Monday, May 23, 2011

Do Less and Accomplish More

The road to success in the music business is a long, slow road and it's important to make sure that you're doing little things every day to move yourself further along on your journey. Are you doing something every day toward your music career? Make sure that you are.

Don't feel that you have to make huge waves every day. You don't have to write and record an entire album and plan a cross country tour. Just do a little bit at a time. Write one song that you can present to your band mates and read some articles about what to expect when you do plan that tour. Show up to a show of an artist you respect and introduce yourself and start building that relationship. And stay on top of your social networking duties.

There's a great book by Timothy Ferriss entitled "The Four Hour Work Week" that I read when it came out about four years ago. It really doesn't have much to do with the music business per se, but regardless of what field you're in, I believe it's recommended reading for all. Throughout the book Tim offers many great tools and life-changing advice to significantly increase your chances of success in whatever it is you do.

One thing that he suggests is to write your to-do list for tomorrow no later than tonight. And he insists that your list should never include more than two mission-critical tasks. By putting too much on your plate, it creates indecision and confusion and you wind up accomplishing less.

I feel this is great advice for DIY musicians because when you're traveling down the independent road, slow and steady wins the race. If you don't have major label backing, you're not going to move a mountain in a day, so don't stress yourself out trying. There are certainly a ton of little things that can be done every day and you should not neglect doing them, just make sure that you do the high priority stuff first.

If you have any stories about how you've accomplished a lot by doing a little, I'd love to hear about it. Or conversely if you took on too much and burned yourself out, please share your experience.

Oh, and as I write this I'm sipping on some rye and celebrating that the world is till intact. Whew!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Hire A Producer?

I think the answer to this question is really pretty simple. Most bands that I know want to be taken seriously and want to act in a professional manner, so what's the best way to do that? Do what professional artists do.

Q: What's the first thing a pro act does before they enter the recording studio to begin recording their album?

A: Hire a producer.

They know that it's essential if they want to produce a product that has commercial success potential. I know there are exceptions to the rule, but if you plan on being one of the exceptions, just know that you're making an already difficult task pretty near impossible.

Look at the liner notes of the CDs in your collection. Ninety-nine percent of these albums have no doubt been produced by a producer outside of the band. There are many reasons for this and here are a few:

1. A producer will help you organize your ideas into a cohesive collection of songs with each song being a succinct and impactful weapon to hit your listeners with. Bands will usually have a lot of great ideas kicking around whether it's a full song or just a cool verse or a catchy chorus hook and it's a producer's job to come in with a fresh and impartial perspective and bring all the good stuff to the surface.

Producers also keep everyone involved focused on the taks at hand. Sometimes the musicians can be too caught up in their own individual part whereas the producer is looking at the bigger picture. He/she will have a strong vision for what the overall vibe and energy for the track is supposed to be.

Conflict Resolution
2. A producer can be a great person to help resolve conflicts among band members. Many times the forward movement of a project can be seriously stifled when two or more members don't see eye to eye on a particular point. The musicians in the band are usually too attached to the music to be objective and do what's truly best for the song and the album as a whole. The producer can more easily see what needs to be done to move forward.

This is where the whole 'Dr. Sean' thing comes in. Years ago, one of my recording clients started calling me Dr. Gregory and it made sense to me. Quite often I'd find myself in the role of a therapist--helping musicians sort through issues relating to their personal lives as well as their music. Not to mention the 'surgery' I was performing on their audio files.

3. Good producers will have way more experience producing recordings than the members of the band. Even if it's not the bands first time producing an album on their own, you can likely count on one hand the number of times they have.

Making a record can be broken down into many different parts; songwriting, arranging, producing, engineering, performing, editing, mixing, mastering, teching, etc. and they're all very different and important jobs. The more responsibilities one person takes on, the more divided their attention will be and that's never a good thing as people are designed to focus on one task at a time.

Once again, look at the number of people listed in the credits on a major album. It's never just a few people putting together a hit record.

Be Dependent

I love reading Seth Godin's blogs. I find them to be very thought provoking and powerful. I really can't remember where I read this particular clip--whether it was in a blog or one of his books--but he was talking about how it's unfortunate that there's so much emphasis on being independent and going it alone nowadays because it's so important now more than ever to be dependent. I totally agree with his point here. He says:

Self sufficiency appears to be a worthy goal, but it's now impossible if you want to actually get anything done.
All our productivity, leverage and insight comes from being part of a community, not apart from it.
The goal, I think, is to figure out how to become more dependent, not less.

Frasier Has Left The Building

So there you have a few solid reasons why it's important to hire a producer to record your music. I'm sure I've left out many other points, so please feel free to add on to it or even to challenge what's there. When it comes to music, nothing is ever 'right' or 'wrong,' it's all just a matter of perspective.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Protect Your Hearing

Paul Stanley of KISS is shining a light on hearing loss and I thought I'd post a link to this video of an interview he did on Good Day in New York City.

Your hearing is a pretty serious thing. I'm guessing most of us would rather not go without the ability to see or hear if we were forced to choose among our five senses. I know my hearing is pretty important to me as it would be a little difficult to produce and engineer recordings for a living without it. Plus I just kinda dig listening to music... A LOT!!!

Whenever I attend a concert--whether it's at the ACC in Toronto or just a small club--I always wear ear plugs. These live music events can easily reach volume levels of 110 decibels or higher and that is enough to damage your hearing permanently in a matter of minutes, so don't take any chances. Even listening to music at 90 decibels can cause irreparable damage over a period of fifteen or twenty minutes.

If you attend a lot of live shows and/or if you're in a band yourself, make sure you're protecting your hearing so you can listen to great music throughout your entire life.