Wednesday Video Diversion: August 23, 2017

We’ve arrived at another Wednesday and it’s once more met with a sleepy lack of enthusiasm. But did you know that on this day back in 1970, legendary proto-punkers Velvet Underground played their last gig together at the also legendary Max’s Kansas City in Manhattan? A sad day for even those of us that weren’t alive to mourn their existence! Leader Lou Reed would go on to work for his dad as a typist (?!) for two years before returning to the scene as a solo artist. Thankfully, there’d be plenty of good music to come from that stint. But enough about Lou, enjoy yourself some awesome music videos from TuneCore Artists:


LouisVos, “Ex (feat. Webb)”

Movimiento Original, “Natural”

Peewee Longway, “Rerocc”

Marc Broussard, “Cry To Me (feat. Ted Broussard)”

Daniel Caesar, “We Find Love / Blessed”

Emmit Fenn, “1995”

Keeng Cut, “Own It”

The Stacy White Suite, “Headlights”

Juicy Burger Boys, “SKRTLMaP”

Carousel47, “Spiderman”

A Mini Finance Guide for Indie Musicians

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]


Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi once said, “Music is spiritual. The music business is not.” Whether you’ve been in the industry for years or just starting out, there’s bound to be many bumps in the roads in terms of funding for your career as a musician and ultimately be able to make a living out of it. Hopefully this mini guide can spark new or more ideas to improve the financial facets of being an indie musician.

Set Automated Investments

Whenever you get a paycheck, use it to pay yourself first. Save it in an investment account and make sure to make this process automated. By doing this, you’re making it easier to keep up with your monthly savings. Surveys and research organizations such as Consolidated Credit suggest automated savings and it shouldn’t make you think twice as to why this is a smart idea.

According to President and CEO of Credit Financial Services Innovation, nearly half of Americans say their expenses are equal to or greater than their income and for those 18 to 25 years old, the percentage is over half, up to 54%. The key to keeping automatic investing affordable is to invest directly with a mutual fund company to avoid paying a trade commission each month. There are also some online brokers such as TD Ameritrade that offer hundreds of no-transaction-fee mutual funds in which you can automatically invest with no extra fees.

Put Your Money in a Smart Place

An IRA, or “individual retirement account” allows you huge tax savings on your investments. However, musicians, audio engineer and other creatives are recommended to set up a specific tax-free account called a Roth IRA. With this version, you put in after-tax dollars, and when you take the money out in the end, you don’t have to pay vany taxes on your returns. With ROA, you are set up to double your money every decade or so, just by keeping it in index funds.   Essentially, a Roth ROA provides the benefits of a tax-sheltered retirement account and the flexibility to deal with unexpected costs.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Other than contributing to your retirement account, make sure to prioritize paying off your credit card debt above all other financial goals. Whether you’ve had a credit card for a while or not, it’s helpful to build a realistic outlook on credit cards. You can use them for both small or major purchases—but the quicker you pay them off, the quicker you build your credit. If you want to use a credit card to buy music or recording gear you can’t immediately afford, well, you don’t.

Credit cards should be used if you earn a decent amount already to be able to pay them back. An alternative for this is to purchase an instrument/equipment using a loan payment plan. Some manufacturers have leasing programs, so do your research before even thinking about using a loan or your credit card.

Create a Reasonable Budget

When you crate a budget, it allows you to think about your budget less. There is freedom in budgeting. To get started, track your spending for two-three months. There’s a fast and easy way to do this by using digital tools such as It’s free, secure and it serves to help you create and track budgets, investments and goals. Once you type in your bank or credit card accounts you can track your past and current spending to see exactly where you’re at financially. By viewing your current spending, you’ll be better able to figure out where most of your spending should be taking place.

Start with a realistic appraisal of what you have been spending on average by category. Then make a budget that reflects this spending but with a slight modification that gears you towards when you want and need to spend on the most. Focus on cutting the things you don’t care about too much and preserving what you spend on the things you do care about.

Find Ways to Earn More Money

In order to do the things we love and to create the things that other people value, we must be able to sustain ourselves. How do we do that? By making more money. Once you start developing a smart and sustainable budget, there will come a point where you realize that you can’t cut your spending any further. Try any of the following tips to not only make more money in a way that makes it easier for your audience.

1. Use Social Media as a Means to Pay

Venmo is a free mobile payment service owned by Paypal which can be used as an app. Create your username and announce before, during, and/or after your show that you accept tips in the form of Venmo. You can even put a tip jar at your merch table with a big sign, “If you liked the show, show us how much! $ or Venmo: ____.”

2. Sync Licensing

Many independent musicians are making six figures a year by getting placed on TV shows, commercials and films. By allowing someone else to use your music you’re reaching a new audience that you probably weren’t even aware of and of course, licensing your music is one of the major ways to make extra revenue.

A sync license gives someone permission to synchronize your music with a visual medium like TV shows, advertisements, movies or video games. When you grant someone a sync license, you aren’t giving up your rights to that song away. You’re basically renting the rights to them for a specific use. You are the primary owner of the copyright however, and you can even license it for a different movie or advertisement if you choose.

3. Session Work

A ‘session musician’ performs a backing track for another musician while onstage or recording in a studio. As a musician, this shouldn’t be work too difficult to find, given that most musicians can play more than one instrument as well.

Do you know any musicians who are getting ready to record and need an extra hand? Do you know anyone who works at a studio? Are there any labels operating in your area? Offer your skills and take on a new project. If not, put yourself out there, whether it’s on Craigslist, social media or other digital/non-digital platforms.

Financial literacy is vital for everyone, especially for entrepreneurs. As soon as you get paid for a gig of any sort, it’s important to be mindful of how you’re going to preserve, sustain and increase that income. Your journey as a musician doesn’t have to simulate the “starving artist” lifestyle. So get your financial thinking caps on!

Early Music Marketing Tips For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]


You’ve probably heard all the standard things on how to promote your band. This may include ideas like ‘play more live shows’, ‘go on tour’, ‘post on social media’, ‘invite all your friends on Facebook’, ‘have a release show’, ‘get covered on blogs’, or ‘get radio airplay’. Some may even tell you to buy ‘likes’ or streams, (which I never advise).

Rather than tell you all the ideas you’ve heard ad nauseum, we’re going to move outside the proverbial box into areas that aren’t as obvious. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Regularly Engage on Social Media with People You Admire

This is social media with a spin. You probably know by now to post your single release or upcoming show. But what if you don’t see any engagement with your following outside of a like or two from the same few fans?

If you’ve hit a plateau where you aren’t moving beyond your existing fan base, you should start looking at how you can begin expanding your following through less traditional means. How much are you engaging with the people you admire? This can be as simple as a local venue or band, or as big as your favorite blog, writer or national record label.

By posting insightful and supportive comments you have the opportunity to engage others who are interested in hearing what you’re about.  Engagement is a two-way street and if you are simply posting about your band without engaging with anyone else, you’ll only make it so far. By engaging with people you admire, you’ll have an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who wouldn’t normally be accessible to you.

2. Create a Spotify Playlist

A lot of bands come to us because they are interested in having us pitch curators for inclusion Spotify playlists. Curators are often looking at your social media engagement, band accomplishments, and how engaged you are on the Spotify platform.

If you’re lacking in any of these department, you can start by creating your own playlist to include your song as well as other bands you admire. The added benefit is that it gives you an opportunity to engage with those bands as mentioned above while showing your support for them.

3. Go to Live Shows in Your Market

The common advice is simply to ‘play more live shows.’ What if you’re struggling to be booked in the first place or you simply don’t have a following for a booker to consider you? In addition to playing live shows you should also look at how you can support the shows in the market.

This gives you the chance to get to know the booker person-to-person and also network with other bands while showing your support. If you want to be considered for shows, you need to look at how you can build the relationships to be asked when the opportunities come up.

4. Stay in Contact Once You’ve Built Relationships

Once you’ve begun building these relationships, the worst thing you can do is to let them go. You shouldn’t just build the relationship until you get what you want, whether it’s getting your song on a Spotify playlist, getting booked for a show, or being covered by a blog.

A great relationship isn’t built when you only come around when you want something. Create a schedule for yourself to stay in touch if you struggle with staying on top of relationships.

You may have noticed all four tips were based on community, giving back and networking. You may see success without one of these elements, but the chances of establishing ‘staying power’ are slim. If you really want to move forward and reach a larger audience, employ all four and see where it takes you.

New Music Friday: August 18, 2017

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 Billion Dollar Club – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!

Search Party

Pop, Electronic

Until My Voice Goes Out
Josh Abbott Band


Ron Pope

Rock, Alternative

Modern Day Cain

Alternative, Rock

August 21, 2017: Total Solar Eclipse
Sleeping At Last

Alternative, Instrumental

Portico II


Back To My Roots

Reggae, World

Black Ken
Lil B

Hip Hop/Rap, World

I Went To Town

Folk, Singer/Songwriter


R&B/Soul, Hip Hop/Rap

Lover My Love
Tim Myers

Pop, Dance

Your Husband, The Ghost
Quiet Company

Rock, Alternative

Jessica Andrea


Ava Raiin
Ava Raiin

R&B/Soul, Alternative

Lost In Your Head
The Royal Foundry

Alternative, Pop

For You (feat. Micah)
Blest Jones




Brie Angellina

Pop, R&B/Soul

Junior Flexwell

Hip Hop/Rap

There You Go

Hip Hop/Rap

The Blue M&M 3
Peewee Longway

Hip Hop/Rap

We’re Coming In
The F E V E R

Rock, Alternative

14 of the Most Commonly Confused Terms in Music and Audio

[Editors Note: This article was written by Brad Allen Williams and it originally appeared on the Flypaper Blog. Brad is a NYC-based guitarist, writer/composer, producer, and mixer.]

Once upon a time, remixing a song meant actually redoing the mix. Many vintage consoles (some Neve 80-series, for example) have a button labeled “remix” that changes a few functions on the desk to optimize it for mixing rather than recording.

But sometime in the late 20th century, the word “remix” began to take on a new meaning: creating a new arrangement of an existing song using parts of the original recording. Into the 21st century, it’s evolved again and is now sometimes used as a synonym for “cover.” The latter two definitions remain in common use, while the first has largely disappeared.

Language is constantly evolving, and musical terms are obviously no exception. In fact, in music, language seems to evolve particularly fast, most likely owing to lots of interdisciplinary collaboration and the rapid growth of DIY.

Ambiguous or unorthodox use of language has the potential to seriously impede communication between collaborators. In order to avoid an unclear situation, let’s break down standard usage of some of the most commonly conflated, misused, or misunderstood music-related terms.


Gain, as it’s used in music electronics, is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “An increase in amount, magnitude, or degree — a gain in efficiency,” or, “The increase (of voltage or signal intensity) caused by an amplifier; especially: the ratio of output over input.”

To put it in less formal terms, gain is just an increase in strength. If an amplifier makes a signal stronger, then it causes that signal to gain intensity. Gain is usually expressed as a ratio. If an amplifier makes a signal 10 times as loud, then that amplifier has a “gain of 10.”

On the other hand, harmonic distortion is that crunchy or fuzzy sound that occurs when an amplifier clips (as a result of its inability to handle the amount of signal thrown at it).

In the 1970s, some guitar amp manufacturers began employing extra gain stages in their designs to generate harmonic distortion on purpose. In other words, they’d amplify the signal, then amplify it again, and that second gain stage — having been given more than it could handle — would distort. These became known as “high-gain amplifiers.” Because of this, many guitarists just assumed that gain was synonymous with distortion. This was cemented when later amps like the Marshall JCM900 had knobs labeled “gain” that, by design, increased the amount of harmonic distortion when turned up!

Outside the realm of electric guitar, though, gain is still most typically used in a conventional way. When a recording engineer talks about “structuring gain,” for example, he or she is usually specifically trying to avoid harmonic distortion. It’s easy to see how this might cause confusion!


Not to pick on guitarists, but this is another one that trips us up. Tone has many music-related definitions, but the one of interest at the moment is (again, per Merriam-Webster), “Vocal or musical sound of a specific quality…musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression.”

On the other hand, the dictionary definition of tonality is:

1. Tonal quality.

2a. Key.

2b. The organization of all the tones and harmonies of a piece of music in relation to a tonic.

It’s important to note that “tonal quality” here refers to “the quality of being tonal,” or the quality of being in a particular key (in other words, not atonal). This is a different matter from “tone quality,” which is commonly understood to mean “timbre.” Most musicians with formal training understand tonality either as a synonym for key or as the quality of being in a key.

If you’re trying to sound fancy, it can be tempting to reach for words with more syllables, but using tonality as a synonym for timbre can be confusing. Imagine you’re recording two piano pieces — one utilizing 20th-century serial composition techniques and the other utilizing functional harmony. If you express concerns about the piano’s “tonality” while recording the second piece, the composer would probably think you were criticizing his or her work!


Most musicians in the modern era understand the difference between these two concepts, but they still occasionally confuse folks relatively new to the process of recording.

Overdubbing is adding an additional layer to an existing recording.

“Punching in” is replacing a portion of an already-recorded track with a new performance.

To do a “punch-in” (in order to fix a mistake, for example), the performer plays along with the old performance until, at the appropriate moment, the recordist presses record, thus recording over the mistake. The recordist can then “punch out” to preserve the remainder of the original performance once the correction is made.


A portamento is a continuous, steady glide between two pitches without stopping at any point along the way.

A glissando is a glide between two pitches that stair-steps at each intermediate note along the way. A glissando amounts, in essence, to a really fast chromatic scale.

To play a glissando on guitar, you’d simply pluck a string and slide one finger up the fretboard. The frets would make distinct intermediate pitches, creating the stair-stepped effect. If you wished to play a portamento on guitar, you could either bend the string or slip a metal or glass slide over one of the fingers of your fretting hand.


While often used interchangeably in modern practice, vibrato and tremolo are actually distinct kinds of wiggle. In most cases, tremolo is amplitude modulation (varying the loudness of the signal), whereas vibrato is frequency modulation (varying the pitch of the signal).

But over the past few hundred years, tremolo has commonly referred to many different performative actions. On string instruments, tremolo is used to refer to the rapid repetition of a single note, and in percussion, tremolo is often used to describe a roll. Singers use it for even crazier things, like a pulsing of the diaphragm while singing¹.

Leo Fender must’ve had his terms confused — he labeled the vibrato bridges on his guitars “synchronized tremolo,” and the tremolo circuits on his amps “vibrato.” Confusion has reigned ever since.


Analog and digital are perhaps the most confused pair of words in the 21st-century musical lexicon. I once had a somewhat older musician tell me that my 1960s-era fuzz pedal and tape echo made my guitar sound “too digital” for his music. Likewise, countless younger musicians claim to prefer the “analog sound” of the original AKAI MPC (an early digital sampler) and the Yamaha DX-7 (an early digital FM synthesizer). But “analog” and “digital” are not simply stand-ins for “vintage” and “modern,” nor for “hardware” and “software.” They’re entirely different mechanisms for storing and generating sounds. Let’s learn a little more!

Merriam-Webster’s most relevant definition of analog is, “Of, relating to, or being a mechanism in which data is represented by continuously variable physical quantities.”

Also relevant is its first definition of analogue: “Something that is analogous or similar to something else.”

Now, how does this relate to music technology? It all goes back to humans’ longstanding search for a way to capture and store sound. Sound, on a basic scientific level, is nothing more than compression and rarefaction (decompression) of air that our ears can sense. Since air pressure fluctuations can’t really be stored, recording sound proved elusive for a long time.

20th-century scientists and engineers, however, brilliantly figured out that recording sound might be possible if they could accurately transfer that sound into something that could be preserved. They needed something storable that would represent the sound; an analogue to stand in for the sound that would allow it to be captured and kept.

First, they used mechanically generated squiggles on a wax cylinder as the analogue. Eventually, they figured out that they could use alternating-current electricity (which oscillates between positive and negative voltage), as an analogue of sound waves (which oscillate between positive and negative air pressure). From there, it was a relatively short leap to figuring out that they could, through electromagnetism, store that information as positively and negatively charged magnetic domains, which exist on magnetic tape.

This is analog recording!

Since electric voltage is continuously variable, any process — including synthesis — that represents air pressure fluctuations exclusively using alternating current electricity is analog, per Merriam-Webster’s first definition above.

Digital, on the other hand, is defined as, “Of, relating to, or using calculation by numerical methods or by discrete units,” and, “Of, relating to, or being data in the form of especially binary digits, digital images, a digital readout; especially : Of, relating to, or employing digital communications signals, a digital broadcast.”

That’s a little arcane, so let’s put it this way: Rather than relying directly on continuous analog voltages, a digital recorder or synthesizer computes numerical values that represent analog voltages at various slices of time, called samples. These will then be “decoded” into a smooth analog signal later in order to be accurately transferred back into actual air pressure variations at the speaker. If that’s a blur, don’t worry — you only need to understand that this is a fundamentally different process of storing or generating sound.

Absent a real acquaintance with the technology of an individual piece of equipment or process, it’s probably safer to avoid leaping to conclusions about whether it’s analog or digital. For example, there are reel-to-reel magnetic tape machines (like the Sony PCM 3348 DASH) that don’t record analog voltage-based signal at all, but rather use the tape to store digital information (as simple ones and zeroes).

Since you can’t judge whether a piece of gear is analog or digital with your eyes, it’s probably best to only use these terms when you need to refer to the specific technologies as outlined above. In other words, next time you’re recording in a studio with a cool-looking piece of old gear, it’s probably safer to use #vintage instead of#analog to caption your in-studio Instagram photo!


Phase is defined by Merriam-Webster as… (deep breath):

“The point or stage in a period of uniform circular motion, harmonic motion, or the periodic changes of any magnitude varying according to a simple harmonic law to which the rotation, oscillation, or variation has advanced from its standard position or assumed instant of starting.”

That’s a mouthful! This is a concept that’s easier understood with an example, so let’s imagine that you have a swinging pendulum:

If you were to freeze that pendulum at two different times, the dot at the end would be in two different locations. The pendulum’s swing occurs over time, so the location of the pendulum depends on when you stop it. We’d refer to the phase of the pendulum in order to describe this phenomenon and where the pendulum is in its cycle relative to time. And since it’s always moving in a continuous, smooth arc, there are an infinite number of possibilities!

Phase becomes potentially relevant for anything that’s oscillating or undulating — like the pendulum above or a sound wave.

Polarity, on the other hand, is defined as, “The particular state, either positive or negative, with reference to the two poles or electrification.”

To put it in very simple terms, you’re dealing with polarity any time you install a battery. The battery has a positive terminal and a negative one. You have to make sure it’s installed the right way. While phase is infinitely variable, polarity has only two choices — it’s one or the other.

In our brief explanation of analog audio above, we mentioned that positive and negative swings of voltage are used to represent positive and negative changes in air pressure. If we switch polarity of a signal, we swap all the positive voltages for negative ones, and vice-versa. +1v becomes -1v, +0.5v becomes -0.5v, etc. This is usually accomplished with a button marked with the Greek letter theta or “Ø.”

Interestingly, if you have one signal alone, it’s usually the case that our ear can’t really tell the difference between positive or negative polarity. It’s when you combine two or more similar signals (like two microphones on one drum for instance) that a polarity flip of one or the other can have a dramatic influence on the sound.

Confusingly, this influence is a result of phase differences between the two sources, and switching polarity can often improve (or worsen!) the sound of two combined sources which are slightly out of phase. For this reason, the polarity switch is often called a “phase switch,” and depressing it is often colloquially referred to as “flipping phase.”

In the graphic below, you’ll see a brief, zoomed-in snapshot of two waveforms. A single bass performance was simultaneously recorded into both a direct box (blue) and through a mic on its amplifier (green).

In the first graphic, you can notice that the two are slightly out of phase. The blue direct-in wave swings negative ever so slightly before the green mic–on–amp one does. This is because the amp’s sound had to travel through the air briefly before being picked up by the microphone. Since sound in air travels much more slowly than electricity does, this creates a slight time delay or phase discrepancy.

In the second example below, I’ve flipped the polarity of the amp track. You can see that the time delay still exists, but now the amp track’s wave is inverted or “upside down.” As the DI track swings negative, the amp track swings positive.

In this case, the switch made the combined sound noticeably thinner, so I quickly flipped it back. Occasionally though, flipping polarity improves the combined sound of two sources which are slightly out of phase.

In practice, most recordists will understand what you mean if you say “flip the phase,” but should there happen to be a physicist in the room, you might get a raised eyebrow! Generally, though, this is a classic example of how unorthodox usage sometimes becomes accepted over time.

Which raises the point: any of the musical and audio terms above may eventually, like “remix” before them, evolve to incorporate new shades of meaning (or even have some earlier “correct” definitions fall into disuse). In the meantime, though, the more precise your grasp on the language of music, the less likely you are to misunderstand or be misunderstood.

¹ In performance, for both singers and many instrumentalists, pure tremolo is almost impossible to achieve without taking on some characteristics of vibrato — that is to say that a passage is played or sung with only variations of either pitch or volume.

7 Great Ways to Accelerate Your Songwriting Skills

[Editors Note: This was written by Zac Green. Zac is a regular contributor to the Zing Instruments Blog.]

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Starting the process of writing a new song can take just as long as finishing it. So here’s seven tips to help you speed up your songwriting.

1. Work in a group, then alone

Having a few people to bounce ideas around with helps the creative process get started. After you’ve got your song started, the democratic process is more likely to slow you down. If you’re writing songs as part of a band, it can be better to go and complete your parts individually once you’ve gotten the overall idea in place.

2. Drink alcohol, then coffee

Research has shown that drinking alcohol boosts your creativity, but makes it hard to focus. Coffee, and other drinks containing caffeine, has the opposite effect. For your brainstorming session, loosen up with a few drinks. This works especially well if combined with the first tip, but be careful not to get carried away and turn it into a drinking session. Once you’ve sat down to start writing the ideas you have onto paper, fire up the kettle.

3. Give chance a chance

After a long music career, you might find that all of your songs are starting to sound the same. There’s nothing wrong with having a recognisable sound, but you don’t want to get stale. Shake things up by writing different elements of songs onto pieces of paper, such as keys, lyrical themes, and so on. Place them into a hat and draw five at random. Force yourself to use these, no matter how badly they seem to go together. The results can be surprisingly good – and more importantly they help you to think outside of your usual boundaries.

4. Write somewhere different

Creativity doesn’t exist in a void. If you want to be inspired, go for a long walk somewhere far away from your usual haunts. The change of scenery, fresh air and act of walking itself can be great for generating new ideas. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to let yourself relax. Stress is a major impediment to creativity.

5. Learn your music theory

I don’t care how unappealing this seems. You might think that learning theory chokes your freedom or that it’s boring. However, if you don’t know what the rules around music are, it’s impossible to break them in a way which is both purposeful and well-executed. This applies no matter what genre you’re in. For example, my own personal foray into EDM was vastly improved when I started learning about cadence, a concept from choral music.

6. Steal from other songs

Now let me just clarify something before we go any further. I am absolutely not telling you to copy somebody else’s song in it’s entirety and try to pass it off as your own. That’s not songwriting, and you’re unlikely to get away with it for very long.

What you can do, is jot down interesting chord progressions, licks and lyrics. Playing around with these later, such as using inverted versions of the chords, trying it in a different key or modulating can lead to something brand new as the changes you’ve made will lead to a naturally different conclusion.

7. Use good notation software

Writing music by hand can take quite a while, and you can’t always check to see if it sounds right straight away. By using notation software, such as Sibelius, or if you can’t read music, just programming the notes into a digital audio workstation (DAW) can transform your songwriting process completely, as it’s quite easy to quickly change sections of your music without having to rewrite every single note.

Armed with these tricks, your songwriting skills will change practically overnight. It doesn’t matter if you apply all of them at once (although that isn’t entirely practical) or try them out a few at a time. Your own process is going to be a factor in this, so perhaps some of them won’t be entirely applicable. Don’t fret about this, just do the ones that feel ‘right’ to you.