Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 303: Learn to DJ at the Ministry of Sound

This sounds like a pretty cool idea to me!

So you've decided you want to take the plunge, and learn how to DJ. You know that there are books and DVDs etc you can buy, but what better way to take the plunge than in one of the worlds most famous DJ booths!

Yup, the Ministry of Sound offer DJ courses where you will get to spin records (and CDs) on decks graced by some of the worlds biggest DJs. That's gotta be a great experience all in itself, not to mention the actual DJ training itself. Course covers the following topics:

• Equipment basics: Explanation of key parts Turntables, Mixer, CDJ’s.
• Cueing: How to Perfect your Cueing Skills
• Beatmixing Vinyl and/or CD: How to Beatmix in a professional environment
• Vinyl and CD control: Professional Control of Vinyl & CD
• Drop mixing: How to perform your first basic Mix.
• Performing your 1st mix: Mixing with two copies of same record
• Phrase Mixing: The ability to accurately mix using the musical phrases in a record.
• Headphone Mixing: How to mix professionally with Headphones.
• Controlling the booth. How to use Booth Monitoring
• EQ Mixing: How to use EQ to enhance the smoothness of your mixes.
• Track selection: Tip’s and Tricks on how to select the right music.
• Pitch control: How to effectively control the pitch.
• Final mix Preparation: Final tips from the Tutor’s before you prepare for your set at Ministry of Sound

So, er... pretty much everything then. They also run courses in Ableton DJing if you are more of a lappy digital kinda guy.

Courses are £299 and £199 respectively. Full information can be found on the website.




Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 302: Author Interview - Tom Hutchison

As promised yesterday, here is the interview we did with author of 'Web Marketing for the Music Business' - Tom Hutchison. Some good gen in here alone, so imagine the amount of info in the book!

Firstly, do you think musical genre itself is as important a factor in online success as some marketing strategies (ie Electronic music against Country)?

Absolutely. Research has shown that fans of Alternative and Rock music are more likely to buy a digital version of a song than fans of Country or Latin. This is determined by looking at the overall market share for each genre, and then comparing that to that genre's market share of digital sales. For example, in 2008, Alternative music accounted for about 16% of all sales. But of all digital sales, over 23% were sales of Alternative music. Conversely, Country had 10% of the market for CDs, but accounted for only 5% of digital sales. From this you can deduce that Alternative music fans are more tech-oriented in general.

The Internet is now fuller than ever with promotional tools for musicians, do you think there is a risk of over-kill, or these tools being spread too thinly?

I'm not sure overkill is the best description. There is certainly overload, with consumers having too much information at their disposal. There are so many marketing tools available now to musicians, that you almost have to take advantage of all of them in order to reach your market. For example, you need a Facebook fan group, and a MySpace fan group, and a Tweeter group.

What do you think are the 5 key elements to effective Web-Marketing (The 5 must do's!)?

1.A good web site, and not just a page on MySpace, is the most important tool. It is your home base, from which you can launch online promotions.

2. Work the online media, including blogs, just as labels have been working traditional media for publicity coverage for a long time. Get articles, reviews, photos, samples, placed on as many ezine sites and with as many popular bloggers as possible.

3. Work your online presence into your live shows. Give concert goers a reason to visit your website. This can be done through free offerings, contests, photos from the live shows, bonus tracks from live shows, etc.

4. Make sure your music is available for sale through popular retail sites online. It's not enough to sell via your web site, or only on AmieStreet. You need to be in ALL the online retail stores, especially Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.

5. Make creative music videos and post them on YouTube and your web site. They don't have to be fancy, just clever. See if you can jump start a viral effect.

6. There is one more. Turn your fans into your online street team.

Likewise if you had to suggest the top 3 or 4 on-line resources for independent artists (Distributors, promo tools, web-widgets etc)

SonicBids is a great resource for musicians. It's a multipurpose tool that allows you to present an electronic press kit to club owners, the media, and other industry insiders.

YouTube. People will watch music performed on YouTube before they will download and listen to an audio-only file. YouTube has leveled the playing field for getting music videos to the public. Widgets included.

All the social networking services. This goes without saying that it's a good place to cultivate a fan club and street teams.

One of my favorite sites is They list all the web 2.0 web services and sites, including a category for music. Many are still in the beta testing stage and offer their services for free. Services like Soundcloud that will help you organize and distribute music to your database contacts, and Band Metrics that helps you track and analyze your fans. Those are just two examples of the dozens of sites you can find on this web site.

Conversely, what do you feel are the most mistaken/ill advised marketing techniques people use today?

The worst mistake made in marketing today is to think that search engine optimization (SEO--getting your site ranked near the top of search engine results) will generate traffic to an indie artist's web site. It doesn't. It only helps for people who are already looking for your site, but who can't remember how to spell your domain name. But then, even without SEO, you are likely to come up near the top of search engine results for these fans if they are even close to typing in the correct words. Most traffic to your site will be generated through promotional efforts, not search engine results.

Also, indies who depend entirely on the web for their marketing are forgetting the fact that most of their fans are not online all the time. You need to reach them through traditional methods, especially touring.

With the increase of music available on-line now, do you think that we might see a return to real world marketing and live performance?

I'm not sure we ever had real world marketing. Think about the days since the 1950s, when hit songs were determined by payola instead of true popularity. We had mass media marketing back then. Now we have personal media marketing through the Internet--meaning that each consumer or fan can be marketed to based upon their personal preferences.

The Internet does level the playing field and success reflects what the consumer is interested in. So any hype paid for by major labels is short-lived. As soon as consumers get online and express their opinions of the product, that hype disintegrates. The power is now in the hands of the consumer. That's as real-world as it gets.

In the current fast-changing climate how can unsigned artists sustain an effective marketing strategy while still maybe having a day job, and making music?

The worst comment any musician wants to hear is "don't quit your day job." It's a difficult decision. When I was making a living as a musician, playing music was my only job. I'm not sure that's the best idea. I was forced to play music and gigs that made money but didn't necessarily advance my career. It's hard to do both.

Any up-and-coming artist needs to perform live to build a loyal fan base. Creative videos will help spread the word virally, but that is short-lived. People tend to forget unless they have invested their time by attending a live show. Having said that, it is more difficult for musicians to do this and keep a day job.

The web allows any musician the opportunity to distribute their music globally, but the competition has grown fierce. The number of albums released by indie artists each year is climbing steadily. To stand out from the crowd, you need to be creative in marketing as well as in creating music. And you need to be persistent, or you'll be a one-hit wonder before you even get a record deal. Touring has a long-lasting marketing effect.

As a professor of marketing would you say it is now harder, or easier to build a fan-base and make a good name for yourself?

It is much easier to build a fan base than when I was a musician. There used to be just two kinds of musicians: big stars signed to label deals, and local musicians who played in bars and barely made a living. We are now seeing the emergence of a "middle class" of musicians, who aren't big stars and are not signed to major labels, but have found a way to make a comfortable living through income from live performances and record sales. Computers and the Internet have made that possible.

Excellent, many thanks, any last tips for our readers?

My book Web Marketing for the Music Business was written to help out unsigned musicians who are interested in self-marketing. We haven't discussed mobile marketing, but even local artists should start looking in that direction for future marketing opportunities: Send a text blast locally to remind people of an upcoming show; create viral opportunities; enlist your fans as your street team; start collecting cell numbers like you now do for email addresses. The only way to ride a wave is to be out in front.




Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 301: Web Marketing for the Music Business - Book review

Information overload, it's one of the catch phrases of this decade, that is for sure. This 'problem' is none more obvious than when it comes to searching for new music. Days of old would see is digging in record crates, listening to the radio and getting music live in clubs etc.

This presented the musician with a few simple choices when it came to promotion, the main problem would have been cash, as with fewer channels for promotion, naturally there would be more competition to be heard.

These days, the situation is in many ways inside out. You can have your own exclusive area of promotion, but no one, of few people might get to see/hear it. Enter "Web Marketing for the Music Business" by Tom Hutchison.

What this book attempts to do is to make sense of today's marketing landscape for the jobbing band/artist/musician.

What a relief to finally have a book dedicated to this young yet wild area of publicity. This isn't just about setting up a myspace and a fan page, there is so much more.

Starting off with a good look at the recent trends in the music business, it sets a foundation for how the advice later will work for you.

After garnering you with an understand of the more recent trends in music sales, format preferences and market splits etc Tom works you through your options for a marketing strategy, covering all the outlets available to you.

Following this, a large section of the book is dedicated to setting up your artist web-site. Particular details is given to what an artist will want to achieve from their site, all with excellent resources/links and tips.

These are the fundamentals, the following chapters however really get into the minefield that is today's on-line marketing. Topics covered include: Newsletters, internet radio, Social Networking, Self Distribution options, marketing mistakes and much much more.

Tom makes the subject matter very easy to read and understand. This is very important as if you are an independent musician looking to improve your marketing (which we assume you are else your manager will be doing this) terms like marketing and publicity can seem like verbal ball and chains.

The book finishes off with an excellent couple of chapters on Mobile media and marketing, and a fully stacked and invaluable Glossary of On-line resources (worth the money alone).

If you have made the first tender steps in self publicity, but seem to spend your time trawling forums, and spamming on myspace, then this is most definitely for you.

The small price of this book will pay for itself in the first few chapters alone. The subjects covered is both broad enough to cater for all types of artists/bands/DJs and detailed enough to leave you with few questions.

What's more, Bang the DJ bagged an interview with the author himself, this contains even more gold, so come back tomorrow for that!

Buy Web Marketing for the Music Business at Amazon here.

ISBN-10: 0240810449

Publisher: Focal Press




Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 300: Another look at the Novation Launch Station

I think I will always have a fondness for Novation kit. One of the very first hardware synths I got back when I had my first stab at making music was the Novation K-Station. This since went on to become a legendary bit of kit. The V-Station (it's Virtual sibling) is still a good seller I understand.

That said something is bugging me about the Launchpad, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I've watched the marketing videos and seen it in action, and it seems tight. I've also seen that even with such a small footprint (especially compared to the APC40) that it can still pack in a whole bunch of features, including rotary knob emulation in a very clever use of the buttons.

So what is the problem then? I can only think that it's just asking too much from essentially a grid of buttons. There isn't really even any space for putting masking tape with handwritten notes on under the controls (to remind you what of the many options you are controlling).

I just get the feeling that either you would have to trim down the feature usage to make sure it didn't get muddled, and it wasn't all fingers and thumbs. That, or risk horribly crashing halfway through a set as you trigger the wrong thing, or tweak the wrong control.

I would love to be wrong though, as it looks smart, tight, and is fantastically priced. All that and the confidence of the solid build of Novation. So if anyone from Novation Europe reads this, I would love to give it an open minded road test for you!

In this video below we again get to see it's rich set of controls, and maybe you might get a feel also to what I am referring...




Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 299: Serato and Ableton Collaborate, digital DJs make a small wee

Ok, so this isn't hot off the press, freshly baked news... but it IS exciting, and it IS worth writing about.

Two big players in the digital DJ and performance world, Namely Ableton and Serato, are to join forces on what can only be described as the collaboration of the year.

Whilst there isn't a whole bunch of gritty details as such on the official press release, what you can certainly count on is that future versions of Ableton will have water tight integration with Serato's DVS/Vinyl emulation Hardware.

This project would see the gap between DAW style (staring into a laptop) DJ'ing finally take on the hands-on dynacism that a DVS provides. This effectively blows the lid off of the creative possibilities.

Serato's proven digital vinyl, controlling Abletons DJ-and-remix-on-the-fly production software does open up some fairly mind bending possibilities.

I can't wait to see or hear more about this. Also, I wonder what Traktor have to say about this. I knew about Traktor long before Serato, but in recent years, Serato certainly seem to be getting the creative edge.

This is all good for you and me, the end user, of course. I have plenty of faith that Native Instruments are pulling their socks up as we speak and wont let their excellent unblemished track record be affected.

Read the original press release here.




Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 298: Beat Maker the best music iPhone app?

We've mentioned the ever growing number of music and DJ related apps for the iPhone a number of times before, but I think this one is the first time I have actually thought, "crumbs, that looks good".

Taking the form of what looks like a simple, but effective clip launcher (like a software MPC) this isn't necessarily going to help you construct music on the move. Much more of a 'performance' tool, almost like a mini Ableton live.

What I liked about it was that the interface looked well done, previously an area lacking in other apps, also that there seemed to be scope for effects units (in a Reason kinda style) implying this app might scale up, or at least become more sophisticated in later releases.

Made by Intua there are some demo videos on their web-site, and a choice one below from You tube.

I really can see this being a great tool however for playing with ideas on the move.




Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 297: Good solid audio Mastering Tips

Mastering, the dark art of music production. This is the realm of audio-philes, you know, the types that have £4000 amplifiers, yet, they don't really ever seem to like music all that much, usually more interested in the quality, not the content.

These dudes are your friend however, they make you creative masterpiece leap out from the CD. Yeah you made that killer lick, but these are the guys that will give it the extra oomph.

I personally find this part of the process the most frustrating. It's obviously not my forté. After spending hours on it, I compare it to the original and realise it's just louder, but with less punch :(

This is largely because it's quite a complex area. One for the more scientific minds, as we get in to the realm of Hz, and muggled mixes. All those frequencies competing for a place in the mix, and the intricacies of perceptual loudness... yeah, see what I mean.

Also as is often the way with these things, techies are often naturally bad at explaining their own expertise, so therefore good information in lay terms is often hard to find. However there is a great article about it over on the Propellerheads/Reason site.

Don't worry it's not specific to Reason, and is all good gen info, in a readable format. Almost makes me wanna remaster all my stuff. Almost. (link via VST cafe, great site for VSTs and more)