Learn & Create

My opinion, for what it’s worth

(probably nothing)

Before we begin, let me say that this is a presentation of my experience in the music industry, the things I believe in, the things I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made, and the things that worked for me. It isn’t a rule book or manual.

The fact is that no-one makes the rules when it comes to music. Music is art, there is no authority and anything stating the contrary should be answered with rebellion, contempt and a swift “fuck you”. Don’t let anyone tell you how your music should be created or how it should sound. Why? Because they don’t know that, only you do.

Creating your art

Art is what you can get away with – Andy Warhol

Below, in point form, are things I believe have helped me progress in my journey making music. Most of it is arrogant and opinionated, so should agree well with most musicians.

  • Broaden your musical horizons. When you restrict your ears and art to only one genre, you rob yourself of a massive musical spectrum full of ideas, influence and inspiration. Explore the massive universe that is music and sound.
  • The philosophy that using samples is bad practice? Tell that to Prodigy, Dr Dre, Public Enemy and Fatboy Slim. Apart from being a staple in urban and electronic music, a good quality sample can save hours fucking around with a synth. Don’t let technical wankery impede your creative flow, if you can blend two snare hits to get that perfect combo of snap, hiss and timbre, then do it, keep it flowing. Now this isn’t to say synthesis is not integral to creative musical production, it very well is. Just don’t limit yourself to that alone. Jimi didn’t have to make his Fender Strat every time he wrote a new song. Synths, samples, vocals, perc, they’re all just colours in your musical palette. Get creative.
  • Experiment lots. Find the place you feel most confident musically. Decide the sound you want to make, stick to it and get good at it. Practice recreating intros, beats, drops and sounds from your biggest influences to discover how they do it. Use your favourite tunes as reference tracks when you make beats, do your mixdowns or arrange the track.

Getting into the industry

Find your tribe.

In 2001, I became friends with two guys who frequented Drum Club where I was one of the resident MCs. They always had demo tapes on them, and would give them out to all the DJs and MCs. Every gig, big or small, they were there. I remember one of the big Loaded Dice gigs at Globe Nightclub (now Capitol & Amplifier) one night, them pulling up in an old Volvo station wagon in the car park across the road “Scotty! Check this out!” they yelled as I walked up to the driver side window, Gaz dialing up the car stereo as loud as it could go. They were really nice guys, always happy to see you. Eventually they got to know all the crew, all the right people, and the demo tapes started finding the right hands. Once the demo tape “Vault” got to Doc Scott, the rest was history. Pendulum didn’t just put Perth Drum & Bass on the map, they put Drum & Bass on the map.

My point? Network. The music industry is tribal by nature. Every genre, every scene, every location has it’s tribe. The Aus Hip Hop scene, Perth Drum & Bass culture, Southern Mongolian Prog-Step-Hard-Bass-Core, whatever and whoever you identify with, find your tribe. Go to the gigs, meet the crew, support the local artists and share your music with them. Hit the after parties, go to the little mash-ups and indy album launches. Support the music you want to be part of and you will become just that, part of the tribe.

Invent yourself

Who or what are you on stage?

Create a concept, not just the music, but the whole package. Decide what your main genre will be. Look at branding, your artist name and image.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you look like?
  • What is your musical personality?
  • Are you mysterious like UZ?
  • Controversial like Deadmau5?
  • Serious like Pendulum?
  • Crazy like Prodigy?
  • Badass like NWA?
  • What does your logo say about you and your music?

The above examples are great examples of artist concepts. When you say their name it doesn’t just make you think of their music, it conjures thoughts of who they are, the attitude, the whole vibe. Other great examples include Die Antwoord, Marilyn Manson and Daft Punk.

Getting the world to listen

How do you get your music out there?

It’s the trickiest part, getting your music into the world of music consumers, and you really need to get it to the right places. This is different for many genres, as consumers of various genres prefer different delivery methods, platforms and formats, ie. Hip Hop crew still love their CDs and Vinyl, many electronic fans now stream or buy MP3s. So the first question you need to ask yourself is do you want to sign to a major, go with an indy or go it alone?

Here’s the differences:

  1. Signing with a major record label.
    These are the big guns of the industry, the “big three”. Sony, Universal and Warner make up almost 80% of the music market and consist of many subsidiary labels catering to endless niche and specialized markets. Being picked up by a major label is usually something that follows major success as an independent artist. If you’re interested in taking this route, a good start would be to hit their websites and research it.
  2. Signing with an Independent record label.
    This is the most common way that artists get published. Indy labels are usually very specific about the genre and type of artist they publish, so chances are you already know the ones you would be sending demos to. You make fluffy D&B? Send it to Hospital. You make neighborhood-scaring, ear-crushing Dubstep? Send it to Never Say Die. You’re the next big Aus Hip Hop MC? Flick your demo to Obese. Google the indy labels you think your music would suit and find their website, most labels will have some way you can send them your best work, be it via email, SoundCloud, DropBox etc.
  3. Become an independent artist/label.
    This is the path I eventually chose. It is the most work, the most daunting, the most frustrating and the hardest way to yield results. But if you are willing to accept these challenges, it is also the most freedom you can have as an artist. You control your image, your schedule, your finances and you reserve exclusive and complete creative control. When it comes to creating music, or any art for that matter, this is the ideal environment for the artist. So, the next part is how I went about it.

Understanding Copyright

Protect ya neck

There are a two main types of copyright in most recordings and music videos that you can exploit to generate revenue:

  1. the copyright in the song (lyrics, composition etc.) – licences available from APRA;
  2. the copyright in the recording and/or music video of the song (a particular recorded performance) – ‘blanket’ licences available from us, or individual licences available from the copyright holders – licences available from PPCA.

Having your music registered with each is a good idea. The differences between each organisation however can be confusing. In short:

APRA is a not-for-profit organisation that collects and distributes copyright royalties for composers, lyricists and music publishers. It issues licenses for the public performance and communication rights for copyright owners of musical works.

PPCA collects and distributes copyright royalties for recording artists and copyright owners in sound recordings (usually record companies). It issues licences for the public performances and broadcast of copyright protected sound recordings.

Invaluable links

The Balance – Music industry basics and some great articles on starting out.

West Australian Music (WAM) – the peak music body responsible for supporting, nurturing and growing all forms of contemporary music in WA. Great articles section for Aussie-relevant music industry info.

Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) – AMIN connects and represents the state and territory music industry associations of Australia.

ISRC Official – IFPI’s official ISRC site, learn about the International Standard Recording Code.

APRA / AMCOS – Royalty collection organisation managing Australian artist’s mechanical, performance and communication rights, licensing and royalties.

ARIA – The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) is a national industry association proactively representing the interests of its members.

PPCA – Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited is a national, non government, non-profit organisation that represents the interest of record companies and Australian recording artists.