Wednesday, August 1, 2012

THANK YOU For 15 Years Of Music Recording Bliss

This summer marks the 15th year that my recording studio, TRH Music Group (The Recording House) has been in existence.  I opened the doors waaayyy back in 1997 and my intention was to record my own music and help other artists get high quality recordings for a reasonable price.  And, of course, to have a lot of fun doing it.  So far that's exactly what I've done and it's been a blast!

I'd like to thank all the great people and artists that I've had the opportunity to work with over the years, it's truly been a pleasure and I've learned a tremendous amount from all of them.

It's been inspiring and just an amazing experience to watch many of these artists grow over the last decade and a half.  I've seen some of them get out of the basement and onto a stage for the very first time.  I've been a part of some of their first pro recording experiences.  I've watched some of them put together their first tours across Ontario, across Canada, across North America and across the globe.  I've watched some artists build a sustainable business and make a living from music alone.  I've seen some artists sign recording contracts with independent and major record labels around the world.  And most importantly, I've built many great relationships -- many of which have been going strong for almost the entire time -- and I'm very proud to have been a part of their musical journies. 

The music business has changed so drastically over the past 15 years and it's been really interesting to witness the creative ideas many artists have come up with to keep pushing forward with their music careers and their dreams.  I'm certainly looking forward to seeing where things go in the future and I'm very much looking foward to many more years of making music.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are You Really In A Band?

It seems that everyone and their grandmother is in a band nowadays.  But are all these people who claim to be in a band, really in a band?  I'd say no for the most part.  Sure, these people get together with other musicians a couple times a week and write some original songs and maybe even get out of the rehearsal room once in a while a perform in front of a live audience, but that's not really what being in a band is all about.

What Is A Real Band?

I think we need to redefine what it is to be in a band.  It should be a little bit more complicated than that and thus more of an exclusive club.  We can't just let everyone in because they've managed to accomplish the relatively simple tasks mentioned above.  To be in a band for real, you have to have a lot more than that under the hood.

You need to get together with everyone involved and nail down a solid vision so that you're all on the same page.  This is the only way you're going to bring something special and unique to the party.  If you just do the bare minimum, you're likely to fall into the abyss of mediocre bands that just clutter up the scene and make it harder for music fans to find the good stuff.

The Songs:

You have to know what kind of music you're going to write and play.  Obviously this can take a lot of time to determine, so don't feel you have to figure this out tomorrow, just make sure that you're conscioulsy moving toward your own unique 'sound.' 

Be aware of what messages are in your song lyrics.  Lyrics are such a powerful element in the songwriting process and you should definitely make the effort to ensure that you're using this power to its fullest potential.  And strive to be consistent in this area so you strengthen the connection between you and your fans.

When you're writing and recording original material, take note of what feels good and which songs are getting positive feedback in the online arenas and live on stage.  If the feedback you're receiving is somewhat mediocre then take a step back and try to determine what needs to be improved.  If you can't figure it out on your own, don't be afraid to bring in some outside help.  Look around for some pro writers who may be interested in working with you on new material.

The Image:

If you're going to be a real band, you have to have an image.  There must be something about your appearance that stands out and is recognizable so your fans can differentiate between you and the millions of other artists that fall into the same musical category.  Get creative here and tap into something within you that's honest.  Don't dress or act in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.  Be sure to compliment and accentuate all the unique and amazing qualities you possess. 

If you're short on ideas, just look around at your favourite artists and borrow a few from them.  Successful artists make a considerable investment in their image by hiring image consultants to assist them in bringing their persona to the masses.  If it's in the budget, maybe this is something to consider.  And please don't look at your favourtie artists and conclude they don't really have an image.  Trust me, they do.  Look closer!

The Story:

What's your story?  Where did you come from and who are you?  What kind of struggles or victories have you had?  What is it about where you've been and where you're going that's going to make your fans want to come along for the ride?  Brainstorm with your band mates and try to be as objective as possible here.  If you were a potential fan of your band, what interesting little tidbit of information would entice you into learning more and connecting on a deeper level -- connecting beyond the music?

Again, don't come to the conclusion that you don't have a story.  You do!  The fact that you exist means you have a story.  Tap into that and deliver it to your audience with an enticing and entertaining twist.

A Comparison

I believe that these three things are the most important to have sorted out in order to consider yourselves a band.  If you don't do the work to create a strong and definite vision, then you'll more than likely just flounder around the scene and never really get anywhere or keep your fans interested long term.

Just look at some of the typical acts in your local scene.  If you were to compare one of these bands with Metallica, Bryan Adams, Avenged Sevenfold, or John Mayer, can you honestly say it's anywhere close to the same thing?  Of course not.  What's the difference between these local indie acts and the major players?  They're not super human, they've just done the work.  So get busy, because we need you!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Do Your Fans Want Really You?

Make sure you're creating something around your music that people want to be a part of. If you're begging people to support you in one way or another, you're doing it wrong. Build an experience that automatically attracts fans to you and makes them want to get in on it.

Do you see the same faces in the audience at your gigs, or are you seeing more strangers with every show? Can you honestly say that there's something significant that sets your band apart from other bands in your genre? Is there something that you do better than other bands? Doing something as good as other bands isn't good enough. Try to put yourself in your potential fan's position; would you rush to see your band live or buy your music? Are you using the available resources all over the internet in a creative new way instead of the same old, same old that every other artist has already done?

You probably love or hate some of the following bands/artists, but it doesn't matter either way. Learn from them. The fact that you love or hate them means they're doing something right. What sets them apart from others who don't share the same level of success?


There's more choice out there than ever before so make sure you're offering your fans something solid enough to embrace and climb on board your very own rock and roll train. Look beyond the music and offer them an experience and a lifestyle and in time you'll find that you don't have to beg and cajole people into supporting you. They'll want you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Have A New Blog Page On My Website

Wow, that's a pretty dry title! But I guess it says it all.

A very BIG thanks to Bill Lankin of WjL Media Services for putting it all together for me and to Murray Daigle of MDS Recording for snapping the shots in my 'Gallery.'

I'm going to keep this blog going for now in addition to the blog page on my official website just so I don't lose anybody. Please head over to the new spot to check it out though and thanks again to all of you who keep reading my posts, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Cheers!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Should My Band Record A Full-Length Record?

When you're at that point with your band where you're ready to record some new material, the discussion of how many songs you should record will soon follow. In my experience, most bands/artists seem to want to record all of the tunes they have on the table or as many as they can afford. They're excited about every song. Each song is very important to them, almost like it's one of their children.

And although I completely understand this kind of attachment (trust me, I've been there), the problem is that most bands/artists don't have the kind of budget that would be necessary to record ten or fifteen songs. Their budget is usually quite limited and in this case, you're spreading the attention and resources thin on all the songs on your list.

Many bands/artists want to record a full-length album because throughout history, that's what bands have done; they made records. And this can still be a good idea if you're planning on taking the DIY road and working your ass off to sell your album by touring extensively and setting up a brilliant marketing strategy. If you're recording your music in hopes that someone is going to discover you and take care of all the red tape for you, then it's probably not such a great idea.

When you record a full-length album and use it as your main calling card to submit to labels, publishers, managers and agents, etc., they're going to listen to the first 30 seconds of the first song and if that doesn't entice them to listen to more, they're going to throw it away and move on to the next submission. All that work, time, money and effort put into making your record and in most cases, only the first 30 seconds gets heard.

For this reason, I think it's better to put as much resource into a smaller number of songs. Even recording just one song can be a great way to go. Here's a few reasons why:

1. You don't get locked into a bad situation with a studio/producer for a huge project that is not living up to your expectations.

2. The amount of time you spend in the studio will be much, much less and subsequently, you'll see results more quickly. Results that you can share with music industry professionals and your fans to keep your buzz going strong. This is something you can do every month or every quarter and you will appear to be very consistent and hard working in your efforts.

3. The results will be of higher quality simply because you were able to put much more resource into the one song and because of this, it will be received more positively. Always leave your audience wanting more, don't make them wish you gave them less.

4. When a band records a full-length album, there's usually a consistency within the recording in that all the songs are a snapshot of where the band is musically and creatively at that time. Therefore there's not much growth from one song to the next. If you record one song every month, the growth in musicianship, songwriting ability and creativity will be much more significant. By the end of a year, you'll be so much closer to creating your 'sound' than if you were to record a whole album over a year.

Making an entire album is a huge undertaking! It can take a very long time because of scheduling conflicts among the band members and with the studio you're working at and because of this, it appears as though not much is going on from the perspective of your fans and industry pros. You can keep your audience tuned into what you're up to via youtube videos and so on and that's definitely a great thing to do, but I've seen this kind of thing go on and on for months or even years to the point where the fan base has lost interest and they've moved on. The buzz is dead.

I'm not saying don't make a record, I'm just suggesting that you think about exactly what that entails and if it's the most sensible move for you. Look ahead to what comes after the album has been recorded and manufactured and/or uploaded to the digital world. Make sure you have a plan of action that will make your efforts worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do You Know Your Band Members?

Do you really know your band mates? I mean really know them in terms of what their expectations and aspirations are regarding your band. I would say many don't really know.

It's really important to sit down with your crew and put it all on the table. You may find that one of the members wants to pursue another career path entirely and is just doing this now for kicks. If you don't know this, when he/she finally decides to jump ship, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised at an inopportune moment. Perhaps when there's a huge deal in the works or an imminent touring opportunity. I've seen these things happen and it's not pretty.

Here's some things to hash out in a discussion. And make sure you encourage everyone to be honest, because you don't want your band mates to just say what they think you'll want to hear to avoid an argument. Knowing the reality of the situation will put everyone involved in a better position and you can move forward strategically from there.

1. Musical direction: Seems obvious enough, but you may be surprised to find that not everyone is on the same page.

2. Level of commitment: How far is everyone willing to go to accomplish the goals you've set for yourselves as a band? You may find that there's a limit to what some of your band members will endure to make it.

3. Splitting up profits: When there's money on the table, how will it be split up? It doesn't have to be the same for every revenue stream, so it's a good idea to know what everyone is expecting from each of the potential pies in the event you have a big pay day.

I would say these are the main points to cover, although you may find there are other things to consider that are specific to your situation. The objective is to just get it all out in the open as much as possible. If after this exercise you find that everyone within your camp shares the same philosophy, it will probably serve to strengthen your bond even more and that can be powerful stuff! Even if a particular member confesses that this is just something he/she is having fun with at the moment and they're not looking to it as a career option, don't feel you have to launch that person out of the band immediately. If the musical chemistry is there and the personal relationship is there, keep moving forward as long as it's working and makes sense. Knowing the truth will help you to avoid surprises down the road.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Things You Must Consider When Building Your Team

Every band and artist needs a team of people around them to make things happen. You cannot do it on your own because there's simply too many things that need to get done. Besides, there's always going to be certain tasks that you and your band mates are just not good at. Having said that, I do think that artists should always be very much a part of everything that's going on with their career, but you do have to learn to let go and hand over the reins.

Whenever you're hiring an individual or a company to perform a service for you, there's two very critical things you need to look at before you seal the deal.

1. The first thing is that the person/people you're hiring must be into the aspect of your band for which they were hired. For example, if you're hiring a producer to produce your music, make sure that person is a fan of the music you're making. If not, the end result could be disastrous. If they're fans of your music, they'll better understand you and vice versa. They'll be more effective at contributing useful ideas and helping you achieve your creative goals and they'll likely have more patience for the project throughout the duration of the process.

I've seen some indie artists enlist the services of big name producers because they figure if Band X had mega success after working with him/her then they will succeed to a similar degree. This is obviously not usually the case. In fact, more often than not, the artist winds up forking over an exorbitant amount of money for recordings that are mediocre at best. The quality tends not to fall within the realm of your favourite bands because top shelf producers are used to working with very large budgets, so what may seem like a lot to you is not really much to them and that will reflect in the amount of effort and attention they give to your project. So make sure every aspect of your band's career gets the attention it deserves by hiring people who share your enthusiasm for what you're doing.

2. The second thing is that the person(s) in question must be professional. Again, using an example within the recording realm, if you opt to have your buddy record your music on a small Pro Tools rig in his basement because he's looking to get some experience and he's offered you an unbelievable flat rate, then the likelihood of you reaching the level of quality you're after is slim to none. This also sends a clear message to others in the music industry that you don't think your music is worth much. They'll figure if it was really that important to you, you'd find a way to afford better.

What would you think of a restaurateur who hired his buddy to be the head chef because he was looking to improve his skills as a cook and is therefore willing to work for cheap or free? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be making reservations at that restaurant.

Surround yourself with the best you can. Make sure that everyone you let into your circle deserves to be there and is truly adding value to what you're doing. Attitude is contagious so be certain you're always spreading the positive variety.

Cheers to your success!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Will 2012 Look Like On January 1, 2013?

So what's on your to-do list for 2012? What are the things that are most important to you? The things on which you're going to focus your energy? A year seems like a long time, but it really isn't. It's going to be important for you to prioritize things so that you don't get overwhelmed trying to do everything that needs to be done over the course of an entire music career during one relatively short stretch of time. Be methodical and don't worry about things like being picked up by a manager or a major booking agency until you have something tangible to offer.

Being in a band or being a solo artist is a ton of work and it's work that will never end. There will always be something on the table that needs to get done, so it's essential that you understand your goals well enough to know where you need to put your focus now and over the next twelve months so that when January 1, 2013 comes along, you'll be looking back on a very productive year. A year that brought you to a new level, a year that has set you up to take the next steps that will be required to move you toward achieving your ultimate goals.

If your band is just starting out, I'd suggest putting your efforts toward writing and recording songs, playing as often as possible to create a strong live show, developing your image and recognizing the strengths of each band member so they can be utilized to contribute to the greater good. This is assuming, of course, that all the members of your band are on the same page professionally. If this is not the case or even if you're not 100% sure that it is, then begin there.

If your band has been around for a year or more at this point and you haven't gotten this far yet, then it's time to sit down and figure all this out. Don't spin your wheels any longer, get a solid plan together and start taking action. These are all the things that professional artists have given a great deal of thought to and that is, in large part, why they're successful.

The main message I'm trying to get across here is for you to not just let things happen to you all year long. Decide what's going to happen and then take actions to make them happen. Here's to a successful and prosperous 2012!!!