How to use advertising to promote an album online

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Releasing music can be a liberating feeling. After spending months in the studio now is time to release what you’re working on. There are lots of ideas floating around the internet about how to promote your music and it can get overwhelming. But in this article I’ll share with you my experience with one. Advertising.

Advertising is paying a publication to drive traffic to your iTunes page. This with the hope of converting that click into a paying music fan. Using advertising can give your album or single a boost in awareness. If done successfully you can make back your initial investment. If done poorly you can loose money and become frustrated.

In July 2012 I released a compilation called “The survey riddim” a dancehall album with various artist singing on the same beat. There are a few things I did which is simple and easy for anyone to do.

Pick a medium to reach your ideal music fan

To get started you’ll need to pick a medium that will reach the fans of your music that will actually buy it. For this release I wanted to target persons in the USA. The site I made an agreement with was fusemix.com. Fusemix.com is a Christian lifestyle blog. They post news and updates about music and Christian entertainment in general. So it was a good fit to try. I knew one of the guys working with the site. This made the promotion deal happen.

The banner ad was just a smaller version of the album cover with the words buy now on iTunes with a link to the iTunes page. It cost me around $US30 for the banner ad for one month.

Have a goal for your ad

For advertising to work you must have a realistic goal in mind. At the time I didn’t have any goal. This was due to my inexperience with marketing in general. This banner ad was just an experiment. So if you plan to spend say US$500 on advertising. Keep the cost of producing the album in mind when you set your goal. IF your production cost is $1000 – $3000 then your sales goal can be $3500.

This target will help you to know whether the ad is working yes or no. Once sales reach your target, anything above that would be profit. This will make your efforts fruitful. And you have the money to make another album or at least pump more money into promoting it.

Results from my ad

Looking back at it now proved that the ad worked. I never knew back when I ran it because I didn’t know much about marketing. I was just trying random stuff and it wasn’t consistent. Running the ad on a Christian entertainment blog was the perfect fit for my compilation. The result  was close to $US100 for a ad that cost $30 that ran for 1 month. The investment was worth it and I should do more of it. So I missed the opportunity to push the release even further and get the most out of it.

Lessons

For a marketing campaign to work you need to give it more time. I would run the campaign for at least 3 – 6 months to give the ads more time to produce the results I want. As well as expand the amount of sites I use. The issues with reggae gospel is that their is no dedicated music blog for our genre so going broad in terms of entertainment, lifestyle, urban gospel publications are the perfect fit to find out audience.

In addition to blogs using social media sites to advertise can be added to the mix as well. Just try them out and see what works for you to reach your goals.

If you have ever used advertising to promote your music let me know how it goes in the comments below.

How to record vocals if you don’t have a vocal booth

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The ability to record vocals was one of my greatest dreams as a producer. Because I didn’t want to be guy lock away in a room, making beats on his computer without seeing the light of day or interacting with anyone. I wanted to make full songs with artist and I wanted to have a space  I could call my own.

So the most logical step was to build a vocal booth and record artist. But there was one problem, I didn’t have the space to build the booth. Also, I don’t have a dedicated room to build a recording studio. So all the fancy videos of people showcasing their own space with panels on the wall and dedicated voice room just seem out of reach for me.

At that time I was still living in my parent’s house. I had limited space in my bedroom but I had a closet I could use, so I started researching on ways I could achieve my dream of recording vocals.

While researching solutions one of the main themes that pop up is an acoustic treatment for the room that will be used to record vocals. The larger the room the better was the recommendations by most persons on forums such as gearslutz and recordings.com among others.

For vocal recording to be effective the room has to be treated to reduce the amount of reverberation inside the room. So when you record the song, the vocals sound as dry as possible. The most recommended solution is that have a duvet or a thick rug behind the singer. This will allow for the audio bouncing off the walls to be absorbed. So these and other solutions were taken into consideration in my pursuit in 2010.

In order for you as a producer or singer/songwriter to record vocals, there are solutions available to you. From the DIY to the super expensive. All of which are geared at solving the acoustics issue when recording vocals in a small bedroom. Here are some ideas.

Closet with lots of clothes

This solution is free because once you have a closet with lots of stuff in it you can use it to record vocals. When I started recording, I used my closet to produce 3 – 4 compilations and lots of singles. When I released the tracks no one could tell that I used my closet.

To try this out, place your mic stand inside your closet with your condenser microphone. Ensure that behind and in front the singer that you have enough of your shirts and other garments that will be used to absorb the sound going into the microphone.

Sound Reflection filter

A recent option is the sound reflection filter. A lot of companies have their own variation which makes perfect sense. The device wraps around the microphone, it has acoustic foam secured inside a plastic which is secured unto the mic stand. The idea is when the singer sings, the sound going into the mic is absorbed and sound coming from the side and the back of the microphone is reflected away thus creating a dry vocal recording.

Gobo or portable partition

The last solution I want to share is the GOBO or portable partition. This is basically a moving acoustic panel. Recording studios use these panels to create a drum shield or to block band members from each other to do recordings.

You can build your own or buy one if you so choose. This involves creating a partition, placing acoustic panels on the partition and when you are ready to record you can pull it out set it up live a V, record your song and then pack it up when your done.

These 3 solutions are ideal to start with if you don’t want to build a full blown vocal booth. Hope these ideas help you in your recording pursuits.

How to convert ideas into finish works of art



As  creative people we have lots of ideas floating around. This is because we have lots of influences that we draw from on a day to day basis. We get inspired by our favourite artiste, our experiences, stuff we see on the road. We have so many ideas we often forget about it.
The good thing is creativity and ideas are  not in short supply but the problem comes when finishing stuff off and getting it out to the world. Could this be a procrastination problem or just lack of time. Or worse, not knowing how to polish off our ideas and turn them into something useful.

Before we dive into the process of shaping ideas one must understand what a finish product looks like. Also the process it takes to get to that point. This can be rewarding when you spend time to go through that refining process.

Know what the end is.

Knowing the end will give you a template to work with when blending ideas together. This is having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your writing songs for your next album or creating beats, taking pictures, writing poetry or painting on a canvas. Whatever you do know what a finished product is. So that you can share with your audience .
Draw from your influences, and make a list of the best products you see out there and use that as a marker and a guide for what you are trying to achieve. This will be your guide when editing your work. For example this could be a list of songs you admire that you listen to over and over again. This could be pictures that you look at, that gives you a look that you want to achieve. This could be paintings that you love have a certain technique you’re a trying to master.
When you do this, it gives you a structure that you can borrow to arrange your ideas for testing later. It is always good to keep a running list. Austin Kleon says it’s good to steal from other people. This will ultimately help the creative process later.

Deconstruct the target and put it back together

When you have a template, or a goal that you are trying to achieve, now is  time to deconstruct it and put the pieces together. What you’ll be looking for is how these people did what they did, what are the decisions that they made and how you can do the same.
I used to do this all the time trying to recreate drum patterns from some of my favourite producers when i hear tracks i loved. The Game’s Dream drum track  produced by Kanye West, Come Over by Estelle and Sean Paul done by Supa Dubs not to mention trying to recreate the melody line from Lean On by Major Lazer.
All this helps in learning new techniques and different ways to do things. In my case make great beats and music. Your situation might be different but the end result is the same. Austin talks about this alot in his book Steal like an Artist.
After the deconstructing the work you’ve chosen and put it back together in some shape or form use what you have learnt about putting together a final piece or work to good use. Now is time to draw from your idea  box and assemble them together.

Polish of the rough edges

With the template and the deconstruction phase you should be motivated to try stuff out. Here is a snapshot of what that looks like.
If you’re a songwriter, a chorus idea here, a line for a verse there, and random phrase that can be used for a hook or a bridge, a chord progression here, and a few random melody ideas. Put that together and you have a version of a song. This will be your starting point. Once you go over it you can now refine those random pieces and create a song that you can record and share with your fans.
If you’re a photographer you might find poses for a model for your next photoshoot to try, different angles for wedding you might test out and so on.  You can test them out on your dog, or get your spouse to pose for you while you try your ideas out to refine the skill and technique.
I hope you start getting the idea. Refine the ideas into something that you can now share with your fans.
When you’re finished with these mashup of ideas you would be amazed at what the final piece looks like or sounds like. Because once you’re done refining the creative piece you now have one more project for your portfolio.

Share what you have created

Now that you have spent the time to refine your idea into a finish product don’t sit on it hoping that you can get the chance to share it. Just share it and get it out there. You have something that is very useful to someone else other than yourself and you should not be afraid of just letting the world know that you have created something. Even if its not perfect in your eyes.
The ideas for this post was inspired by Austin Kleon’s book Steal like an artist and Share your work.
I really love the message in these two books they have helped me out alot and hope the ideas will help you too.
PS. The link is not an affiliate link just so you know.

Podcast Equipment for beginners

If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, one the questions you might have is what equipment should I buy.  With the array of choices, you might be confused and eventually delaying starting your podcast. No need to delay any longer because what you will need to get started is a few basic things, and they don’t need to be expensive.

Microphone



A microphone can make or break the quality of your podcast. This is the most important piece of equipment you will buy. How much you buy depends on how many persons you will be recording in your podcast production studio. For now one will do.  When choosing a microphone they’re some things to look out for.

First, you will need a dynamic microphone. The reason for this is they are built for live performances and are less sensitive compared to a condenser microphone usually used for studio recording.  These types of microphones are ideal for recording in home offices and small spaces where you can easily set them up and record without the worry of picking up unwanted noises.  You will need to keep your environment quiet while you’re recording though.

The most recommended microphone by top recording engineers worldwide is the shure sm 58 microphone. It is a rugged microphone and has an excellent sound. I have used this microphone at press conferences in Jamaica for years, not to mention at church.

Their other microphone on the high-end side from a price perspective is the shure sm7. Almost all radio stations in Jamaica has this microphone in their studio. I have been working with this microphone at the Jamaica Information Service for over 8 years and they sound great.

Mixing board / Audio Interface



Most dynamic mics’ comes with an XLR input. To use this input with your computer or laptop you will need a mixer to connect to your computer. An audio interface is a great way to do this. They come with a 1 to as high as 8 or more channels. They can record multiple tracks which can be great for recording guest inside your office.

They’re many options available and they are built pretty well. I personally use the M Audio mobile pre. I’m not sure if they are still making this unit because I’ve had it since 2010 and it is still working the only issue now is the headphone jack is not working properly.

When buying, choose a device with the number of inputs you are going to use over and over again. It would be a waste of money to invest in a unit with 4 channels when you only need 1 or 2.  Higher price does not always equal better quality but you might get a better-built device.

Studio headphones



The ability to hear yourself clearly is important not only when editing but recording as well. A good headphone can get you that. I personally love the shure srh440 headphones. They sound great and transparent. If you want to hear a lot of booming bass in your headphone, you won’t get that in this one.

The other headphone I know very well is the AKG k240 headphone. They also sound great, and very flat and transparent. My only issue though is that it’s not as bright as the shure srh440 but with a good reference point they are good to have.

Recording and Editing Software


Most audio interfaces come with recording software like Cubase ai, or Ableton live lite. For podcasting purpose, both are good to use, If you happen to get a copy with your audio interface use it. The plus to this is that you don’t have to go software hunting. You can set up templates for your show. Also, they are not that difficult to use.

Another option is audacity. This is also free and can work on both mac and pc.

Arm Suspension Stand



Finally, you will need a microphone stand to attach to your table. You can get a regular desk stand if space is an issue for you. Otherwise, get an arm suspension stand.

Conclusion


Starting a podcast is not difficult. With your shopping list now in place go and take action. Buy what you need and get started.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

What makes a song successful

In high school a friend of mine introduce me to music production. Before that, i was making mixtapes using PCDJ silver recording it through music match. It was a fun time but making beats or riddims as we call them in Jamaica was different.

I got a copy of FL studio 3.4, and started to make beats as i knew then. It was fun, i had many weird ideas, drum patterns and melodies all thrown together. At that time i knew nothing about arrangement all i cared about i had an idea and i just created a pattern. I would draw out the pattern for 3 minutes long and that was my beat.

When I started sharing my work with my friends, the comments were not as encouraging. Plus when i compare them to popular tracks they just don’t sound the same. They were nice but different. Something was missing and at that point in time he shares with me that my beats needed a bit of structure. This would be useful so artiste can write a song to it.

One of the questions some artiste I knew at the time would ask me is when does the chorus start? Where is the verse? How long is the intro? I was clueless to what they were talking about. Luckily my friend knew some well known producers and they explained everything to me, that I’m about to share with you in this article.

For songs to be useful for both listeners and DJ’s they have to have a certain structure. Meaning the songs must be arranged in such a way when played against another track it doesn’t sound weird or different. That’s if that what you are aiming for.

Popular music has a familiar feel to it and knowing this structure makes it easier for you as a producer to make music that artist can use. The most popular format being used by songwriters and producers is the ABABC format. This is also known as the verse – chorus – bridge format. There’re many variations to this but essentially it bowls down to this.

The A or  verse section

This section of a song is calmer and less busy. The reason being is that you want your listeners to get connected to the heart of the song and move the story along. All songs tell stories in some form of way and the verse is where you get all the details.

For example in Bruno Mars Grenade, in the verses it’s only a piano, a basic drum beat.  The lyrics talk about the details of the type of person he was in a relationship with. The way he pens the lyrics gives us the details of what was happening and a little more into his perspective and what he was feeling at the time.

From a production standpoint as the song moves throughout the verse the anticipation builds to a point where we expect something else to happen and boom the enters the pre chorus. This builds more emotions and changes up the music a bit to lead into the next section of the song.

The B or chorus Section

The chorus is the heart of the song. It’s also called a hook. This is debatable because I have read in book where the author teaches songwriters that every song must have a hook and the hook can be a line in the chorus or the chorus itself.

For a producer this is the section of your beat that’s hype, very busy and has a main repeatable melody. This is what you use to differentiate the verse from the chorus and it helps the artiste and listener knows that the music has changed.

When arranging songs and beats these two are the most important section for any song and as you arrange your ideas utilise them to your advantage.

To build on Bruno Mars song Grenade, the chorus is obvious and it stands out from the rest. The way he sings changes, there’s more musical elements in the background and background vocals thrown in to fill out the spaces and make it interesting and memorable. These little things when added together makes the chorus stands out from the verse.

The C or Bridge section

The last component of the song is the bridge. This is noticeable by the chord changes and at times can be dramatic as well. This section is often useful to give a different feel to the song and make it even more interesting and less boring.

Not all songs have a bridge, and this section is used a lot in pop music as well as r&b and country. Genres like reggae and edm don’t use it a lot. So don’t feel like you are a slave to use it in all your work, you don’t.

Conclusion
Those are the components of a song hope they prove useful to you and your productions as they did mine.

How to create a music marketing plan

 
 

Marketing is one of those mysteries that seems hard to crack if you don’t know anything. We know it’s something that is necessary. Because without it, our art remains unknown to the right people. According to former Coca-Cola marketing head Sergio Zyman, marketing is selling. So when you set out to promote your new song or album what you’re doing is selling it to the right persons.

So, in order for your marketing to be sustainable, you have to be deliberate about how you promote your work. Ryan Holiday says in the new book perennial marketing that everything is marketing. Every activity you do is marketing your work. But before you do anything you need a plan and that plan will help you reach your goals.

Know what you want

The first thing you need to do to get started is to establish the outcomes you want. This will help you know if you are achieving your goals. Here a few you can consider to start off with:

  1. Sell 1000 album downloads
  2. Grow email list to 5000
  3. Book  10 new gigs at new venues
  4. Sell $5000 worth of merchandise


These are only a few but there are countless other goals you might want to achieve. Get very clear on this at the beginning. If you aim at nothing; you’ll hit it every time.

Figure out who want what you are offering

The next key part of the plan is to know who you’re targeting. Who will come out to your live shows? Who is going to buy your music? Who is going to buy your merchandise? These are the questions you need to answer. It will help you narrow your focus and make your marketing effective.

So what does this look like? If you do reggae music, fans of Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and Chronnix, will like your music. If you do rock music,  fans of Linkin Park and other similar groups will be into your stuff. When you target fans of these artists it’s because they will be most likely to listen to your stuff.

Another thing you can consider is the behaviour of your fans. Do they like sports, fashion, or other interest. This information can help you create unique marketing campaigns. This will give you many options when you’re ready to run your marketing campaign to grow your fan base.

Find where your people are hanging out and go there

The next thing you want to do is find where they are hanging out. This will aid in your planning and what you do to market your music.

Direct Marketing guru Dan Kennedy says anything can spread your message. For example, radio, TV, flyers, magazines, ezines, blogs, newsletters and billboards. You name it, it can carry  your marketing message. The aim is to find where all the people whom your music appeals to, get their attention and convert them to fans.

With that in mind find all the places that persons find out about your type of music or where your fans hang out. Make a list of places where you can possible perform that these people hang out. List all radio stations that play your music that you can do an interview. Newspapers, blogs and magazines that your fans read.

This list will help your marketing as you have a starting point to get the word out. Because what you will be doing is reaching out and sharing your music with them.

Execute Execute Execute

Now that you have a solid plan in place and know who you are targeting and where to find them. Get out there and start to spread the word because no one will find you if you don’t have a plan on paper and not use it. It is a lot of work and will take time but in the long run you will grow your fan base.

Things to keep in mind when doing cover songs


Cover songs have long been a part of music over the years. Lots of artist use covers as a way to find new fans and to make their sets interesting.

But can you simply do a cover of a song just like that? Well, theanswer to this question varies depending on the situation. And that is doing public domain songs and songs still owned by publishers.

Public Domain Songs are free to use

Public domain songs are songs which have been released for over 50 years and not owned by anyone and free to use by others legally. You as an artist can use public domain songs as you wish and can get your feet wet with using covers. Hymns are songs in the public domain and a few others.
Songs owned by publishers

Should you release your version of a top 10 billboard song and resell it, say on iTunes, then there’s an issue. Because you have no permission to use the song to sell it.
If you desire to redo a single as apart of an album for resale, there are publishing houses to contact for help re this matter. Depending on the agreement, there may be  arrangements to use the single without pay or to pay a licensing fee. The agreement may differ depending on each situation.

How to get permission?


The basics of getting permission to cover a song are to first contact the publishing house responsible for the artist you want to cover. As for some major labels, they facilitate covers. So, you pay a fee to use the single as a cover or to sell it based on the agreement made.


From a promotional perspective, simply singing the song and posting it on the various mediums online, should not be an issue, granted that you put out the disclaimer, stating the intended use and that you are not the legal owner of the song.


There are known instances where persons are asked to remove an original song published because they did not seek permission to do so.


Just note there is a facility in place to get permission for use of songs not owned by you.

Hope this helps to demystify the world of using covers.

Your questions are valued. Email me at andrae.palmer@gmail.com, to get your questions answered.

How use cover songs to promote yourself as an artiste

A cover song is when an artist sings over another artist’s original song. In the early days of music, in particular, reggae music, a number of the artists sang covers. One such person is Sanchez. He transformed popular songs from  R&B, Souls, and did those songs on reggae beats, and he made the song his own.

An easy promotional strategy is to sing covers that are from artists whose fan base is similar to yours.

eg: you’re an  R&B singer, you have picks from the likes of Chris Brown, Rhinna, etc. As A POP artist, your picks may be from the top 10 Billboard charts. This would normally be done in the early phase of your career, to build your fanbase.

For a deejay or singjay, you can mix it up, for example, using the hooks of popular songs and doing a completely new verse to showcase your lyrical skills

The next phase of the process, You’d have then published your cover on youtube, and so when persons are searching for these originals eg. Steven Marley and Pitbull ” Options” they’ll find your version in the mix.

The spin-off is that persons may check out other singles you have posted as well.
You may choose to do a pristine production of the cover, or simply do a lyric video or a live acoustic performance.

Cover songs can be used to find new fans online. Use this as a means to get your name out to the public. You may release the cover while working on your originals, as this is just a way to ease into the market.

 Covers are an effective way of introducing yourself to new audiences. This may be a way to funnel persons to your youtube, and other social media pages, where they can update themselves and get familiar with your work. Existing fans may also better appreciate your music as a result too.

 Doing a cover though does not mean that you will do the song back in the original form. instead, transform the song in a way that makes it uniquely yours. eg.Sanchez  is known to go all out productions and performances of covers, which, in turn, leaves you thinking it’s  his original.

When you find the cover you want to to do, check out the top 10 or 100 Billboard charts. Get the lyrics and chords for the song. You can get someone to play it for you, and you record the video of your live performances or an all-out production.

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