Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Year That Was 2015!

2015 was definitely an interesting year with a lot of different challenges and success.  In the year previous I was asked by Tep No to come up with a classical guitar line for a tropical house tune he wanted to do.  I did it late one night and he developed a great song around it that wasn't released till January 2015.  We had the fortune to have it premier on the BBC on Pete Tong's radio show and that really helped launch it.  By the end of 2015 it had 2 licenses (Michael Korrs video and a US tv show) and it got  4 million listens on Spotify.  We'll see how much farther it can go in the new year.  Here's the song on spotify and the Michael Kors video:

From this collaboration I ended up meeting other deep house producers who liked what I was doing and wanted to collaborate as well.  I've been doing a lot of work with Chicago producer Kiso Armic and a French producer Daitshi.  A remix I contributed guitars to for Kiso ended up going to number 1 on the remix chart on Hypemachine.  A song I contributed guitars to for Chris Lago got signed to Armada Music.  I did so many of them this year that I decided to make a SoundCloud playlist so I could put as many of them together as I could.  Here it is:

At the beginning of the year I also finished up my band's second and final EP entitled, "Prophecies".  I can't tell you how proud I am of that collection of songs.  It really was a great project and my only regret is that more people didn't get to hear it.  Here's a link to the EP if you want to check it out:

At the beginning of the year I also reached out to Canadian Musician about contributing articles to their magazine.  I didn't really expect to be taken seriously but the editor wrote back the next day and said he liked my writing style and could use some of my stuff.  I had two articles published by them last year and am looking forward to pursuing more writing with them and other publications this year.                             

In the spring my son and I got to do something different.  My favourite radio show, WireTap was doing an open call for people to be a part of a video they were making called "How to Age Gracefully".  I have loved the show since it started 11 years ago and jumped at the chance to be a part of the video.  My son and I got to go to the CBC and record little snippets of advice to our younger selves.  It was fun and both of us made the cut.  To date the Facebook video has 27 million views and even a few weeks ago I had someone emailing me saying they saw me in it even though I just appear very quickly.  The final version is simply beautiful.  Here it is:

So all this and tons of great indie artists I always love working with.  Let's hope we find more success together in 2016!  

Here's links to my site and social media:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

So Long Wiretap!

I just found out my favourite radio show, Wiretap isn’t going to continue this season after 11 years and I’m pretty heart broken about it.  I used to have CBC on all the time when I wasn’t working in the studio and I still remember the first time I heard it 11 years ago.  I was going into the fridge getting something as I turned the radio on and I heard this weird and funny conversation about someone who was watching their lobby security camera instead of an actual tv channel.  I’m not going to say I fell in love with the show that day but I was intrigued and a seed was planted. It wasn’t long before I was trying to make sure I could tune in every Sunday to hear what was going to happen next.  As time progressed the different personalities started poking out a bit more and I completely fell in love with the show.

After 11 years of listening to something you amass so many memories of where you were in life while listening to different episodes.  Here are some of mine…

I remember a new girlfriend and I driving around Friday night and me sneaking the show on hoping she wouldn’t mind.  Both of us ended up laughing like crazy at a conversation Jonathan and Gregor were having.

Years later I remember listening to old and new podcasts many late nights building my studio in a house a different girlfriend and I had bought.  The one that stands out the most during that period was the Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong episode.

I remember listening when that relationship soured and I needed a distraction from what was a year long crisis called, “what am I going to do with my life now?”.

I also remember many long walks listening with earphones laughing out loud or tearing up while looking around making sure no one was watching me.

Wiretap had a way of approaching the most mundane and the most profound subjects with an intelligence and humor that is rarely done.  I’m sure I’m not the only listener that felt a kinship while listening, a sense that there’s others that see the world a bit like I do.  It was a great feeling.

The problem when a show like this stops running is that there’s nothing to replace it.  It’s not like a TV drama or something that you can replace with another show in its absence.  There truly wasn’t anything out there like it.  Instead of being sad that it’s over though I’m going to try and be happy that it existed at all.  Thank you to everyone who was a part of Wiretap who entertained and touched so many of us.  Your show was dearly loved and meant a lot to a lot of us.  Good luck with your future projects.

So glad that my son and I got to participate in what ended up being the farewell video.  It was great to be a part of it.

Here's a link to the Wiretap webpage:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Write the Music You Love

One of the things I find puzzling when working with a new artist is when they choose to pursue a genre of music they don’t love or aren’t suited to because they feel that’s the only way that they’ll “make it”.  In my experience that attitude rarely works and the artist is left with a project that doesn’t reach its intended professional goal nor satisfies them artistically.  For a project to be successful there has to be a love and a deep understanding of the genre it’s in.  Sounds basic but without those two elements the project is unlikely to be successful.

In general the music genre that artists think they can cash in on is some form of pop music.  One of the misconceptions that people have that drives me completely nuts is that pop music is easy to do.  If that was so we’d all do our one big pop album, make our riches and be free to then pursue the music we really wanted to.  Unfortunately this is not the case.   I’m a big believer that to do any type of music really well is very hard.  In some cases seemingly more “simple” genres of music are even harder because that line between smash hit genius and complete garbage is very, very fine.  Trust me, being on the right side of that fence isn’t easy!

I’ve had the privilege of working on numerous projects that found success and even though they’ve been in different genres they have always had the same qualities. Everyone involved loves the music they’re creating and they find a good balance between their artistic vision and being mindful of what their listener wants to hear.   Even if the songs had some issues in the writing stage the finished product has an effortless quality that makes them sound ”complete”.  I’ve never experienced this quality with someone “chasing the buck”.  For the project to have success you have to be absolutely incredible at what you do.  How incredible of a writer can you be at a musical genre if you aren’t a big fan of that music?

If you’re looking for success in music create something you actually love.  Try to do it in a way that gives you a voice in your genre while still conforming enough that press, radio and others in the genre will “get it”.  This will give you the best shot at success while still giving you a project that you yourself will enjoy listening to for years to come.    

Friday, January 2, 2015

Albums vs Singles for the Indie Musician

A question that has come up a lot recently from my clients is whether it is better to release an album all at once or release multiple singles over time. It has been coming up so much recently, that I felt it would be valuable to share some of my insights on the subject.  

While most of us have grown up listening to albums and still want to release our music in that format, it's proving not to be very practical in today’s market.  The reasons for this are because of the way we all listen to music now, how much social media has affected our lives, and the way these two things have changed the way the entire music industry operates.  To be clear, when I say “album", I refer to a bunch of songs packaged together, either physically (CD etc) or digitally.  
Twenty years ago, recorded music was sold as a physical product. There was a cost to create this product and deliver it to the consumer.  It made sense to package multiple songs onto it in order to be able to charge enough to make money while ensuring that people were feeling that they were getting value for the cost.  This climate created releases that comprised of a few songs that were throwaways, some that were more interesting and inventive for the hardcore fan and then the1-3 songs that would sell the whole project.  Obviously I'm generalizing here but I feel that’s an apt description for the average album release.

Fast forward to today and the world of streaming music. Whether it be  YouTube, which is the largest streamer of music or  Spotify, people no longer need to own a copy of a song when it's available at any time through a streaming service.  With this new medium however, albums are only for the most diehard fan. When you can access the whole history of music with the touch of a button, the average person is only interested in the best of the best.  In this climate, it's more important to focus on truly great songs that will cut through the noise over subpar material that would have been considered "album filler" back in the day.  I don't even mean hit singles (although you'll need those!), but your songs definitely have to be able to stand out on their own rather than just being a part of a bigger work like an album.

After your project is recorded, a promotion plan is necessary. Again, you’ll find that promoting a single can have many benefits. The reason single releases work, especially for the indie musician, is because of the way we promote music today.  Social media is great, but it's fleeting... like really fleeting.  You post a song up that took you hours and hours and lots of money to create and it's gone in a flash; lost in a sea of cat memes and time wasting top 10 lists.  The truth is it's very hard to get people to pay attention to one song, let alone a whole album of songs, when you're an independent musician.  Best to split up the promo into individual songs every month and always promote something new, rather than repetitively promoting an album for a year and getting tuned out.  What I find works for my clients is releasing a song every month or two.  At the same time as continuing to work on new material for the next release, try and get the most out of the single you’ve just put out.  Submit it to blogs, podcasts and music supervisors for sync licensing. Find new ways to make the release exciting over the month you’re promoting it.  Create a video for it, promote any use of the song (radio play, sync license, etc) while still promoting the song as well.  Basically try and find as many ways of telling people, “here’s my song” without it just being strictly about the song itself during the promotion period.

Once you have a good batch of material (between 5-12 songs) that you’ve released in this way, package them all together along with one new song as a way to launch an album or EP from that group of material. That way you're always releasing something new and you’ll have albums or EPs for those who really want them.  

As you’ve read, there's a lot of good reasons to release singles consistently over time rather than releasing albums.  It’s especially good for the independent musician who may have more limits on their time and financial resources.  Having said that, there are still reasons to release albums and if that's what you have your heart set on, then go for it.  Just keep in mind there will be more challenges with promotion when you’re releasing an album, unless you have a huge promotion budget. It’s a new world for the modern independent musician.  The more you try to adapt to the current market the more success you will experience.  Good luck with your releases!
Feel free to add some comments below on what your experience has been with your projects!  Also if you need help with your songs or recordings feel free to email me.

Here's links to my site and social media:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Year That Was 2014

Well 2014 is finally over and I figured I'd write a year in review to close it off right.  This was my 15th year running my music production company Morph Productions and it was definitely a unique one.  Aside from my regular duties helping lots of indie artists with their music projects I was also put in the position of promoting my own band and seeing a song I co-wrote get released by Sony.  Always great trying new things and developing new opportunities!

The beginning of the year had my band, As the City Rumbles Underneath release their first EP.

As I've said in the past one of the reasons I wanted to do this project was to put myself in the position of my clients and learn how to promote an indie project.  Starting from nothing was really daunting but I ended up having a lot of success with my promotion efforts.  The band's music was featured on about 50 blogs, podcasts and internet radio (internet and FM).  I was also able to build our twitter following to 3600 followers and get a lot of interactions with the indie community from it.  I'm going to write a bunch of blog postings about band promotion from what I learned in the next few weeks.  Here was the first one I wrote about building a Twitter following:

Another interesting event that happened this past year was from a collaboration I did with Chris Lago.  We ended up writing a song that ended up being the "the little song that could".  After being released on a popular YouTube channel and getting tens of thousands of views within a few days Armada Music (Armin Van Buuren's label based in the Netherlands) decided to sign and release the song.  A few months later we found out that Sony owns Armada and Sony Canada decided to release the song with full radio support in Canada.  If this wasn't enough to get excited, the song became the "Bell Future Star" of november which means all the Bell Media owned radio stations (Virgin, etc) gave the song a lot of national airplay.  I've had songs on commercial radio before but not to this extent so it was a really good experience.  Here's the song if you want to check it out:

I also began an ongoing collaboration with electronic artist Tep No who had a really great 2014.  Some of our writing collaborations will be coming out early this year but in the meantime here is a remix Tep No did for Nora En Pure that I contributed guitars to.  Really proud of how this turned out!

Last but not least I've been doing a lot of work with The Airplane Boys for their new album that will be released early this year.  Always great working with those guys and I think this new project will be their biggest yet!

So in closing it was a pretty interesting year!  I'd be lying if I didn't say there were some challenges but some good seeds were sewn for 2015.  This year I'm looking forward to the new Airplane Boys project I've been working on being released, new collaborations with Chris Lago and Tep No as well as a new EP being released by my band.  In addition to these projects I'm going to continue to look for more music licensing opportunities as well as more artists to co-write with and develop.  Feel free to email me if you have a project you think I could help you with!

Here's to a great 2015 for you all!

Here's links to my site and social media:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How to Build a Twitter Following as an Indie Band

One of the reasons I wanted to start my band, As the City Rumbles Underneath was to learn more about how bands are supposed to promote their product after they leave my studio.  I've had a lot of great indie projects leave my studio and when I would ask some of them what happened to it months later, the answer was often "not much".  As a producer and music lover I can't tell you how heartbreaking that was to watch projects I put so much effort into fall flat.  I wanted to put myself in the shoes of an unknown act and see what it was like to promote it so that I would be able to offer some insights to the people I work with.

After a lot of work over the last year I've come to realize a lot of opportunities that are available for artists on Twitter and I wanted to share some of my experiences in a blog post.

Building your Twitter following

I've been told by numerous people about the benefits of promoting on twitter but I just didn't believe in it.  I've had a twitter account for my business for years and have used it sporadically but I really didn't see the big deal.  Ironically Twitter is how Cat (my singer/co-writer) and I met but aside from that and a few gigs I didn't really get a lot of benefit from it.

What caused me to change my mind about Twitter was a few simultaneous events.  In February I was sent a bunch of blog/radio contacts by my friend and music promoter Dutch Guy (again someone I met on Twitter) and another music promoter Katie O'Halloran.  While I started contacting everyone on their lists I noticed that everyone I was contacting was letting me know they had featured us via Twitter.  This was great because we could retweet their tweets and promote both of us at the same time.  The only issue was we only had about 350 followers at the time so the message wasn't going out to many people.

Seeing how all the blog and radio stations seemed to regard Twitter as being important, I decided to take it more seriously and build our following up.  This is how I did it:

1. Find a successful artist whose music is similar to yours.  It's important to choose an artist who has a lot of followers because once someone has more than 100k followers they're ALWAYS getting new followers.  This will allow you to cherry pick the top of the list without running the risk of continually adding and deleting the same people.

2. Start adding their fans, preferably no more than a 100 at a time or Twitter will threaten to block you.

3. Every day or two erase the people who didn't end up following you.  Some people choose to erase everyone but aside from being obnoxious it will lead to followers of yours unfollowing which defeats the purpose.  There are some really useful Unfollow apps that you can look in to make this process easier.

Experiment with different artists and see which work best.  I finally found a band that seemed to give us a 20% follow rate and then when I tried a different artist one day I was getting 30-40%.  I'm not sure exactly why there was a difference but it didn't really matter.  What I was interested in was results and getting the most out of my efforts.

Another option that works if you've covered another artist's material is following their followers while you're promoting your cover on Twitter.  We did that with a Depeche Mode cover we did and have been getting a great response that way.

Making Useful Contacts on Twitter

Once you start building your following it's important to pay attention to who is adding you and who may be receptive to your music or helping you promote it.  While adding people to my Twitter account I would pay attention to whether the blogs or radio stations would add us back.  If they did and I saw our music connecting with them I would go to their website and look for a way to submit our music.  When submitting I would always start off by mentioning "thanks for adding us on twitter..." to show that there was already a connection there.  If there was no way to contact them directly I would tweet something like "Hi @XXX thanks for following back.  If you get a chance check out our new single here: ".  You have to be careful not to do that too much, but if you do it sporadically you'd be surprised how many people would respond and be receptive to helping.  Keep in mind that even if they don't initially follow you back it's not a bad idea to contact them anyway.  Sometimes blogs/radio don't follow an artist till they've decided to feature their music.

If someone does play or promote your music it's important to cross promote by retweeting and giving the occasional shout out.  The reality is that the people promoting you have their own "product" they're promoting (show, blog etc...) and they want their support reciprocated.  Trust me, we're all in this together and need to pull each other up!  Promotion in social media is never just a one way street.

In Closing

I began really working our Twitter account seriously in February 2014.  At that time we had about 350 followers and not a whole lot going on.  As of May 2014 we have 2700 + followers and if you look on our account here:

you'll see we have almost daily interactions with fans and people helping us promote our music.  We've also been played/featured on close to 40 blogs/internet radio and podcasts, most of which were ultimately found via Twitter.  Does that mean we're rich and famous with lots of sales?  Hell no, but it's a really good start and that's all we can ask for right now.  Building a band's fan base in todays ADD society is very difficult but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing it.  If you're serious about your music you owe it to spend just as much time and money promoting it as you did creating it.  Just remember it's a building process and it doesn't happen overnight.  Like anything in life, just because something is hard and takes time doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done.

This is the first of many posts I'm going to do to help my clients get further with their music careers.  If you have any questions feel free to hunt down my email on my site and email me.  Also if you get a chance start following my personal and band Twitter accounts here. ;)

Here's links to my site and social media:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Acoustic Guitar Recording Microphone Shootout (Neuman u87, Neuman KM184, KEL HM-1 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 53)

A producer friend Mike Langford and I decided to have a geek out session and compare a few microphones for acoustic guitar recording use.  In the microphone comparison we used a Neuman u87, Neuman KM184, KEL HM-1 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 53.  Basically some of the microphones we have available at our separate spaces to record acoustic guitars with.

I don't have four each of the API and Great River preamps that I use at my studio so to keep the preamp out of the equation we used the 4 preamps that are built into my Apogee Ensemble.  These are very clean, kind of sterile preamps so they work well for something like this.

In order to get placement out of the equation as much as we could we placed all 4 microphones as close as possible together and pointed them at the 12th fret of the acoustic guitar which is a pretty standard placement.  Acoustic guitar was a Martin D28 and Mike handled the strumming duties.

Below are the results of our test.  I've supplied each mic as a separate recording but then I also I made a track where the mic changes throughout the performance.  The order for that is as follows:

U87--->km184--->Opus 53--->HM-1--->KM184--->U87--->HM-1

I find that kind of quick switching is best for hearing immediately the differences between two sounds.

As for which one sounds better?  I'll leave you to judge for yourself.  Mike and I definitely had our preferences but listen and decide for yourself.

Here's links to my site and social media: