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Your Singing Career on an iBudget

The Demo days are over –says Wes Maebe

It’s long been a dream of many vocalists to “get signed” by a big label.

Yet, the reality is that this far less likely to come true for fewer singers “as time goes by”.

Falling revenues and a drastic change in the business models have led to an aversion to risk at the major labels.

The labels rarely part with the advances that allow artists to spend the time required in a creative, friendly and acoustically optimal studio environment.

If you do get a deal – the odds of which are probably lower than winning the lottery – selling 50,000 – 70,000 albums these days still won’t prevent you from being dropped.

The era that saw the nurturing of bands like Pink Floyd, The Stones, Tom Petty, The Small Faces, The Doobies, Van Halen and others, has gone.

Making It on An iBudget

But there’s good news.

Technological advancements in audio gear and social media make it possible, more than ever before, to build your own singing career.

You can do it yourself if you team up with independent producers and engineers.

The attractive aspect of this reality is that you maintain creative control of your content and every penny you make is yours.

In other words, your future is no longer dependent on an A & R guy in a suit telling you that your album is too “keyboard” heavy.

At the same time an overwhelming number of social networking and discovery/sharing sites are bombarding the potential buyers and music lovers with millions of artists, some of them great, some of them not so great.

The industry has handed the A&R baton over to the public. So let’s do a better job than they did!

Getting Started On My Album

So here we are. It’s down to the artists to surround themselves with an excellent and passionate team and get the job done themselves.

It’s down to you to hire the producer, the recording and mix engineers.

You’ll need to be there at the mastering stage and decide on the duplication quantities and artwork; you’ll need to get in touch with booking agents and promoters and sort out your merchandise.

Just a few music industry-facilitating sites available for artists online

And it’ll be you talking to your audience via the various social networks.

It’s definitely more legwork, but your material remains yours and the money you make goes into your pocket! Surely this has to be an improvement.

And if artists now have to be business-like about their careers, it’s about time.

Getting the Seed Money

Apart from promotion and distribution it was the advance we were expecting from the record labels and the publishers to kickstart the recording process.

Now we have to go out and find the “wallet” ourselves.

You can go busking, get a day job (what the hell is that?!) or tap a wealthy uncle to fund your next project.

There are plenty of fan funding schemes, pioneered by the band Marillion. This allows you to get your audience directly involved in the music they love.

You know there’s a healthy interest from the start. Have a look at companies like PledgeMusic, My Major Company, SliceThePie and Wefund.

Unless you’re an established artist with a strong track record you can forget investor-funded setups like PowerAmp Music.

And of course, there’s no reason you can’t get in touch with your fans yourself via the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Quite a few music industry-facilitating sites have come out of the woodwork. Music Xray, SoundCloud, R&R World, Bandcamp and Numubu to name a few.

These sites provide a platform where artists can network with peers and all other components in the music industry – a sort of One Stop Shop if you like.

We’re All In It Together

It’s time to move on. All these different models are a sign that our industry is far from dead, that music will always be an immense part of our day-to-day lives and, hey, we’re all in it together.

Now get out there, write some killer tunes, get some decent funds and hire us producers, engineers and fabulous studios.

Here’s another interesting fact: PPL (the music right company here in the UK) now refers to both its label and performer members as ‘rights holders’. You’re the rights holder now. That’s a fantastic position to be in.

So make sure your product is as good as it can be. The demo days are over.

Wes Maebe directs his own mix/mastering room in West London and has worked as FOH, studio/location recording, mix or mastering engineer for numerous clients including: Sting, Chaka Khan, Glen Matlock, Yusuf Islam, Alexandra Burke, Melanie C, Deborah Bonham, The Kooks, New Model Army, Elliott Randall, Hayley Westenra, Ann Peebles, Fairport Convention, Stiff Little Fingers, Paul Rodgers, Mo Foster, Exit 10 and The Zimmers!

  • al-andrew

    Great article !
    This has been a common mind set in our working environment for many years.
    The labels have never taken risks and they certainly wont now !
    Get busy making music concentrate on what and who you are as a musician. Connect and listen to your audience !
    Have fun !

  • Really interesting, Thanks Wes!  

  • Fiona Bennett

    Great article Wes!  Have shared to FB and Twitter.  F xx

  • Cliftonthayer

    I love the information that you share. Very practical… honest… and encouraging… thanks!

  • Wes, I have to say, that this read sounds as much like a tout for you and your fellow sound engineer’s “Studio Hire Services” as it does words of encouragement for performers to “go it alone”.
    Which really makes a lot of sense at this time of the reality of the existence of the never before seen worldwide PLETHORA of music and song from a worldwide PLETHORA of would be “signed Artists”.
    Interesting turn around to see, as those studios I approached were so laise-affaire and up themselves (while achieving little or nothing in gaining new customers). This led me to back right off to go and educate myself so that I could produce everything from song and music and performance including adding harmony and effects(Thanks VoiceLive Play GTX!) right up to and including my own CD’s and Mp3’s for digital download. I have used an online Master Mix service to “Master-Up” my .wav files, although the audible differences to my original submissions sound only subtle at best.

    You are certainly right about many things.
    1. It does take a heck of a lot of extra “time and legwork” for oneself.
    2. The majority of what I earn goes straight into my own bank account.
    3. I answer to no-one for my creative or productive choices.
    4. The great advice from you and others helps go-it-aloners like me enormously.
    Thanks Wes. You, of all SE’s and as a “Giver”, really do deserve our support. Pity I live in OZ and not in London as I once did as I’d love to pop in for a cuppa !