Income-Generating Ideas for Studio Owners and Musicians

This post comes as a response to a question from Robin, in a thread that started a while back, regarding a commenter that has a friend with a studio, but the friend is struggling to generate income from the studio.

Generating income from a recording studio is, no doubt, a difficult thing to do. There was a time (I’m told, at least), when a studio could exist, essentially, on its own merits. The space existed, and independent musicians, record labels, music publishers, radio stations, advertising companies, and others that needed something recorded would call the studio, reserve the space, and the owner got paid for the use of the space.

What’s happened is that producers, engineers, and others that provide the services for the studio figured out that they were paying the owners of the studio for use of the space, but, if they had their own space, they could generate more income by charging for the use of their own space, as well as charging for their time as a producer or engineer.

The next generation of producers and engineers came along and, trying to compete in the open market, lowered their prices, seeking to compete with established producer and engineers, which is a tried-and-true technique in competition-based pricing. This lowered the prices people were willing to pay for studio time, and between the  advent of digital recording and the shrinking of record label budgets, things only got worse.

When digital recording became affordable, at least one of the most common barriers to entry – cost of entry- was negated. This, along with a decrease in budgets record labels gave for recording albums (due to any number of factors, not limited to piracy and general market malaise) , turned the recording studio industry into and oligopsony,where there  are many sellers of a similar product, but few buyers.

All this to say, we now find ourselves in a place where, by and large, the recording that happens in the industry is done by people who are also musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers, DJs, and others that not just own the equipment and the space, but also use it creatively to accomplish their tasks.

To that end, we, as those who have paid for this equipment, hardware, and software, need to find ways of getting the most revenue we can out of this situation. And, in many cases, this requires a particularly astute studio owner to find the niches where there’s money to be made.

The obvious choices for generating revenue are fleeting. You don’t just create a website, list your credits, give people a listen to your work, and expect to get any phone calls. If that’s all you do, expect an empty inbox and no voice mails.

ONE of many, many options, is creating library tracks for sale. A lot of the music used in the world doesn’t have to be a specific artist, a specific recording, or even a specific song. Sometimes, people need music for a special purpose, but aren’t really looking for a specific track.

For instance, in my studio, I produce tracks of carillon bell music, and sell those tracks on iTunes and Amazon, and have those tracks available for streaming on Rdio, Spotify, Deezer, and other places. These tracks are not “popular music”, but they apply to a very specific market, looking for music for a specific purpose. These tracks, individually, do not produce a lot of income, but, all the tracks I produce are public domain christian hymns, Christmas tunes, or similar, so there’s no songwriter/publisher with which I need to work. All I need to do is upload the tracks to the online distributor I use, and wait for the payments to come in. And, since these are public domain hymns, Christmas songs, and similar, means that there are huge possibilities for this catalog.

This is something I can produce in the studio’s down time, and there’s no rush to complete any of these tunes, so it’s a perfect studio-time filler.

Things I think are an almost total waste of time include the tracks “beat makers” create and try to sell to people to rap over. There are, literally, hundreds of Twitter accounts that do nothing but promote the selling and leasing of these tracks. I have no clue how you’d police the “lease” of a track to begin with. In either case, there are already a LOT of people doing this, so why be one more in a series of people, trying to convince others your beats are the best? If you ARE a “beat maker”, I’d suggest working with a specific rapper (if you’re not one yourself) to create tracks for, and share in any of the revenue generated from concerts or similar revenue-generating activities.

As far as resources for learning how to do this, those are hard to come by, but I’ll list a few places that may help explain more about what library tracks are:

Sound on Sound – All About Library Music

We All Make Music – How to Write Library Music That Sells

Hope this helps, Robin!

Native Instruments’ Maschine 2.0 Says “No” to Pro Tools Previous Versions

Native Instruments announces new Maschine software. Find the PDF of the press release here:

If you notice in the release, there is no support for Maschine as an RTAS plug-in.

Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Maschine Studio Software

What does that mean? Anybody who’s using any version of Pro Tools prior to Version 10 is out of luck.

Will this have an impact on you as a music creator? If you have Pro Tools 9 or less, will you upgrade your Pro Tools rig to accommodate the new Native Instruments Maschine software?

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron
Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron

Recroding music in a tiny space has never been easier.

You know what beats out a great-sounding A/D converter? A great-sounding vocalist, musician, or song.

You know what’s beter than going into a bunch of debt buying a bunch of hardware and software for your recording? Buying the minimal amount of gear and learning how to stretch that gear ot the limits, using every single feature/knob/contol/button on the gear/software.

A small space != small creativity.

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Read more:  Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm? · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2013/09/13/thinking-about-setting-up-a-recording-studio-in-your-dorm/#ixzz2eoDHlJOD
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Do You Hear What I Hear?

For you musicians, here’s a question: When you record your performance, do you pay attention to what you’re actually playing, or focus on the way it’s “supposed to sound” according to the performance you have set up in your mind?

Another question: When you listen to your recorded performance, do you actually hear what’s coming from the speakers and judge that performance, or do you “perform” the part again in your head, as the playback is rolling, and focus on that performance you have set up in your head again?

This is pretty much what I asked Robert Woody, a guy that knows how musicians’ minds work. He decided to make an entire article about it on Psychology Today’s website, as well as his personal blog.

A highly recommended, interesting read.  Here’s his personal blog too.

“Titanium” – David Guetta featuring Sia: A Production Analysis, Part II

Titanium - David Guetta and Sia
Titanium – David Guetta and Sia

Official Video

The Song Doesn’t Need to Continually Build to an End Climax

A lot of songs produced nowadays reach a climax close to the end of the song, then fall off and end pretty much like it started (see my previous posting for “We Are Young” for an example). “Titanium” doesn’t do that.

This song works, and is different, because the song continually builds and falls, from verse to chorus and back.

True, the final pre-chorus/chorus part is even MORE climactic than the others, but the song hits like a Mack truck at 1:16. This effect is emphasized by the keyed compression on the synth track, giving the synthesizer a pulsating rhythm opposite of the kick. This climax happens again at 2:32 and 3:33. There’s no need to continually build throughout the song here, the rising and falling of the track provide an enormous amount of movement for the song.

Give the Song a Break and Give the Song Somewhere to Climax To

Related to the previous concept, you have to come down from the climax of the song at some point. If that climax comes early in the song (as it does here), you have to do something to give the listener’s ears a break. At 1:32, the song returns to the same “level” as it was in verse one. It just falls off, and you’re right back into another verse. It happens again at 2:48, but this time leads right into the bridge. The next fall off, at 3:49, is a hard stop that fades into reverb.

This tune would not work if the intensity level had remained continuous after it reached the first climax at 1:16. The listener needs a break! That much intensity for that long would provide no contrasting dynamics, and the result is that the song would sound “flat” for the rest of the tune.

Similarly, don’t feel the need to go for the knockout punch in the first thirty seconds of the song either. This song doesn’t reach any real climax until 1:16, but that also means that it spends from 0:46 to 1:16 building up to that climax. That’s thirty seconds of build. That’s a long time, in popular music terms, spent leading the listener to that climax. It’s not an automatic increase from the verse, it’s a process of increasing the intensity from low to high.

There’s No Need to Have Continuous Percussion

To help build the climax, Guetta relies on the judicious use of percussion instrumentation in “Titanium”. He doesn’t feel the need to continually use any single piece of percussion, and sometimes drops the percussion altogether (0:46 to 1:01, for example) to help create different levels of intensity and emotion. Same at 2:02 and 2:47. I dare say this song is percusisonless for maybe 25% of the song, and very little percussion for maybe 33% of the tune.

Do NOT feel like you always must have a percussion element keeping the beat in the song.

It’s simply not true, and removing elements of the percussion aids in creating different levels of dynamics and raising or lowering them by adding or subtracting them.

“Wide Awake” – Katy Perry – A Chordal & Compositional Analysis

Written by Katy Perry, Bonnie McKee, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, and Henry Walter
Produced by Dr. Luke & Cirkut
"Wide Awake" Katy Perry
Cover for “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry

Official Video

Katy Perry’s Official Blog

Katy Perry’s single “Wide Awake” shows what it’s like when someone wake up from a dream and realizes that their worst nightmares have come true. In this case, the dream-like state was, as history is doomed to repeat, a bad relationship (ostensibly with Russell Brand in this regard).

Use of Melody

What makes this song interesting, from a production and songwriting standpoint, is there is only a single chord progression used throughout the entire song. The typical use of chord structure and differing progressions to differentiate the verses from the choruses and choruses from the bridge do not exist here. Instead, melody and instrumentation are used to break the song up into different sections. Want an exercise to become a better songwriter? Take a basic chord progression and create as many different melodies as you can with that single progression. “Wide Awake” shows us that melody and lyrical content are extremely important, and creative use of each is necessary to successful music production.

Chord Progression

As for the chord progression, the song is in the key of G minor. Kind of. Home base for the song is G minor, at least. The chord progression is Gm – B♭ – F – C, or i – III – VII – IV. The triads that originally appear in G natural minor are i – ii° – III – iv – v – VI – VII. All this jibes except for the IV chord in the progression. According to our naturally-occurring triads, that C chord is supposed to be a minor chord, but is, in fact, a major chord!

The Katy Perry – Mozart Connection

Now, we all know that minor keys are representative of sadness, loneliness, demure feelings, etc. G minor has an especially-revered position as being considered by Mozart, the best key signature for expressing sadness. In fact, many of Mozart’s minor key works were written in the key of G minor (including symphonies number 25 & 40, two of his most famous symphonies).

Turning a Minor Chord into a Major Chord

So, what happens when you change out the C minor chord that’s originally in the list of G minor triads for a C major triad? You turn the G minor key into a mode!

Let’s take a closer look. The out-of-place chord is the IV, or C major in this case. The original key of G minor has the C as minor, or a iv chord. C minor is comprised of C – E♭– G. The C major chord used is C – E– G. So, the next step is to see what happens when you replace an E♭with an E♮. The new key consists of the notes G – A – B♭– C – D – E – F, or G Dorian mode.

Dorian Mode

Dorian mode has a long history of melancholy and sadness. Take a listen to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Bealtes’ “Elanor Rigby” for a primer.

Also note that the E♮ that appears in the scale only appears in that singe IV chord too. Otherwise they’d have to change the other chords around, which probably wouldn’t make much musical sense.

Other Tunes With the Same Progression

This chord progression for “Wide Awake” is used in several other extremely famous melancholy and glum tunes.

“Mad World” – Tears for Fears

“Wonderwall” – Oasis 

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Green Day

“What Goes Around… Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake