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5 Tips for Getting Booked

Unless everyone knows your name, getting booked can certainly be a challenge even for skillful musicians. For brand-new and emerging artists, it can be an even greater challenge. But getting booked doesn't have to be a constant worry for musicians willing to put in the time to find gigs. Here are five great tips for getting your band or act booked.

Finish Your Debut

Before you can start looking for gigs, you'll want to make sure that your debut album is complete and available for digital or hard copy distribution. It goes without saying that you'll want to make your debut as solid as possible. Once you've got your debut ready, you can start doling it out to promoters, venues, and other networking sources that can get you gigs (even your friends and family).

Contact Venues

One approach to getting booked is to contact venues directly, especially if there's a band coming to town that you'd like to open for. Whether you call, email, or show up in person to deliver a download code or demo CD, reach out to as many venues as you can and ask about the possibility of putting together a show or getting onto an already existing bill. You may get more nos than yesses, especially in the beginning, but don't let that discourage you – keep at it.

Ask Other Bands

This is one of the best ways to get gigs – by talking to other bands. If they like what you do, they may opt to suggest you to a venue or promoter as an opening act for one or more of their shows. Networking with other bands is also a great way to get onto collaborations or tours, so don't skimp out on going to shows and talking with other musicians about their – and your – work.

Talk to Promoters

Promoters work in every area of the music industry, from running club nights to organizing shows. Get to know promoters in your area and let them know that you're looking for gigs. If they like what you do, they'll be more likely to drop you a line when they're organizing a show to ask if you want a performing slot. They'll be even more likely to do so if you come to shows and events they organize regularly – so make sure they know your face (and your name!).

Don't Get Picky

While you should never fall for pay-to-play scams (i.e. having to sell tickets or comp unsold tickets yourself), don't get overly picky about the gigs you are offered. If you're offered a weeknight gig, take it. If you're offered a gig performing at someone's wedding or Memorial Day picnic, take it. Continue an ongoing search for gigs that you feel best suit your act; but getting your music in front of as many people as possible will only do you favors in the long run.

Following these five simple tips will help you land gigs more easily – and over time, more regularly.

Conservatory or University? 5 Tips to Deciding

Deciding between a music conservatory or university can be a difficult choice. No one should tell you that attending university is somehow less credible than attending a conservatory; however, which you choose ultimately depends on what your goals are in the music industry. Here are five tips to deciding between university and conservatory.

Availability of Minors

Conservatories are beneficial because they focus firmly on a particular area of music; education, performance, composition, and so on. Universities are beneficial because they help produce well-rounded students with a good understanding of humanities, arts, and sciences – and the availability of minors. For example, if you know you want to perform opera, you may choose a conservatory with an excellent opera program; but if you know you want to major in music with a minor in conservatory because you have a mind to do music therapy as a master's, you may want to choose a university. Align your choice with your career goals and the availability of the academic path you want.

Cost

In an ideal world, cost would not be a factor in determining where you study. But it is, and while the education students receive at conservatories is often world-class and totally worth the money, not everyone can afford to study at a conservatory. If cost is a determining factor for where you study, look for universities and colleges that are accredited by an independent academic body (such as the National Association of Schools of Music) and boast alumni success within your major of choice.

Distance

The number of conservatories in the world are far outweighed by the number of colleges and universities you can choose from. If you live in a region where a conservatory is nearby, and you want to stay close to home, it's an easy choice. However, if attending a conservatory means traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles from home and you're not prepared to make a move that big, examine universities in your home region.

Spectrum of Majors

Most conservatories have a limited range of majors, and many do not permit double-majoring or minoring in other subjects, particularly European conservatories. If double-majoring or minoring is important to you and you cannot find a conservatory that offers these options, attending a university may be better for you. Once again, align your choice of school with what career goals you've determined, and go from there.

Availability of Financial Aid

Some conservatories are extremely generous with financial aid, particularly to students who have great need or are especially meritorious. If cost is a factor, search out conservatories that have generous bursary or financial aid programs. Nearly all universities and colleges offer financial aid (with the exception of a very few), and some even offer it to non-citizens. Apply to a range of both that have generous financial aid packages, and see what each one offers you upon your acceptance.

Choosing between conservatory and university can be a difficult choice – each offers unique opportunities as well as a range of opportunity for scholarships and other forms of financial aid. These five tips will help you choose – and get your career in music off to a great start.

5 Essential Tools Every Musician Should Have

Making music doesn't always call for a ton of gear and gadgets – one can make music using everything from just their body to roomfuls of musical instruments and gear. But there are a few gadgets that can make creating music easier – and improve its quality. Here are five essential tools every musician should have.

Tuner

Even if you're a singer, a tuner can still be an enormous help in the studio and rehearsal space. A digital tuner – or a smartphone app for tuning, like DaTuner or DaTuner Lite – will tune every instrument you own and help you place every note correct if you're struggling with a particular passage with lots of accidentals or chromaticism (and this is applicable to both instrumentalists and vocalists). Some musicians prefer a physical tuner, but tuning apps are just as capable and accurate as a standalone model.

Metronome

A metronome helps musicians find and maintain consistent rhythm – and while this sounds like basic musicianship, it can be harder than one might assume. If you're performing a piece that doesn't change its BPM too frequently, a metronome can be enormously helpful, especially with large bands. You can purchase a physical metronome from a music shop or online, and in addition, lots of metronome apps for smartphones – like Andronome – are available cheap or free. Some smartphone metrophones are more adaptable than others, such as odd-numbered BPMs, subdivision options, and more, so look for one that best suits your needs.

DAWs

A basic digital audio workstation is another absolute must for anyone creating music. With a DAW, you can record everything from rehearsal sessions to full-blown symphonic works. Having a DAW can also help you develop audio production skills over time, especially if you read regularly about the industry and best practices. ProTools, Logic, Cubase, and Acid Pro are some of the best known, but a load of freeware options exist, like Acid Pro Express, Giada, GarageBand, and Rosegarden.

Mini Toolkit

If you're a gigging musician, a mini toolkit is a great thing to have around. You might have to fix an instrument or setup equipment on the fly, especially if you're on tour. Suggested options for a musician's mini toolkit are an assortment of miniature screwdrivers, wire cutters, a drum key, and a multitool like a Swiss knife or a similar tool.

Music Stand

Even for those who don't use sheet music regularly, music stands can come in handy. A music stand can hold cue sheets, lead sheets, drum sticks, and set lists – anything you may need to be able to see easily throughout a show and get to quickly. Portable music stands are very easy to come by, and are often very cheap – sometimes, you can even get lucky at a thrift or secondhand store.

From rock bands to classical outfits, each of these tools will help you in your day to day practice as a musician – and at shows and rehearsal sessions.

when creative differences arise

If you don't strictly work solo as a musician, there will inevitably come a time where you and your bandmates disagree on the sound or execution of something you're working on musically. From stylistic interpretation to technique, these differences can be resolved amicably – most of the time. Here are five things to try when working to resolve creative differences.

Compromise

Very often, these kinds of differences can be resolved via compromise, particularly if your band or ensemble has a mostly democratic attitude about creation. As with writing music, bring your creativity to bear on how the vision of what you're working on can be satisfactory to all parties. If your band has a clearly demarcated leader who makes all the decisions, still suggest a compromise, but be prepared to have them veto it, especially if they've done so in the past.

Don't Argue – Discuss

While the temptation may be there to roundly argue your point, it will only create more friction and ill feeling within the group. Discuss your views and encourage your bandmates to discuss theirs – work to convince people of your viewpoint with a clear explanation of what you want to do and why, and listen attentively as they try to convince you of theirs as well. Resolving creative differences is a work of cooperation, not strivance.

Make Suggestions

If you think your bandmate(s) may be on to something but see issues with their idea or the execution of it, make suggestions as to how it can be done better or how it can be molded to fit the vision of the group. Very often taking a good idea and modifying it can resolve problems – and will often make the final product even better.

Keep Your Cool

It's easy for people to get frustrated and emotional in situations like this. No one's suggestiong you express no feeling at all, but don't allow yourself to be ruled by your frustration, and don't get so angry that you start shouting at or insulting your bandmates. It will only make things worse, and may even result in dissolution (as many a band has sorrowfully discovered). If you need to take a step back, excuse yourself from the discussion until you're calm enough to approach it without anger.

Make Your Own Way

If worst comes to worst and the creative differences cannot be resolved, it is perfectly okay for you to opt out of the project or band and either work solo or join another act that's more laid back. There will be points where you might be dealing with a band or ensemble leader who's simply on a power trip and insists on having everything one hundred percent their own way; or a bandmate who always seems eager for an argument no matter what you're doing. Determine if the situation overall is toxic or uncomfortable for you, and if the creative differences are a hallmark of that; if so, it's time to move on.

All musicians have different ideas about what best fits their vision, but by working calmly and efficiently in tandem with your fellow musicians, you'll almost always be able to come to a resolution that satisfies everyone.

Money talks: generating passive income as a musician

Making money as a musician isn't the easiest of tasks, but the arrival of the digital age has created a substantial number of ways for working artists to generate passive income when they're not on stage or selling CDs. Here are four ways to generate passive income as a musician.

Teaching On a Digital Platform

If you're an experienced musician, chances are you can develop a method of passing on your valuable knowledge to other aspiring artists. A little bit of work upfront can help you generate hundreds of dollars in passive income – design a curriculum, make videos, and upload them to the platform of your choice. Skillshare is a great platform for anyone who wants to teach, along with Udemy; Coursera is also a great option if you have an advanced degree in music. With regular course creation and a little marketing, you can set up a great source of income – even when you're not recording videos or writing course outlines.

Digital Distribution

While digital distribution won't necessarily add up to a ton of cash, registering your music on platforms like Spotify, Pandora, or other streaming platforms can generate a little extra cash. In a lot of cases, music enthusiasts who really love your work will eventually purchase your music directly – whether they order a disc or pick up a digital release on Bandcamp or iTunes.

YouTube

If you really love making videos, YouTube can be another source for a small amount of passive income. If you have a big following on social media already, this is a lot more viable – but even if you don't, creating regular YouTube videos about everything from touring to lyrics writing can help you build your audience and get you more regular likes and follows (not to mention getting you more music sales).

Licensing

Probably one of the best methods of passive income streams, licensing your music for games, television, and film can be a great way to earn. While you should pay close attention to any restrictions and requirements that may come with licensing your music with a particular platform, you can upload your entire catalog and just sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in as various media companies purchase the license for your music to use in production. This method takes time, but the payoff in the end can be significant.

Being a career musician doesn't have to involve living on ramen. If you're bound and determined to make music your sole career, each of these methods can help ensure that your bills are not only paid – but that you can live well.

 

5 fabulous music traditions from around the world

Every continent, nation, and locale has its own musical traditions – some thousands of years old. One of the best ways to learn about a culture is to study its music, as music is a universal form of communication and cultural exchange. From Spain to Japan, here are five fabulous music traditions from around the world. 

Flamenco

One of Spain's richest musical traditions, flamenco consists of several musical components from singing to guitar. Boasting its own unique dance tradition, flamenco is hallmarked musically by the presence of the flamenco mode (essentially a modern Phrygian mode), a short melodic range, and microtones. Flamenco style also involves a great deal of improvisation, and in addition to its fiery and emotive nature, this makes it incredibly interesting – and moving – to listen to.

Apala 

Originating from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Apala is an entirely percussion-based tradition of music developed in the 1930s. It was used, traditionally, during the holy month of Ramadan in Islam to wake fasters from their sleep. The tradition has evolved extensively since its inception, with increasingly complex percussion rhythms being developed with the traditional instruments involved in apala.

American Folk

The American folk tradition draws its inspiration from a number of other musical forms – all African-American. Utilizing the vocal styles and instrumentation of African-American spirituals, jazz, and bluegrass, American folk is what is known as a pastoral style – a style of music of the land-working proletariat. American folk has given rise to a number of other musical styles, including modern country.

Raga

A musical style originating in the Indian Hindustani and Carnatic classical styles, Indian raga music consists of set individual pieces that reflect a variety of moods or themes, such as seasons or emotions. Each raga can be improvised upon by the performer dependent on their taste, and each consists of at least five notes, ascending or descending. Every raga is highly melodic, and most are hallmarked by the traditional sliding or “scooping” heard in the Hindustani tradition of singing, even in instrumentation.

Han

The majority of China's population is Han, and Han traditional music is heard all over China. Han traditional music features a single melodic line within each piece, and performers play variations on this melodic line exclusively throughout a single piece. While most Han music is instrumental, singing is still frequently heard, and in almost all cases performers slide up or down to the next note in the melodic line, creating a smooth and sonorous sound. Much of China's traditional music is played with a mixture of percussion, pipa, zheng, and voice.

Each of these musical traditions has something different to offer. Whether you listen to flamenco to get you in the mood for a night out or Han traditional music for your morning meditations, each is worth exploring – and experimenting with.

  

5 apps that can help you in the studio

The incredible expansion of technology has made recording and audio engineering easier than ever – faster, more cohesive, and with less stress. Even for those on a tight budget, a wide range of technological tools and apps are available to serve every function from tuning to vocals adjustment. Here are five apps that can help you in the studio.

DaTuner Lite 

DaTuner Lite is a lightweight but extremely capable tuning application available to Android users. With an easy-to-read and comprehensive interface, this application tunes every instrument to perfection – not only giving a metered read of the pitch but identifying the ghz rate of the note you're playing. If you're a classical musician or guitarist, this app is a must-have.

Andronome

Another Android app, the Andronome is a free metronome app that allows you to set any beat per minute you want – even odd-numbered rhythm settings. Easy to use and with a large, easy-to-read user interface, Andronome is fantastic for learning new pieces and setting rhythms for ones you're producing.

LaDiDa 

Available for iPhone users, this handy little app is just for singers – a compact and visually simplistic application, LaDiDa provides on-the-spot pitch correction and autotune, making it a fantastic application for pop and R+B singers. The app helps not only to correct faulty pitch, but to smooth out rougher patches in vocalization – especially useful if the singer happens to be a little sick that day!

SoundCloud

If you're the kind of musician who likes to make field recordings – birds, animals, the sounds of trains and people talking – the SoundCloud app is for you. While out and about, you can record sounds directly into the cloud and upload it for later – and once you're back in the studio, you can log into the SoundCloud main site and download it for use in your music.

Musical Piano 

Offering up both free and paid options, the Musical Piano app for Android gives the user a virtual piano and keyboard with eight MIDI instruments at the basic level and one hundred and twenty-eight instruments, wireless playback, and piano recording at the paid level. While Musical Piano might be more of a fun tool than a brass-tacks kind of application, its capability at the paid level offers up some serious-business options.

Every one of these apps offers something different for all different kinds of musicians – so pull out your smartphone and check them out!

5 Reasons to Get a Degree in Composition

Don't be fooled – a degree in composition is a highly versatile one, and obtaining a degree in composition can lead you down numerous roads to opportunity in the musical world. Composition degree holders do all sorts of work, from writing and performing their own work to composing for film and game companies all over the world. Here are five compelling reasons to get a degree in music composition.

Skill Versatility

In the course of a composition degree, you won't just study theory and composition techniques. You'll also study a variety of instruments, learn to perform adequately, and learn how instrument groups and singers work together to produce incredible sound. Many composers are also brilliant performers as well, and they frequently integrate the two specializations. 

Ample Career Opportunities

A composition degree opens doors to a variety of career opportunities that you may not have have had access to with a more general music degree or a degree in performance or education. Composition degree holders are found in some of the best-paid – and most prolific – jobs in the music industry, from high-end recording studios to the orchestra rooms of major gaming companies. If you love to write music – and you want to be paid well and recognized for your work – a composition degree can serve as a key to unlock that future.

Increased Collaboration

Many composers work together to produce stunning works of music, and obtaining a composition degree can let you in on working with some of the best composers of the age. Some composers built their entire career on the basis of successful collaboration with others, and there is no reason why you can't do the same. Collaboration serves any creative professional who is a team player, recognizes the value of other people's ideas, and is intent on utilizing everyone's skills to create something brilliant.

Deep Theoretical Understanding

Having a deep understanding of musical theory helps to inform all areas of music. Whether you compose, teach, or perform – or all three – an in-depth knowledge of theory can assist you in not only understanding and analyzing the work of other artists, but can also help you better relay instruction to your students and enhance your performance skills via firm footing with rhythm and melodic line.

Higher Income

Composers represent some of the best-paid professionals in music, particularly those with advanced degrees. If you aspire to a high income as a musician, composition may serve as the best route to a more secure living, as well as some fantastic perks that can come with working in films, television, and gaming – from in-house catering to free product.

Getting a degree in composition won't limit your opportunities in music – rather, it can help to enhance them, particularly when combined with a lucrative double major or minor. For those who love to write music, composition may be your best path to steady income, professional accolades, and continued lifelong opportunities.

Things You Need To Consider When Buying Studio Headphones

Headphones are an important part of the recording process, equally as important as the microphone you use.

The most important aspect of a pair of headphones during the recording process is preventing noise from leaking. If audio bleeds, you will create feedback, which is a hard problem to solve. So, it's important to select headphones with good noise shielding and low bleeding of audio.

Durability and Comfort

A professional pair of studio headphones will be durable. They will be able to take some knocks, though many professional studio headphones, even in the budget range, will have replaceable ear-cups and replaceable leads.

Comfort is an important consideration if you will be mixing through your headphones and not through a set of studio monitors. Since you'll be wearing your headphones for hours on end, make sure a pair of headphones that sit well on your head and feel comfortable, making sessions more tolerable.

Frequency Response

If you will be using your headphones for mixing, the frequency response is the most important consideration. You will want as close to a "flat frequency response" as possible. A wider frequency range allows greater exposure to higher levels of low and high frequencies.

The best studio headphones give a true representation of sound. This means a flat frequency response will give you true sound. This will allow you to mix your tracks effectively.

If you mix a track on a bass heavy set of headphones, your final mix will be bass heavy, leaving the possibility that the finished track will not sound good on all playback systems. This is why a flat frequency response is important.

Things To Avoid

There seems to be a myth out there, that if a headphone brand uses the term 'studio' in the product description, then the headphones are professional studio quality.

Many of the expensive brightly colored Bluetooth enabled headphones, especially those headphones endorsed by Hip Hop DJs, do not have a flat frequency response. These headphones use compression to enhance the bass and middle, high frequencies. Headphones like this have no place in a home studio. They should be left for the bedroom DJs who mix badly compressed MP3s.

Also, avoid headphones that do not have a detachable audio cable. The audio cable is usually the first thing to break on a set of headphones, so if you can replace an audio cable and have a spare in your studio, you will save a great deal of time and money in the future.

Price

A good pair of professional studio quality headphones does not need to cost a small fortune. Some of my favorite studio headphones cost $100. You can pick up a pair of headphones that are suitable for use in a home studio for as little as $50.

I also highly recommend eBay, as you can find a great deal of second-hand studio equipment of a very high quality at a very affordable price. You can see our guide on the best studio headphones for under $200 to see the best headphones available in this price range.

5 Steps to Handling Difficult Music Professionals

No matter what you do for a living, you'll eventually stumble across someone you have to work with that's just incredibly difficult. Music is no exception – from melodramatic keyboardists to overly confrontational promoters, you'll deal with these folks on the regular. But don't fret – there's a few things you can do to make it easier. Here are five steps to handling difficult music professionals.

Stay the Course

Whatever it is that you're doing – working in the studio, setting up for a show, or working on a promotions campaign – keep doing what you're doing and don't let the person throw you off your game. Prioritize the work above everything else, even if you have to work closely with them – it will not only mean the work gets done more quickly, but it may encourage them to relax a bit if they see that you're competent and determined.

Be Kind but Firm

This is a fine line to walk, but listening receptively to the person's ideas – while still maintaining a firm stance on whatever guidelines you've been set for the task at hand – can help. At the very least, it will tell them that you're a decent person who's not a pushover. Be civil and professional, but make it clear that you won't be mowed down by them. It may help them to adjust their attitude.

Know Your Role

Since dealing with difficult people is an inevitability in the music industry, knowing your role inside and out is absolutely critical. Some professionals look for signs of weakness, and will unfairly criticize or even bully you if they think that you don't know what you're doing. Become as expert as you can at what you do – it will give them a lot less room to browbeat you.

Build a Good Rep

Developing a good reputation is another must in the music industry. The two biggest factors? Being easy to work with – and being expert at what you do. If you develop a reputation for being professional and competent, over time that reputation will precede you – and may encourage a much better attitude on the part of those who haven't worked with you previously.

Disengage 

This should be a last resort but if the person simply proves to be too much for you to handle, whether personally or professionally, disengage wherever you can. Keep your communication and interaction minimal – enough to get the job done, but not enough to make you feel like you're going to have a years-long migraine. If possible, see if another person can be assigned to work with the individual in question. 

Most of the people you work with will be just as dedicated and happy to be doing what they're doing as you are. But for when those negative nonces saunter down the lane, as they are wont to do, these steps will help you get the job done – not to mention help you keep your head together until it's done.

 

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