At this point, I’ve seen it from all angles. I’ve produced the beats, engineered the tracks and stood in the booth. From recording to promotion, I have some advice that might be helpful…
1.) There is not enough time spent on the recording process. Recording should be one of the fun parts and many of us are taking that part for granted. The number one problem is rigidity. It’s time to loosen up when you head to the studio. An artist will come through with an idea of what they want and any idea that deviates from that, they resist. In reality what worked on the page, may not translate to the mic. Regardless of whether you’re singing or rapping, your voice has to be found in the moment. Ever noticed you could record one day and then the next your delivery will feel ‘off’? This isn’t some unexplainable phenomena, it’s because you’re not a robot. You’re compelled to record original music because you have something to say, so don’t assume you’re going to strike gold every time. Instead, why not book a realistic amount of time in the studio and not rush the process? Give yourself time to loosen up, to ‘get it again’ and allow the engineer and/or producer to have input. Stop being so precious. The one thing you can hold on to though, is professionalism. Show respect to your engineer. We get it, we’re creatives and inherently late, but if that creative quick changes from ten minutes to an hour? Be prepared to pay for that time.
2.) How much should you spend on recording, mixing and mastering? Being frugal is important, especially since you’re sacrificing the finer things so that you can pay for studio time (you are doing that right?? If not…do that, and then come back to this article). But, while pinching pennies is generally helpful, when you find a product of quality, pay for it. If you heard someone else’s track and you want that quality, find out who worked on their project and if it’s costly, save up. Spend money, but only on things that are worth it. Not mastering a track may not be the end of the world if it’s a great mix. Is it a great mix though? Compare it to what’s out there, but if you rushed the recording process, I guarantee spending money on mastering won’t fix that. You can’t polish a turd. Also, don’t under estimate the value of exchanging services. If you can’t afford the beats or the studio time, but you have a useful skill, offer it up.
If you’re performing, invest in some mercy for your audience to take away. The age of business cards is dwindling, what will people always need and want? Lighters, pens, buttons…things that they’ll use but will associate with you. But don’t get the shitty stuff, shop around and once you find a worthwhile use of your hard-earned cash, inhale and confirm your order…now exhale and get back to work.
3.) Learn how you can make money. Do you have another skill you could put to use within your realm of interest? Can you make websites (or learn how), make fliers or take photos? Great. Do that within a circle of people that you eventually want to work with. Now that you’ve started making a bit of cash on the side, save up from that job you hate and quit. Give it six months, see what happens. Time will be worth investing into your art. It means you might not be able to get the latest gadget or (insert something new and cool here), but ‘stuff’ is just stuff in the end and if it isn’t an investment, it’s worthless in the long run.
4.) This leads me to my next point – mainstream culture. Pay attention to it, but don’t let it define you. Trendsetters usually don’t head out to get the newest (again, insert cool thing here). They’re aware of what it is, but unless it directly correlates to their art, it’s usually unessential. The same with current music. Trying to sound like whatever’s hot won’t help your own voice. Listening to other voices should be used to help you find your own. If you study, but don’t plagiarize, yours will naturally emerge. But emulating someone else’s voice is only useful if you’re a ventriloquist.
If you are a ventriloquist and reading this, then that’s really dope, good for you man! But most likely, you’re someone who’s trying to find their way in this ever-changing world of recording where no rule is absolute and no path completely paved. Sacrifice, diversify and listen. Let go a little and you might just find what you really want to hold onto.