Life In Music Pt.1

music, music business, music industry

The music business is a cycle of hope and disappointment. One minute you’re on the verge of glory, staying up all night to finish the song that is going to be THE ONE that makes it happen for you,  then the door gets slammed in your face. Just like that, dead in the water. All the hard work and sacrifices you made to finish the project you were led to believe would be your big break was all for nothing. It happens time and time again. There are so many false dawns that you become immune to it. Only the strongest survive. If you’re serious about it and have the talent, you brush yourself off and keep grinding- on to the next one. It’s true what they say, there’s not much traffic on that extra mile, don’t take an earlier exit.

It’s hard for those around you to stomach, your family and friends ride the waves with you but aren’t always as resilient as you are. They get excited when you tell them you have the next single on artist X’s new album only for the label to go in a different direction and put your song to one side. You have countless meetings with labels and publishers that lead to no more than adding a new contact to your address book. It gets frustrating. The repetition can wear them down and the support and understanding they give you can waiver at times, especially when you’ve skipped out on family time to finish projects only for it to amount to nothing. They’re the real heroes in this, the ones that stick by you through the constant ups and downs. They believe in you, sometimes when you stop believing in yourself, it takes a strong partner to do that for you. Music isn’t like a regular job with a clear career progression, you just keep working until you make it. You follow the breadcrumbs and alot of the time it leads to dead end. That’s hard to understand for a lot of people, there’s a lot of risk involved and often not much reward. You just can’t lose sight of the big picture, it only takes one song, one person to hear it that can make the difference and change your life. You may not have written that song yet, you’ll never know if you stop.

Time is hugely undervalued and taken for granted in the music business. Label execs or artists think nothing of creating tight deadlines that require you to drop everything to meet and then don’t get back to you for sometimes weeks after you’ve submitted the song. A common response is the “can you send the mp3 again, I can’t find it?” email. Usually meaning that after all that time you put in they just deleted the email that had the song in it. You can’t be mad at it though, they’re just doing their job, it’s just an unfortunate consequence of the game.

From beginning to end a song can take about 20-30 hours to record and mix, if you do it properly (there are plenty songs on the radio that have sloppy vocal edits and half-assed production) and that’s not taking into account the writing. That’s nearly a week’s work for one song that 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to get paid for. You really have to love what you’re doing, we definitely do, otherwise that shit is hard to take.

The message here isn’t to be negative or complain, a lot of sacrifices have to be made in many industries but music has a glamorous vibe to it when in reality it’s a lot of grinding that people never get to see. For every act that makes it, many more have been working just as hard and have just as much talent but didn’t get the break. But that act did make it, which means you can too. That’s the hope you have to hold on to. Even when that deal falls through or your song gets rejected, the next one could be it. Don’t give up.

-HS

Behind The Music Pt.1

music, music business, music industry

As mentioned in Friday’s post (we all read that one right…?) we’re going to be doing some in the studio/behind the scenes videos as it seems to be of interest to people. Today we have no video but we will talk a little about our creative process.

This post was inspired by a recent meeting at a label where we were asked the one question we get asked in pretty much every introductory meeting- “who does what?”, meaning which of us writes the melodies, who writes the lyrics, who plays the instruments etc etc. The answer is always “we do” which leads to “yeah but one of you does the tracks and the other one writes the lyrics, right?”, the answer to that is we both do both. We’ve never thought of it as strange but apparently it’s not common for both players in a partnership to do the same role. This isn’t us trying to speak of how great we are (you should know that already..) but to help you to get a picture of what goes on from beginning to end when we’re in the studio.

Every song is different, sometimes Paolo comes in with a track (music) and Picasso adds to it and we both write the lyrics, or vice versa. Sometimes we both start a track in the studio together and bring in someone to help with the topline (lyrics and melody). Songs can start with Picasso sending a voicemail with a topline, musical ideas and a beat and we just have to make it a reality in the studio. On occasion one of us will have built up a song so much that the other just has to co-sign, make minor changes and we’ll call it a day. We’ve worked with each other so long that we know what the other would do to a song so it’s easy to fill in the blanks.

In terms of the actual creation, songs can start with the music first or the lyrics. Sometimes the beat might inspire certain chord progressions which inspire a vocal melody. It could also be the case that the beat doesn’t feel right after the song is written. This happened with “Can We Kick It” by 3AM Tokyo. We changed the beat 4 times before we settled on the final version, we were sick of hearing the damn song after messing with it so much!

Once the song is written we like to get the artist in to record. It’s frustrating when producers don’t get to cut the vocals but budget and scheduling doesn’t always allow it and they record at another studio with a different engineer or producer. There’s only been one song that we didn’t record the vocals and the artist wasn’t happy and neither were we. We didn’t have what we needed and the artist didn’t sound how she wanted to sound (which we would have made happen- vocal production is one of our strong points).

What happens next is the most time consuming part of the process- editing. Editing vocals takes a long time. Balancing harmonies, making composites of the vocals (comping) and tuning the vocals. Make no mistake, the majority of songs you hear were not recorded in one take, nor are they recorded particularly in tune. Words, and sometimes parts of words are spliced together to get the best sound of the vocal. A lot of work goes into perfecting the vocals and there’s no going back to how it used to be. We are all so conditioned to hear the slightest imperfection because vocals are so flawless in commercial releases now.

After this is done we mix the song. Making sure it sounds good by balancing the levels and optimizing the sound quality of the recording. This part doesn’t take so much time in terms of blocked out periods but we often sit with a mix and revise it over a few weeks- listening on different sound systems in different environments to ensure the song translates over multiple systems. What might sound great in our studio might sound like shit in your computer speakers!

We will get around to doing some in depth videos about our process, every writer/producer has their own way of doing it so it’s always cool to see. Check out our instagram for short videos of us in the studio doing our thing until then.

-HS

From Demo to Release- Close Da Blinds

music, music business, music industry

Music has this funny ‘magic’ that makes people assume that a song is written and ends up sounding great almost instantaneously. This is true with some music but most of the time a song sounds completely different from the initial idea when it is released- and the process can take years. Like any other creative process you build on an initial idea until you have a finished product, sometimes it’s changed so much that you wouldn’t recognize that original idea. A good example of that is “So Into You” by 3AM Tokyo which started as a completely different song by our good friend Martin Evans aka Tricktheflow. We used some of the chords he had recorded and it transformed into another song entirely. And guess what? We didn’t use that song either! We took the music and re-wrote a completely new topline (vocal melody and lyrics) which became “So Into You”.

We’re not going to let you hear those initial songs because we ended up re-working them for other projects, but what we will let you hear is the first demo of Close Da Blinds and the final release so you can hear the differences.

In all honesty what we released was actually still a demo, we put it on Spotify, iTunes and other digital outlets because it was featured on MTV’s Real World: San Diego and we wanted to allow people the chance to listen to it before it ended up on YouTube in horrible sound quality (it’s happened with some of our other songs featured on TV). Angel Demar laid the vocals for us in demo form, that’s why you don’t hear any adlibs and we never had her redo them.

Submitting songs for placement on TV as writers/producers is a fine balancing act. Financially you won’t receive as much as a placement on a major label release but it’s still more than worthwhile. It just means you have to think about the time you commit to it compared to what else you’re working on. This is why we often submit demos, unless you’re an artist the exposure you get from the credits on a TV show won’t matter as much to a writer/producer. We produce most of our demos to a commercial grade quality, if we want to produce the song we don’t want anyone at the label wondering whether they should call up a big name to do the job because we submitted a half-assed production. The idea is when an A&R, artist or their manager hears the demo they know that HeatSeekerz will make sure the production is on point. Doing this allows us to use our demo recordings on TV shows because it already sounds good enough.

Below you’ll find the original demo of Close Da Blinds and the released version. The mix is clearly superior on the released version, everything sounds balanced and polished (of course we’d say that, we mixed it!). There are a few musical elements that made the cut from the demo but for the most part we replaced the drums, added new instrumental melodies and utilized a fresh pallet of sounds. People seem to love this song because of the hook (try asking someone to close the blinds without thinking of and then singing ‘close the blinds, close the blinds’ to them!).

We’ll let you guys hear the contrast for yourselves, we won’t bore you by dissecting the music and explaining why we changed the sounds, the truth is it just sounded better!

Enjoy!

-HS

ORIGINAL DEMO:

RELEASED VERSION: