Building a Home Studio On a Budget

[Editors Note: This article and infographic were compiled by Jonathan Biran of Catz Audio, an online pro audio magazine. Readers can head over to our “Complete Home Studio Guide” for more resources on getting theirs set up!]

 

The field of audio engineering can be intimidating. The countless shiny buttons, the myriad of knobs and meters, the guy behind the mixing desk that knows more than anyone else in the room…describing this as ”intimidating” may be an understatement. Walking into the realm of audio for the first time is wondrous and frightening.

Regardless of how capable you are, audio engineering will challenge you – TuneCore was right in advising to “take a breath.” There’s much to consider when entering the audio field.

We at CatzAudio curated a little infographic that addresses the common barriers-to-entry of audio. It covers the nitty-gritty details of what you must have to get started. We think you’ll find that it’s actually easy to build a solid recording rig!

The infographic covers common questions asked about needed hardware and software. Questions like “what headphones should I buy?” and “what microphone is best?” are all discussed. Hopefully, your search for the best entry-level recording gear can end here.

Here is what we cover:

– What you need in a recording interface.

– A list of DAWs you can start with.

– What to look for in a microphone.

– The most bang for your buck when it comes to headphones and monitors.

– Necessary accessories needed to record a killer track.

We are lucky to live in a digital age. It’s never been easier to jump into the recording field. Instead of spending thousands of dollars tracking in a studio, you can carry a fully functional studio in your backpack for a mere fraction of the price!

building a home studio on a budget infographic
c/o CatzAudio.com

 

Wednesday Video Diversion: February 7, 2018

It’s another dreary, winter Wednesday afternoon over here at TuneCore HQ in Brooklyn. If you find yourself falling asleep midday, consider taking a listen to the incredibly influential rock/proto-punk third release from The Stooges, Raw Power! Why would one suggest such a random title (aside from it being a stellar album)? Because on this day in 1973, Iggy and the guys released it to the world. So there – a little random music trivia that also offers a pick me up. Or, you could dive into each and every one of these TuneCore Artist music videos:

 


Jinkx Monsoon, “Cartoons and Vodka”


DNSTJ, “Keinen Sinn”


Caitlin Canty, “Get Up”


James Quick, “Oceanside”


Alex G, “Too Far”


Daniel Ellsworth + the Great Lakes, “Catapult”


Zoe Sky Jordan, “Powerlines”


The Undercover Dream Lovers, “Rewind”


Lowland Hum, “Vedauwoo”


Sy Ari Da Kid, “Same Energy”

3 Tips For Pitching Your Songs to Recording Artists

[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira.]

 

There are a lot of revenue streams available to songwriters, but today let’s focus on getting your songs cut by recording artists. This is something you see a lot in songwriter-hubs like Nashville, but you can pursue this kind of publishing income from anywhere, even if you’re just starting to make a name for yourself as a songwriter.

Today, I’m going to cover a few best practices that will help you move up in the songwriting industry. The world of songwriting can notoriously feel pretty closed off, so I’m going to focus on a few tips that will help you get your foot in the door.

Pitching Your Song – What Does it Mean?

Okay, first thing’s first, what does it actually mean to pitch your song to recording artists? Essentially, you (the songwriter) are licensing your song to a recording artist – you’re granting them the right to record and release your song in exchange for some payment.

Of course, in most cases this is a license, so you still own the song. That means, in addition to the publishing income, you’ll also get backend performance royalties any time their recording is played in public. In other words, this is something that can become a great source of recurring income.

1. Start Small and Climb the Ladder

Every songwriter dreams of getting their songs cut by some big-time recording artist. And while a big goal like that is an awesome thing to strive for, it may not be the best place to start. I want to avoid the “big break” mentality and instead focus on building up to success one-step at a time.

Let’s think about the numbers here… an extremely popular recording artist might get thousands of song pitches as they’re gearing up to release a new album. Going by statistics alone, standing out in that stack of songs is extremely difficult (especially if you have no connections to give you a recommendation).

It’s easy to get discouraged in these kinds of situations, and those little rejections can really slow down your momentum and your confidence.

Instead, let’s start small and build up little wins that will get your name (and your songs) out in the industry!

Do some research and target some smaller, up-and-coming recording artists and bands and pitch your songs to them. These guys are always looking for a great song that will get them noticed and if they start breaking into the bigger league with your song, your music is going to start getting attention from other recording artists and labels. It’s a win-win.

Of course, you have your reputation as a songwriter to consider as well, so really spend a lot of time on the research phase. You want to find musicians and bands that are dedicated and in it for the long run. Plus you need to make sure they will do your song justice.

2. Build Your Network

I think this point can often be overlooked, but as a songwriter you may not have a typical artist-fan structure for your career. Instead, you’re pitching your songs directly to recording artists and publishers should you choose to work with one – almost in more of a B2B (business to business) format. And that means, your network and your connections are everything.

A great way to build your web of connections in the publishing industry is to co-write with other songwriters. I know, you ultimately want to get to publishers and recording artists, but your relationships with songwriters can be a gateway to those connections.

You need to make sure your rights to any co-written song are protected, and for that, we recommend filling out a split sheet. A split sheet is a simple document that you and your co-writers fill out for each song you write together. It includes basic information like percentage ownership, PRO and publisher affiliation, and contact information. Most labels will want this kind of information before they move forward with any song, so it’s best to have everything down on paper from the start.

3. Relevancy is Key

Most recording artists want to use songs they can personally relate to – both musically and lyrically. Simply put, a pop singer probably won’t want to record a country song about growing up on a farm in Montana when her childhood was spent in busy New York. Relevancy is key.

With this in mind, it’s best to know as much as you can about the recording artists you want to pitch. Do your research, know their musical style, become familiar with their catalog of recordings, read interviews, and check out their bio to see if you have a song that might be a good fit.

When in doubt, opt for songs that deal with more universal themes that anyone can relate to – you know, love, loss, relationships, struggle.

If you think you have some songs with potential, only send those tracks along. A targeted, well-thought-out pitch will have a much bigger impact than spamming them with your whole catalog.


Chelsea Ira is the Director of Marketing at New Artist Model.

The 3 Biggest Business Missteps DIY Musicians Make

[Editors Note: This was written by Suzanne Paulinski.]

 

As the music industry evolves, more and more responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of independent musicians who wish to build a sustainable career in music. In order to do that, they must embrace their role as CEO of their own business.

For many, this is a dreaded role they would have preferred never to fill. After all, we tend to shy away from things that don’t come naturally to us and if one’s passion and talents lie in creative endeavors, spending time with spreadsheets and business plans doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park.

While there is a lot to learn about the business, there are 3 major missteps DIY musicians make when setting out to build their career that can trip them up, no matter the tools and resources they have at their disposal.

#1: They spend money on the wrong things

All too often I have musicians approach me and say, “I want to work with you, but all my money needs to go to recording my next album.” Now, for some, that may make sense.

If they have an engaged following, songs that are ready to record, and plans to leverage that album by booking shows and gaining more press – awesome! Then investing in studio time serves their goal and they should move forward.

However, if they’re spending money in the studio just so they can tell people they’re back in the studio, while in reality they’re paying to sit and write songs that aren’t ready to record, and they’re not at all sure what they’ll do with the album once it’s done, maybe that’s not the best use of their money.

I’m not saying it should all go to a career coach, but one has to ask, “What will serve me right now in my career? What’s holding me back the most? What will make a difference in my efforts moving forward?”

If you’re unclear on your goals – get a coach. If you’re failing horribly at social media, take a class. If you’ve got great songs but your vocals are weak, invest in voice lessons. Being the CEO of your career means taking charge and doing what’s right for the future of that career.

#2: They focus on building a team too soon

Much like the misstep with money, many musicians put an endless amount of energy into seeking management, or fail to book a tour for themselves because they’re convinced they can’t get the gigs they want without proper representation.

There is very little one can’t do on their own in this industry. There is a distinct difference between “can’t” and “don’t know how.” While one term is definitively limiting, the other indicates that one can eventually succeed with the right tools and knowledge.

Obviously, with everything that a musician has on their plate, the thought of a team to carry out what needs to get done seems like the answer to their problems. However, what ends up happening is that they spend time pitching managers and booking agents rather than booking shows and engaging fans.

Managers and booking agents then turn the artist down, after being unable to see any action from the artist’s career to warrant their help.

If you’re hitting roadblocks in your efforts to book shows or grow your fanbase, do some research or enroll in a reputable online course to learn better tactics.

If you’re completely overwhelmed with little time to accomplish what needs to be done, look into hiring a virtual assistant (or outsource on Fiverr/Task Rabbit) who can help take care of the day-to-day administrative tasks while you focus on bigger picture goals.

An assistant doesn’t need to see a certain level of followers or performance history before jumping on board. Build until there is something formidable for someone else to manage. Let them seek you out, they’ll know when you’re ready.

#3: They try to learn too much at once

Gary Vaynerchuk, as well as many other successful entrepreneurs, often warns that a lack of patience is the ultimate downfall for many who try to follow their dreams. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Much like building a team, you must use the same advice above when it comes to building up your knowledge of the industry.

Too often musicians begin learning about one aspect of the business and then lose focus because they heard someone mention something else that was “super important” so they switch their focus to learning that bit of magic, until someone else comes along and mentions the next “up and coming” piece of industry know-how and then it’s onto that new focus.

In the end, they are left with information overload and a very low retention of skills and knowledge. Success is comprised of healthy habits. Habits take time to form. Trying to learn all of the industry’s “secrets to success” at once is a fool’s errand.

Decide what is a priority right now for the next phase of your career. Figure out what resources you have to carry out the tasks required as well as what’s still needed. Seek out the information and tools necessary to move you forward and nothing more.

If you happen to download an ebook or resource that doesn’t serve your current focus, save it in a folder for later. Finish tasks. Move forward. Reassess. Learn more.

There is no one way to building a successful career, as success is defined by the person pursuing it, but there is a right way. Hopefully avoiding these missteps will allow you to focus more energy directly on the goals you’ve set out to achieve, rather than allowing your energy to splinter off into unrelated paths.


Suzanne Paulinksi is an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate

New Music Friday: February 2, 2018

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 Music Made Me – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!


Hard To Love
John Buckley

Pop


Different Blue
General Elektriks

Electronic, Pop


Ideas, Vol. 1
Jayla Darden

R&B/Soul


Here’s To You
Montgomery Gentry

Country


S I n I T C 1
Sabrina Is Not In This Chat
Alternative, Rock


Gladiator
Zayde Wølf

Rock, Alternative


Feel You Watching
Heather Brave

Pop


Supervillain
Blended Babies

Hip Hop/Rap, R&B/Soul


Fire
Truett

Rock


Look What You Started
Justin Stone

Hip Hop/Rap, Pop


Pieces of a Puzzle
Daniel Pearson

Singer/Songwriter, Folk


Drew Parker EP
Drew Parker

Country


No Wave (feat. Denzel Curry)
IDK

Hip Hop/Rap


There x2 (feat. Marshmello)
Slushii

Dance, Electronic


Til She Lose Her Voice (feat. Lil Wayne)
DJ Spin & Whiiite

Hip Hop/Rap

The Misery Myth: Why a Self-Destructive Attitude Won’t Improve Your Songwriting

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

No matter how gratifying songwriting can be, making meaningful music and sharing it with the world is often tedious, thankless and discouraging. With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many artists associate emotional pain represented by addiction, depression and other self-destructive habits with songwriting gains. But while it might be tempting to liken the economy of songwriting to a bank where the more misery you put in the greater the songwriting returns, it’s just not true.

The Misery Myth

From modern songwriting greats like Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse to legendary musicians active all throughout the 20th century like John Coltrane and Bix Beiderbecke, misery has been associated with musical genius for a long time.

Some of the world’s most influential songwriters have fought and lost battles with addiction and depression on the world stage, so it only makes sense that music fans and songwriters equate self-destruction with songwriting talent and potency. And because the fact that pure, unbridled sadness is something everyone longs to relate to in music has never changed, the misery myth continues to persist and thrive today.

Recognizing the Problem

The fact that lots of phenomenal musicians have tragically succumbed to their own self-destructive behaviors doesn’t mean that misery is an essential ingredient for meaningful songwriting. There’s no telling what sort of music Elliott Smith would be making now if he were still alive today. Misery didn’t enhance his legacy, it ended it.

It’s time to recognize this problem for what it really is. Glamorizing self-destruction is foolish, destructive and completely disrespectful of musicians who’ve died battling their personal demons.

Music fans and songwriters alike have a habit of holding up a few examples of depressed, self-destructive musicians as sacred musical role models while ignoring the overwhelmingly vast majority of artists with the same behaviors who never became successful.

The truth is, things like substance addiction, depression and mental illness make it nearly impossible for musicians to create music. The great songwriters we associate with misery, self-harm and addiction somehow managed to musically thrive in spite of their demons, not because of them.

Rather than imitating and fetishizing self-destruction, if you want to become a great songwriter like Kurt Cobain, songwriters should try defining what it is they really admire about him.

Separating the Music From the Myth

Things like talent, musical intuition and consistent hard work are what make songwriters great.

And while dramatic stories about addiction and suicide often elevate artists to a legendary status, a songwriter’s legacy is built off their music, not their tragedy. Misery will only hurt you as a songwriter and as a functioning human being. If you want to thrive as a musician and writer, you’ll have to learn how to write great music. Using self-harm and destruction as tools to relate and connect with your listeners will only end up making true, impactful music a more difficult and remote goal to achieve.

Creating meaningful music over the long term is almost impossible without taking care of yourself. That’s something that isn’t discussed much in our culture for the simple fact that it’s less dramatic and sexy as the misery myth, but it’s true. It’s absolutely possible to emotionally resonate with listeners while being healthy and centered.

In fact, that’s a position the majority of musicians working today operate from. If every songwriter in the music industry was perpetually high, suicidal and on the brink of death, the world would have much less music. If you want to make meaningful music, misery in all its forms something important to write about, but it alone just isn’t capable of doing the job.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.