It’s been a long time coming but I am finally releasing my full length album.
It’s been a journey over the past several years and I wanted to share some of my struggles and findings for anyone else trying to put your own music out.
For starters, I am an indie artist who has achieved little success. So let me tell you what I did wrong, and how I am overcoming mistakes and obstacles to continue my dream of being a musician.
It was a complete DIY project from learning how professional use DAWs (in my case, Pro Tools), to what type of equipment to use, to studio space and time… and…. a lot more than I can cover in one blog post.
So I’ll go a foot deep and a mile wide so to speak, avoiding the nitty gritty.
The first thing I would like to mention is the triangle of fast, cheap, and good. You can pick any two, but not all three. I picked cheap and good.
Struggle #1: Finishing things.
Let’s get this straight. First you have to finish that song you’re writing, then record all the instruments for it with no real studio space, or professional gear. How can you manage when you can't even finish writing a song?
Solution: Write it down. Schedule it. Do it.
When you write something down you are 42% more likely to achieve your goal. I know it sounds silly, but it helps! Write it down, make a schedule and pivot if things aren’t going to plan. If things take longer than you thought, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you have to give up, it just means you have to keep going.
Struggle #2: I can’t afford pro gear.
Let’s be real here. You can get away with cheap gear for demos and lots of of other purposes, but if you want a really professionally sounding recording you are going to have to spend a little bit of money.
Solution:Spend your money in the most important places.
What software are you using? Doesn’t really matter. The Chainsmokers use Ableton because they couldn’t afford anything else and now they’re in billboard top 10.
If you have to buy one piece of great gear. Get a really good interface. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but something like the RME Fireface or the Apogee Duet is a good start.
That’s the one piece of gear you probably won’t be able to rent, and where most of your money will go.
Why? Think of it like trying to be a photographer taking pictures with your smart phone. It can look pretty good, but without a good lens on your camera, it won’t look professional. A good interface is like a good lens. You can get by without it, but it is the difference between a good, and a professional level recording.
Why I like the RME Fireface. It’s clean. It doesn’t color your sound. It has crystal clear analog to digital conversion, and it has ADAT in if I need more inputs.
Then rent or borrow everything else. You don’t need to buy expensive microphones; you probably will never recoup your costs. You don’t need expensive preamps, you can rent them, or use an emulator (technology is amazing, use it to your benefit).
As for studio space, I was lucky enough to borrow my parents log cabin with tons of acoustic space which I turned into a makeshift studio. If you don’t have access to a nice acoustic space, remember that most instruments can be recorded in a makeshift dead space. I recorded vocals in a walk in closet, guitar amps under my duvet cover. Don’t spend all your money on studio time, you can work around it.
This is about cutting the fat and making your album release possible without breaking the bank.
Struggle #3: I can’t play things well enough.
I can hear it in my head, but I don’t play x instrument very well.
As a solo artist you probably play a handful of instruments. Let’s be real, do you really play them all perfectly? It's way better and easier to get a good take then it is to edit it later. Remember that.
Solution: Hire some local talent to play on your tracks.
It will save you a lot of trouble down the road, save you tons of precious editing time, and the headache of having to re-do the recording when you finally admit it sounds like crap.
See if you have a local community of musicians in a Facebook group, or talk gigging musicians and music teachers. They have tons of talent and are willing to work with you for a fair price.
Struggle #4: I don’t know what I’m doing.
Or how my recordings should sound, or how I can make them sound better.
Solution: Find a mentor
Learn on your own. Admit what you don’t know. And ask around.Also be aware that lots of people don’t know what they’re talking about, so be careful whose advice you choose to take.
Lastly, pay a professional for mastering and mixing. Chances are you’re a little biased. You can’t hear things the way a neutral third party can. If you can’t afford a professional mixer at LEAST get someone (or a few people) to listen to your mixes and give you honest feedback. Something like, “Your vocals are waay too loud and your bass and kick are drowning each other” might be something you need to hear. You’ve put a lot of work into recording your masterpiece, don’t cheap out on the final steps.
Struggle #5:No one knows or cares who I am.
I’m still working on a solution for this one, but I can tell you the biggest mistake I made. I stopped gigging and doing shows while I was recording. I was busy… I was recording and working and going to school full time. My time was better spent in the studio, right?
Well… When you finally go to release your album, you will find that your fan base has dwindled. It’s okay if your set isn’t ready. Play a few teasers songs, play some covers. Just stay active in the community, and keep networking. It will help you later on.
Struggle #6: I have no idea how to sell my music on iTUnes
or Google Play or the latest trending music site, etc..
Neither do I. Try CD Baby or TuneCore. They both have their pros and cons, but they are both godsends to indie artists who want easy global digital distribution.
I wouldn’t recommend physical distribution, unless you have a huge fan base, it’s a waste of money. Get a small number of CDs for shows if you must, but it’s 2016 and the only CD player I own is in my car. So go digital.
So now that you’ve read my blog post you should be able to create your own album, right? Yes! As long as you have passion and tenacity.
Now remember, I’m not perfect, I'm still a super small indie artist, so make your own mistakes, and learn from them and share!
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!