Demos and the Instrumental music scene – View From a Newcomer (part 2 of 3; Expectations).

Within a few days, I received an e-mail from David Wright expressing interest in my little album and inviting me to contact him, which I duly did. A longer than expected conversation ensued (an indicator of things to come!!!), and an appointment was made to visit David’s Planet Recording Studio in Bungay. The meeting was nothing like anything I expected, very informal, very relaxed and the time from 7.30pm to gone 3am flew by. We talked about a great many things, but David was very clear about the direction and approach of AD Music, how it worked, what it offered and what it would appreciate in return. And for me, the upshot was AD Music were happy to sign “The Garden”.

To me, this was success – my first instrumental music album signed to leading independent label. Why now and not 20 years ago? Apart from the obvious thing of the music being what the label was looking for, a lot of it has been to do with attitude and expectations. When you are coming into the music business, at whatever level, there are a number of things that you have to realise, learn and accept. The very first thing is that you absolutely have to know and accept that this is NOT a fast-track to fame and fortune, so many more fail than those who succeed. And this is also something that is very true when you are in a particular genre, such as electronic music, that does not have total global appeal. Artists within the electronic music genre do it for love, to satisfy a particular passion that pushes you out of the armchair and away from the hi-fi to make the music yourself. So rule number one – don’t expect to get rich quick.

To those who choose not to make music, people of our disposition can seem like “larger-than-life” characters, we are something out of the ordinary, something or someone who takes then away from their everyday lives to a place they may only dream of, even if only for a short time. If you make electronic music, or any style of music, then in my view, that makes you an artist as you are creating something conceived in your imagination, a fantasy coming to life if you like. As I see it, it’s perfectly natural, and quite logical, that if you want to take your art further, then that fantasy has to be extended to include you and how you want the world to perceive you, including a prospective music label. I come from a working background where image was vital and how our first impressions really do have a lasting effect, after all, this is a first introduction and it’s vital that you make the right impression. I decided upon a particular look that I liked, one that I felt suited me as a person and as an “artist” and so I followed that through. I took a few pictures with an ordinary digital camera and played around with the images in a standard image manipulation program to get the “look” I wanted. When preparing my covering letter, I emphasized what I was musically/artistically rather than what I was in everyday life. I created a persona and a look that was not the “normal” me – I think the television advert created for Norwich Union’s pending change of name to Aviva perfectly sums up the point I am making. You have to ask yourself a couple of questions: would I be more appealing to the label using a bog-standard passport photo, or a quick snapshot taken in the garden that showed the real me? Or would I be better off presenting an image that showed what I wanted to be, giving a more professional look indicative of the music I made? I know what I chose because it showed that I was as interested in marketing me as the music, at the same time you and your music are separate, but you are also one and the same. There are many who believe that image takes a second place and that “it’s music that’s important” – very true from a certain point of view, but I believe that to make any head way from the outset, you need to back up your product. From my limited experience thus far, it really does seem to be the case that a little effort in the early stages goes a long way.

I’ve looked at expectations and now I want to look at another important factor which I believe helped me a great deal – attitude. You can take it as red that music labels don’t have time or resources for divas and this is something that can be discovered early in the process. Your demo won’t be perfect and there’s every likelihood that the label will make a few suggestions – be open to these suggestions as what they are doing is not criticizing your work, but making constructive comments that will enhance your product. For example, AD Music felt that one of the tracks from “The Garden” was being let down by poor percussion and they suggested that I go back and re-do that part of the track. I completely re-recorded the percussion and it gave the piece a new lease of life. Another point raised was the production side of things was generally a little lacking in terms of frequency levels needing more attention paid to them through the use of EQ. I was also told that the album was a little short and could I do another couple of tracks – I did this and came back with two new and, for me, quite exciting pieces of music using production principles explained to me in earlier conversations. In short, I was receptive to the minor re-recording suggestions because I knew my production limitations and I knew that these people had a lot more experience than me and, ultimately, it was for my benefit in the long term. Not only was I getting a product that sounded better, but I had learnt new techniques that I could take forward with me into new works. I also mentioned about luck and this was certainly the case as I built up a good rapport with David Wright and in the end we re-mastered the whole album having a barrel load of laughs along the way!!! But I also learnt a great deal from David about production skills and techniques. I am presently mid way through a second album, but a lot more confident of what I am doing on the production front because of everything that I learnt during the mastering of “The Garden”.  Tune in for the last part of the blog tomorrow.

~ by admusic on January 10, 2009.

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