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Help: Advice sought from recording artists

17 Oct 00 - 04:05 PM (#321097)
Subject: Advice sought from recording artists
From: harpmolly

Greetings, all!

I'm brand new, so go easy on me ;)

I'm a singer from Oregon, USA who is in the beginning stages of putting together a demo (trad Irish/Scottish music), and as it seems there are quite a few experienced folk recording artists on this site, I thought I'd send out a general call for any advice or warnings *grin*. When I say "beginning stages," incidentally, I mean "Gee, I've been wanting to do this for a while, why don't I get serious?" I'm researching studio rates and compiling my song repertoire at the moment; I admit I know almost nothing about the practical aspects of the business, though a close friend who does have experience is going to help me. Anyway, if anyone has suggestions for me, please post them or send me a message. Thanks--this is a great site!



17 Oct 00 - 04:13 PM (#321107)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: GUEST,reeebop

i woudn't say i'm "experienced" as a recording artist...but i've been studying it for about three years in college and i've done a lot of home recording and producing. i'm always willing to share what i know but if you want to contact me and ask--that's cool. you can find me on aim as reeebop.

17 Oct 00 - 04:29 PM (#321122)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: MK

If you are planning to shop your demo to commercial record companies in hopes of a record deal, the following criterion are standard as far as A and R people (Artists and Repertoire) at record companies are concerned. The more professional the package looks, the more credibility it will be given. (I assume the standards would be similar for independent labels with broad distribution.

- a professionally done 8" X 10" black and white, or color photo of the band

- 4 to 6 very strong and catchy original songs on CD (with contact info, ie: name, address and telephone number on the CD label). The songs should edited down to no more than a minute a half, as A+R people listen to about the first 20 seconds of each tune. If it doesn't grab them right away, they move on to the next song.

- lyric sheet to accompany CD, with the lyrics to each song, clear and legible (make sure you have everything copyrighted before sending ANYTHING to the record companies.

- resume and history of the band including experience, types of venues and sizes of audiences performed to, individual band members names and what instruments and vocals they contribute

- upcoming performance dates, in case they want to see/hear your band.

That's pretty much it. Keep in mind that trying to secure a record deal with a major label is like playing the lottery. Not to be a grim reaper, but the chances are slim, and you have to send out many packages to many labels in order to increase your odds, and repeatedly. Remember that some of the top recording acts were turned down repeatedly by the major labels until they finally got signed by someone who actually took the time to listen to their demos. ("The Police" are an example.) Do the music and perform because you want to, not because the goal is to get a record deal. Chances are, if what your group is offering, is not the current flavor of the month in terms of what record companies are looking for, nothing will come of it.

As I said, all of these comments apply generally for those looking for a commercial record and distribution deal. There is probably more flexibility with the independent labels, since artistic intergrity tends to be more important than overall sales to those companies.

17 Oct 00 - 04:31 PM (#321125)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Since you mention that it is a demo that you are putting together, I would say the first thing is to think about who you want to impress with it, and what they may be looking for--

Are you looking for jobs? Ask your booking agent what the people he/she is pitching respond to--Sending it to record labels? Check what they are selling, and what they think will sell, then emphasize that--Will you use this to audition for a group or a show? They may be looking something entirely different that the others--

A tip on your repertoire--find your niche, and sell it--It is your image,and yes, there are still a lot of distinctions within the Scottish/Irish Traditional frame work--Do you emphasize sad songs? Funny ones? Are you wistful and airy, or are you earthy and gritty? Serious intense, or waggish and light?

Do you dress up in an tradtional costume, or dress it down and make it more mainstream?

I could ask a hundred more questions, but you should get the idea--when you make a demo, you are selling yourself, and it is easiest to sell when you let the listener know what you've got, and differentiate it from everything else that comes in the mailslot--

17 Oct 00 - 04:41 PM (#321136)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: MK

Another thing I just thought of. Don't be taken in by companies advertising on the Internet offering (for a fee) to submit your demo packages to record companies. Do it yourself, and follow up with those companies. Assuming one or more people in your band have good business acumen, take as much control over the process as you can and don't delegate to unknowns with no proven track records of success. In the event that no one in the band has good business or marketing experience, a manager to do all of this leg work is a good idea, provided you can find a reputable one and one that believes in your music and will go to bat for you. Thoroughly check any and all references before signing on with a manager, and DON'T SIGN ANY AGREEMENTS WITHOUT HAVING A REPUTALBE ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER REVIEW ANY AND ALL CONTRACTS.

Don't be afraid to hound the labels as they are busy and get sent a 100 or more demos a week.

17 Oct 00 - 04:45 PM (#321139)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Just check back to read my insightful post, and note that MichaelK has posted--he is our resident expert on the professional aspects of the music business, listen to his advice!!

17 Oct 00 - 04:45 PM (#321140)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Just check back to read my post, and note that MichaelK has posted--he is our resident expert on the professional aspects of the music business, listen to his advice!!

17 Oct 00 - 05:17 PM (#321164)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: harpmolly

Wow! Scads of new messages already--you all don't miss a trick...thanks! I'm writing all this down...

Admittedly, I don't have HUGE ambitions as yet. Shopping the demo to major labels isn't even on my mental horizon; in any case, an indie label is likely more my style (for now). What I have in mind is to lay down half a dozen well-polished tracks that I can use for a variety of purposes. But again, I'm really unfamiliar with the norm. I've done one audio recording session to date (a children's fantasy film I sang the lead in), and that's pretty much it. I'm more or less sticking my big toe into shark-infested waters here.

Thanks again for all the feedback...


17 Oct 00 - 06:18 PM (#321239)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: Jim the Bart

I recently found out why all my recordings sounded like demos, rather than like "records". After recording and mixing the instruments and voices there is another important process called "mastering" that needs to be done for the recording to sound finished. Mastering involves adding compression to the overall mix, sequencing the songs, and adding the desired spacing between tracks. It really helps to make your recording sound good on all kinds of boom boxes, dash board tape players, etc. Nowadays it is easily done digitally. It's something to ask about when you're checking out studios.

Just my two bits worth
Good luck

17 Oct 00 - 08:01 PM (#321344)
Subject: RE: Help: Advice sought from recording artists
From: MK

Agree with Bartholemew.

Good rule of thumb is to avoid mastering or remixing anything you've recorded on the same day. After hours in a studio your ears become desensitized to certain frequencies, and when fatigue sets in, everything seems to mesh into everything else.

Come back the following day (or several days later), and give everything a fresh listen, and then start adding in whatever effects need to be there, and adjust and pan the individual track levels to your liking. Most professional grade studios have several different sized reference speakers ranging from large monitors, to small little computer sized speakers, so that you can gain perspective on how your tunes will sound in various formats. One rule of thumb for home studio enthusiasts is to NEVER MIX AND MASTER THROUGH HEADPHONES. False readings everytime, which you'll notice when you play those songs back through external speakers and find the track levels out of whack from what you thought they were.

Also when checking out professional grade studios to do demos, if they're working in analog formats (i.e. tape) you want maximum headroom or separation between the tracks, for more clarity. A 24 track tape studio should be using be using 2 inch wide tape. A 16 track, 1 inch.

When you work with 4 or 8 track home porta studios, that use standard (narrow width) audio cassettes, you discover how headroom is an important factor, as multi track recordings made on narrow tape widths tend to wash all the tracks into each other (a.k.a. "bleeding".) Sometimes you don't always hear the 2 and 4 on a snare drum or rim shot, and the reverb tends to wash everything out, even if it's only on the vocal.

Don't get me wrong, analog porta studios are great, educational tools for learning the basics of multitrack recordings, for song writing and home recording projects. For professional demo purposes however, best to use a more sophisticated format whether that means going into a full blown commerical recording studio, or find someone with a professional grade home recording setup.

With digital mediums, the higher the sampling rate, the more headroom. Anything over 24 bit, should give you the professional sound you want.