How to: Get programmed on a festival

How to: Get programmed on a festival

 Festivals are a great opportunity to play to new audiences, but landing a coveted spot requires some serious planning and research – performer applications can open as early as a year in advance.

How to give your application the best shot.

    “First and foremost, we are a blues festival,” says Gill. “Every year we get applications from musicians who are clearly not blues artists, trying to stretch the definition of blues to fit what they do. So number one, only apply to appropriate festivals.”
    “We are looking for a range of artists across the different blues genres, so the more we know about an artist, the better we know how they might fit in,” says Gill. “Read the application form closely and make sure that all criteria are addressed as fully as possible.”
    “Price is important,” says Gill. “We need value for money. Asking a fair price for your performance and being prepared to negotiate with our music programmer if necessary will help. Being flexible about the times and days you’re available to perform is also helpful.”
    How well you’ve been received by past audiences is obviously crucial, but it’s also important to make a good impression on festival staff. Programmers, marketers, production and admin staff all play an important role in getting you on stage and getting punters in front of it. Help them do a good job by supplying tech specs, marketing materials and completed paperwork in a timely fashion. They’ll be more likely to welcome you back with open arms the next time you apply.
    Don’t wait until the last day to submit your application. “Applying early will increase your chances,” says Gill. So start doing your research and get those applications in!
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How to: Get your music on Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and beyond

How to: Get your music on Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and beyond

Digital now accounts for 62% of the recorded music market in Australia. That’s a hefty piece of the pie, and one you probably want to share in. If you have a record deal, it’s likely that your label takes care of getting your music on to digital services like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and Pandora. But digital music providers rarely deal with individual artists, so if you’re an independent songwriter, composer and musician looking to release your music, you’ll need a digital music aggregator.

Aggregators are a conduit to help you distribute your music globally through digital stores and streaming platforms. They make their money by charging upfront fees and/or charging a percentage of revenue earned from the streaming and downloading of your music.

In some cases, aggregators will also charge an ongoing annual fee to keep your content online. New subscription models are also starting to appear, where an annual fee is charged and set according to the number of songs or albums you want to distribute.

So how do you choose an aggregator?

The first thing to note is that there is no one standout aggregator that works for all.

The best option for you may change over time, and what might work at the start of your career may not be the best option down the track. You should spend time researching each aggregator so you can make an informed decision that works best for your needs.

We have pulled together a summary of just some of the aggregators working in this region to give you an overview of what’s available. Check it out here.

Apple has a dynamic list of its recommended aggregators listed here and Spotify also provides information about suggested aggregators here.

Things to look out for:

  • Term: Make sure you understand how long the contract is for and what termination clauses are in place – especially regarding penalties if you terminate your contract early.
  • Fees: What are they and how are any additional charges applied?
  • Rights: What’s covered and what might you be liable for? Understanding the difference between the sound recording and mechanical (underlying musical work) rights is imperative. For example if you make any cover versions of songs available for sale in the USA, you should be aware digital ‘mechanicals’ are often paid back to labels, or in the absence of a label, you the artist, by your aggregator. This means you could be responsible for paying those mechanicals to the rightful copyright owners. Also be wary of an aggregator that may ask you to waive your performance or ‘communication to the public’ rights.
  • Publishing and synchronisation: Is your aggregator asking you to assign synchronisation rights, and if so, what benefits are they offering to you in return? Ensure you are fully aware of what rights you are assigning if you engage an aggregator to provide you with publishing services.
  • Digital service providers: Does your aggregator service the music stores you want your music to appear on? For example if you create electronic music, does your aggregator service Beatport?
  • Submission criteria: Some specialist stores do not accept all music. Beatport, Pandora and Juno are notorious for screening. Therefore there’s no guarantee your music will be distributed via these channels.
  • Delivery times: How long will it take before your music appears on a digital music service?

Most importantly, you should always read the terms and conditions. If legal jargon is not your thing, make sure you seek independent legal advice. The Copyright Council and Arts Law Centre of Australia offer great legal resources.


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From acoustic to electric guitars and everything in between, this tutorial will get you comfortable recording anything in the chordophone family.


Listening track: Kiss A Girl – Keith Urban

There’s no one way to record guitars. There are as many variations of guitar recording techniques as there are guitars. And when I say ‘guitars’, I’m not just referring to electric and acoustic guitars, but lumping in other chordophones like banjos, mandolins, resonators and ukuleles as well… which makes for a lot of techniques. The aim of this article is to get us thinking about the best ways to get the sounds we need, by focusing on our ideas and concepts first, then choosing our tools and techniques second, making the process as seamless and inspiring as possible.

Whenever you’re facing a situation with as many creative variables as guitar recording, the most important thing to do is not do anything. That’s right. Before you go plugging anything in, just stop! Spend a minute or two mapping out what you’re trying to achieve with the live take and any upcoming overdubs. Let’s take a country track as an example. Rather than just diving into the guitar tracks, stop and conceptualise them first, then make a detailed list that may read something like this:

• Double tracked acoustic guitars

• Twangy telecaster lead lines

• Long, timed, tremolo strums throughout

• Big grunty chords in the chorus; double tracked

• ‘Scene change’ Leslie guitar line in the bridge

• Guitar solo

• Imitation reverby ‘pedal steel’-type guitar throughout

• Banjo line in verses

• Mandolin in breakdown verse

By my count, that one song could involve up to 11 different instruments, a couple of capos and multiple recording approaches! It’s easy for the process to get convoluted. By laying it out, you have a clear sense of what you’d like to attempt. There’s no guarantee these overdubs will all work, but they will give you a pretty clear starting point, and certainly help you refine your vision as the overdubbing process evolves.

Top Tip: Make a guitar production plan first!


This applies to any guitar recording situation; whether you’re a solo singer/songwriter, or play an obscure form of Scandinavian metal. Even better; use sonic references to give the creative team a clearer understanding of when to use different recording techniques.

The most successful guitar sessions begin with a guitarist knowing where they want to go. I may play them a song once and they’ll say, “Telecaster for the main rhythm track with a ‘Mellencamp’ tone; Gretsch into the Vox, heavily compressed, as a secondary rhythm; the Strat into the Boogie with slight phaser for the solo; and 6- and 12-string acoustics, the latter with a capo on the 5th fret panned left and right to give that rhythmic shimmer.” Boom! They’ve basically given me a roadmap for the next two hours of work.

Listen to Keith Urban’s Kiss A Girl for an example of well-planned guitar tones that effectively build the track.



As a producer, you’ve decided you want some acoustic guitar in your track. But what sort of acoustic sound are you after? Is it a nice and close James Taylor-esque vibe, or a ‘John Lennon-in-1964’ heavy strum, or the more ambientWar-era U2 acoustic guitar bashing? Behind these choices are three very different approaches but each starts with choosing the right instrument.

While electric guitars come in a variety of shapes and configurations that are easy to delineate from each other, acoustic guitars generally all have a similar configuration — body, sound hole, neck. And while a $200 acoustic may not look that dissimilar to a $50,000 acoustic, they’re often incredibly different beasts. Fortunately, as an engineer, there’s a few simple things you can get into the habit of doing to peel away the veneer and mother of pearl inlays and get at the sound.

The easiest is to just listen. If you have a general idea that your guitarist is going to gently finger-pick, get them to play something stylistically similar while they’re working parts out. Walk around in front of the guitarist — up close, pulled back a little further, near where the neck joins the body, down at the base of the instrument — and listen. If there’s a few different guitar options, get the guitarist to change them around every 20 seconds or so. I guarantee it will take you only about one minute, and in that time you’ll be able to make a decision about which guitar is the right one, where it sounds best and whether the part is working with your own ideas.

Conversely, if they’re playing a harder, heavier strumming part, step back even further and listen to how it’s exciting the room. You’ll also be able to work out quickly whether you want the sound to feel up close and tactile, or more ambient and enveloping.

A trap is thinking that just because a guitar is big with a commensurately big sound, it’ll sound ‘big’ under the mics. One of the most impressively loud and expensive-sounding acoustics I’ve owned came across as overly boomy, undefined in the mid range and hollow in the top end when recorded. Conversely, I have a moderately-priced acoustic that has a more closed and confined tone, and mics love it both up close and far away. Guitarists feel comfortable playing it too, because they can play hard into it without fear of the sound ‘running away’ from them.

Top Tip: First and foremost, find an acoustic that works for the part you have planned.



Picking the right mic for the job requires even more listening. I generally prefer large diaphragm condenser microphones on acoustics, especially for a big bold tone. But small diaphragm condensers give a different sense of focus and sometimes a cleaner top end. I’m always wary of proximity effect particularly on closer finger-picking, but even on the big strummy stuff. Too much bottom end is going to over work your compressor before it hits tape. I’ll often put my condenser mic into omni and move it much closer to the guitar, eliminating proximity effect while keeping the tonal focus of the top end. For more robust-sounding tracks, I love dynamic microphones pushed hard into a compressor. And of course, one of my favourite acoustic sounds is multiple guitarists all playing the same chords around one mic in omni, triple tracked!


Top Tip: Pick a mic with the right focus, but try an omni pattern if proximity effect is bringing the boom.

So how do you find that sweet spot for the mic? When I’m playing an acoustic guitar track, I’ll put up an appropriate mic (which can change) in a general position. But then, while tuning, practicing an idea or talking to the artist about the part, I’ll find myself moving around the mic. If my chair has wheels (which it almost always does), I’ll be changing my angle, my distance, sometimes even the whole positional relationship to the mic while listening with headphones on. Somewhere in all this shuffling around, I’ll find the sweetspot where the combination of the instrument, the mic and the air sound as close as possible to the sound I’ve conceptualised. At that point I freeze, and make a mental note of the position.

If I had to spell out a starting position, it would be with the mic at a 45-degree angle to the point where the guitar neck meets the body. But I always move around from that position. Sometimes I end up close to the guitar with a more acute angle. Other times I end up 90 degrees on axis, but back a metre! This part of the process is critical for you to dial in the right sound.

Top Tip: Swivel on a chair around the mic until you find the right spot for your guitar.



I’ve always found the more ‘strummy’ the part is, the less mics you need. Conversely I almost always use more than one mic for lighter finger-picked parts. Often it will be in a classic two-mic configuration, of one near the neck and the other behind the strumming hand, pointed at the lower bout of the instrument’s body. In this case, the second mic is supporting the first, and, because the sound will have a lot more bottom end, I may use a more ‘narrow’ mic, like a dynamic or a small diaphragm condenser. Generally I’ll pan the two mics hard left and right, resulting in a moderately narrow stereo image with a little stereo movement. Listening to James Taylor’s crystal clear finger-picking style on Carolina On My Mind, it sounds like the engineer used a two mic combination to capture the clarity of his articulation without sacrificing the body of the guitar tone. The guitar seems to have just enough width to indicate the two mics were probably panned hard left and right.

Another alternative might be to use a good mic/bad mic combination. Once you’ve found your sweet spot, put your good mic there, and supplement it with something weird, like a crusty dynamic, or ribbon mic or something really obtuse like the Copperphone. I’ve even put up a mic with a busted diaphragm and combined it with the original ‘good’ tone. You’ll be surprised at how much of this ‘bad mic’ you end up using. Seconds by U2 is an example of a guitar tone that has been chosen to feel grittier and tactile. Perhaps a combination of a smaller, boxy-sounding guitar and a dynamic mic.

I regularly mix sessions that come in with two tracks of acoustic guitar. I assume they’re two takes, but it’s actually one guitar with two mics playing big strummy parts intended to ‘lift’ the choruses. Panning these tracks hard left and right usually results in a big slab of mono, right where the vocals and bass are sitting in the mix. My recording approach is to double track the strummy acoustics to lift a section, rather than expecting a stereo configuration to do that job. Conversely, if you’re looking for intimacy in your finger-picking, double-tracking may not only depersonalise the part, but also be quite time consuming; stereo miking may be more appropriate.

Top Tip: Multiple mics can give width to a detailed finger-picking part, but try double-tracking heavy strumming if you want width.



Some people love them, other people not so much. I love them because they allow you to play chord progressions in easier to play positions with more open chords. These sorts of chords tend to ring out more fully, yielding a more substantial tone. Double-tracked guitars make a great case for slapping a capo on one side, showering you in rich harmonics and good overtones, and helping emphasise the size of your acoustic contribution.


Compression can be vital for turning an unamplified acoustic guitar sound into something larger than life. There’s no rules for this. Some will favour transparency, while others want to hear the gain reduction. I’m firmly in the latter group. Ensure your attack times aren’t completely killing the front of your strumming or picking, and your ratios help determine how aggressive your compressor will sound. The acoustic guitar on Steve Earle’s Transcendental Bluesis being smashed with loads of gain reduction, effectively electrifying this acoustic tone.

Going even further back to John Lennon’s acoustic guitar tones on The Beatles’ records, what you’re generally hearing is a Neumann U47 into an Altec or Fairchild compressor, being hit pretty hard with a moderate attack, then adding the tape machine’s own saturation on top before hitting the master bus compressor again at mix time. These various layers of compression, in combination with a killer right-hand strumming technique, are a huge part of the sound of The Beatles’ records throughout their career.

Top Tip: Compression can make an acoustic sound larger than life, but watch those attack times if you want to hear that pick.


These concepts are all applicable for the rest of the pack like High Strung/Nashville guitars (a 6-string with only the thinner strings from a 12-string pack), banjos, resonator guitars or mandolins. Listen to the instrument, place the right mic where it needs to be, and work out if it’s a single or double mic track, or a double-tracked overdub. Be wary that the sound may emanate from a different part of the instrument. For example, Resonator guitars and banjos seem to come across better with a mic closer to the bridge. Some open back banjos even sound better from the rear of the instrument. Mandolins may sound better with the mic nearer to the F hole. There’s no magic technique — just define the sound, and move around until you get close to it.

Conceptualisation is just as important with electrics as it is with an acoustic track. There’s simply a bigger arsenal: guitars, pedal boards and amplifiers, both real and virtual. The tonal combinations a good guitarist can access is astounding.



When I’m called in to do sessions, there are some default colours I need to have covered. For an album project, it wouldn’t be unusual to take at least six guitars. Remember, the actual guitar is your first physical point of creative connection with the part you’re about to play. If an instrument inspires you to play in a way that suits your production aesthetic, you are truly halfway there.

To cover the bases for an album recording project, I would usually take the following:

• A guitar with humbuckers for thicker tones — perhaps a Les Paul or SG.

• A guitar with single coil pickups — usually a Telecaster.

• Something in between — either a Grestch or something with P90 pickups.

• One or two ‘specialty guitars’ — a 12-string, or a guitar with a higher action for slide playing.

• A guitar with a weird combinations of pickups — my current favourites are Goldfoil pickups; or a specific tone — like a Rickenbacker.

• A B-Bender if I’m doing a country song that requires it.

Even though guitarists often agonise over their pedal boards, if you’re a producer/engineer it’s worth having a few trustworthy basics on hand. A couple of different overdrive/distortion options, and a delay and tremolo can regularly get you out of a bind. Do some research into the boxes that regularly appear on good guitarist’s boards, and invest in your own board. It can save a situation when the guitarist is struggling to nail his own combination.

It’s a similar story with amps. Once upon a time you needed to have a few amps around to cover as many bases as possible. These days, I have a couple of amps, but also know my way around amp simulators. If you’re struggling to get the tone you want from your amp, plug in a DI to stop the session from stagnating and get a ‘placeholder’ sound that you can refine within your DAW or re-amp when the pressure’s off. A lot of guitar players are still on the fence about the validity of amp simulators, but they’re pretty good these days, and rather than being in a situation where you have to choose between one or the other, embrace both worlds and make them work for you in the creative environment.

Top Tip: There’s a lot of electric guitar gear to choose from, so if you’re a producer, make sure you have the basics well covered, including handy virtual options.


Once upon a time, it was assumed the only way to get a big sound in the studio was through a big amp turned uploud. But as guitar recording has evolved, so has our approach to amp size. The ‘secret’ to recording any guitar amp is to find its ‘sweetspot’ — the point where it is being pushed in its circuitry hard enough to sound big and full. Below this point volume-wise, the amp is being under worked, which is rarely the sound you want. Beyond the magic gain area, the amp goes in to a form of distress, which may be exactly what you want.

While I don’t have any issue with louder amps, an amp with a moderate output will generally do the trick in the studio. Getting a 30-50W amp into its sweet spot will usually give you what you need. A lot of guitarists and engineers find smaller amps more manageable in the studio; you can get the right gain level without ear-bleeding volume issues.

Not all amps sound the same. Here’s a small list of a few iconic examples of popular guitar amps and their users:

Vox AC30 – The Beatles, Brian May, The Edge.

Fender Dual Showman, Deluxe, Twin – Keith Richards, James Burton, Mike Bloomfield, Pete Townshend, Neil Young.

Marshall – Angus Young, Billy Joe Armstrong, Eddie Van Halen.

Top Tip: Get to know the level where your amp is happiest and record that!



Assuming we’re plugging into our amps and we have our first killer sound coming out of our cabinet, it’s time to put some mics up and get recording. I know one main thing; if it doesn’t sound great at the source, there’s nothing an engineer can do to fix it. And if it sounds great it’s hard to mess it up! I can’t stress how important it is to make sure the sound is the right sound coming out of the amp. Don’t be scared to get down to speaker level to listen. A lot of guitarists only ever hear their amp pointing at the back of their legs. When you put a mic on the speaker cone, they often complain about the sound being too bright. So before you put any mics up, it is essential to go and listen to the guitar amp every time!

Once you have listened and made any necessary adjustments, go back and think about what you had in mind for the sound of this particular guitar part. Think about not only the tonal aspects, but also ambient aspects. Does it need to feel fleshy and tactile and close, or a bit more roomy and ambient? These desired characteristics will have a huge influence on your mic selection and positioning. Not only that, go up moderately close to the amp and just move your head around and back a bit. You’ll soon find some spots where the sound seems to have a ‘purer’ voice. I usually recommend putting a mic there, wherever that might be, regardless of whatever else you do!

Top Tip: Get your ears down to the speaker level to find the sweet spot and put a mic there.


Having a reliable tuner plugged in and ready to go at all times is critical in a recording situation. Encourage your guitar players to check tuning regularly. Never assume that just because all strings are in tune at the open string that you’ll be in tune once you start playing chord shapes. It’s a much better idea to get used to being in tune at the open strings, then running through the combination of chords and shapes you’ll play during the song and see if they’re in tune, adjusting and ‘averaging’ your tuning so you can get through the song. You’ll soon start to find ways to shape their chord positions to sound more ‘in tune’.

There’s nothing worse than listening back to guitar parts where every time a D chord is played you realise the A note on the second fret of the G string is out of tune. Train your ears to be vigilant in spotting tuning issues, get used to the tricks to make guitars feel more in tune — like different chord shapes and positions — and don’t be scared to retune troublesome guitars and drop in every time there’s an out of tune D chord.

I’ve tried many different approaches to amp miking. For a long while, I would put a single mic back a metre or so, in the spot where the sound waves of the amp have developed a bit more. The mic is usually a dynamic, but not always — it’s not unusual to use a large diaphragm condenser in this spot. If the amp sounds good, it’s a simple way to capture a realistic representation. The other technique I’ve been using is to combine two very different tonal mics together reasonably close to the speaker cabinet. It always involves one ribbon mic, which is usually a little duller, pointed right at the centre of the speaker, in combination with another more ‘toppy’ mic. Usually that’s a Shure SM57, but it may also be a large diaphragm condenser, and this will be a little away from the centre of the speaker, to soften the tone a little. The critically important factor is that the diaphragms of both mics have to be at the samedistance from the speaker, to maintain the phase relationship between the mics. This way you’re getting the best of each mic representing the best bits of the amp sound.

The thing I love about this technique is that, if recorded on to two tracks on a DAW, they essentially act as ‘bass and treble’ representation of the guitar sound, that you can balance appropriately against the track as your production develops. In other words, if at some point the guitar sound is a bit too gnarly, reduce the 57 and favour the ribbon mic, and vice versa if the sound is too cloudy or thick. These slight 3-5dB changes when you’re balancing the guitars against each other in the production can go a long way, without you having to reach for an equaliser!

Top Tip: Try balancing the sound of two different mics to give you the right blend, rather than reaching for an EQ.

Lastly, you might want to consider a ‘room mic’. Often I record guitar amps in our vocal booth, so there’s usually some sort of vocal mic already plugged in, going to a preamp and compressor. When I need a guitar sound to have a little more ‘air’ I’ll open up that channel onto another track. Sometimes it can be left where it is. But other times I’ll go and point it away from the amp, put it into an omnidirectional pattern, or push it right up against the window or into a corner for some weird reflections. If you do this, always check the phase.

I use this a lot when I’m going for that Neil Young Alabama sound — often I’ll put a delay only on the ambient mic to separate it a little further from the close mics, and maybe even pan the close mics one way and the delayed room mic the other for maximum width. It can be a fun way to push your guitar sound beyond just a good sound into something really special.

Top Tip: Try adding a room mic for a bit more air. Get fancy with some delay to push it even further away.



Having an understanding of how guitars are layered is a critical component to producing better guitar tracks. The two examples by Green Day and Everclear are virtual masterclasses in guitar layering, with each layer having a slight tonal and drive variation, resulting in the dynamics of both songs changing, pushing and pulling, and building.

When you’re mapping out your guitar parts at the start of your session, discuss whether you’ll be building up the song with overdubs or going for a simpler ‘guitars and a solo’ approach like The Black Crowes’Remedy.


If everyone has done their job right, at this point you should barely have to do anything! Bring the mics into some good preamps that you know and trust. I don’t usually EQ these mics at all, beyond possibly a hi-pass filter at between 80-110Hz. In terms of compression, my own ‘rule’ is simple — the cleaner the guitar tone the more compression you need! So for those clean funky rhythm parts, don’t be scared to get the gain reduction knobs moving as you track, and play into the sound. But for the big rock things where you’re overdriving your amp, keep the sound big and open, and let the amp breathe.

Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds is an early example of deliberately using studio compressors to influence a guitar tone, with the sound being run into several compressors to flatten the dynamics of the playing. The moderate attack and release time, and high ratio of compression provide maximum note articulation and sustain, unheard of before on the electric guitar. It’s a masterclass in guitar compression!

Top Tip: Electric guitar recording doesn’t require much post work. But sometimes compression can create a different sense of movement.


At this point, you’re largely ready to roll. With preparation like this, not much can go wrong. Just keep checking your tuning, and sit back on the groove! A lot of musicians have a tendency to push the front of the beat pretty heavily. That’s fine if that’s the vibe you’re going for. But in general, make sure they’re hearing their overdub in a good balance with the rest of the track, and remind them to listen and sit in with the existing tracks. It’ll make your tracks feel like they have more authority and confidence, and make them easier to work with.

Whatever you do, just remember to think about what you’re doing first. Then make sure your sound is happening and your guitar in tune. After all that, recording the guitar is the easy part.

Originally published here: and here:

Commonly Overlooked Dance Music Production Techniques

Producing music is hard work – and even when it’s a daily routine, it can be easy to forget important techniques and elements that make a song a real winner. Today we’re rounding up a few lessons from a powerful discussion on Reddit, with some incredibly useful tips for avoiding overlooking key production techniques.

Music production is one giant rabbit hole, with so many facets that it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of everything when making a track. That is why having friends listen to tracks, collaborating, and even testing a track on a club’s sound system helps producers find aspects that were overlooked during the first production sessions.

A recent discussion in the /r/edmproduction discussed some important aspects that music producers commonly overlook. The whole thread is worth sifting through, but we’ve collected a handful of key tips that producers should think about next time they’re in the studio.

Don’t Depend on Percussion Loops

KLN_PRKR‘s initial post started the conversation with the advice to not get in the habit of grabbing a percussion loop and leaving the loop in the track. Oliie responded directly, noting about percussion loops:

Loops are great for sampling and ideas however it is going to take a lot of trial and error to find the perfect loop that fits the already written bass or synth line.The alternative is to get in the habit of creating percussion loops. This practice gives the percussion section the same groove as the rest of the track and expands a producer’s ability to create rhythmic patterns.

Speaking of rhythm, don’t let all the drum hits stick at 100% velocity. PSteak offered a great example of Nine Inch Nail’s drummer playing “Wish” live:

Notice how the pattern, if sequenced straight with a DAW, is just a bunch on 16th notes. Everything at 100% velocity would leave the drum pattern sounding like a machine gun stutter. However, a variance and accents on the one (this varies on the type of hit) give the pattern life through rhythm.

Reference Tracks and Learn From (Insert Favorite Producer Here)

Blooming producers have a lot to learn when it comes to music production and one of the most overlooked aspects discussed among producers is song arrangement. There are of course issues with standardized arrangements being used in every single track under the sun, but it is crucial to understand typical arrangements and why they work so well. For example, dance music’s most common song structure is a four to the floor beat filled within an intro, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, and outro. These arrangements are outlines for blooming producers and the best way to learn the outline is by referring to a track from a more established producer.

A technique that is recommended often is taking a track and dropping it into a DAW. Slice the track into different sections (intro, verse, chorus, etc.) and name each section appropriately. Then, build a track following that arrangement. Once the arrangement is dialed in, then feel free to innovate within.

Author’s Note: There’s a lot of room for debate here re:arrangement, discuss more in the comments about creativity, style, and standard sounds.

Spacing, Tension, and Release

As Claude Debussy once said, “Music is the space between the notes.” While some producers struggle with making their tracks sound “full” (more on this later) there is the other end of the spectrum full of producers with tracks that sound cluttered or lack the tension and release that make a track into a beast. All great tracks, ambient or powerful, play with space. This comes into play as space between instruments, space between FXs, and space between two parts of a track.

While it may be overkill for the average to producer to spend a year studying Ahmad Jamal like Miles Davis did, consider the following tips:

  • Get rid of the scraps and keep the meat. Less is more if there is enough space for every sound. – The_Real_dubbedbass
  • .5 to .1 second pauses can make a huge difference on a tracks tension and release. Play around with pauses between different sections of a track. – fambamusic

Tension and release can also be a huge factor when creating on-the-fly buildups when DJing – watch Ean’s advice on that below: 

Get the Audience to Hum the Track

A catchy song is commonly defined by the melody. It may be hard for the average DJ to admit they can hum the melody to Levels, but chances are they can because the melody isrepetitive (grabs the audience’s attention) and interestingly varied (keeps them interested / attentive).

Along the same lines, it is important to make the distinction that pleasure listening music and club music vary when it comes to melodies. Whereas pleasure listening music has interesting, complex melodies, club music melodies may be as simple as two bars of notes.

Humanize the Sounds

Music is dependent on rhythm and groove which can’t always be replicated naturally by a DAW. The liveliness of a track comes from the human touch producers give to tracks which can be done through a multitude of ways.

  • Automation is the key to making a track seem “fast-paced” while also keeping everything exciting.
  • Playing percussion patterns can turn a stale loop into a funky one. This also will help build a producer’s understanding of rhythm.
  • Melodies also can be humanized by playing notes almost on beat. The best way to get a good melody loop is by recording a producer playing the melody over and over again. Then go back and find the best version that sounds natural, but also is in-time with the rest of the track.

Sound Design

Sound design is a gnarly beast to conquer for a young producer however it is not all auditory science. There are a few tricks to incorporate that can make a track sound even better.

  • Maximize the signal to noise ratio by widening certain instruments and condensing the others. Research gain staging to help with this. Synths generally span over the entire track where as snares will hit directly in the middle. – yungsturHoly_City
  • Clipping (generally) shouldn’t occur anywhere in the mix. This means a producer should look at the levels within the effects in a chain as well as on each channel. – yungstur
  • “Stereo width. Mono your sub frequencies, don’t push out your high frequencies too far or they’ll sound disjointed and awkward.” – TheShayo
  • Pitching snares, kicks, and percussions can make a track sound even more harmonic although this isn’t always necessary depending on a producer’s genre and how low the frequencies are for each drum hit. This is a vital for trap and dubstep producers to take productions to another level. – cerulean94

There’s a lot to remember when it comes time to make a track in the studio. While we highlighted some of the important aspects that are overlooked when producing music there is still a lot to take into consideration such as FX (use them!), frequency competitions, and the importance of polarization. A producer won’t catch everything, but excelling with a handful of tools will compensate for any short comings.

Originally published here:

Master Class: Song Release Checklist

Master Class: Song Release Checklist

Today it’s extremely easy to release a song and get it distributed worldwide. With the click of a mouse, you can upload your latest track and sell it on iTunes or stream it on Spotify and Apple Music. Within a few hours, the music can be in the ears of fans around the globe.

So, distribution is no longer a mystery, but musicians still often make the mistake of skipping the essential steps that music labels know they must take before they distribute music into the world, to protect artists’ rights and prepare to earn royalty income. There are seven simple registrations you need to take care of if you’re not working with a label.

But first, let’s review a basic understanding of copyright, as well as the steps to prepare your music business so you’re ready to register songs when you release them and can collect royalties starting on day one.


All seven registrations flow from the two copyrights you receive once you create a new original song. These copyrights give you ownership of the work. Some musicians make the mistake of only registering one of the two, but once you understand the two copyrights at stake—and the royalties you can make from them—you won’t miss the necessary registrations.

The first copyright is for the composition: the song itself. This is about the underlying work you created that can be recorded, performed, or covered by other bands. No matter how many different versions, arrangements, or recordings of the song are made, you only need to register the song once using the Performing Arts (PA) form. This is normally registered by the songwriter(s) of the song.

The second copyright is for the sound recording— sometimes called the master recording. Each sound recording you make of a song creates a separate copyright; for example, a live recording, a studio recording, and an alternate acoustic version are three different sound recordings and therefore three different registrations. To register each of these, you’d need to use the Sound Recording (SR) form.

Labels usually own the SR copyright and the songwriters usually own the PA copyright. But if you’re an independent artist and composer, you’re both the label and the songwriter, and you own both.

Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required because copyright law automatically gives you a copyright in an original song as soon as you capture it in a fixed format (digital recording, sheet music, etc.). Most labels register the copyright, however, because it grants additional rights, including the ability to sue for damages and attorney’s fees. (And if you don’t register within three months of release, you lose some of those benefits, although you still own the song and can still register it in order to sue someone for infringement.)


SoundExchange collects sound recording royalties, while SESAC (along with ASCAP and BMI) collects composition royalties.

The composition copyright can generate money for you each time the song is performed live, played on the radio, or performed as a cover by another artist. Royalties are set by statute: 9.1 cents per copy/play. Composition performance royalty organizations (PROs) collect money from radio stations, TV stations, restaurants, live music venues, and websites, and they distribute royalties to copyright owners. These royalties are based on surveys and other data, and each PRO does its research differently.

What some musicians miss is that the royalty system splits royalties between two roles: the songwriter and the publisher. If you’re independent and you haven’t contracted out your publishing rights, you must registertwice—as a songwriter and publisher—to receive all the money the song generates.

The sound recording copyright generates royalties administered by the sound recording PRO, SoundExchange ( SoundExchange collects money from streaming services such as Live365, Pandora, and Radionomy. The royalties are based on reports created by the streaming services (required by law), assisted by a digital fingerprint called an ISRC code, which the sound recording owner needs to generate and register. Similar to the composition PROs, royalties are split between multiple roles: the sound recording owner, and the featured performers and producer. Unless others own the recording or were featured performers, you are entitled to all the royalties that SoundExchange collects for these roles. Again, similar to the composition PROs, you need to register yourself as both the sound recording owner and the performer so you can get all the money you’re owed.


Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to musicians successfully securing all seven registrations is the preparation steps that need to be done ahead of time. If you haven’t joined a PRO, it can take a few hours to apply to become a member, plus around two weeks to process your application and accept you as a member. Because of this, we advise you set aside an evening or two to perform the steps below as soon as you can. These are revenue-generating activities, so although they do take you away from creating the music, they’re worth spending a night or two doing, so you can enjoy a lifetime of royalty checks.

1. Create an account at eCO—the Electronic Copyright Office.

Registering at the U.S. Copyright Office’s eCO system ( is free and simply requires your email address and some basic information, such as name, address, and phone number. It takes just a few minutes.

2. Choose a composition PRO.

You’ll want to evaluate which PRO to join based on your needs. The main ones in the U.S. include ASCAP (, BMI (, and SESAC ( (Although to become a member of SESAC, you must be invited by a current member to join.) Each PRO has different methods for surveying music and for determining royalties for radio or TV play. Some accept live set lists so you can get paid when you perform your own music.

Perhaps the most important factor in determining which PRO to choose is that each song can only be registered with a single PRO, and that means all of the songwriters on a song must belong to the same PRO to get royalties. And if you work with other songwriters who belong to different PROs, you can join their PRO, but only if you create a legal entity such as an LLC or corporation to register with them. Note that the single-song-per-PRO limitation still exists, so you’ll need to carefully track the registrations.

3. Register as a publisher with the composition PRO.

A music publisher’s job is to create licensing opportunities for your music—getting it placed in TV, film, or advertising. Publishers get a cut of licensing fees and the publisher royalty generated by the composition PROs. If you’re not working with a publisher, you need to fill this role yourself. You’ll have to generate the opportunities but will collect all the licensing fees and the publisher’s royalty share—but only if you register as a publisher with the PRO.

Don’t leave this money on the table; follow the PRO’s steps to register as a publisher. This process usually requires a contract with the PRO and may take a few weeks to process. That’s why you should do this ahead of time—weeks before you release any music into the world. Once you finish, however, you’ll have a publisher’s account that you can use to register each song you release. You also have the option of acting as a publisher for other songwriters under this account.

4. Register as a songwriter with the composition PRO.

Songwriters get the other half of the composition performance royalty. You’ll need to register with the same PRO as you did in step 3 above. Similar to setting up the publisher account, this requires a contract and may take a few weeks to process. Once this is completed, you’ll be able to register each song under your name.

5. Register as a “both” account with the sound recording PRO (SoundExchange).

SoundExchange will allow you to register an account as a performer, sound recording owner, or both. As an independent musician, you’ll want to choose the “both” option so you can register your recordings under both roles and collect both sets of royalties that your recordings will generate.

6. Choose a method to create ISRC codes.

ISRC codes are digital fingerprints that allow SoundExchange to track your sound recording when it’s streamed. You’ll need to choose a method to generate them for each sound recording you have. If you make a lot of mixes and sound recordings, it may make sense for you to pay the fee to register your own ISRC codes by going to US ISRC ( and creating an account. You can also pay organizations like mastering houses or CD-duplication services to create these for you at a small cost per song or album.

7. Set up a tracking system for your music.

If you release a lot of music, you’ll want to create a spreadsheet or tracking system to make sure you’re performing all seven registrations on all your music. This becomes especially important if you use multiple PROs to ensure the same song isn’t registered at more than one.


Once the preparation steps are completed, you’re ready to perform the seven registrations for all the music you release. This should take less than an hour per album of music.

1. Register each song at using the PA form.

Registering the composition copyright requires you use the PA form. Before starting this process, make sure that you know the names and contact details for all the songwriters of each song. Note that it may be possible to bundle the sound recording (step 2 below) under the same registration if theexact same people are both songwriter and owner of the sound recording. If so, choose Sound Recording as the registration type and choose the “register both” option so you save money. Otherwise, register using the PA form. To get full statutory benefit, register the song before it’s released to the public—and yes, making it available to people via SoundCloud or other internet sites does count as a publication under the law.

2. Register each sound recording at copyright. gov using the SR form.

Each sound recording you make, including all alternate mixes, is a separate sound recording. All can be registered using the SR form. Similar to the above, make sure that you know the names and contact details for all the sound recording owners of each song. Just like with the PA form, in order to get full statutory benefit, you need to register the sound recording before it’s released to the public. Note that even demos can result in YouTube hits and might end up generating royalties, so they are worth registering in your collection as well.

3. Register the song as a publisher at the composition PRO.

Log in to your publisher account at your composition PRO and register your song(s). Doing this will generate the other half of performance royalties generated by the composition. You can register a song that’s already been released, but it will only generate royalties going forward.

4. Register the song as a songwriter at the composition PRO.

Log in to your songwriter account at your composition PRO and register your song(s). Doing this will generate half of the performance royalties generated by the song. Similar to the above, you can register a song that’s already been released, but it will only generate royalties going forward.

5. Register the sound recording as a sound recording owner at SoundExchange.

To collect one-half of the royalties the sound recording produces, log in to your SoundExchange account and register your sound recording(s). Note that you can register sound recordings even after they’ve been released. Simply search SoundExchange’s database to find out if they’ve already been collecting royalties for your sound recording.

6. Register the sound recording as a performer at SoundExchange.

To collect the other half of the royalties that the sound recording produces, you need to make sure you’re listed as the performer under each recording. Just as with the sound recording owner royalties, you can register this even after it’s been released by searching SoundExchange’s database, where you’ll be able to see if they’ve already been collecting royalties.

7. Generate an ISRC code and register it.

Generate an ISRC for each sound recording and register it according to the ISRC instructions. This will increase the likelihood that the recording gets tracked by Sound- Exchange and generates streaming royalties.

Once you’ve completed the seven registrations, log everything into in your spreadsheet and save all documentation that the services generated for you (for example, the registration information from the Copyright Office and PROs).



In addition to the seven essential registrations described above, there are a handful of optional registrations you may want to consider.

1. Register the copyright for the cover art.

The cover art for your album or song can be used to make merchandise, or might be useful for TV and video purposes. It’s not necessary to register the art, but if you sell a lot of merchandise and are concerned about infringement, it may be worth the basic fee to protect it.

2. Register the copyright for the lyrics.

If you’ve ever wondered why lyrics are rarely printed for cover songs in liner notes, it’s because the lyrics are copyrighted too, and the artist covering a song usually needs to pay for the rights to print lyrics. You can register the lyrics the same way you’d register poetry or a literary work so they have the same statutory protections as your music.

3. Register the release at

AllMusic collects all the credits of music releases in its database, which is used by the Grammy Association and other external agencies to track the musicians, engineers, producers, and others who worked on the album. All- Music’s database can sometimes be used to prove that a person is entitled to royalties. Fans also use AllMusic to find out more about their favorite music, so it’s worth the time to register.


Once you’ve registered your music, the next step is to promote it. After all, only music that’s performed will generate royalties. Talk to music supervisors to get your songs used on TV or film, or act as a publisher by running a radio, podcast, or streaming campaign. Then, track key performances of each song. For example, if you know that your song was played on TV, get the cue sheets; if you play your music live, submit your set lists to the PRO. Some PROs have programs like ASCAP Plus that may still pay you some royalties even if the music didn’t generate any survey-tracked plays within their database.

But, these programs will only be successful for you if you submit back up documentation that proves your music was played. Stay on top of when and where your music is performed, and all your hard work can protect your music while helping you generate income from it.

Originally published here: