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Thread: The Unofficial Guide - Stepping Into Music

  1. #1

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    The Unofficial Guide - Stepping Into Music

    Why UNOFFICIAL guide?

    - Not everyone is a professional. We have professionals, hobbyists, or simply listeners. So it's unofficial.
    - There are no hard and fast rules how you progress in your music career. Hence, unofficial.

    Are you aspiring to be a great band or musician? Are you curious what it takes to be able to last long in one of the most competitive markets?

    Let us go through this journey and touch on some issues which will affect your progress in this challenging industry, be it free lance, part time or a full time performing artiste. What I am going to touch on below may sound simple, but rest assure – it takes more than just musical knowledge to be able to have a foot in the industry.

    You can treat it as a guide, or you can treat it as an advice, or even a mere informative pamphlet. Ultimately, my intention here is to shed some light on realistic issues that you WILL and DEFINITELY face.

    I will split this into 4 sections, mainly Music Knowledge, Finance, Networking and Professionalism. All these apply to all forms of performing arts, regardless if you’re a punk rock band, or a pop band, or a vocalist, or even a DJ.

    (Allow me to address everyone as artiste for simplicity sake, be it you’re in a band or you’re a lone ranger vocalist.)
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  2. #2

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    Music Knowledge

    1. Get your basics right
    It is important to learn the correct techniques and fundamentals right from the start. To build your knowledge on hear-say is probably going to kill you on stage. Why? Most of the time, you would be bringing all your bad techniques and habits onto the stage. If you wish to improvise on a piece of music, make sure you know your fundamentals before you do so.

    We have a lot of members here with realistic performing experience. It is not too hard to ask for advice, as long as you are willing to use your precious golden mouth and ask politely.

    Always be willing to learn, no matter how established you are. Superstar like Andy Lau commented over the recent Global Chinese Music Awards, he is still learning and he too, also have to improve on his singing compared to what he has been doing previously.

    Learning never stops! You learn different things at different stages of your career. Even Tiger Woods (golf) have to go through a special course to curb his arrogance when he starts to see success and his new found fame.

    2. Know your music
    If you want to perform, this is probably one of the most important aspects that an artiste should accomplish. Why are some artistes or cover bands performing so well? They study their music!

    No, I don’t mean enrolling in Vienna Music College or anything like that. It simply means, go through the piece of music again and again, understand what is that piece of music about before you try to perform it. How do you suppose an artiste can perform a track well, if he/she does not understand the music?

    3. Practicing
    Practise and practise before your show. If you know you are not prepared enough to perform a certain track, drop it and perform another track which you are more familiar with. This is by far; better than screwing up on stage.

    The audience is not interested to know which is your favorite song, so primarily that is not your priority. Your priority should be how well you perform for each song that you are going to play for the audience.

    Amanda Ling
    Electrico
    Singapore

    It's never easy especially music in Singapore, though it's slowly thriving. Confidence is a must, determination will see you through and.... PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE!!!!!!!! Most importantly, have fun rocking out!

    4. Technical
    If you have the concept that an artiste should ONLY sing and play instruments on stage, it’s time you erase this misconception from your head. An artiste is involved in much more issues than just being able to dish out a track or two.

    Take the effort and time to also understand how the sound equipments and soundman is directly related to your performance. You can’t afford to dump everything all in the hands of a soundman, so you will have to know how to compensate in areas where soundman has overlooked. For eg. Volume control, pitching etc…

    Amanda Ling
    Electrico
    Singapore

    To avoid miscommunications, misunderstandings etc, do have a standard "Tech-rider", listing all their preferred equipments and send them to the organizers prior to every whichever event they are involved. (Of course to a point its reasonable!) So there's time to let the other party sort out what they can provide. And if in any case some can't provide the exact one, at least the musicians could have a second best option at the back of their head. Flexibilty goes a long way!~ Example, if i dont have enough keyboard stands, alternative solution is to use tall stool or some sort...

    5. Be prepared for the worst
    Not all shows goes without a glitch, I guarantee you. Even the latest Rolling Stones concert in Rio, Brazil, one of the spotlights was down without warning until 3 minutes before the first act and nothing can be done. (Rolling Stones were already making their way into the backstage at that point)

    As an artiste, you have to be mentally prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. If you are not the first artiste to perform, you are already having the benefit of assessing the sound system when others are performing. Don’t waste your time chit-chatting when you know obviously, you’re going to perform that night.

    Rehearse for abnormalities during practicing sessions, making sure every member on stage knows what are their individual parts to do should anything goes wrong. If the microphone volume is too soft, you may have to place yourself nearer to the microphone or raise your vocal volume a little. (This is similar life-saving concepts for ships, when told to abandon ships, each crew know perfectly whether they are supposed to jump from the starboard side or port side.)

    6a. Recording Albums
    With internet these days, it is not hard to find a whole list of recording studios that are able to do the job for you. Wait! Before you walk into just any studio, you have to first understand what is this studio focusing on. There are studios that does voice-over massively, while that will help you in presenting the best vocal for your recording, that also means the quality of your instrumentation may suffer. Ask around for feedbacks on whichever studio you are interested in, and also look through the portfolio of that studio carefully. The kind of clients a studio has and her projects, will give you a slight hint how accomplished this studio is.

    After that, balance it with your budget and see which is the best studio that gives you the sounds that your want and at the price that best fits your pocket.

    It is also essential that you do a little reading up and research on copyright issues for your own benefit. You may want to leave it totally to your record label or publisher if you have one, otherwise all the more you should go through the legal groundwork as an independent artiste.

    6b. Your demo and you, The organiser and publisher.
    Alright, since I mentioned this is one of the important factors, then please spare me a little section on this too. This is also one of the key fundamentals that many composers and bands tend to overlook. Many of us have the impression that since it's a demo and not actual recording, why make it that good?

    Demo are extremely important when you want to be heard. Imagine one day that you have to furnish your demo, do you think a lousy demo will impress? You can be absolutely good on stage live, but before that, would you even be given a chance to show off your skills upon hearing a lousy demo? Put yourself in the shoes of gig organisers, would you have the confidence to try out a band with their muffled demo, or perhaps a demo with all the sounds clipping?

    To me, a demo should be as good as any published CD, or close to it at least. In modern days, technology is readily available, CD burners, DVD burners for videos - make full use of it.

    I read some threads from experienced SOFTies that says, do a few runs of your music and choose the best to be recorded as the demo. They don't say this without a good reason. Before I forget, LABEL YOUR DEMO CLEARLY. You name, your band's name, track/s, contact numbers etc. This will make reference easy for the one receiving it. Imagine after receiving a demo for some time, and I have to go through the fuss just to recall who sent it and I have to call more than 5 parties just to locate this band. Event organisers don't have alot of time for this. So, help them.
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  3. #3

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    Finance

    7. Plan your budget
    Many of us are free lance artistes or hobbyist, so budget will always be an issue. It is helpful if you can draw up a plan and know, how much you can afford to put in for each performance. There are many shows that all of us will be tempted to perform, but we have to be realistic about the cost involved in taking part of such activities.

    If the money is reasonably out of your budget, don’t force yourself into the lineup. That is NOT THE ONLY show you can perform. Many artistes face financial conflicts because they tend to take every chance to perform, knowing that their budget does not allow them to. Would you spend unwisely – end up with a lousy show? Or would you accumulate the money and put up a really good show? I must say, the latter would leave your performance with a better image and publicity.

    8. Sponsors
    If you are confident and good enough, seek sponsors. This sounds easier than selling your music but it is not. To seek sponsorship is like marketing your band to the mass. What is so special about your performance that would entice someone to sponsor your act? (Now you know why demo are important. Keep a few demo around, you will need it every now and then.)

    9. Money VS Quality
    The most expensive equipment may not be the best equipment, if not handled properly. In military terms, the best rifle can kill you if mishandled. And the lousy handling of equipments will kill any respect or support the audience will have towards you.

    Understand what works best for you within your budget or equipment ownership. You need not necessary have to buy and own the best equipment. You can rent it from a friend, or from an established events support company. If I have to buy everything to bust the budget, that leaves me with little money to be signing up for shows and performance – especially for newbies.

    Make sure you know your equipment or instruments inside out, otherwise it is nothing but just a fanciful object. Performing, is not only about slinging a fanciful guitar over your shoulders, but rather – how you perform with that instrument on stage.

    Tanya Ryno
    Producer, Writer, Director
    United States

    Don't quit your day job. It can take years and you'll need money to live. Harrison Ford quit acting and worked in construction for a few years before coming back and getting his break. Bruce Willis was a waiter and bartender while he tried to get stage work in New York.
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  4. #4

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    Networking

    10. Knowing the right people
    This is tougher than a woman choosing the best dress for an evening date.

    Always be sincere when you network, because networking allows you to be exposed to a wide variety of people who may be interested in your performance. Networking will also allow you to pick up the right knowledge from the right people. In many ways, networking is even able to provide you with a helping hand when you run into problems.

    11. Expansion of your scope
    Do not limit yourself to network only with those in your genres of music. There are a considerable amount of experience and new things we can learn from other artistes in other genres.

    Similarly, network with sound engineers and listen to them. Although a sound engineer works in the studio most of the time, that does not mean their fair share of inputs are not valuable. Keep an open heart, you will see that you have a lot to benefit from a wide variety of networking.

    Expansion of scope can also bring you into a higher level where you might get the opportunity to do collaborations with other artistes.

    12. Getting gigs
    Networking is also one of the main keys to getting gigs. If you do not make yourself known, how are show organizers going to put you in the lineup? It is also important to have a ready list of contact person and numbers whom you can call to ask for gigs. Imagine performing once for an organizer and forgetting the organizer next time round, what effect would that bring upon you and your band?

    Constantly keep in touch with the organizer to let them know you are always looking for opportunities to shine. If you are good and dependable, do not be surprised the organizer will readily furnish you with a whole list of events for the year – just for you to book yourself a spot to shine. All these are essential PR and networking skills you need to possess if you intend to go professional. Now you know why some singers are always calling up club promoters all the time?

    Keep a namecard handy with you, even if it is a lousy namecard. As long as the organizer keeps it with him, there bound to be one day he will call you up for a show.

    13. Business Decisions
    Through networking, you may start to get offers from all kinds of people. They may be from small publishers or large record labels, tempting you with a wide variety of benefits should you sign up as their artiste. You could be making the biggest mistake if you decide to rush into it.

    Always make it a point to study the proposal offered to you thoroughly, if necessary, spend a little money and consult an Entertainment Lawyer. (Not just any lawyer!) This move might save you lots more money than you thought. While being offered a contract is a much celebrated achievement, take the time to put every contract side by side and compare them. For everything that you gain, what are those that you would lose and is that loss worth it? If it is not worth it, rest that proposal and wait for a better contract to come along. Patience do pay off most of the time.

    It is also advisable to have some knowledge of the directions and goals of that publisher. That will give you a rough idea how far will this publisher be able to help you to go. Always think far, and not only the current benefits which could be short termed.

    Tanya Ryno
    Producer, Writer, Director
    United States

    Research, research, research ... find out names, what they do, who they are and spell their names correctly. That alone will make a difference in if your resume or script even gets looked at.
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  5. #5

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    Professionalism

    14. Soundman – Your best friend
    In business, we work with several other companies on the terms of “partnership” to bring solutions and services to the mass. Likewise here, artistes bring entertainment to the audience. Hence, the soundman is probably your best partner.

    A soundman or sound engineer is NOT your dog. You should not command or order the soundman in any way, because he/she is someone performing artistes cannot live without. The soundman should be seen and treated like the best friend we have when it comes to performing.

    Your job is to perform, and his job is to ensure the sounds are good. In return, that will benefit you and your performance. Always be open to any suggestions he may have and respect him in his work, just as much respect as you want in your own acts.

    Amanda Ling
    Electrico
    Singapore

    ...musicians have to understand the nature of event and how many bands will be playing. Let's say if there are 5 or 6 bands playing, it's impossible and ridiculous for the soundmen to provide for all the different requests from all the bands, they probably would standardize their equipment and find a common ideal out of everything. Or sometimes, you will just get the minimal... means one of those crappy sound days. But without all the crap, one wouldn't know what's good yea?

    15. Criticism
    Always view criticism as opportunity to improve. Not everyone will like your music, you can NEVER have every single human beings liking your music. So make the best out of criticism, improve yourself and hopefully one day, the critics would see the improvement and start to like your performance.

    However, it is also important to note that we cannot satisfy the whole world. I ain’t a fan of punk rock, but that doesn’t mean I have to criticize them and put them down. They are still great, in their own individual group of interest. Be respectful even if you have been criticized. Having been criticized doesn’t mean you have to rebut them in the most violent way possible. If you feel that the criticism is making no grounds, your improvement and performance will say it for itself. Let the show do the talking instead.

    16. Politics and Rumours
    If you are going to waste your time on political games and rumours, that is where the money is flowing into. So don’t complain if you are not earning enough.

    All the time taken to get involved with all these unnecessary things will reduce the time you take to practice, the time you take to network, the time you take to think and compose a new tune and worst of all, your reputation and image takes a big hit. All these will only hurt you most in your pocket at the end of the day.

    The same way you bitch about another band, that’s the same way someone else will bitch about you. What do you earn in return? Nothing but anger, nothing but a loss of performing income, nothing but a hit to your own ego.

    If someone else is bitching about you, and you know it’s untrue, ignore it and move on. You may wish to clarify it once, but once is all you need to do. A prolonged “battle” of words is not going to earn you money, much least to see improvement in your act.

    17. Punctuality
    Being established does not mean you start throwing your tantrums or show off your ego. Be punctual, regardless for the actual show, or even a mere meeting with the organizer. This will tell people how committed and responsible you are as an individual.

    In times of necessity, arrive earlier than expected and make sure everything is in place yourself. There is nothing better and more reliable than ensuring things personally by yourself, if you have any doubts.

    18. Initiative
    Don’t expect everything to be spoon fed to you. Whenever I am invited to spin for certain events, NOBODY tells me what are the kind of equipment that will be used. I ALWAYS have to ask! And that is nothing difficult.

    If you have doubts, and nobody is telling you anything, take the initiative to ask and confirm. There is really no point in keeping quiet, but yet resort to pushing the blame to one another when something goes wrong.

    To quote a well known military phrase we used to hear “You think, You thought, Who confirm?” So as you can see, being initiative and proactive is also important.

    15th Dec - Addon real-life example: Recently, a taiwanese friend was invited to one of the clubs to spin for a night. She is not new there, having performed there twice. So as happily as she was, she assumed everything gonna be the same as the previous two gigs.

    When she arrived at the club, to her horror, she see two unfamiliar CD player instead of turntables. (She's more comfortable with spinning records than CDs) The club did an overhaul to the DJ system and the replacement turntable was crappy. She told me, she thought everything gonna be the same as the previous two gigs. See the "power" of assumption now?

    Amanda Ling
    Electrico
    Singapore

    When Electrico went for our very first overseas gig in Australia back in 2004 playing alongside Aussie band Screamfeeder, everything that we experienced was kind of a culture shock. Especially in terms of equipments, set up etc... When you get to the venue and look at the stage... it's EMPTY... All the equipments are usually lugged by the musicians themselves. Count ourselves lucky we were sharing all the gear with Screamfeeder, if not we wouldnt have known what to do!

    The only thing that was "provided" was their inhouse soundguy, so in every gig we did across the eastern part of Aussie - be it road trips or internal flights - all the drumset parts, amps, instrument, cables etc are handled by ourselves. Even we had to rent an amp from a musicshop before gigs.


    19. Stay humble
    It is inevitable that some of you will end up as “stuck-up” once you achieved some form of fame. Arrogance has proven to bring down even the greatest Emperor of China.. It goes the same with you.

    Always be willing to share all the knowledge that you have accumulated over this long treacherous path to fame. Afterall, it was also with others’ advice that brings you to where you are. It was also the opportunities that have been given to you that allows you the chance to shine.

    Tanya Ryno
    Producer, Writer, Director
    United States

    Until you're commanding $20 million per film, you're not entitled to have a big ego. Don't reject parts you think are too small or insignificant because you're too busy looking for your big break. Judi Dench won an Oscar for six minutes of screen time.
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  6. #6

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    Concluding Statement

    The music industry is never an easy industry to work in. While the above may not be a professional guide, nor does it be the best complete guide, the contents will be able to give you some form of idea what is expected of you as an artiste.

    There are a lot more Do and Don’t. As you progress, as long as you keep an open heart and always willing to learn, you will discover all these valuable lessons through experience and advices. This is all so much we can do, to share, to discuss and to advice. In addition, if you are unwilling to understand the fact that “it takes two hands to clap”, you will realized that you will start lagging behind others. Everyone is exchanging ideas and improving, but you are not.

    If you are thinking of achieving recognition without putting in hard work, my advice is - STOP DREAMING!!! Don’t expect everything and anything to be provided for you. Many times, you have to utilize your own resources to fulfill certain parts of the show. All these comes with careful planning, meticulous budgeting and good networking.

    Meanwhile, have fun with music.


    Amanda Ling
    Electrico
    Singapore

    There was one gig in Brisbane that we had to carry all that crazy gears up like 5 floors from the back alley spiral staircase to the club ourselves. This whole gigging experience was like BMT, you learn alot and actually realised that we are very sheltered and blessed here in Singapore or at least most parts in Asia. All needed gears are on stage, there's a team of onstage soundman and crew and a good soundman for the front of house etc.

    (Penned with advice and vetting by James. While all efforts have been made to ensure this guide remains informative and accurate, we cannot promise that all areas have been covered. Should you have any realistic issues that we have left out, please help the scene - it's as simple as telling us what we have missed.)

    Special thanks to Tanya Ryno and Amanda Ling for taking time out from their busy schedules to pen their advice.

    Tanya Ryno has an award winning feature under her belt, Coney Island Baby, among her many other productions. She has also produced for Saturday Night Live, The Sundance Channel and major cable networks.

    Amanda Ling, need we say more? A member of Electrico and also also a part of VibeSetters rocking major dancefloors.
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  7. #7

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    Brilliant stuff... really informative! 8)
    1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom
    PedalWorX HellBilly, Plutoneium Chi-Wah-Wah, Korg Pitchblack Poly, Bixonic Expandora
    Ceriatone Custom 18W TMB

  8. #8

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    Very Interesting

    can you cover details about producing demos? cuz i remember hearing about the pros and cons of it, but i've forgot what they are.
    excuse me excuse me!!!! SIAM LA!! drummer coming through!!

  9. #9

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    Which part of demo production would you like to cover? Which aspect of it?
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  10. #10

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    I'm not exactly sure myself haha

    Let's just start with what we may have to face during the process of developing our own demos. Budget constraints, demands vs quantity production. Somewhere that range cuz i really don't know much about such stuff.
    excuse me excuse me!!!! SIAM LA!! drummer coming through!!

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