singing /musicians information & advice

 

Welcome to our singing/musicians information pages, were sure you'll find everythying you need to start and pursue a career in performing.

Good luck!

 

01.   How to be a star performer

02.   Auditions

03.   Rejection

04.   Vocal training

05.   Lessons and lifestyle

06.   Technique

07.   Breathing exercises

08.   Vocal exercises

09.   Practice makes perfect

10.   When and where

11.   Preparing for practice

12.   Dancing

13.   Using Websites

14.   Diet and exercise

15.   Choreographing dance moves

16.   If you cannot dance

17.   Making music

18.   Songs

19.   Tips from the professionals

20.   Making the most of studio time

21.   Getting your own website

22.   What should be on your site

23.   Getting help from people

24.   Why no-one says 'no'

25.   Press releases

26.   Other ways to help yourself

27.   Promotion

28.   Unsigned artists

29.   Signed artists

30.   Songwriters

31.   The demo tape

32.   Singer-songwriter deals

33.   Writer deals

34.   Fixed period deals

35.   Administration deals

36.   Advance payments

37.   Promoting for bands

38.   Developing as a performer

39.   Developing your material

40.   Learn by doing

41.   Gigging

42.   Paying to play

43.   First gig blues

44.   Rehearsing

45.   Writing

46.   Getting ready for a gig

47.   Vicious circle

48.   Keeping in touch with fans

49.   Press listings

50.   Fliers

51.   Getting the balance right

52.   Mailing lists

53.   Putting together a press pack

54.   Press releases

55.   Sending your presspacks and demo's out

56.   Everyone's in A&R

57.   Alternatives for bands

58.   Things to think about

59.   Doing it yourself

60.   Be yourself

61.   Your demo

62.   Make a plan

63.   A to Z Singing tips

 

 

 

 

   1. How to be a star performer

*   One of the best ways to get what you want is to be an extraordinary performer at work. Stars get more training, more mentoring, better projects and greater flexibility. Fortunately, you don’t need the perfect job situation in order to be a star, because most star qualities come from you – from taking your basically good skills and bringing them up a notch.

 

*    Most people have the ability to be a star, according to Robert Kelly, professor at Carnegie Mellon, and author of How to Be a Star at Work, because “most people genuinely want to be more productive, do their best, and live up to their potential, but they don’t know how to do it.”

 

*   The traits that make stars different from everyone else are the strategies they use to do their own work and to work well with other people. Star strategies allow people to be highly effective, yet highly productive at the same time, so that stars can fulfill their potential at work and in their personal lives. (Yes, stars have time for both.)

 

*   It isn’t so much what you’re born with as how you use it. And the traits of star performers are traits you can teach yourself. Here are the four areas:

 

1. Initiative

Stars exceed expectations. Just doing your job is not enough. Stars do their own job well and then perform well in areas that exceed the job description. Generally star initiative includes helping people, taking risks and seeing a project through to the end – all in arenas that go beyond their job duties.

 

2. Networking

Stars don’t think of networking as something to do once a day at 3pm. For stars, it’s a constant. Nothing is a complete waste of time because you can always meet someone, talk to someone, or help someone. That last piece is important – stars know that networking is as much giving as taking. And there is an inherent humility in this way of life; stars know they can’t get what they want by acting alone.

 

3. Self knowledge

Knowing how to do your job is expected. You need to know how to manage your relationships, you long-term goals, and your personal development. This is not a one-time goal, this is a life commitment to very regular self-assessment. And this is a commitment to soliciting and accepting outside input, because it’s impossible to know for sure how you appear to others.

 

4. Kindness

Average workers see the world from their point of view. Stars have exceptional empathy and act on it: They are good followers because they know it’s important to help leaders be the best they can be, too; stars can give the right message to the right audience; and they can get an accurate big picture by looking and listening to the people around them.

 

*   The interesting thing about star performance at work is that it actually demands that you be the person you want to be anyway. Being a good person, seeking self-knowledge, and taking responsibility for where you’re going are probably key pieces of your core belief system. So you truly do not need to stray from your idea of a good life in order to be wildly successful in your career.

 

*   Star performers are not people hanging out in lazy-boy chairs relying on their stellar IQ or remarkable social skills. Star performers work hard to live up to the values they believe in.

 

*   People who can be their true selves at work will be the outstanding leaders. Many of you will find yourselves in a position to lead others. The most successful of you will find the right balance between authenticity and adaptability: No small feat.

 

*   To become your best self – a star, a great leader, a fulfilled worker – you need to know yourselfand your goals very well. Start now. It’s a lifelong process, and done honestly , it’s the process that makes almost any job intrinsically challenging and interesting

 

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  2. Auditions

If you want a career in pop music or stage performance then you are going to have to audition. Which can be a nerve wracking experience.

 

A lot of people make basic mistakes at auditions so by getting everything right you stand a much better chance of being chosen. This section takes you through what you need to know, including:

 

Choosing Your Song

*   Ensure that the song is short - you'll get told to stop otherwise - if it's long, shorten it. The longest an audition piece should be is around 2 minutes. If yours is shorter, you may be asked to sing another song, which is great

 

*    Avoid songs that are the trademarks of someone currently hugely popular. They will date, and you need to be able to have at least two songs that you can sing at auditions over the next year. Sometimes you might only have an hour's notice.

 

*   Try taking a song that's a classic and do it in a completely different style. This, if done well, should stamp your identity all over it, and prevent you being compared unfavorably with an established artist.

 

*   Sing something which is interesting straightaway. A lot of songs don't get interesting until the end, but you may be asked to stop before you get there, and you won't have shown the best of yourself.

 

*   Make sure that you have some sort of affinity with the song you've picked. If you don't really care about it that'll show, and it won't work.

 

“Choose a song that shows off your voice but also one that you feel safe and secure with, as nerves are bound to affect you. You must be able to produce a sound performance under audition pressure, so don't do a song you are unsure of or have problems with”. – vocal coach

 

Being prepared

*   Be prepared for different eventualities. Find out whether you are supposed to be singing acapella, with a pianist, or to a backing track. Ensure you have the sheet music for yourself nearby, should you suddenly need it on stage.

 

*   Make sure that you have two songs that you are always ready to sing at an audition. This way you'll never get caught out, if there's an audition tomorrow. Don't feel you have to have a different song every time.

 

*   Work on your sight singing if you're serious and get far in the auditioning process, the decision may lie in your ability to sight sing. Then you can prove that you are musical, and that you're a quick learner.

 

When you get to the audition

*   Arrive early. Keep the rest of the day free if possible, to allow for overrunning. Sometimes the location of the audition can be changed at the last minute. If you turn up with 20 minutes to spare, you can be sure that you won't be caught completely unprepared.

 

*   Bring a good quality full length photo of yourself, and a brief CV/resume.

 

*   Remember that your audition starts as soon as you walk through the front door: be polite and confident when speaking to everyone there.

 

*   Ask to have a look in the room that you will be auditioning in. Even the most fleeting familiarity with your surroundings will give you an advantage.

 

*   Make sure that you are what they want. If someone is asking for a tall black female singer and you're a short white male, don't think that you can change their minds. You'll just be remembered as the person who wastes everyone's time.

 

In the audition

*   When you get on the stage, introduce yourself and what you're about to sing. Have some energy about you and make sure your speaking voice is not monotonous.

 

*   Don't apologise: if you do something wrong, have a false start, stop, and start again, saying 'excuse me'. Don't give a list of excuses. If you forget the words, quickly get a copy of the words, and then continue. If you have a cold, say afterwards. A good judge should be able to tell anyway.

 

*   Don't speak too much to other people auditioning, particularly people who've had their audition. They could tell you something that you don't want to hear, and advice given to them may not apply to you, so you may end up overcompensating for their mistakes in your audition.

*   When performing, ask to keep your belongings with the stage manager, or on the front seats rather than on the stage. It can be a bit embarrassing if you are asked to stop after two bars and then you spend 5 minutes collecting your coat and bag before you leave the stage.

 

*   Don't give them any reason to not employ you, by drawing attention to what you see as disadvantages. They can find out from your CV/resume if you don't have enough experience, for example, without you making it an issue.

 

*   Eye contact - some people think this is a good idea to connect to the judges, and other people feel like it can be too threatening and confrontational. It's best to look at the judges occasionally, and look across to the space around them, at your imaginary audience, so the judges feel included but not threatened.

 

*   The very worst thing you can do in an audition is apologise in advance for your performance or your voice. Don't say "I only found out about the audition yesterday". This is no excuse. A professional would be ready for the audition at an hour's notice, so if you apologise you are admitting to the audience that you don't take your profession very seriously.

 

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    3. Rejection

*   Cope with rejection - don't take it personally. It could be that you have the most fantastic voice, and yet you can go to 20 auditions and never be chosen to sing.

 

*   Remember that the world of performing professionally is cut-throat, and that you are not purely being judged on your talent, but on superficial qualities: it could even come down to the colour of your eyes. Likewise, it could be that they really wanted to employ you but you were simply the wrong height, in which case they could bear you in mind for other acts.

 

*   If the auditioners don't let you know if you have got the job, call them to find out. If the answer's no, then ask them what you could do to improve. Put any advice you can get to good use, improving future chances. Even if they are dismissive, make sure you're not rude, or you'll be remembered for the wrong reasons.

 

*   Should you get called back, you may be given a set piece or dance to learn. If you've got over a week, learn the piece by heart. Bear in mind that a recall isn't an acceptance. You will be assessed not only on the preparation and interpretation of the set piece, but the ability to take direction, and change things on the spot according to what the panel wants you to do.

 

*   Don't forget that auditioning people can be very tedious - a smile, handshake and an ability to communicate can make all the difference. Finally, listen to what is being said, and don't get angry if rejected. If you get feedback, take it on board - you couldn't afford to pay for advice like that, so use it.

 

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    4. Vocal training

All singers no matter how good or famous, have lessons and use vocal training to keep their voices strong.

 

This section looks at some basic techniques you can use to improve and develop your voice including:

• What to look for in a teacher

• Technique

• Warming up your voice

• Breathing exercises

• Vocal exercises

 

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    5. Lessons and Lifestyle

Don't smoke. Go swimming, eat sensibly, drink lots of water, and get enough sleep. In order to be the best vocalist you can be, it may well be worth investing in a few singing lessons.

 

When you find a teacher, have a trial lesson first, and don't feel bad about not liking someone. Ask if you can have a chat with a current student if you're unsure. Other things a good singing teacher should do are:

 

• Explain to you why you are learning certain things.

• Retain your individual voice, so you don't sound like a clone.

• Sing in the same style as you so they understand what you're trying to achieve.

• Be honest and realistic.

 

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    6. Technique

*   Remember that your voice is part of your whole body, and your voice is affected by the movement of all surrounding muscles.

 

*   You need to make sure that your posture is correct, and that all the supporting muscles, including shoulders and neck are relaxed and warm, otherwise you will strain your voice, and risk injury.

 

*   That is why it is strongly recommended that you go through breathing exercises and vocal exercises regularly, to ensure that you are warmed up before singing, and that your singing technique is sound.

 

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7. Breathing Exercises

These exercises are not to replace a teacher, but are basic breathing and singing exercises to give you an idea of the type of things you can do to improve your voice.

If you feel dizzy at any point, have a break and sit down until you feel better.

Repeat all these exercises until you feel warmed up - there is no right or wrong number of times to repeat them, but be thorough.

 

Warming Up

When warming up or singing, concentrate on breathing through the diaphragm - you can locate this by feeling under your ribcage when you cough or laugh.

Start all the exercises by standing with your feet hip distance apart, knees unlocked, hips aligned and your abdomen relaxed. Your head should be upright, looking straight ahead.

 

Breathing warm-up 1

• Begin at the Starting position

• Once your posture is aligned, close your eyes and spend a little time breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. (When singing, breathe in through your nose and out through your nose and mouth.)

• When breathing in, imagine the breath going down through down into the lowest part of the lungs, keeping the shoulders down and relaxed.

• When breathing out, try to maintain your inflated shape, breathing out slowly until you feel as empty as possible.

 

Breathing warm-up 2

• From the starting position

• Counting four, breathe out whilst you bring your left ear down to your shoulder.

• Counting four, breathe in and bring your head up to the starting position.

• Repeat, with the right ear.

 

Breathing warm-up 3

• Start in starting position, breathing in.

• Lower your left ear to your shoulder, to the count of eight, breathing out.

• Rotate your head forward, breathing in to a count of eight, until your right ear rests on your shoulder.

• Raise your head to the starting position to the count of eight.

• Repeat, in the opposite direction.

• Shake yourself loose.

 

Breathing warm-up 4

• Start in starting position, stand still, and bring your shoulders back (loosen your shoulder blades).

• Breathe in to a count of eight, gradually bringing your shoulders up.

• Breathe out to a count of eight, gradually bringing your shoulders down.

 

Breathing warm-up 5

• Start in starting position.

• Breathe in and shrug your left shoulder backwards.

• Breathe out shrugging your right shoulder backwards.

• Repeat 8 times.

• Reverse - shrug the shoulders forwards.

• Concentrate on breathing from the diaphragm.

Shake yourself loose.

 

Breathing Exercises

Breathing Exercise 1 - Hissing

Listen to the Hissing Exercise

• Breathe in to the count of four, breathe out, hissing, for four

• Breathe in for 6, and hiss out for 10

• Breathe in for 6, hiss out for 12

• Breathe in for 2, hiss out for 12

• Breathe in for 4, hiss out for 16

• Breathe in for 2, hiss out for 16

• Breathe in for 4, hiss out for 20

• Breathe in for 1, hiss out for 20

 

The idea behind the hissing is to monitor your breathing, and ensure that you can last through long phrases, and be economical with your breathing. Make sure the hiss is consistent; that it is not louder at the beginning than at the end. You are aiming for smooth even sound.

 

Breathing Exercise 2 - Snatched Breaths

Listen to the Snatched Breaths exercise

Breathing in gradually, think of your lungs filling up in fractions, when counting. Focus on the diaphragm, being careful not to hold tension in the throat.

• On the count of '1' - breathe in (1/4 full)

• '2' - (1/2 full)

• '3' - (3/4 full)

• '4' - (full)

• 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 - breathe out, gradually. (For a deep effective breath within a short space of time, releasing the diaphragm and filling up the lungs quickly.)

• Repeat, on the count of '1' - breathe in (1/2 full) '2' - (full)

• 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 - breathe out gradually.

 

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   8. Vocal Exercises

Start in the middle range and never feel that you're straining - if it hurts, or feels uncomfortable, stop. Drink room temperature water throughout. Give yourself a break in-between each exercise.

As with the breathing warm up, there is no right or wrong number of times to repeat these exercises, but be thorough.

Start right in the middle of your range - the most comfortable note for you.

 

Vocal exercise 1

• Start just below middle C for women*, an octave lower for men.

• Hum "mm" with mouth closed, gradually opening the mouth until you are singing "ah".

• Do this over the count of 8. Try to feel the resonance on your lips and open up to a pure vowel sound.

• Move up to the note B - "mm" turning into "ee"

• Note D - "mm" - "uuh"

• E - "mm" - "aaay"

• F - "mm" - "ooh"

• higher voices start on C and go up rather than down.

 

Vocal exercise 2

• Start on a note that is comfortable for you, and slowly sing "me may moh mah moo", all on the same note.

• Go up note by note.

• As you get higher, make sure the sound doesn't get lost in the back of your throat - keep remembering to use the diaphragm, to avoid a weedy, "heady" sound.

• Then try it on these different notes, making a tune. E - D - C - D - E - - C - -

• Descending down the scale: D - C - B - C - D - - B - - C - B - A - B - C - - C - -

• Go down as low as you can, but don't strain your voice.

 

Vocal exercise 3

• Starting around middle C for women, an octave lower for men:

• 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-3-2-4-3-5-4-2-1 OR: C-D-E-F-G-F-E-D-C-E-D-F-E-G-F-D-C

• Sing this on "ah", then go up one tone, and "la", then up one tone on "me", then up one tone on "mah", then up on e tone on "fah",

• Do the same, starting again from C, going through the vowels: "ah", "eeh", "iih", "oh", "ooh". Feel your mouth opening into the vowels.

 

Vocal exercise 4 - Sirening

• Starting within the most comfortable range for you, slowly go up and down like a police siren, throughout all your vocal range, with an "ng" sound.

• Breathe as slowly as possible, and snatch a breath when you run out, trying to ensure an almost perfect, continuous line.

• You can do this exercise forever! But try different variations, like trying your lips buzzing together; try with your tongue trilling, or "ooh"ing.

 

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    9. Practice makes perfect…

Everyone needs to practice, and everyone who's a performer should, by rights, love it. But don't think that practicing means just playing things through. Getting into a few good habits will make you improve much more quickly.

This section will give you some ideas on improving your skills, including:

• When and where to do it

• Preparing for a practice

• Practising in a group

• Practising alone

• Giving and taking criticism

• Writing

Don't be to concerned about sounds and what you sounded like - just have fun with it. We just whack it up and play as hard as you can, as fast as you can , or as quiet as you can, and as slow as you can- extremes work too. Just practice preactice practice and love it!

 

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    10. When and Where

*    If you're in a group arrange to practise on certain days of the week, and stick to it.

*    This makes it easier for people to commit. Block book your practice rooms, giving practice priority over other engagements. Otherwise you'll faff about from one week to the next and practice rooms won't be free when you need them.

*    To practise in a group, either hire out a practice room (which could be a church hall or room in a pub), or play round at someone's house or garage.

*    Most studio and practice rooms make you book for a minimum of 3 or 4 hours during the week, less on the weekends. But no-one can seriously practise for four hours solid.

*    It takes time to build up a repertoire, and it can get very demoralising singing and playing the same thing over and over. Things become stale, and you get worse not better. So practise with breaks, or to start with, share your practise time with another band.

*    At-home sessions are good for saving money. Most people don't have a drum kit and PA in their homes, so it's a good opportunity to fine-tune the details, and give everyone a more ideas-based input. This is especially important if you write together. Practise in the garage or kitchen.

*   Try not to practise on weekends if you can help it. Weekends are for relaxing. If someone needs to go away for the weekend it messes up everyone else's plans to practice.

 

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    11. Preparing For Practice

*    Whether you're in a group or a soloist, make sure that you get the most out of your rehearsals, and don't waste time.

*    Know your stuff. You need to play things so well that it's a habit to play them note perfect, and know how to get out of it if you play something wrong.

*    Work not just on the perfection of the notes that you're playing but also on your general musicianship.

*    If you're playing your own material, remember that it's just that: You have the authority to change anything at any time. Get into the habit of making up other tunes or words on the spot. Then, if you get caught out for any reason, you have a back up plan. Simple improvisation and imagination will get you out of a few holes.

*    For guitarists, remember that music is only scales and chords. Know where your fingers are going to go, and if you've got the shapes off-pat everything's easier. You need to be in a position where you can sail over the notes, and you're concentrating on expression, which notes you leave ringing, which you dampen, emphasis on the third note or the fifth, etc.

 

Practice.

Play to all your favourite records. Play to other records that aren't your favourite. Just play it. Play anything. Put CDs on and play to them. Have fun with it.

 

Practising as a Group

Here are a few suggestions to improve efficiency:

• Make notes after playing each song through of what the good and bad points of the song are, and look at them in the next practice.

• Record your songs. Make sure that you don't record your whole practice though. No-one wants to trawl through 3 hours of chat. This is especially useful for drummers, to check their speed, or to see who's going at a different pace. Beware though, cassette recorders can vary in speed so try and use a mini-disc if possible.

• Keep the old songs ticking over - these can go off, and you never know when you might need to pull one out of the bag for an encore.

• If things aren't going well, jam. This is where all the best ideas come from and will re-establish musical relationships.

 

Practising Alone

Here are a few suggestions:

• Make sure you actually do it. Don't be the person at the next group rehearsal who's worse than last week, with dust coming off their guitar.

• Warm up with scales or vocal exercises

• Don't waste time playing something wrong over and over - you're just making your brain think its right. Bad habits are as hard to break as good ones, so be careful.

• Have a look at notes that you've made from previous group practices about places where you need to practise. Go over these bits again, again and again. If you're still not getting it, move on to the next thing and come back later. Run through the entire song. Once the notes are in the right place, work on the expression, and enjoy it.

• If you're bored, then you're not really practicing. Become obsessive, improve the way that you listen, fine tune your ears to what you're doing.

 

Criticism

*    Get used to each other, and the way you communicate. Some people are much more abrasive in their manner than others, with no ill intent behind it. Your group are your allies, and if you can't take comments from them, it will be nothing compared to what other people may say about you.

*    You need to be able to criticise each other without getting upset. If you're unsure, say something nice, say what it is that could be improved, and say something else nice again. This may sound patronising to those who are secure enough in their playing to take criticism, but if someone's just starting out it can knock their confidence to be told again and again that something isn't right.

*    If it's you who is getting the criticism, try practising more by yourself. Then you can perfect your playing without others hassling you.

*    Have a professional attitude, be objective about what other people say about your playing, and make sure that you're also objective when criticising. This can be difficult when you think of playing as a means of personal expression; just remember you're there to improve.

*    If you're writing your own material, rehearsing is often a strong part of the compositional process, as it's then that you get to try different things out. In this case, listen to each other, and don't be shy in saying if you think something could be improved.

Most groups write together, except perhaps for the lyrics which are normally the singer's domain. But you should be able to make minor suggestions about the words. Find out where the boundaries lie.

 

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    12. Dancing

Whether you're a singer who would simply like to have dancers on the stage to make the whole visual thing more appealing, or you would like to form a singing dancing group, this section will help you.

 

• Finding a dance school

• Using websites

• Diet and exercise

• Body weight

• Choreographing

• If you cannot dance You should also contact your nearest National Dance Agency. They should be able to tell you if there are any local groups that meet in your area.

 

Finding a Dance School

If you want to improve your dancing technique, you will benefit from a few lessons.

There are around 22 dance colleges offering professional dance training courses accredited by the Council for Dance Education and Training and over 292 university courses with dance as a subject area.

For an accredited dance course and list of registered dance teachers local to you, see the CDET website.

Dance as a profession occurs in three main forms: Ballet, Contemporary, and Musical Theatre. You may want to take a class in one of these main areas but remember there is an increasing need to have knowledge of other dance forms if you want to be a performer. You can get yourself ready at home by pushing yourself in the three key aspects of dance: Strength, Stamina and Suppleness.

 

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    13. Using Websites

There are some websites that explain moves of the stars step by step.

Have a look using a search engine.

If you want to copy your idol's dance moves, go to their official sites.

If you copy someone, look to your favourite artist and try to emulate them. But the idea is to be unique and original - not to copy. But to get help or some ideas on dance moves, go to a dance school. Without saying anything the way you hold yourself and look will make others believe in you.

 

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    14. Diet and Exercise

Modern dance is more accepting of different body shapes. Fitness is to be emphasised, rather than skinniness.

Look after yourself, not only in what you eat, but through exercise: being toned and strong is the prerequisite of a good dancer.

If you want to be dancing in years to come, you'll need a healthy, balanced diet, rest as well as exercise, and care when dancing.

Listen to your body - when you're tired, take a rest. If you've got a pain get it checked out at the doctors.

Get into the habit of eating healthy foods full of carbohydrates like pasta. Plenty of fruit will provide you with fructose, which releases energy gradually, whereas chocolate and glucose can be used when you need a boost, like in a long work out session. Try to resist eating too much fat.

Avoid eating large meals in the two hours or so before dancing. Grazing on well balanced snacks is a good way to digest food more easily, without having energy slumps or indigestion.

Swimming is an excellent way to support your general fitness and strengthen your dancing. Build up stamina and fitness gradually and under the guidance of a qualified teacher or coach so that you don't over-exert yourself and cause injury.

Drink water to replace lost fluids during exercise. Warming up before dancing also helps to reduce the risk of injury.

Don't eat junk - your body must be well balanced and have plenty of nourishment. And burningt the candle at both end doesn’t help either .

 

Body Weight

Body weight should be proportional to height and your doctor will be happy to check your "body mass ratio" at a routine check-up.

Many of us think that we are overweight when we're not.

Very few of us have a "perfect" body shape and if you are still growing your body shape is continually changing anyway.

There is often a lot of pressure which suggests that you have to be downright skinny to be a good dancer. This is a complete myth

 

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    15. Choreographing Dance Moves

Here are a few suggestions to bear in mind when you're working out your routines…

• Don't forget that you have to sing! Don't get out of breath, or do any moves that will make your voice go down into your shoes, or squash your larynx.

• Keep it simple. You're not going to remember an awful lot, so try and keep all the verses and choruses similar. Remember that simply turning around is a move in itself, and not hard to do.

• Make sure you have enough floor space so you don't block each other when you move.

• Use the music as best you can, especially the words. It sounds silly, but it's tried and tested - if you're singing about looking for someone, act it out. If you're saying someone is far away, put your hand out to show the vast expanse of waste and between you and them.

• Make sure that your "at-ease" positions are the same every time; generally make sure that you're fine tuned to each other.

• Use the moves that are the most natural to you. What would you do if you were free styling on the dance floor? Take moves from that and incorporate them.

• Count through your movements to ensure that you're all properly synchronised. For example, you should know that your arm has to be halfway between the ceiling and the floor on the count of three.

• Finish your moves. If you're shrugging your shoulders, and then singing standing still, you need to work on getting from one place to the other. Keep things smooth and accurate.

• Talk through your words whilst walking through the dance moves, without the backing track.

• Think about what it is you like about your favourite dancers' moves. If they emphasise their hips, head or arms then focus on trying to imitate that, and incorporate that aspect into your own moves. Try watching music TV channels for the latest dance moves. Even better, buy, rent or borrow pop videos which will be easier to lift moves from as you can keep stopping and starting.

• Have confidence in your own moves too and if you've borrowed moves from someone, merge them with your own style to ensure you feel natural and move in harmony and not against your body.

• Always warm up before and stretch out after the performance.

• Make sure you've practiced if you'll be holding a microphone. If it's one with a lead, try and keep it in the same hand if possible to avoid getting tangled up.

• Have several dress rehearsals to make sure your clothes fit and can stretch with you. Don't wear anything that makes you feel self conscious.

 

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   16. If You Cannot Dance

*   Don't worry if you're not a trained ballerina. If you're a musician chances are that you'll have rhythm.

*   Remember if you can walk, you can dance. It's rumoured that the trademark Kylie wiggle came about when she couldn't manage more complicated moves. Her choreographer told her not to worry, just to wiggle. Play to your strengths.

*   Choose your dance style - perhaps freestyle for general disco dancing to chart music. Check out your local dance schools and join a class.

*   When learning mistakes are normal so don't worry about that. With plenty of practice and a bit of patience, you'll soon start to get the hang of some basic steps and moves. A few steps done well are much better than a lot done badly.

*   A good tip too is to remember to use your arms in a natural way and don't let them just dangle by your side. That's a dead giveaway that you're a novice.

*   If you feel particularly self-conscious before you start the group class, you can book one or two private lessons where the tuition is one-to-one with a teacher. This will give you a head start.

*   If you feel you are getting stuck or a bit behind in the class itself, you can always supplement the classes with a private lesson as and when you feel you need one.

The main thing is to relax so that you can let your personality come through and cultivate a more confident look as you start to enjoy your dancing.

 

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    17. Making music

The best way to make music is to do it with other people. That way it’s easier to perform and you can bounce ideas off each other.

This section looks at how to find people and how to get the best out of them including:

• Where to look

• Auditioning

• Meeting people

• Poaching

• Session Musicians

• What to ask people

 

Where to look

Music papers, music shop notice boards, local papers, youth clubs, practice studios, gig venues, and colleges are all tried and tested ways of meeting other musicians. Music courses are a good way of meeting people who are of a similar ability, and even if you're not on a course yourself, ring up the tutor and tell them what you have in mind, and ask if they can help.

If you're a songwriter who needs other musicians you could try the websites of Songlink International, or the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers. Both these sites have databases that match songwriters to performers

The classified ads at the back of the NME are one of the key ways in which some of the biggest bands in the country, or ones that will be big in years to come, meet up. So when you're replying to these adverts, don't be surprised if you end up with somebody who's maybe a little bit more famous than you expected at the end of the phone.

 

Chance meetings

Keep your eyes and ears open to any coincidental meetings - if you like music, you should be bumping into people all the time, at gigs for instance.

The traditional way for indie bands to find kindred spirits is socially, which usually means in a local.

Loads of musicians get together at school, college or university - the ideal place - free practice rooms and free time. Blur, Ash, and Radiohead met at college, and the Manic Street Preachers met at primary school.

 

Poaching

If there's a band out there that you'd like to join, go and ask. Similarly, poach from other groups.

People might not thank you for it, but you never can tell what's happening behind the scenes - they might have been waiting for you to come along.

 

Session Musicians

If you're starting out, the chances of getting paid for gigs are pretty slim so you won't be able to pay anyone else. It’s better to look close around you, friends, friends of friends; anyone you know may be able to help you. Use some charm! - they’ll probably enjoy having an excuse to play anyway.

 

Auditioning

To check if you want to work with someone you've got to audition them, whether it's an informal play through, or a half hour allotted slot in a practice room.

If you've already written material, give the person auditioning a copy either on paper or on a tape. If you haven't got that far, ask them to come to the audition with a few ideas, and work it out from there.

 

What to Ask

Once you think that you've found your ideal partner(s), you do need to ask a few pertinent questions:

• Do you all want the same thing? Talk about your ambition for the group, no matter how silly and far away it might seem. It's no use one of you dreaming of stardom whilst it's just something to do on a Wednesday for someone else.

• Do you have similar lifestyles? It's no good arranging rehearsals and people cancelling at the last minute due to work pressures or other commitments.

• Do you live in the same city or town? Can you all meet up easily?

• Do you have all the equipment for gigging that you need, and if not can you get it?

• Do you all understand exactly what is required? For instance, how often do you want to practise, gig, and record?

• Are you all in a similar financial situation? If not, will you all be prepared to put in the same amounts of money to keep everyone happy?

• Do you want to make the same kind of music? If not, you won't get very far.

• Do you have the same amount of gigging experience? If not, are you prepared to wait for other people to catch up?

• Do you all have a similar ability on your instruments, and do your singing voices blend?

• If you've established that you're ambitious, are you all prepared to put in the time for other activities like promotion?

Reliability, musicality, dedication, ability to empathise, open mindedness, sense of humour, time management, manners, appropriate dress, confidence, and an ability to communicate are different qualities that make an ideal collaborator.

 

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    18. Songs

 

No-one can tell you how to write a song. But we can show you all the elements, and give you a few ideas on how to improve on what you're doing.

This section is mainly hints and tips which you can use to get started, including:

• The elements of a successful song

• Melody

• Lyrics

• Tips for the professionals

 

Elements of a Successful Song

• Impact - is it going to stand out in its first listen?

• Melody - is it catchy?

• Lyrics - will people be able to sing along/will people relate to them?

• Structure - does it "make sense" musically? Does it sound complete?

• Musical Setting - is it set in the right genre? Does it use sounds that are in fashion? What about the harmonies?

• Delivery - do you believe in the performer?

 

Melody

• If you don't already play an instrument it will help you massively if you can get hold of one. Remember you don't have to learn it well enough to actually perform with it - you can let other members of the band worry about that. You only need to know enough to use it as a tool to help you develop ideas.

• Keep writing all the time.

• Set some words that aren't your own: If you've got a favourite poet use something from him/her.

• Write a tune quickly, then shift the notes about - make the distances between the notes one bigger, or one smaller.

• Limit yourself initially to 3 notes, and grow from there.

• Write something with a regular even rhythm, and then make it swing.

• Write a straight melody, and then change the mood, adjusting the rhythm or the pitch. It could be that by playing it in a sarcastic, sad or comic manner you come up with something interesting.

• Using unusual chords can help spark off melodic ideas. Try playing simple chords but with one of your fingers moved up or down the keyboard or fretboard. Try moving different fingers until you find a note that you like.

• Try learning other peoples' songs and see if you can pick out why you like them. There may be a chord or a change between chords that you can adapt for your own uses. (Using more than this could land you in trouble, so don't get too carried away...)

• You can buy books of chords which fit together in a particular key. Try playing around with these and listen to the way some chords sound following others. Some changes are strong and will lead into a chorus in a way that really sells it to the listener. Others are weaker and won't sound as good. Decide which is which and use this to help your song writing.

 

Lyrics

• Take a well known myth, legend, such or story, think about what it means, and put your own slant on it.

• Songs are not every day conversation - you can get away with being as shocking, unhinged or controversial as you like.

• Most people have had a difficult relationship with someone in their lives. Think about yours, even if it was a long time ago: think about how you felt in this situation, why it was difficult, how you wanted it to be different.

• Keep things simple and let the music do the talking sometimes. Make the two complement each other.

• A whole load of songs are about "me and you". Remember relationship lyrics can be as simple or as difficult as you want.

• People love gossip. Songs as confessionals can be fascinating listening, which keeps people hooked to the end.

• Think about how you'd feel if your wish came true, and it went horribly wrong.

• Eavesdrop everywhere - someone's on the phone on a train. What are they talking about? Can you imagine the person on the other end of the phone, what are they saying? How do you think the person speaking is feeling, compared to what they are saying?

• Go somewhere you've never been on your own and see what happens.

• Write a song, make every other line rhyme. Go back to it, and change every single cliche, find another way of saying the same thing.

• There are all sorts of places you can find odd phrases which can kick off a lyric. Newspaper headlines or cryptic crossword clues can be a great source of ideas.

• Try organising your ideas with the "cut-up method". Think of the theme you want to write on. Cut up a piece of paper into small scraps and write down odd phrases or single words, one on each scrap. Don't worry about rhyming or making sense at this point. Now you can form a finished lyric by moving the bits of paper around, re-writing the phrases as you go until you're happy.

• Avoid obvious rhyming words. If you have to write a line just to get to a word which rhymes with the last one, then you're probably going off course!

• Avoid Americanisms (unless you're actually American, obviously).

• Pay attention to the accents on words. A word like "seven" has a definite accent on the "Sev-" bit. If your lyric forces the singer to put the emphasis on "-ven" then it's always going to sound wrong when you sing it.

 

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    19. Tips from the professionals

"To avoid writer's block, I just keep mumbling to myself until something comes up. I have loads of bits like minidisks and Dictaphones and loads of bits of paper with things written on it, so I've always got something to fall back on if I ever dry up.”

Roots Manuva - Hip Hop artist

"In this country there's a definite heritage in song writing. There's this suspicion that you're not a real artist unless you're writing your own material. But I think it's also great that we do have this tradition - I think that's one of the musical strengths of this country."

Larry Newman - Head of Music Department, Lewisham College

"You should be as free with your music as you want to be. It's like writing, art, painting you don't need to present things to people unless you're ready. That alone should inspire you to experiment as much as you want. I've got tapes and tapes of four track recordings that no-one needs to hear but in some shape or form it kind of moulded what Cave In represents today."

Stephen Brodsky - Cave In

"If you're writing songs it's because you have something to say; express yourself - write about things that move you and are important to you. A song is a journey, so take me somewhere interesting, show me something new."

Pete Whitfield - Lecturer in Performing Arts and Polpular Music, City College Manchester

Serge: "Buy some equipment that so that you can record yourself. Learn to write songs. Just start and you'll get better, keep writing and writing. It sounds silly but your best bet is to do it everything yourself. Don't ask for help. Part of the fun is not knowing what you're doing."

Tom: "None of us could play an instrument; we just wanted to be in a band. After a few years we got better and learned how to write better music. We bought our own PC and started recording songs and sending demos and it all went from there. We were just innocent kids who wanted to take over the world. You just have to believe in yourself, it's not arrogance."

Serge & Tom – Kasabian

 

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    20. Making the Most of Studio Time

*   If you are recording your demo in a studio then you could have limited time and money to get your tracks down.

*   Picking the best ones to record is vitally important as it could be many months before you go into the studio again.

*   If you've not recorded music before, then the single most important thing is not to overstretch yourselves.

*    Everything takes much longer than you think it will and your time is limited by the budget you have.

*   It's tempting to try and bang down five tunes in a day but likely to be more rewarding to stick to a couple and do them as well as you can.

*   It used to be that people would record a demo to get out to record companies but now people are thinking of a demo as something they can sell, too. If you sell 100 you can use the money to fund other things, petrol or van hire, that all important inspirational beer or the next recording. It's a useful way of adding to the door money you get from gigs.

 

Choosing Tracks

There are no hard and fast rules in this game but there are a few strong ones.

• Put your best tune on first and shorten the intro if needs be so that something happens as soon as possible. It's unlikely that anyone with a big stack of tapes to plough through is going to listen to more than the first 20 seconds of each tune, so don't rely on something happening further in than this to sell your music.

• If you do have some long tracks that you want to send out promote yourself think about doing an edit. Making a special version with the chorus first could make all the difference.

• Three tunes is the absolute maximum. Two is even better. Any more and it just looks like you're indecisive rather than laden with too many tunes to choose the best. If someone's interested, they'll ask you for more. Recording fewer tunes means you can concentrate on getting them just right, too.

• Avoid covers. A demo is a thing to sell your playing style and musicianship. Labels will also want to hear your song writing ability so stick to your own material.

• When you're thinking about which songs to use, ask yourself if the ones that come over best live are likely to do well in the studio. Sometimes the visual elements and the energy of a live show add a lot and they'll be missed in a studio recording.

 

Do some research before you go into the studio. I found that our favourite song was always the one we'd just written. Ask your audience, the people who see you often, which ones are their favourites because they won't be so tied up with your music. Do stuff that's good rather than new.

 

Representing Yourself

*   If you've got two tunes to sell yourself, which are most representative of your style?

*   Think carefully before you commit yourself. If you have a range of music, it can be quite tricky to find 2 or 3 songs that you feel really sum up what you're about.

*   If you are struggling ask people who don't know your tracks for advice. Try record store owners, promoters or friends of friends who know music. If you explain why you are asking they'll be able to give you an honest impartial opinion.

*   Some artists have a much harder sound on their records than they have had on the demos. Sometimes they tone the sound down, made it more commercial for their demos and then change back to their original sound once they've got a deal.

 

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    21. Getting your own website

If you don’t already have your own site already ‘my space’ and ‘bebo’ are good for self promotion. They are relatively easy to set up and anyone can have one.

• You register, and build your site. ‘My space’ tends to be the preferred site for musicians and singers etc. If you are not too good with computers don’t worry, there are guides on how to set things up, and you can ask advice from other people with sites.

• People tend to go on these sites to get themselves and whatever it is they do known. You can search for people and send them messages to request they join your friend network. You can end up with hundreds of online friends before you know it. Everyone swaps information, many people are singers and musicians and swap material it is good for networking.

• Record companies and people in the industry are looking on these sites more and more for talent and the ‘next big thing’.

• The most obvious thing to do (once you've got your music, information and full contact information on all the sites) is to tell people.

• When you’ve got your own website, you can put the address on any flyers, posters and any records you give out. If people like what they hear at a gig or randomly pick up a flyer they'll want to know how to hear your music.

• Before you know it you could have a good following, then you’ll start to have power becase the industry will have to take notice if you have a ‘buzz’ and people seem to be interested in what you are doing. Record companies are businesses; they don’t like to take risks with and an unknown artist is a big risk. If you can prove you already have a following, you are showing them people will like your music – or whatever it is you do, and you are in a much better position.

• Keep your page up-to-date and check it regularly to see what people are saying about your music.

• Remember if you have one of these sites you are in good company a lot of the world’s top stars have sites, and you can link to their site to add them to your online friends network. So you could have someone like P Diddy or Madonna, or your favourite as an online friend!

• Some sites have a team of editors who listen to all the music posted, pick out what they think is the best and feature them. So just like sending your music to a record company, you have to impress these editors. Follow the rules of submitting demos to make them stand out and e-mail the editors regularly and ask them to feature you. Regularly adding new music will also get you noticed (providing it's good).

• How popular your page is in itself helps, so make sure your fans are downloading songs and posting positive reviews of your songs. Don't try to rig any votes because the site's editors will be able to tell and you'll distort the genuine feedback from people listening to your music.

• Remember these sites are helpful in that they are a good example of public opinion. If you log on and find nothing but bad reviews of your songs, then maybe you are doing something wrong.

 

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    22. What Should Be On Your Site

What you have on your site is up to you but there are a few essentials that you should have in order to promote your music on the site. As well as the ones mentioned below you should also have some MP3s available (recordings, demos etc people can listen to) and images.

 

Biography

Where are they from? How long have they been around? What are their influences? These are the burning questions that people will want to know and the answers should be explained in your biography. It needn't be a work of art - just enough detail to give people a basic idea of what you are about.

 

Contact details

Hard to believe it, that people neglect to post contact details on the site - but it does happen. It's elementary that if A&R are keen to get hold of you and don't have any details - the first place they'll look is your site. Your e-mail address is a good idea (and make sure you check your mail box regularly).– it’s not always advisable to put your home address and phone numbers online.

 

Gig Listings

Up to date gig listings so people can check out when you are playing - it's worth posting them up as soon as you have the dates confirmed. Notification of gig dates are crucial for A&R people - if they like what they hear on CD the next step they'll want to do is check out your live performance.

 

Photos

Image does matter. While it might not be up there in terms of importance with a biography, contact details or upcoming gigs, having some pictures on the site is beneficial, particularly from the record industry's point of view.

The music industry is concerned with the kind of image that the band wants to project. Try and avoid amateur or blurry photos - if the rest of your site is professionally laid out you don't want to ruin the impression by a few out of focus photos.

 

Design

*   A site with no illustration appears lifeless and might well give the impression that your music is the same. The web, after all, is a visual medium and reams of text with no images are a big no-no.

*    That said, you don't want your site looking as if it's won first place in a virtual fancy dress party. Subtlety is needed here. To some people flash is anathema - and a flash site might turn users away before they've even had chance to check out the content. Steer clear of irritating pop up boxes and huge bulky images which simply just slow the site down.

*    Flash sites look good and can serve their purpose with video footage but it will frustrate someone trying to view it if it takes too long to download things. In the music/entertainment business people don’t have the time to sit there and wait for things to download.

*   More important than flash is constant contact-updates. Make sure that you put something new up on the site nearly everyday like a diary or a competition. Get a digital camera and put up regular photos of your performances."

 

Message Boards

*   Message boards are a method of showing people how popular you are. A message board is a way of creating a buzz about your band - so it's important to give it some care and attention.

*   The more users you have on the boards, the more likely A&R are to think you are worth investigation.

*   Make sure you have decent posts on your board before you launch the site (it's worth emailing your friends in the initial stages just to start the ball rolling) though otherwise having a board might do you more harm than good!

*   Try and make the boards fun (use smiley faces or quirky emoticons - visual expressions that denote your mode such as :) ) and play around with novelty interactive features. You can find all sorts of funny ideas for example, one myspacer gave users the opportunity to swat the singer on the site should they feel the need to. It may sound simple and silly but it’s effective and gives you hours of mindless fun. As well as being a gimmick for fans and industry bods to latch on to and remember you.

*   Message boards are a way of building a profile before you even start targeting the labels.

 

Reviews and Links

*   If you have a few good reviews then it is worth putting them up on your site - but don't make go over-board with this one. Reviews from respected e-zines and local press should have a place on your site but keep them concise and to the point. One-liners sum up the band succinctly and are easier to read than a huge review.

*   If you have links to other sites it gives the impression you connected to a local music scene. This is good as far as A&R are concerned. A&R bods are keen to keep up with emerging music scenes if they know they can use your site as an index for other artists they'll look at your site more.

*   If you have a review in a magazine that says 'very good' ... there are hundreds of reviews that say that. You have to ask yourself what would make you pick up a magazine, read something and then go and buy the record. It has to be a really strong, enthusiastic review to make people do that.

 

MP3s

*   MP3s are a taster of your band. A link to an MP3 site with your music on it is essential and gives people instant access to your music.

*   CDs are still the preferred format when it comes to demos. This is partly because some people don't have the technology to listen to MP3s whereas CDs are tangible and you can play them anywhere.

*   MP3s are a good indicator of a band. You won’t get signed form your demo alone, the company/producers will want to meet you and find out what drives them and see if you could make a great record with them. But the demo is your tool to get through the door and get yourself seen, so you need to make it easily available to a many people as possible, on your site as an MP3 and as CD’s - it’s your main sales tool.

 

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    23. Getting help from people

• Once you manage to get your toe in the door, you'll find that virtually everybody in this business loves music, and remembers what it was like starting out. If they like you and your music they will generally bend over backwards to help you out.

• At the very least they will give you lots of encouraging comments, which will not only boost your confidence but help out when you're writing press releases.

• You should bear this in mind when approaching people - if they like you they're more likely to help out so be personable.

• If you're posting things, take the time to include a personal letter rather than a generic one.

 

Keeping Records

• As you can probably tell, this is going to involve a lot of phone bashing, dealing with people and following up leads.

• It's very useful to keep records of whom you're approached, when and what was said. Simply write everything down in a big book or diary.

• That way you know when to chase people without hassling them and can pick up where you left off easily if they call out of the blue.

• Likewise a large phone book will help keep track of all those numbers.

 

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   24. Why No One Says 'No'

In the real world that isn't 'Pop Idol', it's extremely unusual for someone who genuinely works in the industry to tell you that you're hopeless and should consider another career. The general rule is that no one will say no - they just don't say yes.

 

In some cases, this is because they're worried you might go big and will cut them out of a share in your future success. More likely, it's because they're just people and don't want to hurt your feelings. Either way up, it’ll drive you bananas. You can't often tell if someone is too disorganised to return your calls or is simply being evasive.

 

You'll never know if you've got a turkey. No one really knows so they won't tell you its rubbish. If it goes on to be a hit, they'll end up with egg on their face. Even bad reviews may have another agenda - they're only a guide. You can have bad reviews and great sales. Don't get too disheartened. In music no-one really knows any better than anyone else.

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    25. Press Releases

Being a lot cheaper, press releases are things you can scatter-gun about the place.

You can have a much larger mailing list of publications, pirate and legal radio station DJs, anyone who can help publicise your release.

The art of the press release is something you're going to have to master - writing them and targeting them at the right people. These will also be the people you'll be targeting with free gig tickets etc.

There are plenty of in depth guides and information on the web to tell you how to write a good press relesse.

 

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    26. Other ways to help yourself

• The best way to promote your work is to get in on the scene in your local area.

• There are loads of things you can do to get your face known by the people you need to know.

• Working in a record shop is one good way. You'll get to meet all the local DJs/musicians and get the low-down on which promoters and clubs/venues are good and bad and which tunes and styles are big right now.

• If you're finding it expensive to be a regular face at the clubs/gigs you want to be at, you'll often find that you can get guest-list places in exchange for an hour or two's work distributing fliers around the local bars and pubs on a weekend. Contact the promoter and see if they can use you.

• If all else fails, start your own night. If you can start a small party and make it good, people will hear about it. You can use it to try out your material as you develop it. You can make friends with new DJs and other acts by offering them sets at your night. And once you start to turn a profit, you can use that for other promotional activity.

 

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    27. Promotion

• The success or failure of the whole enterprise lives and dies on the public going into shops and buying your records.

• That means that they'll need to know that the tune is out and that it's good.

• So a distributor will want to know what you've got planned to promote your release.

• Or whether you can show a demand already - maybe from club plays or radio exposure.

• Anything else you can bring to the table - quotes from journalists or respected figures in your genre - will help seal the deal.

 

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    28. Unsigned Artists

And publishers…

• If you perform the music that you write, either with a band or as a solo artist, there are two main times in your career when you're likely to want to sign with a publisher.

• The first is early on, before you sign a record deal. A publishing deal at this point can be of enormous benefit.

• Having a publisher on your side when approaching labels can open a lot of doors for you. A publisher's knowledge of the industry and the people who work within it will also help you ensure that the record deal you sign is the right one for you.

• With unsigned artists, a publisher may also offer a degree of development for a band.

• Major publishers, and several of the smaller ones, have their own studios and will give artists time in them to prepare a better quality demo than they'd probably afford on their own.

• Larger publishers may also offer a limited number of artists full Development Deals where they will assist in building their profile to a wider audience than record companies.

• They may help find you a promotion or plugging agency or fund things like buying equipment and touring.

• By creating more of a buzz, they'll up your bargaining power so your final record deal may give you more control of your career or more favourable terms when it comes to dividing up the money.

 

"We can quite often help steer our artists towards a record company where we think they're not just going to get lost amongst all the other young artists that are signed to that label." Jane Dyball - Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Warner/Chappell Music Ltd

 

"We've got two nice, 24-track recording studios, two in-house engineers and an assistant; and we're putting artists in there the whole time. Artists that people have mentioned to me and I think, 'that sounds interesting.' Or people that I've seen live and thought were good, but they didn't have a demo tape. We put them in there to see what the tracks are gonna be like." Mike Smith, Director of A&R, EMI Music Publishing

 

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    29. Signed Artists

• The other likely time to sign a publishing deal is after you get signed.

• At this point, it's mostly about money.

• You'll be looking for a publisher who will be able to make the most of the commercial potential of your songs by selling them for other uses and who can keep track of the royalties that you're owed.

• As an artist with a record deal, you will almost certainly be able to secure better terms for your deal than an unsigned artist would, although you'll still have to find a balance.

• If you take a huge advance, it almost certainly means that the company will want to offer you a lower royalty rate, so you'll get a lower share of the profits overall. You're passing up a long-term gain for a short-term reward.

• How it all comes out in the end will depends a lot on the scale of your recording deal. If you've been picked up by a major label, you might well be able to secure a large advance and still get a reasonable rate, but you'll still have to compromise somewhere. "

• If an artist has got a record deal then they are certainly in a position to command a better deal. There are two reasons really. First, there's a virtual guarantee that there is a product being released so there will be royalties. Also, the publisher will be more comfortable because someone else i.e. the record label, has also shown some faith in this particular artist. Ellis Rich - CEO, IMG "Just after you've got your record deal, your value goes right up, and if you play your cards right, you can do a publishing deal for a lot of money. Companies do bid against each other and you can see the advance levels on a deal rocketing. An enormous advance can have knock-ons later. If your album isn't a success your publisher might not be able to afford to stick with you."

 

Jane Dyball - Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Warner/Chappell Music Ltd

 

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    30. Songwriters

• If you're a songwriter who doesn't plan to perform your material but wants to write songs for others artists, a publishing deal is more or less a necessity. Especially if you're looking to place songs with major artists.

• A good publishing company will get frequent approaches from producers and record labels looking for material for their artists to perform and this is where you can start making some serious money.

• As a writer, your publisher will probably encourage you to collaborate with the other writers they have on their books. Most writers find this a refreshing and productive experience and it's a great way to develop your confidence and ability.

• You can also pick up bits of other people's writing methods which can give you new ways of working and help avoid the dreaded 'writer's block'.

• The only songs you are going to get recorded are the great ones. No one's going to ask for a filler track on an album that the producer could have written themselves. They are come to you because they want a hit. Your quality threshold has got to be high because you’re not going to place a weak song anywhere.

• One of the best things I believe a writer can do is to write with other writers. The two writers can feed each other, and you end up with a much better song.

 

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    31. The Demo Tape

• Publishers are slightly different from record companies in that they're principally interested in the quality of the songs.

• Although there are people at record companies with great ears, song writing is what pays the bills for publishers so they're more likely to be able to spot a great song through a poor quality performance or recording.

• You can't send in any old tat but you may well find that a publisher will be interested enough to bring you in and record a better quality version to see if their hunch is right.

• Once you're sure that the company is expecting your tape, send in three or four of your very best songs and be sure and limit yourself to that. If they want more they will ask.

• In terms of the recording keep it simple. Publishers want to hear the bare bones of a song. A common mistake people make is to over produce their track in a particular style. This can close more doors than it opens...

 

"I've heard tracks that were over produced in a style that was not particularly good, but the choruses were really strong. If they had been presented on an acoustic guitar or piano it would have been easier to hear the song. That would also open it up to other styles of music. Heavily producing it to one style pigeon holes a track and it could mean it's dismissed." Jon Kyte - Complete Music

 

Following Up

• Give the person you've spoken to a good week or so to listen to the tape and then leave them a phone message or send them an email asking what they thought.

• They may not say "no" directly - not many people in the music business do.

• If they haven't said "yes" after 2 phone calls, though, take that as a "no" and move on.

• No one likes knock-backs but remember this is not someone saying that your songs are no good, just that they themselves can't use them.

• Your best plan is to try and get as much feedback as you can as to why they didn't think you were suitable and see if they can suggest another publisher who might be interested.

• Being a professional songwriter is a difficult job. Even once you're signed, you're going to get constructive criticism because no-one writes consistent number one singles. Even once you're signed, you're going to get constructive criticism because no-one writes consistent number one singles.

• Learning to be objective about your work is an important part of developing as a writer and the knock-backs will hurt but they're a part of that learning process.

 

"Pestering people is always to be recommended. It's no use sending a tape in and waiting politely for someone to phone you back and say, 'Yes! Here's the cheque!' It's no use advising young writers to, 'Do a tape, send it to this person, and if they like it, they'll give you a deal.' Because that's not what happens." Jane Dyball - Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Warner/Chappell Music Ltd

"A decent songwriter will understand if you say 'well I don't think this song does it for me' and they won't go off and sulk for a week. It's a job being a professional songwriter. They have to understand that not every song they write will be number one." Ellis Rich - CEO, IMG

 

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    32. Singer-Songwriter Deals

• This type of deal is for people who write songs and perform them on their own or with a group.

• Usually, that means that there'll be a record deal involved somewhere along the line. Sometimes writers sign publishing deals before record deals, and sometimes it's the other way around.

• Singer-songwriter deals will typically (but not always) pay an advance and then a royalty. Advances for singer-songwriters without a record deal range from £5,000-£50,000.

• If an artist has a record deal, the figures can increase dramatically. Typically £50,000-£350,000 depending on the hype surrounding the artist and the quality of the compositions.

• If the publishers believe the singer/songwriter has a good chance of success, then they may be prepared to pay a premium price. If the singer/songwriter has already released some recording(s) and they have been a phenomenal success, then the figures can go through the roof from £300,000 upwards.

• Don't forget, though, that the advance is a loan and is recoverable from your royalties. You won't see any more money from your publisher until you've paid it back.

• It can take a long time for mechanical and publishing royalties to start filtering through, so it can take even longer for you to pay off the advance and start seeing receiving publishing cheques. Also, the bigger the advance you take, the smaller your royalty is likely to be.

• There are a lot of factors that you need to think about when doing deals, which is why it's essential to have a decent manager and/or lawyer on your side when negotiating a deal like this.

• Contract periods

• Singer-songwriter deals like this are divided into contract periods.

• The end of each period is triggered when you deliver a certain amount of songs, known as your Minimum Commitment for the period.

• Usually this will be an album's worth of songs. You write, record and release an album of compositions and this then triggers the end of the contract period.

• Options to re-sign

• The publisher will then have "options" to sign you for the next period.

• This bit is entirely up to them - you can't just wander off and sign up with someone else unless your original publisher decides not to take up their option on you.

• If they do, then you can negotiate another advance may be able to renegotiate some other areas of the contract, such as your royalty rate.

 

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    33. Writer Deals

• Writer deals are for people who write music but don't perform it.

• Writer deals are much like singer-songwriter deals in that they're divided into periods, each with an option at the end of it.

• As a writer though, you aren't making albums, so the Minimum Commitment is slightly different. It will be based on a number of your songs being recorded and released. Typically the commitment will be for between 4 and 8 compositions.

• As with the singer-songwriter deal, if you are picked up for the next contract period, you may be able to negotiate another advance and perhaps renegotiate you royalty

 

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    34. Fixed Period Deals

• Fixed period deals can be done for both writers and singer-songwriters. It's just another way of structuring the deal.

• Instead of signing up for an album or a certain number of songs, you sign up for a fixed period of time. It can work in your favour if you take a little while to develop as a writer.

• With the other kind of deal, the publisher may drop you if your early tunes or first album don't sell well.

• With a fixed-term deal, you and the publisher are committed to work together for the period of the contract which will typically be 3 years and will never be more than 5.

• The down-sides are that you don't get any more advances until the end of the deal, and you don't normally get the chance to renegotiate your contract terms until the end of the fixed period. That might change if you're hugely successful and pay off your advance and earn a lot more but it's not a certainty.

• There's no option with a deal like this. So once the contract runs out, you're free to sell your talent to the highest bidder.

 

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    35. Administration Deals

• An administration deal is one where the publisher only administers your royalties.

• They'll do all the royalty tracking and chasing for you but they won't be working to promote your songs.

• There are two other differences:

• Firstly, you don't assign your rights to the publisher.

• Secondly, you don't usually get and advance with an administration deal.

• They typically happen for older recordings. Sometimes the artist has a back catalogue of music, their publishing deal has lapsed and they want someone to look after their works for them. Or sometimes it'll be the heirs of a deceased writer who want a deal to look after copyrights they've inherited.

 

Single Song Assignments

• These pretty much do what they say on the tin.

• You can assign a single song to a specific publisher but you're free to do whatever you like with anything else you write.

• They're for pretty exceptional cases - perhaps if you're an unknown performer whose song gets picked up by a major artist or used in a TV series or feature film.

• That way you can have one song administered for you while retaining the rights on anything else you write.

 

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    36. Advance Payments

• Under a fixed period deal advances will often be paid up front in one lump sum.

• In singer-songwriter deals, advances will usually be staggered. If you don't have a record deal, a third will be paid when you sign with the publisher. Another third will be paid when you sign a recording contract and the rest when you actually release the album.

• If you do have a record deal, half of the publishing advance will be paid when you sign the contract with the publisher. The other half when you release the album. The same will apply when you come to the end of a contract period and the publisher takes up the next option.

• Again, this will all be set out in your contract and should be checked over by a lawyer.

 

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    37. Promoting For Bands

• Playing live is the most effective way of promoting your band. More so than posting out demos and more than putting your music on the internet.

• It's how people get to hear about you. Although A&R scouts rarely turn up at gigs at random, they will phone around promoters and local press and find out who are the up and coming bands.

• Live gigs are often a bands first contact with the music press, too. A good review in a couple of papers can help build your name.

• "Something that grabs a promoter's attention will get put to one side and maybe given to other promoters. A&R men ring us up quite a lot and ask what decent demos we've had recently. Word spreads and pretty soon you've got a buzz going." Jim Mattison - Bugbear Promotions, ( London Dublin Castle , Hope & Anchor and others)

 

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    38. Developing as a Performer

• When it comes to tightening up your act, one gig is worth dozens of rehearsals.

• There's nothing like having to get up and perform all your tunes back to back to really show up holes in your technique. This is where you learn to perform rather than just play your material.

• And the more you do it, the more confident you get. This is where you acquire star quality - the ability to hold attention. And if you're a band, there's nothing like having to deal with dodgy foldback and other problems to really tighten things up.

"The thing that strikes me with most bands that approach me with demos is that I don't think they've played nearly enough live gigs. Bands that have played three gigs and recorded a demo haven't developed yet." Simon De Winter - A&R, Gut Records

"I had someone who'd done three gigs that had gone well and was asking me for industry contacts. I gave him the analogy that if he went for a kickabout in the park with his mates and scored a hat-trick, he wouldn't be contacting Aston Villa and expecting to be tried out for the first team." Nigel McEwan - Music Business Advisor, Musician's Union

 

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    39. Developing Your Material

• When you can see the whites of your audience's eyes, you really get to find out the strengths of your music.

• Which tunes increase the queue at the bar and which fill the floor up?

• You'll be able to tell within a few bars whether that tune that sounded so great in the rehearsal room or your bedroom is what your punters want to hear.

• "There's no better way to get feedback than to stand in front of a group of people who aren't your mates and play your songs." Simon De Winter - A&R Gut Records

• "It tests your mettle. It makes you a better band. It forces you to be good or those people will eat you up." Mike Mills - REM

• "In the studio it's very pipe and slippers. If something goes wrong, it's like 'do it again.' Playing live, the moment is gone and you're on to something else. It's much more immediate." Laura Burton - Freelance Live Sound Engineer (London Garage, LA2 and tours)

 

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   40. Learn By Doing

• Although playing live is one of the best bits of being in a band (and many people say it's the whole point of it) you still need to be thinking about how you can keep improving.

• Once you're comfortable on stage you can start pushing the limits of your performance. Sell your music to the fans.

 

• "Loads of bands just don't seem to learn from gigs. They come along and you explain everything to them and then they come back three months later and you have to explain it all again. If someone is forever telling you to turn your amp down, there's a good chance that you're always too loud!" Ant Brown - Freelance Live Sound Engineer (London King's Head and tours)

 

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    41. Gigging

First gigs are everything about music all wrapped up in one evening. Terrifying, exhilarating, frequently drunken, uplifting and depressing all at the same time. It's an addiction and your habit starts here.

 

Finding a Venue

• Chances are if you're into music, you've probably already been to most of the places you're likely to want to play.

• If not, have a look through the listings in your local paper or pick up some fliers to see what venues put on live music.

• Get along and see the place if you can - that way you'll at least know what to expect when you turn up with a stomach full of butterflies.

• Talk to other people who have played there to find how you can expect to be treated - different promoters have very different approaches to running their night.

• If there aren't any live venues in your area consider booking a school hall or function room in a pub. It's not ideal but plenty of bands have started out like this. Hook up with another band or a DJ who plays your style of music and make a proper party of it.

 

Who to talk to

• This varies from venue to venue.

• Some places have a separate promoter who's nothing to do with the actual running of the bar/club. They just hire the venue to put their gigs on. It's not unusual for the landlord of such a place to be extremely grumpy - many simply tolerate live music because it helps them make money. Just get the promoter's number and get off the phone!

• If the landlord also books the bands, you can expect a friendly reception because it usually means they're a music fan or musician themselves.

• Start by looking through listings in your area or talking to other musicians to find out which venues are good places to play.

• Some venues hire their live room out to different promoters on different nights of the week. So check if you want to play their rock night that you're not talking to the guy who books DJs for a club night there.

• "We have a promoter who books the bigger bands and I deal with the local bands. The promoter tells us who's playing and I book local bands to support them. If they do well on that gig we'll book them again and work them up to bigger shows. The promoter works in bigger venues too so the right bands can go on to play support slots in those." Kai Harris - Venue Manager, Southampton Joiners

 

What Promoters Will Want

• Getting a gig is not like getting a record deal. You'll almost certainly find that you don't need a posh demo. Check to be sure, but the promoter probably just wants to know that you can basically play so you don't need to spend a fortune in a studio.

• Most promoters don't make a great living - they do it for the love and are usually very into helping out new acts. Apart from anything else, a first gig always pulls in a big crowd.

• Knowing this can help you save money recording your demo. Normally in a studio, you'd expect to record one or two instruments at a time onto separate tracks. This is to allow the musicians to concentrate on different elements of the tune as they go along. It's a time-consuming - which means expensive - way to work and it'll produce a recording of much higher quality then you'll need to get your first few gigs.

• By playing the song as a whole band and getting an engineer to balance your sound as you go along, you can knock off a bunch of tunes in a single evening. Its well worth considering this if you're just starting out - particularly as you'll probably want to re-record things once you've got a few gigs under your belt and the band is more experienced and polished.

• You might even find that the promoter will just take a good quality recording of one of your rehearsals. Some will even rely on bands they know to suggest new bands and don't necessarily want a recording at all.

• "Ideally we'd want a CD but a home recording is absolutely fine. We don't look for quality of recording - we look for quality of band. We wouldn't take absolutely anything, though. If the quality is too poor, you simply can't hear what's going on. I wouldn't exclude any style of music, either." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

• "Originality always shines through. Something that grabs a promoter's attention." Jim Mattison - Bugbear Promotions ( London Dublin Castle , Hope & Anchor and others)

• "Make sure your demo plays, too. I'd say nearly half of the CD-Rs we get sent won't play." Kai Harris - Venue Manager, Southampton Joiners

 

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    42. Paying to play

• One thing that happens from time to time is that venues may try and charge you to play. This happens in a few different ways. This most common is that you have to buy a number of tickets from the promoter and then sell them to your audience for a slightly higher price.

• The practise is extremely damaging to the new music scene, and no gig is worth paying for. The whole point of a promoter is that they take the risk in hosting the night, and work hard to make sure that the event makes money by pulling a crowd. A promoter who charges acts to play doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in their own ability, so don’t play their night.

• If you find this practise happening in your area, you should report it to the Musicians Union, who will take up the issue on your behalf. They won’t mention your name to the promoter, and you’ll be doing everyone in your area a favour by stopping them exploiting bands like this.

• It’s worth mentioning that some venues charge a deposit to bands to make sure that they actually turn up. Promoting unsigned acts is not a game that’ll make anyone rich, so this is sort of fair enough. A gap in the bill like that can mean quite a loss for them.

• However, you should make sure that the deposit is returnable with no strings attached. Some add a clause to the contract saying that they'll only give you your money back if you pull in a certain number of punters, which isn’t really on.

 

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    43. First Gig Blues

• Your first gig will probably seem like a disaster from a musical point of view.

• When the nerves kick in you'll be unlikely to play the songs as well as you did in the rehearsal room, so don't expect to be note perfect. That said you'll be amazed what you can get away with. The most appalling howlers will go completely unnoticed by your punters.

• Remember that, while you've been practising the songs for weeks for weeks, no-one else knows how they're supposed to go.

• "You have to remember that at your first gig, a lot of people aren't really listening. You just have to take it on the chin. When people aren't listening you're like 'what d'you think you're doing? This is going to change the world!' Try and stay modest." James Walsh - Starsailor

• "Confidence is the key. Even if you hear them arse up, if the band look confident you're likely to give them another chance. If they just stand on the stage looking lost then you don't have much faith in them doing better next time." Kai Harris - Venue Manager, Southampton

 

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    44. Rehearsing

Rehearsing is a very personal thing. Some people write "unplugged" in their bedrooms and only take the finished song to a studio. Others prefer the vibe and volume of a full set-up to get the energy in there.

 

Rehearsing At Home

• Rehearsing at home is an easy option if you don't have a drummer, live in the middle of nowhere or your neighbours are very understanding.

• Home has the added advantage of being able to leave your gear in the place so you won't have to haul it about the place.

• Attempting to soundproof your house is generally an expensive and impractical option. And please don't fall for that urban legend about stapling egg-boxes to the walls and ceiling. Do you really think a bit of cardboard is going to stop the sound of a band rehearsing from bugging your neighbours?

• The big problem is always vocals. Unless you're lucky enough to have your own PA or are happy to rehearse very quietly, getting them loud enough at any decent quality is really hard.

• "One of the disadvantages of working at home is the lack of time pressure. If you're in a rehearsal studio and the meter is running, it can focus you to get on and work." Jim Soares - Owner, Ritch Bitch Studios, Birmingham

 

Free Places

• If you're still at school or college you may find you can book out rooms to rehearse there. If you're really lucky and your school already owns some equipment you might even be able to use that.

• Otherwise, the owners of small businesses can be a very useful source of rehearsal space. If your mate's parents have an industrial unit in the middle of nowhere be nice to them. Likewise a cellar under a shop is a good place to make a lot of noise - there probably won't be any neighbours to complain.

• "We used to rehearse in a garage in Warrington. It was pretty shambolic, really. The sound was awful. It was deafening." James Walsh - Starsailor

• "A garage is actually not a bad rehearsal space as it's often got a power point and rudimentary soundproofing can be installed. Of course persuading your parents to leave their car outside is something else entirely." Andy Basire - Music Editor, 'Making Music'

 

Cheap Places

• Check around your local businesses and see if they have cellar or spare room you can borrow or rent.

• Many pubs will rent out function rooms mid-week that you can use for rehearsals.

• Likewise church halls can be a very good source of cheap rehearsal space. It's not usually hard to find out your local vicar's phone number.

• The disadvantage of using places like this is that you have to bring all your own equipment. It can be hard on vocalists in particular as they'll probably end up plugging their mic through a guitar amp or something instead of a PA.

 

Rehearsal Rooms

• Rehearsal rooms tend to vary wildly from well run, buzzing music centres to thoroughly disgusting hell-holes. Curiously enough, it seems that the more there are around, the worse the worst ones will be.

• Most will have equipment for hire and this too varies from well-maintained and sounding good to very sad indeed. Others may have storage rooms so you can use your own equipment but don't have to cart it to & from home.

• From a safety point of view, make sure all equipment has been tested recently. Bad electrics can be downright dangerous.

• As a general rule, be careful of rehearsal rooms which offer other music facilities - you may find that the rehearsal rooms are just a way of propping up a failing recording studio and receive little attention.

• Rehearsal rooms which have a cafe and offer a choice of backline are usually much more serious and consequently the atmosphere and equipment will be much better.

• You generally get what you pay for at the low end - the cheaper the studio, the worse it'll be. But paying a fortune won't necessarily get you palatial facilities.

• Evenings and weekends are naturally the most popular times for bands to rehearse, so if you can do a weekday afternoon you can usually get a cheaper rate. It's also easier to book daytime sessions at short notice.

• Some places will do you a discount if you block book a regular spot

 

"We spent several years in London playing in one of the skankiest rehearsal rooms in the world. We were all living in London so we needed somewhere to rehearse and we just found a regular place where it would cost, I suppose, ten or fifteen pounds each a week because we used to do two nights a week. We used to pay storage at the studio, which was damp. My drums got mouldy, and there were slugs on the cases. It was absolutely the most horrible thing." Richard Hughes - Drummer, Keane

 

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    45. Writing

• For writing it's usually best to set up in a circle with all your amps facing inwards. It makes it easier to hear everything and being able to make eye contact with other players will help create a vibe.

• Otherwise you can end up devising a part which works well with the instrument you're hearing loudest because it happens to be next to you, which may not work with the whole arrangement of the song.

• It's always a good idea to record songs as you develop them. It allows you to listen without having to concentrate on playing, which gives you a better overall picture.

 

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    46. Getting Ready For a Gig

• When preparing for a gig, set up as you would on stage, which usually means setting up in a line.

• You'll get used to playing without the visual cues from each other and can refine the layout of the backline to get a good stage balance.

• Setting up in a rough semicircle with the bass amp next to the drummer and all the other stuff toed in so it's pointing across the stage is a good place to start.

• Ideally, have your set list worked out before your last rehearsal. That way you can run the set to time it and any awkward changes of instruments or patches will show up in time to sort them out. You'll also get a feel for the pace of the set.

• Run through, have a break for ten minutes and repeat as many times as you can.

 

"I would say play your best two or three songs first. Generally A&R will be there on time and stay for the first couple of songs if you're lucky. And if you've got a range of material, make sure you put in some diverse tunes early on." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

 

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    47. Gigs

Even experienced musicians find gigging nerve-wracking. If you don't, then you'll probably be to looking to have the biggest laugh you can. Either way up you'll enjoy yourself a lot more if things go smoothly. And this is where a little planning can help.

 

Marketing- Where and When

• Make sure you know when you can get into the venue to set up or soundcheck.

• Get in as early as you can, to give you the most time to get the sound right. If it's a large bill, you may have to take the afternoon off work to be there in time.

• If you can't, for whatever reason, let the promoter know as soundcheck time can be pretty tight and if you're late, it can cause all the other bands to run behind.

• Take the promoter's contact details with you, so if your van breaks down you can let them know you'll be late.

• Your audience will want to know when you're on, so check that too. Then lie on your publicity and say it's half an hour earlier - but tell any A&R's the correct time as they will not hang around.

• Again, it can be critical to keep things running on time if there are a lot of acts so make sure you're back in the venue at least 10 minutes before you need to be on.

 

"There are all sorts of reasons why people run late but if a band were more than about 45 mins late for a soundcheck because they just couldn't be arsed, then I wouldn't book them again. It shows a lack of respect for me and the other bands." Tim Orchard - Promoter, Purr at Bath Moles Club

"Turn up on time. Treat us with respect. We'll treat you with respect." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield

 

Borrowing Gear

• If you want to borrow equipment from other people, it's only polite to ask ahead of the gig. Get the other people's numbers from the promoter.

• Some venues may even expect you to lend gear due to limited storage space or to keep things on stage smoother. If you're precious about your gear, you might want to check in advance that they're not expecting you to lend it to every other band on the bill.

 

"It's a common mistake for a headline band to assume they can borrow something from one of the support bands. Then they get here and realise that they're sound-checking first, so the other band - and their gear - haven't arrived yet." Ant Brown - Freelance Live Sound Engineer (London King's Head and tours)

"Our worst gig was our first gig as Coldplay in the Dublin Castle . Our drum kit disappeared. Well, the band on before us took their drum kit, which we were hoping to borrow. They had this enormous bass player and I went up to him to try and reason with him. He just looked at me as if to say 'don't ask to borrow our drum kit, little boy, for you will not receive it'." Chris Martin - Coldplay

"If we've got a lot of bands on the bill, it saves time on the turnaround between bands if they share equipment - especially things like drums kits which take ages to set up and mic. That means everyone can play longer sets." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

 

Getting Organised

Organise your keyboard patches or guitar effects pre-sets so they can be accessed quickly. If you can get them in the order you need them for the set, then great. Otherwise make a note of each pre-set number or patch name on your set list so you can dial them up quickly.

If you're using a lot of different sounds, it will help the engineer when you come to play live if you keep the volume from sound to

 

Getting Your Instruments Ready

• It's wise to put new strings on your guitar before a gig but do it at least the night before and tune slightly tight to stretch them.

• Likewise, drum skins may take a couple of plays to retain their tuning so make sure you have the time to get the sound you want on the night if you change them for a gig.

• Also, make sure you've got all the spare drumsticks and batteries and everything else you need. It's especially easy to overlook the batteries in active guitars and basses which trog along for months and then suddenly die.

• Just try to think ahead and prepare for every eventuality, looking unprepared looks unprofessional, and you won’t be taken seriously if you look unprofessional.

 

Check The Door Policy

If you're being paid per audience member, make sure your fans know to tell the door staff who they've come to see.

Most venues will let you design your own fliers to use instead of theirs - which can be pretty generic. Check ahead to make sure, though. It makes sense to make your own so you can include maps and stuff specific to your audience.

 

"We give fliers to the bands a couple of weeks before the gig and they give them to their fans. People who turn up on the door with a flier get money off the admission charge and we know which band they've come to see. We pay the band a quid per person that turns up with their flier. The more people the band get, the more money they get." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

"A new innovation with promoting of gigs by the bands themselves that works a treat is using texting to mobile phones as a kind of digi-flyer. No need to look after scraps of badly photocopied paper. It's an efficient way of getting in cheap that we are happy to accept... people turn up and hold their phones up to the doorstaff." Tony Gleed - Bugbear Promotions (London Dublin Castle, Hope & Anchor and others)

 

Check Who's Marketing The Gig

It's always worth making certain that you'll be included in local gig guides.

Make sure you meet the copy deadline for informing local press - they'll usually need at least a couple of weeks' notice. This alone is not enough, though.

If you're trying to pull in a big crowd, all the ingenuity you can muster will be needed. Make sure everybody who might be interested knows - by any means necessary.

 

"We do NME and local press. We also do email-outs and 10,000 fliers a fortnight with our live music listings on them. We still expect the bands to do as much as physically possible to pull a crowd, though. We support local bands very heavily and I always push agents to let me put local bands on as openers for major bands. Local bands very rarely let us down. It's mutual respect again." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill.

 

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    47. Vicious circle

Getting gigs can be a vicious circle. You need a fan base to come and see you to get gigs but you cannot get a fan base until you'll played loads of gigs.

There are a few things you can do to get your gigs promotion, including:

• Through your website

• Keeping in contact with fans

• Mailing List

• Getting press

• Fliers

 

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    48. Keeping in Contact with Fans

Gigging is the time that all of your fans are in one room at the same time. So now is a good time to find out who they are.

Get two or three reliable friends to collect e-mail or postal mail addresses for your mailing list. You will probably end up with at least three people claiming to be cartoon characters when you look at it next day, but you'll also get a good chunk of people who you can then target for e-mail and postal mail shots.

"We had a big e-mail list we sent flyers out to. Everything just snowballed and we developed enough of a following to make people sit up and take notice. There were too many people interested in us for us to be ignored." Frankie - Bass Player, The Darkness

"Hammer that e-mail list because there will be people there who've come to see another band but might want to come and see you again." James Baker - Venue Manager, Southampton Joiners

 

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    49. Press Listings

• It's always worth making certain that you'll be included in local gig guides. Some venues will do this automatically but don't assume it.

• Make sure you meet the copy deadline for informing local press - they'll usually need at least a couple of weeks notice.

• Better still, if you can cook up a story around your gig, see if you can get a small feature article or at least send a press release explaining what you're up to.

• This alone is not enough, though. If you're trying to pull in a big crowd, all the ingenuity you can muster will be needed. Make sure everybody who might be interested knows - by any means necessary.

 

"We do 'NME' and local press. We also do e-mail outs and 10,000 fliers a fortnight with our live music listings on them. We still expect the bands to do as much as physically possible to pull a crowd, though. We support local bands very heavily and I always push agents to let me put local bands on as openers for major bands. Local bands very rarely let us down. It's mutual respect again." Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

 

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    50. Fliers

• Larger venues may provide you with fliers to give out and promote your gig. These can be pretty boring so check if they'll let you make your own. Then get to work.

• Many bands get completely carried away creating cool or humorous fliers simply because it's so much fun. No problem there - the more memorable the better!

• Keep them small - four to a piece of A4 is about right. That way you can keep your production costs down if you have to get them photocopied in a shop.

• You can also do some bigger posters to put up at the venue, around your school or college and in any shop windows that will have them. You can also try leaving them in record shops.

• And, of course, you'll be mailing fliers out to your fan list. The cheapest way to do this is by e-mail but be careful of e-mailing the actual flier. If it's going to take ages to download, your fans with slow modems may not be that grateful for the huge phone bill. sp try and save the image in as small a form as possible before you send it out. If you're not sure how to do that, post the flier on your web-site and send a link to it.

• Otherwise, it's second class mail. This can be pretty costly if there are a lot of people on you list, so it's worth auditing it from time to time and making sure that people who've been on it for months haven't moved house.

 

"We give fliers to the bands a couple of weeks before the gig and they give them to their fans. People who turn up on the door with a flier get money off the admission charge and we know which band they've come to see. We pay the band a quid per person that turns up with their flier" Rupert Dell - Promoter, Sheffield Leadmill

"A new innovation with promoting of gigs by the bands themselves that works a treat is using texting to mobile phones as a kind of digi-flyer. No need to look after scraps of badly photocopied paper. It's an efficient way of getting in cheap that we are happy to accept ... people turn up and hold their phones up to the doorstaff" Tony Gleed - Bugbear Promotions (London Dublin Castle, Hope & Anchor and others

 

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    51. Getting the Balance Right

• It's tempting to take every gig you're offered - and it's not such a bad thing to do that - but think about how many people you can pull.

• If you gig too often, you'll find that even your most loyal fans start to find other things to do when you're playing. Check with venues. Most will understand if you want to keep a gig low-key provided they know in advance. That way you won't exhaust your entire fan-base.

• Keep them hungry for more. Elbow, for example were originally called Soft and slogged their way around the circuit until all their mates lost interest. When they felt it was time for a change of approach, they changed their name to Elbow to avoid the associations with their played-out band and took another approach:

• Mark "Pot" Potter (guitarist): "When we were Soft we would probably gig every couple of weeks. To the point where our mates stopped coming. Like, 'Are you coming to the gig?' 'No! I am sick of you!' Kind of thing, which is fair enough."

• Phil Chadwick (their manager): "We played one show every two months but spent the time in between hyping and promoting the next show to death. It was more important to Elbow that they played to a full venue than anything else. They just wanted to create a buzz. By the third gig there were people queuing around the corner to get in. The industry can't ignore that for long." Mark, Pete, Phil - Elbow

 

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    52. Mailing lists

A well-managed mailing list is something that can be a real asset to you. You can use it to keep your fan informed about gigs and releases. It's also a way of capturing new fans that see you live.

This section points out some of the pitfalls and gives you some hints, including:

• Collecting addresses

• What to send out

• When to send stuff

• Using e-mail

 

General Tips

• Gigs are your primary source of names and addresses. You'll probably find that you won't have time to collect them yourself - you'll be too busy packing up your gear, trying to get another booking out of the promoter or generally glad-handing your fans.

• Get people who are reliable to collect addresses - don't pick someone who's likely to get smashed or distracted by a mate they haven't seen for years. This is an important part of cashing in on a good gig.

• You can also get people to sign up to your list from your website. There are lots of mechanisms for doing this. Most browsers let you look at the source code for HTML sites, so have a look around and see how other sites do it.

• Think about the balance between bombarding your fans with trivia and keeping them interested in you.

• With an e-mail list, it's tempting to keep cranking out the messages. That's fine for your friends but if you've got industry people's business addresses on there, it might not be such a good idea. Remember that you're effectively sending junk mail, even though people might have given you their details voluntarily.

• Keep messages short and to the point and only send things out when you've got something to say.

 

E-mail

An e-mail list is the cheapest - you can reach all of your fans for the cost of a single phone call. Here are some things to think about when using one:

 

• ISP policy

Some Internet Service Providers are very anti spamming and will shut down your account if they think you're doing it. Be careful of that - you don't want to lose the e-mail address that you've been giving out to all those important people. Other ISPs limit you to 20 or so recipients per message, which can make sending to a large list pretty laborious.

 

• Business addresses

Some businesses exclude e-mails with more than a certain number of recipients. Check this out if you're e-mailing a lot of your workmates from an external address. Be very careful about using your work address for your own business. Make absolutely sure that it's OK with your boss before going ahead.

 

• E-mailing fliers

Your potential audience won't thank you if it takes 20 minutes to download your e-mail, so make sure you keep your attachments down to a reasonable size. If you're worried, keep your fliers on your site and e-mail a link to the appropriate page.

 

• Timing

Do an advance notice a couple of weeks ahead of the date and then a reminder a few days before you play.

 

• Bombarding people

E-mail is now the main way of communicating in some businesses. This means people who work for record labels or in the media probably receive 50-100 e-mails a day. If you bombard them with constant mails in addition to this they will not like you!

 

Sending Info In The Post

*   A postal mail list is more expensive and harder to keep up-to-date - you never know who has moved house. It can be more direct, though. You don't have to ask your fans to go and print out fliers because they get them directly.

*   If you're plugging a gig, then a week to 10 days beforehand is probably about the right time to be posting fliers out.

*   Post is probably the best way to approach industry figures - they'll often get so many e-mails that they may not notice yours.

*   Make sure that you have an actual name to post to - and that it's spelt correctly.

*   Following up a demo with a steady flow of fliers and press-releases can help keep your name in the recipients' minds.

 

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53. Putting together a presspack

A killer demo/white label is only part of the battle. Anyone receiving your music will want to know more about you - your history and experience.

The manner of your approach will tell them a lot about your attitude, which will help them decide whether their time or money will be in safe hands.

The section takes you through how to put together the best press pack, including:

• Writing a biography

• What to put in a biography

• Writing press releases

• Photos

• Covering letters Writing a Biography

*    You should always include a biography (biog) when you send out music.

*   Writing them is a surprisingly tricky business. It's hard to get the right balance between selling yourself and sounding like a prat.

*    Every artist at some point writes some kind of promotional material which they are later hugely embarrassed about. It's a matter of learning from your mistakes and making the next one better.

*    Learn from other people's mistakes. Look at a site that posts lots of unsigned music. You can check out other peoples' biographies and see which ones you think work and which don't.

 

Here are some more tips:

• Think of a biog like a CV.

• Keep it punchy and short as many people will have loads of these to read.

• Lots of white space and a large font will help make it readable.

• Keep sentences short and snappy.

• Beware of overselling yourselves - people will rumble you.

• Beware of in-jokes as they can seem a bit arrogant.

 

 

What To Put In a Biography

Biogs are pretty formulaic things, so here's a list of things that you should include. If you can't think of anything better, just list these and post it off...

• Line up

How many of you are there? Maybe a brief history of each of you - especially if you've had a deal before. Record companies like to hear of past successes.

• Background

When did you form, where are you from and how did you get together?

• Career milestones

This is probably the most important section as it's your chance to show that you're working hard to get your music heard. So be especially careful to highlight anything that shows you in that light: releases of your own that have sold and how many copies you shifted, sell-out shows or successful events you've promoted yourself, significant media exposure and the names of anyone who's already supporting your music. At the same time avoid things that maybe don't look so great. As one A&R person put it, "bands put things like 'runner up in local battle of the bands contest'. Why? My reaction to that is 'I wonder who won it?'"

• The people you're looking to attract probably do this for a living and have to pay the rent somehow. If they're going to get on board with your act, then showing that you're prepared to work hard to make a success of things makes you a more attractive option.

• Genre and influences

A little bit about where you're coming from can help show that you have a sense of your own identity. Don't get too carried away though, and don't use the phrase "fusing these influences together to produce a totally original sound" because everybody does. Use a biography to describe yourself and let the recipient make their own mind up about your music.

• Forthcoming gigs/plans

Especially important because labels will want to see you live. Think about skipping this for a biog and including it in a covering letter or press release instead. That way you can keep your biography general and you don't have to update it every time you book a gig.

• Quotes from any press you've had

Independent people saying how good you are obviously mean a lot more than you saying it yourselves. Anyone dealing with a completely unknown artist will feel a bit lonely if they only have their own opinion to go on. If you're making a splash in the press, then show it off and give them a bit of confidence in you.

• Logo, contacts, website address

These should be on absolutely everything you send out.

 

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    54. Press Releases

Once you've hooked their attention with your demo, keep the recipient up to date. Add them to your list of people to send fliers to (but don't bother with e-mail, they'll probably get hundreds).

Send them a press release every time you do something significant - any major gigs you get and anything else that you think is important - signing any contracts, any exposure you get in other media, that kind of thing. It'll help follow up the good work you've done sending out the demo in the first place.

Here are some tips on writing press releases.

• Who are you writting it for?

Pitch the content and writing style to be appropriate for the person you're aiming at. You'll probably want to keep it fresh and informal for most music industry applications.

• Keep to the point

Make sentences short to make it easy to read. Try and keep to one fact per paragraph - preferably in the first sentence of each.

• Make it stand out

Think about layout and see if you can get some graphics or a logo in there. Lots of white space looks more inviting than dense text in a small font. Come up with a snappy headline (again appropriate to your target audience). If you're using coloured paper, make sure it's not too dark as it makes the text hard to read.

 

The five W's

The most important bits to include. Use these as a framework for the content:

• Who are you?

• What are you doing?

• When are you doing it?

• Where are you doing it?

• Why is it newsworthy?

 

Quotes

It'll make your press release much easier to turn into a story in the music press or local paper if you include one or two quotes from people. A quote from your singer or manager explaining why this is a milestone in your career will do for starters. A second quote, if you use one, should be from someone related to the event but not part of your group - perhaps the promoter of the gig or a representative of an organisation you're working with. Contact numbers

As with all these things, don't forget to include ALL your contact details.

 

Photos

• Photos are tricky things. Most people find the whole business pretty embarrassing but it can be fun if you put a bit of effort in before the shoot.

• As with everything to do with image, many people aren't very comfortable with the concept, but it's part of selling yourselves.

• Image is important in this industry and it's something you'll have to think about sooner or later. If you don't, someone else will. Developing a strong idea of how you want to come across, and how to get what you want, can help you keep control of the way you're presented later on.

• Your looks and the quality of photo’s you send out aren’t the be all and end all. But sending a photo that doesn't show four people standing in a car park or sitting around a pub table waving pints at the cameraman shows that you've got a bit more imagination than most.

 

A professional opinion

To get some ideas, we went to Martyn Goodacre, a man who has photographed many a music legend in his time and is probably best known to most of us for his iconic NME covershot of Kurt Cobain.

"A photo shoot can be an embarrassing process - but only if you allow it to be. It is a vital part of being a performer so it needs careful attention.

"The first mistake you can make is to think you are just a musician and a photo shoot is an unnecessary evil. With that approach you could be in grave danger of looking stupid or boring or both.

"It's one of those things that you often have to learn by finding out what not to do. It's worth putting in the effort, so that when someone wants to take your picture for publication in a magazine, you know how to come across well.

"If you can find somebody who has the gear, maybe a photography student looking for something to fill up their portfolio, it shouldn't cost.

"Planning is most important. Where do you want to be? Think about the light and don't rely on the photographer to come up with ideas unless you've hired a professional.

"It's often a good idea to look at how others have tackled the problem of turning a bunch of scruffy musicians into something that has interest and appeal. Have a look through some magazines for ideas on how you could do it." Martyn Goodacre - Freelance photographer

 

Covering Letter

Include a covering letter, which you should personalise for the recipient - a standard letter looks like junk mail and nobody likes that!.

 

Explain why you've singled them out to receive your music.

Remember, the recipient is looking for people who have got the spark to get on in a competitive industry, so write with that in mind.

 

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    55. Sending your press packs and demo’s out

Whenever you're sending your music to journalists, record labels, management companies or whoever, there are a few basic principles you can apply which will cut down on the amount of time and money that you spend doing it.

There are no hard and fast rules but here are a few simple do’s and don’t’s to help you on your way...

 

Label Everything

Put your name and contact details on every element you send, including the actual disk or tape. Make sure that someone who likes your music can still get in touch if your disc/tape gets separated from the packaging.

A&R people can get hundreds and hundreds of CDs a week and if the artist's name and number isn't written on the CDR it causes big headaches.

"You put on a demo and you go 'This is fantastic! I love it, it's great! - there isn't a number on the tape!' And you're just stuck with something that's great and no way of doing anything with it." Mike Smith - Vice President of A&R, EMI Music Publishing

 

Getting Names and Contacts

• It's a far better use of your time to make personal contact with a few specific people than to shotgun demos randomly around the place.

• Find the actual names of people who might be able to help you, call them (you may need to be persistent before you get through) and make sure that that they are in a position to help. Your demo will have more impact if you send it to someone who's actually interested in receiving it and knows your name in advance.

• You can do that by going through your record collection and seeing what labels your favourite acts are signed to. Call up the label and ask for the name of the person who handles that act. You can find record company contact details in a music directory (see list).

• Remember that people move around a lot in this industry. Even if you find what looks like a good contact, call them up and make sure they still work where you've been told they do.

• Finally, having done all this work, don't blow it at the last hurdle. Make sure you spell the contact's name right on the package!

 

"If somebody gives me something and I've met them face-to-face, I listen to that first. Then I go through the Jiffy bags of mail that's arrived, starting with the people who've spelt my name right. Then we move down to people who've spelt my name increasingly wrong." Steve Lamacq - Radio 1

"We get hundreds of demos for review and anything just addressed to 'Making Music' goes into the general pile. Something with my name on it goes straight to my desk and it looks like something I want to open." Andy Basire - Music Journalist

 

Don't Send Demos To Everyone

• Some artists go through books like the Music Week Directory and send their demo to all the labels listed. Please don't do this. It can be a waste of time and money.

• Only send them to labels who you know will be interested in your music. The easiest way to find this out is to look at the CD sleeves of artists you sound like. On the back will be the label name and address. Simple. Make sure you call them and get a contact name first though.

• And beware of blindly sending your music to major label A&R's. They probably receive over 200 demos a week and there's a good chance it will be that week's work experience person who listens to it!

 

"Anyone sending out CDs should save a bit of money by not sending them to people who aren't going to be remotely interested. We also get people ringing up asking what kind of music we sign - well if you don't know that you shouldn't be sending us your music." Andy Ross - MD, Boss Music

"We work long hours, and it is very difficult for us to keep up with what we're sent. And then 99% of it isn't necessarily suitable. So I'd suggest that if you really believe in yourself and you think you've got something special, trying to get to know people. Really it's a people business." Ben Cook- Head of A&R, Ministry of Sound

 

Don't Harass the Recipient

• Give them at least a week before you phone them up to see if they've got it.

• If they're still acting cagey after a couple of phone calls, they probably think it's crap and are just being evasive so slow down!

• Keep it in context - if someone gets 20 demos a week and all the senders phone them 3 times to follow up, that's 60 phone calls, which isn't going to put them in a good mood. And most people get a lot more than 20 demos a week!

 

"I'd say if you're going to try and get a meeting with an A&R person, you shouldn't be Mr Persistent, Mr Irritating, because that's gonna turn them off immediately. I'd say you've gotta approach it with confidence but also a bit of class, the way you deal with people in the industry." Ben Cook- Head of A&R, Ministry of Sound

"There's no point sending someone like Alan McGee a demo and the phoning him up two days later to see what he thinks. Firstly, you won't get through to him and secondly he won't have heard it." Andy Ross - MD, Boss Music

 

Packaging

• Like many things in this business, this isn't a clear cut case.

• Some people say that an eye-catching package will tempt them; others refuse to be drawn in. Sending your demo in a box the size of a sofa may seem hilarious but it might not make you many friends at the receiving end.

• Likewise, some people are more susceptible to bribes than others so including a box of chocolates or similar won't necessarily win your way in (ask yourself if you'd eat a chocolate bar sent to you through the post by a complete stranger).

• What's more helpful is to have your name and/or logo clearly visible on the front so that the person you've made contact with knows it's arrived.

• Finally, resist the urge to seal the envelope too enthusiastically. It's very frustrating working your way through a pile of 40 Jiffy bags that have all been diligently armour plated with gaffa tape and staples.

• The same goes for what's inside. A flash presentation pack may or may not put your recipient off. But attention to detail is important. At least avoid handwritten scraps of paper for your biog.

• Against your greener instincts, don't recycle.

• If you're sending a disk, make it a clean, new one that isn't scuffed up and covered in fingerprints.

• Likewise rewind the cassette and make sure which side to play is clearly marked.

 

Keep Records

If you don't have a manager, it'll help you no end if you keep records of whom you've sent stuff to, when you've spoken to them and what was said. That way when they call back, you won't have to rely on your memory. It's petty and a bit boring but any decent manager would do it and so should you until you get one.

 

Your details

It's amazing how many people send out stuff with a phone number that doesn't work or doesn't have an answerphone hooked up to it. Make sure that whoever's number you put on it is actually in a position to take any calls back and isn't likely to move house or leave the country in the near future. Think twice about including mobile numbers - what will happen if you lose your phone?

 

Be ready for the call

to give them an answer? Likewise if your demo gets played on air, is your website up-to-date? Listeners will come looking for you if they like your music so make sure your forthcoming gigs are listed and that you have a mechanism for them to sign up to your mailing list.

 

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    56. Everyone's in A&R

• There are certain traditional places to send demos: record labels, publishers, radio stations that play demos on air - you've probably thought of them all already.

• But there are a whole host of other people who work in this business who can help out that aren't bombarded with tapes every day.

• Lawyers, for example, deal with people at all levels of the business and so are extremely well-connected.

• Likewise, a PR company may take on the right band without a deal and defer their fees until they've helped get them signed.

• Think sideways and get off the beaten track. That way your demo might end up being one of 5 or 6 on someone's desk rather than one of 200. "For unsigned acts it is well worth approaching PRs, pluggers, management companies and lawyers, all of whom will take you on their books if they see a glimmer of talent. Unlike normal A&R people, these industry types can enthuse about new bands without having to worry about signing them for six album deals!" Simon Williams - Fierce Panda Records.

 

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    57. Alternatives For Bands

• Making recordings is an accepted way of getting ahead but the people who regularly receive them get so many that the chances of yours being listened to properly can be astronomically small.

• You may find that slogging away playing gigs, improving your music and your playing is a much better way of getting attention.

• You don't have to be in London. If you're creating a buzz, someone will find out and come looking for you.

• And if someone's gone to the trouble of tracking you down and asking you for your tape, you can absolutely guarantee that they'll listen to it.

 

"I think sending demos out, if they get heard is great but a lot of the time they don't, which is why we didn't. I know it probably seems a bit insane not to send it out because it's like 'who's going to hear us?' But I love the way we did it. I love the fact that we didn't pander to companies. We'd done that so much in the past that it was really nice just letting them find out about it, letting them come to us." Pete Turner - Bassist, Elbow

 

Alternatives for Non-band Music

• You may find that building your tunes up through clubs is a better way of getting your tune heard. It's a very close-knit world and the shops, promoters, DJs and labels all talk to each other.

• Promoting your own night can make you some useful contacts with DJs that you can then tap to promote your tunes.

• If you DJ yourself, you'll know that shops have a big influence on the tunes that end up in the DJs' boxes - even the big names have to buy their tunes somewhere.

• You don't have to be in London - if you're creating a buzz, someone will find out and come looking for you.

 

"I phoned up Carl Cox's DJ agency. I knew some people there from booking other acts from them for my club night. I gave it to this guy and he passed it on to Carl Cox. A couple of months later, I went to Homelands and I was watching Carl Cox DJ and he played my tune which was just unbelievable. It was just brilliant. I was jumping around going 'Oh my God he's playing my tune!!' and everyone was like looking at me going 'What are you talking about?'

"It really kicked off because big DJs started playing my tracks. Jon Carter was playing one of my tracks. He was playing that all over the place and people were asking him what the track was and then he'd tell them and then they'd somehow get hold of me. I don't really know how they'd do it, they'd like get hold of my number from somewhere and these calls started coming in." DJ Elite

 

Making the Most of Studio Time If you've not recorded music before, then the single most important thing is not to overstretch yourselves.

Everything takes much longer than you think it will and your time is limited by the budget you have.

It's tempting to try and bang down five tunes in a day but likely to be more rewarding to stick to a couple and do them as well as you can.

 

"It used to be that people would come in to record a demo to punt around to record companies but now they're actually thinking of it as something they can sell, too. If you sell 100 you can use the money to fund other things, whether it's beer or petrol or van hire, or the next recording. It's a useful way of adding to the door money you get from gigs." Paul Burns - Studio 64, Middlesbrough

 

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    58. Things To Think About

• Whether you've just started out, or you're well on your way, the dream for most artists is to get a record deal.

• But think about this seriously. What you are doing is asking for a job, one of the most exclusive jobs you can have, only there are no adverts for this one.

• So how do you go about it?

• Would you send your CV to all sorts of different companies out there, blind?

• Would you not check to see if the person you were sending it to was still working there?

• Would you sit at home, waiting for them to contact you, giving up if they didn't?

• These are just a few traps that people fall when approaching record companies.

 

"The biggest mistake people make is coming to see me or sending in a demo after they've played four gigs. It's not nearly enough. If you don't play live regularly and you haven't got the live experience it's a waste of time coming to see me." Simon De Winter - A&R, Gut Records

"The bands who e-mail me the most diligently are normally the worst musically. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred. The best ones don't pester. They're too busy writing music and practising." Simon Williams - MD, Fierce Panda Records

 

Check List

First, think about whether or not you are ready to approach a record company. If not, please don't do it - it'll just waste your time, and at worst set you back. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Can you play live without much notice?

• Have you played quite a few gigs, and do you have some lined up?

• Do you feel completely comfortable on stage?

• Do you draw a big crowd?

• Is there a buzz about you?

• Have you already recorded?

• Do you have 15 songs you are happy with?

• Do you think that you are worth a major label spending a million pounds on you?

• The big one: Are you mentally and practically prepared for the chance that someone might say yes, meaning that you have to leave your present day job, and go into a salary situation that might average out at £10k once you have paid all your production and travel expenses, with the risk of being dropped at any time?

 

Making Contacts

• Who do you know? Make a list of all your contacts and follow them up. You're only ever going to be 5 steps away from someone in a record company. Have a party, network like mad. Get back in touch with people you've lost contact with who might be able to help you now.

• Sending demos to major record companies without making personal contact first is a recipe for disaster. On average a major label A&R will receive over 200 demos a week and they'll probably be listened to by someone on work experience.

• Target the labels you contact by doing some research. Look at your record collection and find out which labels released tracks like yours. Start with them - usually their address will be printed on the CD sleeve and from that you can get their phone number.

 

"The best place I've ever made contacts is the pub. Go and hang out in the pubs near record labels, you will bump into an A&R man - it will happen." Phil Taylor - Promoter

 

Make A Scene

• If you don't have a manager, create a whole scene out of yourself or your group. Get your friends involved and give them a job to do.

• You will need a designer for logos and flyers, a plugger to book gigs and contact the local press, a web designer, someone to collect addresses for the mailing list after gigs, a researcher into different record labels, and someone to sell merchandise.

• With all this going on people will talk about you. Record labels don't just sit waiting for people to come to them - they ask people for recommendations.

 

"Research and target. Create a buzz and a following - why should they sign you if you have no proof that anyone will listen?" Pam Mclean - Head of Faculty of Arts, Perth College, Scotland

 

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    59. Doing It Yourself

Record and release a record on your own label and sell it locally. It represents a real commitment to your music which larger record companies will respect.

If you can afford it, have the whole package there and ready to go. Smaller labels may be happy to release a professional standard ready-made album. Make it as easy as possible to sign you.

"With the development of home studios, broadcast media and the internet it is possible to be your own 'record company'. That way you find out what a record company actually does, giving you a real insight into what they want." Pete Whitfield - Lecturer in Performing Arts and Popular Music, City College Manchester

* For more in depth information on this topic search the web. There is lots of useful information available on how to go about starting your own label. If we put it here- aswell as all the other information we have- it would take our site about three days to load up!

 

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    60. Be Yourself

• Remember that good A&R people don't know exactly what they're looking for. If they didn't they wouldn't be trawling smoky venues every night of the week.

• They need the Next Big Thing, not a pale imitation of the present big thing. Be yourself, rather than fitting into a fashion. If you attempt to be like the Strokes, or Destiny's Child, chances are fashions may have changed by the time you're up to scratch.

• Be nice to everyone on the way up. Don't tell promoters that you can pull a crowd when you can't, even if you're brilliant - their income depends on it, and they'll tell labels that you don't have a following, if asked.

• Along the way, you'll meet people that are only too glad to give you advice. Don't take all opinions too seriously, believe in yourself, but act according to the response you've had from the people in the know.

 

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    61. Your Demo

• Make sure your demo is on CD, never tape, and each song is 3 minutes long, with single potential.

• Put at least two songs on it, three maximum. Leave the long intros for when you've got the deal. Send decent photos and a very brief biog.

• And WRITE YOUR NAME AND CONTACT DETAILS ON EVERYTHING. • "Never ever start your biography with 'Three boys met at school...' in fact, don't have a biography at all. They need to know your names, ages, instruments, and what you look like and sound like. The rest they can fix." Phil Taylor - Gig Promoter

 

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    62. Make a Plan

Write out your plans. Having everything down on paper means you can see what will work and what is missing. It may save you some expensive mistakes. It is the best way to work out what you need to do to achieve your goals. If you want someone to back you or your friends to support you it is the perfect way for them to see clearly where you're coming from.

Once you are clear about your goals you'll find it easier to identify the steps you need to take to achieve them.

"Where are you going? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to work with? What can you do yourself in terms of recording and production?" Pete Whitfield - Lecturer in Performing Arts and Popular Music, City College, Manchester

 

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    63. A TO Z Singing tips

A = Airflow. Never hold your breath while singing. The airflow is what creates and carries your vocal tone, so keep it flowing. Avoid Clavicular Breathing and Belly Breathing -- instead, learn the proper way to breathe for singing, called diaphragmatic breathing. Fill the lower portion of your lungs as if you had an inner tube around your waist that you were evenly filling.

 

B = Breathing properly for singing requires the shoulders to remain down and relaxed, not rise with the breath intake. A singer will gain power to their voice by strengthening the muscles in their ribcage and back.

 

C = Communicate the music's message. During performance it is very important to communicate the message of the song. If you make a "mistake" don't point it out to your audience. It is most likely they did not even notice.

 

D = Diaphragmatic Support. Develop the strength and coordination of the diaphragm and become a pro at controlling the speed of the airflow released, the quantity of the airflow released and the consistency of the airflow released.

 

E = Elasticity of the Vocal Folds. The vocal tone is created as airflow bursts through the cleft of the vocal cords causing them to vibrate/oscillate. The vocal folds can lose elasticity due to misuse, lack of use and/or increase of age. Be sure to train your voice with vocal exercises on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape. F = Free your natural voice. Don't be a slave to any music style -- even your favorite one. Learn to sing with your full and natural voice by developing your vocal strength and coordination. Then add stylistic nuances to achieve any singing style you desire.

 

G = Guessing Games. Never guess the pitch you are about to sing. Hear the note in your head before you open your mouth. Free Singing Tip G H = High notes require consistent and steady airflow. Many students tend to hold their breath as they sing higher. Let the air flow. Try increasing your airflow and gauge your result.

 

I = Increase your breathing capacity and control by doing breathing exercises every day. Be sure to avoid patterned breathing. Singers must negotiate phrase lengths of all different sizes, so it is important to be versatile.

 

J = Jumping Jacks. If you are having trouble getting your body completely involved with singing, try doing some cardiovascular activities, like jumping jacks, for a few minutes before getting started again. Sometimes your instrument simply needs an airflow wake-up call.

 

K = Know your limits. Don't sing too high or too low. Don't sing to the point of vocal fatigue. Never strain or push your voice. Doing so will not result in a higher or lower singing range, or a stronger voice, only a voice that has suffered undue stress.

 

L = Low notes are often sung with too much airflow. Try decreasing your airflow to achieve a more natural, more relaxed tone.

 

M = Mirror. Training in front of a mirror can help a singer discover many things about their instrument, as well as confirm that other actions are being done correctly. Be sure to rely on a mirror during vocal training, but be able to leave the mirror to face an audience. N = Never sing if it hurts to swallow.

 

O = Open your mouth wider. Nine times out of ten this will help you achieve a stronger, more defined vocal tone.

 

P = Prepare your instrument before singing. Singers are very much like athletes. Take care of your body/instrument by stretching out the vocal muscles and relieving the body of unnecessary tension before singing.

 

Q = Quit smoking. Quit talking too loudly. Quit talking too much.

 

R = Raise the Soft Palate. Creating a larger space inside your mouth by raising the soft palate, or fleshy part of the back of our throat, helps achieve a deeper more well rounded singing tone.

 

S = Sing through the vocal breaks. If you do not teach the muscles the necessary actions to sing through the trouble spots, success will never be achieved. Sing through it, sing through it again, and again....

 

T = Tone Placement. Learning the facts about tone placement and resonance make a huge difference in the abilities of a singer. In simple terms, a singer has numerous body cavities (nasal cavity, chest cavity, etc.) and amplifiers (bones, ligaments, etc.) that act as resonators. Focusing the vocal tone through the proper resonating chamber with the proper support is important with regard to controlling and developing your personal sound.

 

U = Unique Voice Under Construction. Remember that your voice has its own unique fingerprint and is constantly changing with our actions, environment, health habits, etc. With this in mind, listen to your own voice often and use vocal training tools to keep your voice on the right track.

 

V = Vibrato. Vibrato is a natural or forced fluctuation of a singing tone. Do not concentrate on learning how to sing with vibrato. Instead, concentrate on the basic foundations of singing, breathing and support. When the proper coordination is achieved, vibrato will occur naturally.

 

W = Water. Water. Water. Drink room temperature water as often as you can to keep your voice organ hydrated. If you only have cold or hot water available, swish it around in your mouth for a moment. This action will keep your voice organ from being startled or stressed by different temperatures.

 

Y = You Can Sing with Impact! Exercise your voice daily with contemporary voice lesson products. Don't Just Sing when You Can Sing with Impact!

 

Z = Zzzzzzzz. Be sure to get your rest. If you are tired, your voice will show it. A tired body/instrument will not allow you to produce your best possible sound.

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There will be more information added in the near future, but this should keep you going for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If there is any info you need that isn't listed here, help us to help you by e-mailing: info@makemefamous.tv