All posts by Kevin Cornell

The Business of Making a Record

[Editors Note: This is the first in a series of guest articles from Coury Palermo. Over the next few months, he’ll break down what it means to grind it out and write, record, release and promote a DIY album early in your musical career. Coury is a songwriter, producer and musician who is currently one-half of duo love+war.]

I first walked into a recording studio at the age of fifteen. The girl I was interested in at the time and I had written a song together, and she asked me to sing the backing vocals for the track. Green and full of countless hours of liner-note consumption and naïve expectation, I took to this new adventure like a fish to water. After the experience I remember thinking I would do whatever it took to repeat the “Christmas morning” feeling of pure joy I had experienced in those short forty-five minutes.

Fast-forward a hand full of years and thousands of hours working; pursuing the sometimes-illusive art of putting idea to paper and melody “to tape”. If I’ve learned anything in my relatively short career as a singer-songwriter, it’s that rules don’t exist when it comes to creation – especially when we’re talking about the recording process.

Sure, we can put weight to the notion that recording a vocal in a soundproof room lends to the quality of a final recording, or that the rhythm section should always be the first thing tracked when beginning a new song – but are these traditions set in stone? The unconventional route can sometimes be the most inspiring and freeing road any musician takes.

Recording an album is an endless checklist of pieces that make up the whole. There are producers to pick, songs to write, mixers to choose, and the list goes on. In the ever-changing landscape of the music business, fans and the way we build those fan bases have become an integral part of the record making process. If there is no one listening, why are we recording?

“Where to start…”

This simple statement can be the most overwhelming three words in the English language. When thinking about recording a project, especially your first, you should ask yourself a few basic questions before starting:

Have I laid the groundwork to help make this project a success?

I’m not talking about everyone else’s definition of success – I’m talking about your goals, YOUR process for building YOUR career. We, as musicians, become fixated on what we’re told success should look like – forgetting everyone started somewhere. Everyone’s experience in life is different and unique.

There is no master plan. In short: start small. Write three great songs, record them, build your fan base, play shows, and find unique ways to interact with that fan base. This is how you build, and building is everything.

Have I written some good material? What if I’ve never written a song?

Songwriting 101: Take the pressure off. Stop listening to what other people think your process should be when writing or what they think you should write about. Know your voice. Writing a great song that connects with a listener should always be the goal; not writing “a hit”. The most connective pieces of music are the ones that are honest; songs that reflect the space you’re in or your unique point of view. Your “great” is not everyone’s “great”…and that’s ok.

If they (the songs) aren’t flowing when your pen hits the paper, step back and live a bit. One well-written song is better than a thousand forgotten throwaways. Don’t get caught up in writer’s block. It happens to everyone.

Covers are the perfect way to get your melodic and lyrical feet wet and are a great icebreaker for a new audience. Spend some time with a few of your favorite songs – ones you have a personal connection to. Come up with an arrangement that allows you to showcase your unique style yet still tips it’s familiar hat to the original. It never hurts to have an automatic “friend” in the set people will recognize. Often times, this can be the bridge that keeps them in their seats for your original material.

Is anyone listening?

Once you have your “Empty” (one of the best written songs I’ve ever heard by Ray LaMontagne) or “Toxic” (yes, the one from Britney Spears – brilliantly written pop in my opinion), build that demand. Before a single note is recorded find your audience. Where, you ask? In the dive bar, small club, house-show, backyard-fire pit-summer sing-a-long; anywhere you can find a connection.

We’re told touring has to look grand – be nothing but struggle and a rented van. Yes, those are parts of the equation for some, but there are a hundred different ways to make a fan. Find yours, and everything else will find it’s place.

Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the grind that is being an indie artist. We’ll talk about making a record from start to finish and how you can better navigate the current state of the industry to get your music to the buds of larger audience. Until next time…


love+war is the brain-child of writer-producer-guitarist team Coury Palermo & Ron Robinson. The two began working together in the fall of 2014 with no other intention but writing material for possible pitches in TV/Film. Once the sessions began, the two realized the collaboration was destined for much more than their original hopes for commercial sync opportunities.

Grounded in the traditions of R&B, pop, and minimalistic electronica, love+war turns the ear with their infectious blend of singer-songwriter soul. Check out their recent video for their Eurythmics cover of “Missionary Man”!

New Music Friday: September 23, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow THE NEW – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!

foreign air
For the Light
Foreign Air

Alternative, Pop

sounds like harmony
Wonderland
Sounds Like Harmony

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

young and divine
Fux With the Boy (Remix)
Young and Divine

Pop

wooly mammoth
Come Undone
The Wooly Mammoths

Rock, Pop

devon baldwin
Hero / Siren Song
Devon Baldwin

Electronic, Pop

trevor moran
Get Me Through the Night
Trevor Moran

Pop

kyle morton
What Will Destroy You
Kyle Morton

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

mario jose
Acoustic Covers, Vol. 1: Songs That Inspired Heart of Gold
Mario Jose

Pop, Singer/Songwriter

stu da boi
Thundera (feat. Young & Divine)
Stu Da Boi

Pop, Hip Hop/Rap

shallou & RKCB
Slow
Shallou & RKCB

Electronic, Pop

jeremy plato and the retrospect
In Retrospect
Jeremy Plato and the Departed

Country, Singer/Songwriter

kita klane copy
Technicolor
Kita Klane

Pop, Alternative

How to Earn Money Teaching Music – Even With a Busy Schedule

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Gfire Mayo. Gfire is an Austin, TX-based music teacher with TakeLessons.com, offering lessons in guitar, singing, piano and more to students of all ages. She has been teaching and performing music full-time for more than 17 years.]

I have been singing, writing songs, playing the piano and guitar, and recording music since I was three years old. Being a singer/songwriter is my life’s work, but it can be helpful to have additional streams of income to make sure the bills get paid! For many professional musicians, teaching music is an ideal side job to have while still pursuing your creative goals.

At a bare minimum, you should be able to get an entry level position at $20/hour or more at a local music studio. If you’re teaching private lessons, you can set your own rates. With enough experience, you can command $40-$70 an hour or more, depending on the norm in your current market.

Beyond making money, teaching may also expand your fan base! Many of my students and their families come to my shows. And they’ll respect your advice even more when you show them that you, too, have to practice just like they do.

The best part, though? Teaching private music lessons allows you to create your own schedule. But it is a balancing act you’ll need to master.

Here are some tips that have helped me balance a busy performance schedule with teaching on the side:

#1. Align yourself with a reputable service to help you market yourself. 

I work with TakeLessons.com. They handle the marketing side of my business, to help me find new singing, piano, guitar, and songwriting students. I keep my availability updated so that they know when I can and can’t teach music students. I can also arrange in advance to have no students when I am touring out of town.

With music services like these, you can also offer online lessons, which I recommend. By doing so, you can expand your roster beyond your hometown. I have worked with students in Washington, California, Colorado, Maine, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Iowa, and have even taught folks in Switzerland and New Zealand! You may have skills to offer as a teacher that your students cannot get locally.

There are also local music schools and after-hours programs at schools and universities where you can teach classes. You can sometimes find students by posting on Craigslist or on your local neighborhood online bulletin board, like Nextdoor. Encourage happy clients to post reviews on Yelp, since people use that site to help them make purchasing decisions.

#2. Make sure to schedule your own practice time and touring time from the beginning. 

I like to get at least an hour of singing and piano playing in before I start teaching, so I schedule students from noon to 9 pm. Usually I have breaks during the day for lunch and dinner and some further practicing.

If I have gigs out of town, I ask my students if they would like a make-up lesson either before or afterwards if their lessons fall during my tour dates. Just remember, you’ll need to stay super organized! Write down all of your gigs and lessons so you don’t forget anything, and keep everything up-to-date.

#3. Similarly, make sure to schedule one or two days completely off from teaching, practicing, and performing. 

Your creative self and your physical self will fare much better when you schedule in some down time. I call it “the lazy girl’s way to practice” – while you are off watching a movie or playing sports or whatever you like to do in your free time, your subconscious is working on all of your musical skills!

#4. Offer performance opportunities to earn more.

I put on a spring recital and a fall recital at my studio, and at Christmas we go to a local nursing home and perform for the residents. I charge $15 per student for my expenses and I usually make at least $100 for myself. It’s a win-win for both me and my students, who learn how to prepare for a performance.

And by the way, it’s just as important for the adult students to perform, if they are able to, as it is for the children. Performing is a valuable musical skill for all students to learn!

#5. Think about teaching as an investment in your own skills, too.

You may find, like me, that teaching music not only helps your students, but it helps your own music practice. For example, you might end up describing ways of practicing that are even more creative and worthwhile than you used before! If you’re trying to decide if it’s worth putting in the extra time to teach on the side, consider it an investment in your own skills.

Teaching music has been a great way for me to earn income while still performing and doing what I love. You, too, probably have a ton to offer aspiring musicians! Keep these tips in mind, and you can build a successful studio and make a difference in the lives of many students.


Learn more about how TakeLessons can help you build your teaching studio, and create your profile instantly!

Wednesday Video Diversion: September 21, 2016

First day of fall, y’all! And as the summer finally slips away from your grasp and you come to terms with it, we understand that you’re likely ‘falling’ asleep on what feels like a truly endless Wednesday afternoon. So WAKE UP with this awesome round up of music videos from our even more awesome TuneCore Artist community – now with 100% more Jazzercise!

 

Joey Purp, “Girls @ (feat. Chance The Rapper)”


Seedless, “Heart of a Warrior”


Bad Suns, “Disappear Here”


Opus Orange, “Let You Down”


New York Movie, “Firecracker”


Glen Phillips, “Amnesty”


Bantam Foxes, “Sleep”


Alyssa Bonagura,”Rebel”


Jake Shimabukuro, “Kilauea (Nashville Sessions)”


MC Chris, “Where the Ghosts At?”

“Beats For Sale.” Now What? – A Look At Some of the Legal Issues

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. Justin is an entertainment and media attorney in New York City. He also runs Label 55 and teaches music business at the Institute of Audio Research.]

The rapid rise of the internet and the ease of world-wide instant peer-to-peer communications have provided many upcoming artists with new opportunities to monetize their unreleased, original works. The use of social media and the internet has made it possible for aspiring music producers, vocalists and musicians to instantly spread their music and attempt to make their own mark on the music industry. This pursuit has led to a large number of artists, in particular many music producers, advertising and promoting their “beats for sale.”

This is to earn an immediate profit on their unreleased musical works. While this may seem to be a straight-forward transaction, where a musician pays a specified fee to purchase a “beat” or instrumental from a producer; there are many legal issues that arise. These issues must be taken into account to ensure this transaction is done properly and that all parties involved are properly compensated at that instant as well as in the future.

There are several considerations a purchaser must take into account when purchasing an instrumental track or “beat” from another. The first consideration is whether the instrumental track is being leased or sold. Also, whether the license (right to use the track) is an exclusive or non-exclusive “deal.” Typically, when a creator “leases” a beat to another, this arrangement provides the leasor (party leasing the instrumental) with the right to utilize the instrumental and to reproduce, sell or otherwise utilize the finished works containing the beat for a specified period of time.

However, this transaction does not generally give the leasor the exclusive and indefinite right to utilize the beat. The creator is usually still able to re-sell the same instrumental to others. The leasor may also have to enter into an additional lease with the creator after the expiration of a specific time frame if they wish to continue utilizing and exploiting the recording that contains this leased beat.

When negotiating an appropriate license fee for this particular option, is important to discuss and agree on how the leasor plans to utilize the beat. This includes how many copies of the finished work and in what mediums (i.e. CDs, downloads, streaming) it will be used. Also relevant is the territory or area the finished work can be sold in (i.e., North America, Europe, “the universe”) and whether it can only be used for a particular use (i.e. for demo use only, for iTunes sale only, free on a mixtape, or Sending Song in an Email).

Conversely, a creator can instead assign all of the creator’s rights in the work to the purchaser by selling the instrumental and the creator’s exclusive rights associated with the track. Generally, the cost to lease a beat is less than the cost to purchase the beat, as the creator is able to monetize the same work several times when they lease the beat rather than sell it. The fee for the beat can range from $5 to $10 all the way up to several thousand dollars, depending on the reputation of the producer and the type of usages the purchaser envisions.

Whether you are purchasing or leasing a beat, it is essential that any purchased instrumental does not contain any unauthorized “samples” (a copied portion from another’s song) in them. If the track does contain a “sample,” an artist should require that the seller of the instrumental provide some type of “sample clearance” or other clearly defined authorization permitting the use of this “sample.”

If the seller cannot provide proper authorization, it is highly advisable to avoid this instrumental as it could set-up the purchaser for potential copyright infringement liability down the road. Even if there is not a clear and distinct unauthorized sample in a “beat for sale,” it is prudent to ensure that the seller fully indemnifies the purchaser for the creation, including having the seller warrant they own all the rights for the work and that there are no samples or other unauthorized material used in the creation of the work.

If these infringing materials do exist, the agreement must ensure that seller must indemnify or reimburse the purchaser if an infringement is later found contrary to any of the creator’s warranties.

Additionally, is it imperative that the parties agree on whether the original producer is entitled to a traditional music publishing interest in a finished track or not. If so, an agreement on what percentage they would be entitled to should be entered into prior to finalizing any transaction. It is also important to determine whether and what royalty rate, typically a specified percentage, the seller is entitled to. This rate can be based on per a copy rate or a flat fee buy-out that does not include any additional royalties for the recording sold.

Furthermore, it is imperative to outline which party has the right to issue third-party licenses for the finished recording and for what avenues of exploitation (i.e., right to sell in digital and physical forms, license, broadcast, synchronize with visual images in any media, license to motion pictures, television, video games, translations, “covers” or other derivative works) if at all, are permitted. It is also essential to determine who has the right or the obligation to register the work with the appropriate organizations.

Finally, a determination of appropriate credit and right of publicity should be made. The right of publicity permits the purchaser to utilize the professional name, photograph, likeness, and other biographical material in connection with material and is extremely important if the instrumental is created by a well-known or ‘buzzing’ producer. In exclusive deals, a copyright should be filed; more on that next time.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.