Music Business 101

(or How To Get Your Foot In The Door Without Actually Getting To The Door)

A lot of folks have sent me e-mails telling me how much my website has helped them in their efforts to break into the business, put together a winning mix, expose resources that many people don't realize are out there, or some other musical venture they were in the dark about. Which got me to thinking; what about the folks that haven't been to the site? Shouldn't they be entitled to information without shelling out their savings for it? Of course, they should!

That's why I decided to bring some of the site to you, Forest Pro. There is a lot of information, so I will break it up into three parts, prompting you to come back every month to get it all. (Pretty sneaky, huh?) Well, here is Part 1.

 

PART 1-Getting Started

   The music industry is a huge machine that depends on several things to keep it happening:

1. Good Players - If you are a beginner on an instrument, it may be wise for you to get well-practiced before venturing into this highly competitive arena. The last thing a player needs is to jump into the fire before they know how to cook. Although it can be fun, it can also be dangerous and costly to the novice musician.

2. Good Business Sense - After all, this IS a business, and there ARE sharks in the water. So it wouldn't be good to try to play if you don't know the basic rules of the game. Know the worth of your material, and keep the most sensitive aspects of your work to yourself until you are sure the people you are dealing with are actually looking out for your best interest. More often than not, the major labels are giant leeches that will suck you dry and leave you without any recourse in the event that your contract outlives your usefulness to them. Your potential to make money off of you is the only thing they worry about, so I'll show you how to keep your prized possession out of the hands of these major league pirates, and still do well for you.

3. Good Common Sense - Don't ever forget that because this is a business, you MUST work at it. No one ever got something for nothing, so put the "overnight sensation" thing out of your mind. There is no such thing. The only way to make a good musical career is to build it yourself, without so many unscrupulous hands in your business. Sometimes, it's not even a good idea to have relatives helping you in your career, even parents.

Time To Work  

First of all, what kind of music do you like?

Rock? Country? Hip-hop? Gospel? Jazz? Latin?

Chances are, the kind of music you like to hear is the kind you play (duh!).

   The fact is, you play what you want your audience to hear sometimes, but you should be thinking about what THEY want ALL the time. Keep in mind that you will only be as much as your audience wills you to be. Sounds kinda weird, huh?

Know what?

DEAL WITH IT!!!!

   I mean, you and I both know that the biggest chunk of your audience is made up of people who just listen to music, not play it. But in the "real world", are you gonna be the one buying all of your tickets? I think not. If you are going to play rock, play the best rock. If you are a country player, make your audience "boot scoot" till they pass out.

   I'm hearing overtones of "but I'm an artist, I wanna play what I like to hear", and "I will not compromise my integrity". I hear ya. Don't wanna do cover, huh? Well, artist, I sure hope you got a good day job.

   The bottom line here is that you have got to be the best, and that means doing the same things that the best do. Emulate that Van Halen riff! Practice those George Benson arpeggios! Get it right the first time, and if you can't do that, do it until you do get it. Then it will be time for you to move on.

Computer Recording

Let's change gears a bit.

I was asked by a visitor to the Web site to do something about computer recording. I didn't want to at first, but I gave it some thought.

I will do my best, but there are three things you must remember before reading further:

1. I am NOT the world's foremost authority on computer recording, despite the fact that I built  the computer I am now using for this purpose, a 450 mhz comp with 128 MB RAM, 3.2 GB HD, and a basic Crystal Semi full duplex sound card. I have two CD drives, one a standard CD_ROM and the other a Philips 40X CD Writer. It is loaded with several different kinds of MIDI and digital audio mixing software like Sweet Sixteen Lite, Voyetra Recording Station, Cool Edit Pro 2, Sound Forge 6.0, Quartz Studio Free, Turtle Beach 2000, and Tsunami Pro 3.2. That should also tell you that I'm not rich.

2. Unless you know a lot about how to handle MIDI, digital audio, sound cards and computers in general, I do NOT recommend attempting to use software for HD recording. It took me blowing out a lot of gear before I learned how to handle this stuff, and that was no fun! It can be frustrating, expensive, aggravating, all the fun stuff. But of course, if you ARE into computers, you know that already, right?

RIGHT?

(I thought so.)

3. As I said in the beginning, this info is for poor folks like me, so if you have a Trump budget, you are in the wrong place anyway. Computer gear is high, man, and the average Starvin' Marvin (Hey Marv!) ain't got the funds for that move. Nuff said.

All right, on to some info.

Digital Audio 101

   I am assuming you know nothing or very little about digital audio processing, so I will give you the layman's version of how it works.

   Computer recording is the science of recording sound files, or "wave" files onto a computer hard drive. They are called "wave" files mainly because the extension on these types of files is .WAV. They are playable through any audio rendering program you have installed on your computer, such as Windows Media Player, Real Player, or any other application that renders digital audio through your sound card. The studio depicted here is an elaborate setup, but from it you can get a basic idea of how it is set up.

   There are three main levels of digital sound, known as "sampling frequencies". The first and most widely used for low end sound effects is 11.025 khz. The term "hz" means "cycles", or something similar to RPM, only we are talking about vibration in seconds. The "k" stands for thousand, so that means just over 11,000 vibrations per second. This is known to computer buffs and audiophiles as "telephone quality", and is not suitable for music, at least not recorded music. It is, however, excellent for short sound clips like cartoon characters' quips, radio and TV commercial clips, and other "fun" applications. It is also suitable because the filesizes are small, usually in the 10kb range.

   The next frequency is 22.050 khz, better known as "radio quality". Although some people use this one for music, the quality of the music in this range is still below par, much for the same reason it is better to record on analog tape at a fast speed. Think of digital sound quality the same as analog as it relates to tape speed: the faster the rate, the better the quality. As a veteran of tape recording, you should know that recording at 15 ips renders far less noise than at 7.5 ips.

   The last frequency used is 44.100 khz, or "CD quality". This is industry standard speed for recording CD's, because of the serious clarity. The only drawback to this speed is that it takes up a lot of room on your hard drive, or whatever drive you are using for storage. In addition, the processing power required to adequately process digital sound at this speed must be quite fast. That means if you are thinking of trying to record on anything less than a 233 mhz Pentium computer, you may as well trash everything you got right now, and just start beating your head against the wall.

Try the Freebies!

   It is not a shameful thing to try out the freebies available on the Net. After all, that's why they put the freebies up there, so you can try them out. My email is stuffed every week with new software tryouts from the Shareware Music Machine. That's where I got Cool Edit Pro 2, Tsunami Pro, Quartz Studio Free, and even Sound Forge 6.0! Also, some of the software that is marked as "shareware" or "demo" actually works past the expiration date, although some of the functions may be disabled. Sweet Sixteen Lite is a demo, but it seems fully functional. I use it for certain things, and it serves the purpose fine. If you download a demo, and it doesn't work well, uninstall it quickly! Sometimes the boneheads who write the programs don't work out all of the bugs, and it could damage your system. Such a program is Fat Rock Studio. To me it is a useless program, but I have to give the author an "E" for effort. (Sorry, FRS! No cigar!) 

   Well, as I said before, I am not a computer recording guru, so this lecture is gonna have to be short. But from time to time, I will put links on my upcoming Links page to different sites where you can find a lot of neat things to experiment with. I'm even giving away my own personal copy of Recording Station, complete with serial number. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, links, software sources, or questions, please feel free to either put them in the guestbook or send me an e-mail at bkhart@forestpro.net, and I will get back to you personally as soon as possible.

   Be sure to come back next month when the subject will be "Recording". Until then, take care.

Peace!

B. K

Write to me at my new e-mail address (thanx, Gary!)

bkhart@forestpro.net

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