this video and it is only once you look in the details of the video that it is revealed who sings the song and what the song is called.

The viral trend has become such a phenomenon that now marketing people worldwide are using the viral concept to sell every kind of product under the sun or make ads that don’t appear to be ads. The idea needs to be something that is seen by the general public as not being created by a team of marketing people trying to sell the band as a product. This can often lead to a negative backlash from the wider audience that can lose respect for the band.

Atomic Tom released this clip –

Upon research listeners realized that the video was not entirely as it seemed. The band were actually signed to a label that was responsible for the video and the song itself was given away as part of one of the apps for sale on iphone. So this band that was at first perceived as having bad luck by their instruments being stolen but coming up with a new idea, was revealed to actually be a commercial for iphone apps.

Video Clips with a Story

These kinds of video clips can be great at putting a visual image to the story of the song. The actors can help put a face to the feelings and emotions portrayed in the song, that is of course, if they are good actors.

If you have ever tried to make a short film with friends, you have probably discovered that not many of them can act well. In fact, not a lot of people can appear convincing on camera as actors.

The other thing to consider when doing a clip with a story is that in effect, you are shooting a short film, so you must therefore consider all the requirements that go with that process (including budget, catering etc).

Doing a video clip with a story “on the cheap” looks just like that – Cheap.

Not everybody can afford a full Hollywood film crew to shoot an 8 minute long short film with your music video in it. Even then, it is 2 minutes into this video before the song even starts playing. The line between music video and short film is very blurry on this 30 Seconds to Mars clip.

Performance Clips

These clips can often be the cheapest option, but can also be the most effective. They can straight away showing what the band looks like (remember that these days, whether you like it or not, image has become a very important thing).

It can help your fans identify who does what in the band if they have never seen the band perform live.

The performance can be done to appear live (mining to the recording) with a group of friends as an audience, or done with just the band performing in a scene that they feel suits their image.

These days with the technology available on computers you can add some great visual effects, making sure not to look as though someone has gone crazy with the “Starwipe”.

This video directed by Mark Romanek is about as simple as they can come, sure their budget is bigger than yours probably is. But look at the essence of the video, band + fans + lights + camera = music video.

Some lesser known options, which can be just as equally effective to creating video content.

The photo slide show – also a cost-effective was of showing what the band look like visually.

Live videos footage with the studio song over the top. These can show a true live performance from the band or behind the scenes insights that would not otherwise be seen, the viewer is often more forgiving of dodgy camera quality if the performance looks energetic or has a unique quality to it.

An example of this can be seen with Gold Coast band Helm. They have done a cover EP of Icehouse’s track Great Southern Land. At the time of writing the official video for this track had not been shot, however the band have released a sideshow of studio photos to the studio quality recording of the song. It gives fans the option of sending the video to their friends, which in the case of a cover song such as this is a great way to break the band to a new fanbase who otherwise would not have heard of the band.

Live videos with live audio – we have all seen and heard these videos on YouTube. It seems only the truly dedicated fans are able to sit through a distorted recording, but generally not new fans. These are often not the best videos to upload as often people can struggle to sit through them!

The most important thing for your band is to have content on the net. The more content, the more likely your band will appear at the top of searches. More content also keeps your fanbase interested as they can find more and more things involving the band.

Part 5: Building and Interacting with your Fanbase

These days there is more new music being put out than ever before.

What are you doing differently to stand out from the crowd? What attracts people to you rather than another artist?

How do you build a fanbase?

This goes back to Part 3, play as many shows in as many places as possible. Put on great shows and people will become interested in the band. Once they are initially interested, you have them on the hook and now you need to reel them in.

The most important thing to remember about your fanbase is that they are the strongest tool you have to spread your music. If you keep your fanbase involved and interested, they will tell their friends about you, bring them to your gigs, encourage them to purchase your music.

With all the music being released, it is easy for people to move on and forget about your music if you aren’t keeping them updated and interested.

You need to promote your band heavily, but without being annoying to that people block your feeds online.

Keeping Them Interested

There are so many ways in which you can keep your audience interested in what the band is doing.

The most obvious one is to keep releasing tracks, as stated in Part 1, if you release a new track every 6 weeks, your audience will constantly be hearing new and fresh music from the band, therefore their interest will be maintained, rather than 1 release a year of only 4 or 5 songs.

You need to create content online and it needs to be updated regularly. Rather than re-posting the same YouTube videos constantly, create new videos. Whether it is behind the scenes at a rehearsal or a song writing session or even just the band hanging out, the more videos and content online, the more your fanbase can find and enjoy.

Another way to keep your fanbase interested is to include them in what the band is doing. Don’t make it seem as though the band is separate to the audience, make them a part of the band. One way to include your audience is to let them design artwork for you. Fan art can range from gig posters, computer wallpapers, t-shirts and other merchandise or even CD covers. Fan art gives those with a creative flair the opportunity to connect with a band, the fan gets to feel a closer connection and the band gets free graphic design. In reality all it could take to decide on your next piece of artwork is to post all the fan art online and have a fan vote, what could be better for the band that having the person who designed the art tell every person they know that THEIR design will be featured on as the bands next tour poster or release.

The band Totally Unicorn ( have been interacting with their fans by putting together a free compilation CD. Each member of the band has been putting together a CD of songs they like, are influenced or inspired by. These CDs are done in a limited number for the first 10 people who email when the CD is ready. It’s a simple enough idea, but will keep dedicated fans checking the blog to see when the next CD installment is ready so they can be one of the few to receive the CD.

A variation of this can be done on Facebook quite easily, one night a month the band can be online and post videos from you tube of songs they like and would like to show their fans, this can also lead to further interaction with fans by chatting and messaging. You no longer need be a guest programmer on  Rage to show your fans which music videos you really love.

The important thing to remember is that you are competing with all the other music available for the attention of your audience. Just because other bands are on major labels and have $100,000 albums, does not mean you are not competing with them. The music buying public only has a certain amount of money to spend on music; you need to offer them something that goes beyond the music, something that major label bands can’t offer –  interaction!

Once you have a fanbase you virtually have an army at your disposal. You can ask them to vote for your songs in online competitions or pass your videos around to their friends etc. Your fanbase will want you to succeed so they can say that they were there first and helped your band go to the next level.

Amanda Palmer has built up a strong fanbase which she interacts with via Twitter.

Granted that she has a larger fanbase, but this is an example of how interacting with the fanbase can lead to generating some income –

Recently at Soundwave after their performance, We The Kings said that they will be on Twitter after the show and for fans that want to meet the band or get items signed, they should contact the band on Twitter and they will come out to the fans.

Having a large dedicated fanbase that will get attention from other people. Your shows will get bigger, your tracks will get more plays. You then need to make sure you interact with your fans and never forget them. It’s this sort of interaction that builds loyalty with your audience, so they will stay with you for the length of your music career.

Part 6: Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself, but be prepared to lose money.

If you want to try to make a serious career out of music, you need to remember that it is a business and being a band is your job. Just like any job, it takes time to work your way through the ranks. You need to dedicate the time and make the commitment.

You need to invest your time and money into the band. If you are not willing to invest in the band, why should a label or booking agent?

All bands over a certain size (basically as soon as you’re ready to tour) are registered as a business with the government, a quick look on the Australian Business Number website ABN Lookup shows that ALL Australian artists big enough to tour are registered as businesses. Go on, give it a look.

After a quick search for the iconic Silverchair it shows that they are registered as 2 businesses. One business deals with recording and the other deals with touring.

Like any business you will require start-up capital, this is the investment in equipment necessary for the running of your business. Instruments, leasing of rehearsal spaces, petrol to get yourself to shows, posters and merchandise, money for the recording of your music. They are all expenses that are vital to eventually turning a profit, and the more money you spent on producing it the better the product which you are selling.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Business researchers have spent millions of dollars and years of research on finding out how long it takes to make a first impression on someone, some articles say 7 seconds for a website, 20 seconds face to face. They haven’t published studies on bands performing live, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to presume that the first impression of a band can be formed by one song.

When performing live, everyone should look like they belong in the band. If that means that clothes need to be bought as part of the image, then so be it. The same thing goes with instruments, if you are on stage singing a love song, dedicated to your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife and playing an instrument like this chances are you should see if you can borrow a more subtle instrument.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

When it comes to putting up songs on the web, again, there is only one chance to impress. If you upload something that sounds like it was recorded on a mobile phone in a rehearsal room, people won’t play the songs more than once. Then after you upload more songs, you have to fight against the pre-conceived notion they now have that the songs are recorded badly.

Understand the difference between a Demo and an EP. A demo should be just for the band to record the song ideas and find a producer to listen to the songs to come up with ideas for the EP. Demo recordings are not as polished as the EP product so it may not be the best idea to upload demos. Compare it to releasing a first draft of a book, full of spelling errors and fractured grammar to the final edited and published book.

When you take the band on the road, the tour is more likely to cost money than return a profit, but you have to look at what you gain by the tour – making new fans, getting your songs to a wider audience and selling band merchandise.

There are a few things bands can look at for financial assistance such as arts grants or websites like which allow bands to receive donations from people to fund releases and tours.

You need to decide how committed you are to giving your music a go. Would you prefer to look back on your life knowing that you at least tried to give it a shot, or live with the regret of never trying?

Part 7: What Should we look for in a Producer?

The Producers job is to help you get the recording that you want to make. In most cases the music producer is also a competent arranger, composer or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to your tracks.

Sometimes it’s good for a band to get an outside perspective on their songs. Picture the band in a boat heading towards their goal, they are all focused and looking towards their destination. Since they are all looking in the same direction they can’t see the hole in the back of the boat that is going to prevent them from getting there. To a person outside the boat, the hole is clearly visible.

Engineer and Producer are 2 separate roles, although some producers engineer sessions while others prefer to focus solely on the producer role and have a separate engineer.

The role of the engineer is the technical side of the recording, while the producer is focused on the songs.

What should we look for in a producer?

When looking for a producer you can look at who has worked on some tracks you like to see who is working in the style you like.

In Australia there are a large number of producers that work freelance that are able to travel to where the band is located to record. You can decide to go with a person that works with bands in the same style or you can decide to go with someone who would bring an outside perspective, it’s up to the band. There are pros and cons to both.

If you go with someone who works primarily within the style of the band, they will straightaway know where you are coming from and where you want to go. A problem may be that it could lead to the band not standing out form other bands in that style if the producer is known for a particular sound that they bring. In that case it is important that the songs stand out from the other bands in that style, as the sound may not distinguish the band above others.

The pros of a producer that works in a different style is that they can bring in other influences to help shape the sound of the band. This is what Tool did for the Aenema album, choosing to work with David Bottrill who had done a lot of world music previously as well as King Crimson. That Tool album launched Bottrill’s career with that hard rock sound and he went on to produce releases for Mudvayne, Godsmack, Staind among others.

The band can decide what level of involvement they would like the producer to do, but obviously the band has chosen their producer because they value their opinion and musical knowledge. The producer may be there to help shape the vision for the song, offer advice with regards to the sound or even help with the arrangement and lyrics of the songs.

The producer will need to be someone you trust to improve your music with their input, if you choose an award-winning producer they clearly have experience in taking artists tracks to the next level. However if you feel that the songs you are working are perfect already and that any changes made by an outsider will no longer have them feeling like your songs the perhaps a producer is not for you. Producers work by listening to your tracks and analysing them, offering criticism and if needed suggesting changes.

If the band is not yet ready for an outsider to offer criticism and advice, they may not be ready for a producer.

The important thing about a producer is that they are a separate person to bounce ideas off or help find a solution when a problem arises, so you need to make sure you get along with the producer!

Part 8: How Should we Prepare for Recording?

Before going into the studio the band needs to do some pre-production and rehearsals.

Pre-Production should involve recording the songs and listening back. Because this recording is just for the band, it can be as simple as a one mic recording in the rehearsal room.

When listening back to these recordings there are certain things to look for;

Do everyone’s parts work together? Does is feel like a guitar part is clashing with the vocal? Do the drums have the right feel? Is the bass player hitting the right notes in the bridge? Does the solo suit the vibe of the song?

If you have chosen to work with a producer they should be involved in this process, it saves a lot of time to do this before going to the studio!

One thing you should try in the rehearsal room is everyone taking a turn at not playing and just listening to the song. This can give you perspective on where you sit in the song. Doing this can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the song, or show parts when someone is overplaying or a part that doesn’t gel with what everyone else is playing.

Another thing to try is playing the songs just on an acoustic guitar. This can help show how the melody of the vocal works with what the guitars are playing. If the song and melody feels right when stripped back, but doesn’t feel right when everyone is playing, perhaps the arrangement needs some work to see what is changing the feel of the song.

Once you have listened through the recordings and fine-tuned the arrangements and what everyone is playing, rehearse the songs so everyone knows their parts! An all too common argument bands have in the studio is “Have you always played that?”, it is a time-consuming and expensive argument to have in the studio and with proper preparation should happen in the rehearsal room so that studio time can be as smooth as possible.

Being well rehearsed will save time in the studio. This will save you money and give you a better final product.

It is important to be aware that things will still change in the song during recording. Inspiration can strike once things start coming together, but the more preparation beforehand, leaves you more time to add the little extra ideas that make a recording sound complete.

7 Deadly Sins Musicians Are Committing on Facebook & Twitter


Are you committing any of these social media sins?

I’ve been personally manning the Jaden Social Facebook and Twitter pages since starting the company in my bedroom back in November 2011. And let me say straight up, getting my hands dirty right from day 1 has been one of the most valuable and eye-opening experiences I could ask for as a business owner, musician and marketer.

In 18 months I have gone from checking in barely a couple of times a week to deal with a handful of interactions, to spending upwards of 12 hours a day monitoring and managing more than 100 interactions 7 days a week (thank you Chrome for the ability to permanently pin tabs to the browser window).

Now I would say I’m a pretty chilled out dude for the most part, but there are some things that musos do (and say) online that really make me cringe. Since I too was once a blissfully ignorant and, at times, cringe-worthy muso, I’m not going to sit here and get self-righteous about it. No, I’m going to do the next funnest (that’s a real word, I swear) thing and compile a list of 7 deadly sins I feel are damaging the online efficacy of all my musician friends’ content & promotion strategies on Facebook & Twitter.

1. Promoting without providing value 

This is without a doubt one of the biggest no-no’s that exists on EVERY Social Media platform today. It’s one thing to use your page to dutifully inform your followers that you have new music, videos, or shows coming up, but completely another to ram the self-promotion stick so far down their throats that they get rushed to the emergency room with a ruptured spleen.

To be clear, it’s perfectly fine (even advisable) to post your links several times a week to achieve maximum reach, but for every promotional post you drop on your page you MUST be posting 3-5+ pieces of valuable content to break up the noise (believe me when I say your promo posts are NOISE, contributing to the deafening roar of that ceaseless waterfall spilling down your followers’ timelines).

Just like you would when writing and producing songs, try to blend a variety of elements (content types) in your marketing mix, and above all be both sparing & tasteful with your promo and the impact will be far greater!

2. Posting at the wrong times

OK, so maybe there is no such thing as posting at the wrong time – every post will be seen by at least a few people, which could never be considered a waste. But there is certainly such a thing as posting at the RIGHT time.

Instead of spitting out posts whenever you feel the itch, make use of your Facebook page analytics and a free Twitter tool like Tweriod or FollowerWonk to work out exactly where in the world your audience is and when they’re watching their timelines. This will both increase the reach of each post and reduce the number of times you need to post a piece of content for it to reach your entire fanbase.

3. Being generic & self-indulgent

I could fill an intercity dump truck with examples of the self-promotional garbage that currently pollutes Social Media – posts that are crammed with tacky buzz words, cliches, superfluous dollar signs, and highly questionable claims of the house being “ON FIIRE!!!”

People will feel much less like you’re trying to sell them shit (and much more inclined to buy your shit) if you present yourself as genuine, unique, and legit about your music. Why not show a little personality and package things up with a joke and a wink. Who knows, people might even end up loving you!

4. Irregular posting patterns

 In a world brimming with unpredictability, it is inherently human to find comfort and security in routine; the daily routine of a 9-5 job, a weekly routine of exercise at the gym, and so forth. So many musicians (including myself) are guilty of neglecting this golden rule; often just posting when we feel creatively inspired or have something exciting to say. By failing to form regular posting habits on your Facebook & Twitter pages, you are putting up a barrier to entry for a large chunk of the population.

If you leave your audience hanging and with no idea when they might hear from you next, what hope can they have of forming any kind of lasting online relationship with you? Let’s also not forget about Facebook’s very own vigilant citizen, the Edgerank algorithm, who takes great pleasure in punishing you for failing to provide regular content to your fans.

The bottom line here is, keep your content regular and give your audience a fair chance to connect with you. And if this is too difficult to manage with your busy schedule, our good friends at Buffer have created a stunning piece of software that will bring the equivalent of world peace into your turbulent life.

5. Telling the WHAT but not the WHY

I have absolutely no qualms with you promoting your content; I mean, how else will I find it? But don’t expect me to care unless you GIVE me a reason to care. Telling me what you want me to click on is a great start, but how about telling me why I should click on it.

Will your new video clip teleport me back to the late 80′s, and my days as a cheeky schoolboy spending his lunch money at the local videogame arcade instead of going to school? Will it give me glimpses of the hardships endured by a twenty-something hustler out of Brooklyn?

Let me say it again – don’t expect me to care unless you GIVE me a reason to care. Treat every single post as an opportunity to reveal your character and interests, share your unique value proposition (what is different about you and your music), and intrigue your audience.

6. Forgetting that your timeline is a shopfront

The state of your Facebook or Twitter timeline is the first thing I have to judge you on when I drop onto your page. If your Twitter is a mess of personal conversations and in-jokes I’m bouncing. If it’s a string of ugly links and Tarzan-style chest beating promotion I’m bouncing. If your Facebook timeline is composed of nothing but pictures of your stupid cat in different coloured lace bonnets, you better believe I’m bouncing.

Make a habit of looking at your timeline a few times each week through the eyes of a brand new follower or fan who is trying to make up their mind about you. Does your timeline accurately depict your story? Does it spark curiosity and make you want to find out more?

Take your Social housekeeping seriously and make every impression one that counts.

7. Adopting the same strategy for Facebook & Twitter

The last but certainly not least of the 7 deadly sins is that of treating your Facebook and Twitter pages as equals when they are not! This is not to say one platform is better than the other, but rather each has its own strengths, weaknesses and nuances.

As an example, Instagram pictures look and behave beautifully when posted to Facebook, but appear nothing short of hideous when pushed through to Twitter. Hashtags can be used to great effect on Twitter, but don’t let me catch you dropping those soul-less, italicized naughts & crosses boards into my Facebook feed.

Rather than simply linking your Facebook & Twitter accounts together (possibly the worst crime against Social Media there is) and posting the same things at the same times, learn the differences between the platforms so you can capitalise upon their strengths. There are many, many unique characteristics of both platforms, and having a good understanding of these can dramatically improve the reach & reception of your content (feel free to hit me up on Twitter for a prod in the direction of some great resources).

Well, I feel like that’s enough typing for one day, so now I’m handing the mic over to you – feel free to get back at me with your thoughts, and more of your own deadly Facebook & Twitter sins in the comments below! icon smile 7 Deadly Sins Musicians Are Committing on Facebook & Twitter

Until next time, thanks for reading and stay creative.

How to Build Your Fanbase – And Why The End Of The Traditional Model Is A Good Thing.

Jack Johnson Cherry Picker

Jerry Greenberg on Bite Me! makes a major statement on how to build your fanbase. Here is!

The piece said, “Bud Prager—who managed Leslie West in the old days and Felix Pappalardi—he’s a great producer who I have the utmost respect for. One day we went for lunch, it was 1979/1980 and MTV had just started. Warner Communications funded MTV in the very beginning along with American Express.

Steve Ross had a vision of creating music on TV and having it be a marketing tool. Bud said to me as MTV progressed that he felt MTV hurt the record business. His whole philosophy and, I have to agree with him, was that we broke bands by them going out and getting a fanbase – a real fanbase. AC/DC started out in a little club called Max’s Kansas City then they worked their way up to the Fillmore then the Forum and then the stadiums. They built a fanbase, but so many of these artists just became these video stars and you could see them on video. The only way you could see AC/DC, before videos, was to wait until they went on tour.

Bud felt that in the long run it hurt the artist and hurt their career and then it also created a lot of what we call “The One Shot” video artist – who were really acts that people got because of the video but when they really had to go out and do it there was no substance.”

It’s obvious really isn’t it?

You need a fanbase

If you are hyped and leveraged into the national (or international) consciousness, you’re going to have to be spectacular to make it last. All the kids who get the big break on the TV talent shows cannot sustain the level that those shows give them.

Why not? They just aren’t actually talented enough, but, more importantly, they haven’t built a fanbase. They get instant recognition but it fades in the public interest when the next series comes along.

I can see that the same was true with MTV – and the same is still true for major label artists today that are over hyped and simply manufactured. Sign someone half pretty and get them a load of songs from the current writer / producer du jour. It all sounds good enough but 99 times out of 100, there isn’t anything to back it up. I’ll accept that there will occasionally be an exception.

BUT – if the right thing to do in order to build a career is build a fanbase, then how do you do it?

Look at Arcade Fire – how did they do it. Quality material, no bullshit, slow build of momentum, unreal live shows, true talent.

No-one wanted to sign them when they started, so they did it on their own!

The message is the same now as it was for AC/DC when Jerry Greenberg remembered how they started.

Get your material strong and go out and play it. Watch this video of legendary Island Records boss Chris Blackwell telling how a live show and word of mouth is all you need.

So now that the music industry has changed and everyone wants music for free, how do you build that fanbase and why is that change a good thing?

Well, you can still do what AC/DC did and go out and play. You must! You’ll improve, you’ll bond as a unit and you’ll find champions who will tell everyone how good you are.

BUT – you now have an advantage that outdoes MTV in it’s heyday and will allow you to build momentum slowly, reach a global audience, perfect your style and sound – all the while sticking two fingers up to the old music industry hegemony.

The internet. You must use the internet to build your fanbase.

10 steps to building your fanbase

Here’s what you do:

1. Get your act straight. Right people, right look, right sound and BRILLIANT material. Not ‘good enough’ – brilliant is what is required.

2. Buy a domain name for your band’s website (we use Namecheap – it is!), and then buy hosting for it. Use Hostgator. I know you have loads of choices, but, trust me, this works really well and I have never had a problem.

3. Build a website – Use WordPress, hosted on your own domain (that’s downloaded from not hosted at Personally I always use Thesis as the theme for the site for a host of reasons that I won’t go into here. It is awesome. If you think you can’t build a site in WordPress and/or Thesis, you will be able to. Honestly – there are loads of videos on YouTube to talk you through it and if you get stuck, find someone at your school, college or even on Elance to do it for you.

4. Build a list of fans using serious email software. You can use Fanbridge – it works fine – but if you are really serious, there is only one choice – Aweber. It will do more than any competing mailing list software and it will last you your whole career.

5. Give people something really valuable in return for joining your mailing list. Sure, give them mp3′s of a few tracks. But, you can do so much more. Give them a whole album and ask them to get their friends to come and sign up for it.

I love Pretty Lights and what he does – 3 albums, 2 EP’s and some live material. All FOR FREE. How does he make a living? He sells merch and has a massive live following. If he hadn’t given this music away he would not have gotten anywhere. The free music gave him the momentum. Now he makes more money from his music career than if he had signed to a major – by a factor of 20 or more. Plus he gets to be a true artist and do exactly what he wants, when he wants with his art.

6. Put the sign-up box for the free stuff on the top right of every page of your site – what designers call ‘above-the fold’. Why? Because it works. Also – have a dedicated ‘squeeze page’ on the site or even on another domain that you can send people to. He doesn’t do this, but Pretty Lights could have a squeeze page at It’s easy to remember and you just put a single page site there with just a small pitch and a sign up box for your Aweber list.

7. Build a quality profile (and interact – don’t ignore any of them) at MySpace (yep, still – it is the music directory and you need to be there), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. This is the minimum – there are others that you might wish to add.

8. Shoot LOADS of video of your band. Writing, rehearsing, gigging, in the van – goofing off. It doesn’t matter. Send emails to your list at least once a week telling them to check out something that you have posted somewhere online. DO NOT just email them the week of a show asking them to come. Be in regular content. Put those videos on your YouTube channel and all over the place.

9. Post on Twitter and Facebook all the time. Not inane stuff but things that your fans will want to know.

10. Develop a healthy interest in music blogs. Find ones that might support you and start to build rapport with the bloggers. This is a key way to spread your name when you have material being released. Chris Bracco has the best guide to this currently available – which is free – get it here.

11. Don’t neglect the art! Keep writing. Write much more than you record and rehearse as much as you write. Recording is important and you need tracks to give away, but it is having great material that is going to make your fans talk about you to their friends and build that fanbase. Writing is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing.

12. Play live. Anywhere for anyone. Not to the extent that your fans can’t keep up. But spread wider, cross genres, make new fans. Obviously, collect every name and email address that you can at gigs. Go to other band’s gigs – hand out cards with your site address on them at those gigs. Hang out, meet other bands and meet their manager, agent, sound guy – whatever.

13. Be tired. No, really. If you’re working a full time job and you’re doing enough to succeed, you are going to be exhausted. The people who can keep going when they are exhausted will win.

There you have it – I think that’s a blueprint on how to build your fanbase. I’ve just read it over and, in essence, that is all there is to it.

Of course, I can and will expand on many of those points and go further another day – how do you move from this point to selling records, how to go up a level etc.

But, right now, that’s not important. It’s not important since you MUST build a fanbase to get started and to achieve anything – whether that is DIY and Direct-to-Fan success or the aim of getting signed. Either route will happen much more easily if you have built the fanbase yourself – that’s what other fans will see so they will want to be in the in-crowd – and it’s what agents. managers and record label A&R will see that will help take you to the next level.

One last thing. This is not ‘selling out’. This is ‘selling’. It does not cheapen the art. It gives you a chance.

It will only happen if you do it – start now.

Step one is critical! But as soon as you have something ready for the world to hear, build your website at the heart of your efforts. Go and get a domain (Namecheap) and hosting (Hostgator) right now if you don’t have that sorted yet!

London Calling: The Export of New York’s Underground

Red Bull Music Academy NYC –  Daily Note Issue 14

Clash in New York  Cab

Clash in New York Cab. . L-R: Paul Simonon, Pete Howard, Joe Strummer, and Mick Jones. Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The Influence and Impact of New York on the British Electro-Pop Scene shouldn’t be understimated. ~ WD Stubbs

1. Q&A – Tony Viconti

Britain, Bowie, and a Brooklyn producer’s trials by fire.

2. Trans-Atlantic Express

New York and London’s cross-cultural exchange.

Download Daily Note #14  HERE

Vive La Ressistance! Philippe Zdar: The Mastermind Producer behind Cassius

From The Creators Project: More than just one half of DJ duo Cassius, french producer and sound engineer Philippe Zdar talks about what it’s like shaping some of the best records of the last 20 years with Phoenix and Kindness weighing in on working with the hi-fi master.

To our readers – We thought we’d share this one. But first, let us introduce Philippe Zdar. Zdar is a well known producer and trained sound engineer from Paris. He’s also a member of the French musical duo Cassius that records and releases music in the house music, indie dance and synthpo  genres.

A Zdar Is Born
Philippe Zdar was born Philippe Cerboneschi, in rural mountain country in the Alps. In the late ’80s, age 17, he moved to Paris, where he became a tea‑boy at Marcadet Studios, and gradually worked his way up to become an engineer. Around the same time, he met Hubert ‘Boom Bass’ Blanc‑Francard, with whom he worked on the first MC Solaar album, Qui Seme le Vent Recolte le Tempo (1991), as well as on subsequent albums by the rapper. During the ’90s, Zdar realized his ambitions to be successful as an engineer/mixer, producer, DJ, and musician, in the groups Motorbass, and, with Blanc‑Francard, Le Funk Mob and most famously and still ongoing, Cassius. His credits as an engineer, mixer and producer include MC Solaar, Phoenix, Daft Punk, the Rapture, Beastie Boys, Kindness, Naked and Famous, Cut Copy and Chromeo.

Zdar: “I started playing drums as a kid, so I play drums the best, but in fact I play everything badly. I’m an electronic musician, so I play guitar badly, bass badly, and drums badly, but I’m quite good at programming. All my activities, studio, DJ, musician, are completely related. When I produce a band, even a rock band, I bring my expertise and sounds from my DJ experience. I DJ maybe three times a month — producing and mixing takes the most of my time. But DJing is very important for me, because it keeps me at the cutting edge. With many producers, their musical references stop at a certain point in time, and they end up always referring to older records. But when I’m DJing I listen to a lot of new records, and that updates my musical skills and outlook, and also gives me a lot of energy.”

So, Zdar definitely knows his stuff. He knows it so well that he no longer listens to engineers who tell him what he should do to play by the rules.  He was also featured on Future Music Mag # 221 for the interview and producer masterclass feature.

Now, when expressing yourself in a foreign language you may come across as arrogant, or may not get your point across really well. But Philippe is not arrogant at all, and he knows his stuff just as good as or better than any other good engineer. In my opinion he’s one of the best French sound engineers, and has a great studio – Motorbass. When I visited his studio in 2010, surprise surprise… Pultec’s, Urei’s, big SSL, AMS, AMT Lexicon, reverbs, AMS delays. Neve preamps, totally cool gears. CS80, OBX, PPG, good stuff. So, for those who criticize harshly Zdar calling him “arrogant”,  and a “rebel” of  “flagrant ignorance”: Can you tell me a little about your philosophy on compression? In French please?

I believe the SP1200 was the weapon of choice of those guys back then before they started using computer sequencers e.g. Logic. I read an interview of Alan Braxe saying how much he loves that particular machine, and that he produced Stardust’s Music Sounds better with  you using only the SP, a small mixer, and some cheap 8 track recorder.

We’re including in this post the text of an excerpt from a lecture/interview given by Zdar in Rome, Italy, and a video of the full lecture/interview, thanks to Red Bull Music Academy. We hope you enjoy! ~ AA

Phillipe Zdar (Phoenix / Daft Punk / The Beastie Boys / Kindness / Naked & Famous…) interview on compressor & french house sound

Interviewer: Torsten Schmidt, Red Bull Music Academy

RBMA: »Were most of the records, that were coming out of Paris at that time, being mixed in the same place, or by the same people?«

Philippe Zdar: »No.«

RBMA: »Because there were certain, well, if there was one common thing it was that ‘whooom’ sound.«

Philippe Zdar: »Yeah, the compression. In France we are really into compression and after it was, for example, Daft Punk, who completely made a beat, a sound that everybody tried to emulate. So that was really funny because they are doing a sound and three months later, everybody was buying the same compressor because everything was to do with the compressor. The basic rule about compressors is to trust your ear, to have some taste, you must have some taste. Me, I don’t even know what a compressor is! I don’t know how many years, like 15 years that I’m doing this and I still don’t know what is a compressor. I know what it’s doing and I’m touching the buttons, but when I like it, I keep it like this. When I started there was some sound engineer coming in the studio and he says: “Are you crazy?” The errr… what do you call it (makes flickering dial motion with his hand)?«

RBMA: »The meters?«

Philippe Zdar: »”The meters are going too high! The meters supposed to be on the left.” And I say: “But when I hear it, I like it.” And he says: “But it’s not possible.” And I’m like: “Leave me alone.” (applause) I think it’s the key for you all, although you don’t need to learn it, you know it already. Everybody’s learning by his own way, so when you’re at home, you’re listening with the ears. I like it when it goes in the red, if it starts to do ‘skkkkskkkk’ (makes grating noise), you notice it and you take it a little bit down, but there’s no theory in music for me. Everybody who comes with a theory, you can keep your theory – probably it works for you, but for me it doesn’t. So the compressor’s secret is to trust the ear and another secret for me is the meter, it has to move a lot. If the meters like this (makes feeble motion with his finger), it’s not good.«

Lecturer: Philippe Zdar
Interviewer: Torsten Schmidt, Red Bull Academy
Lecture: Philippe Zdar (Rome 2009)

Philippe Zdar’s quotes:

I believe that comfort is the cancer of every artistic expression. If there’s an artist whose work you love, and suddenly you don’t care for what they do so much anymore, you’ll find out that they most likely had become too comfortable.

Young artists and producers should really get into the gear and make their own sounds and develop their own ways of working, but that’s not happening enough.

[The Beastie Boys] They’re super‑intelligent, and super‑cultured, and they’re all really into equipment, and really into the sound of analogue.”

A tightrope walker who has a net is not interesting, because there’s no performance. But if there’s no net, it’s fantastic. Mixing in the analogue domain is like that.

The only secret I have about compression is to trust your ear. Have some taste.

When I was a tea‑boy at Marcadet in Paris, I never looked at the way people were working, I always listened to the end result.

The problem with Pro Tools is that it’s easy to forget to take risks. But you have to take risks. I say to the record company and artist: ‘If you work with me, I don’t recall the mix, except if I made a big mistake. So you have to make decisions while I’m working, and you have to take a risk in the moment.’ I love that, and I hate the comfort and the safety net that digital provides.

Digital doesn’t only sound like shit, it also makes everything sound the same.

Mixing is a controlled performance, and digital takes the performance out of mixing. This is why I don’t use it.

The ‘French Touch’ thing happened mainly because, in Paris, we love Chicago.

To make a place for the bass is very easy – you just take out bass from all the rest.