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

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Music Industry Talk

music, music business, music industry

We’ve been light on posting recently but that’s down to us being ridiculously busy in the studio. It’s obvious we’ve been missed judging by the huge amount of emails and tweets we’ve received asking where we’ve been.. 

We also have some cool video content that we’ll eventually get around to finishing. If you want more of us, because frankly- who wouldn’t?, we can be found on Instagram @heatseekerz_muzic Twitter @theheatseekerz and Facebook /Heatseekerz 
Anyways, we came across this interesting article about the industry. It’s a cool way to look at things. Check it out- 
View at Medium.com
-HS

Get That Money

music, music business, music industry

We’re about half way through 2015 and already the numbers are looking good for touring artists. Last year we saw sponsorship figures come in at $1.34 billion for tours and this year it’s trending to break that number.

Artists like Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum are getting deals worth $1m-$10m per tour from sponsors such as Xfinity, Quicken and Citi. This is smart business from both parties- artists make a huge amount of money on top of their regular touring income and the sponsors can expose their brands to thousands, or in some cases millions, of people.

Goes to show there is still money in music, you just have to know where to find it. As an artist you have to set yourself up to be attractive to sponsors. If you’re out there talking reckless and acting a fool no one is going to throw money your way. Of course the more popular your music is the bigger deals you can make but you have to put yourself in a position where your image and music don’t shut doors for you.

This doesn’t mean you should “sell out” or not be true to yourself but be calculated, think about the moves you make. When we write music we are constantly having conversations about the lyric choices (particularly when writing for other artists), instrumental sounds etc because we have to think past just the song itself. What if we want the song to be featured in a movie or on TV? Does the song have enough energy? Will that word or phrase convey the right message to a demographic outside of the artist’s core fan base? We live in a completely connected world now and music can reach pretty much everyone so there’s no reason to be short-sighted when creating- especially when there is so much money on the table.

Taylor Swift was smart (although we still disagree with her stance on music streaming). She saw the appeal of her crossover records when she tested the water on “Red” which was a mix of her country style and straight factory made pop. The next album “1989” was all pop, she explained why she made the switch in multiple interviews but it’s pretty clear it was driven by the opportunity of gaining mass appeal. That’s not a diss on Taylor, we think she’s a phenomenal talent, but money and exposure are key to career progression. Look back at those numbers at the top, who do you think got the $10m check? The country act (Lady Antebellum) or Taylor, the new pop queen?

The lesson here is if you want to make money in music, be smart. Even if the checks aren’t coming in, get yourself and your music ready- and that goes for writers, producers and artists. It only takes one hit to start a snowball effect but if you don’t have everything set up you won’t be able to last more than one song and will miss out on the big bucks.

Get that money

-HS

New Music Tuesday- Rico Love

music, music business, music industry

This week was a no brainer. New music was released on Monday and our Sesac homie Rico Love had the pick of the bunch. His album “Turn The Lights On” is the best RnB album of the year and it will be difficult for anyone to change that for the rest of 2015.

Rico, for those that don’t know, is a huge songwriter/producer. He’s written hits for superstars like Beyonce, Usher, Kelly Rowland and Trey Songz. This album, while a slight departure from the songs he’s written for said artists, is on par with his body of work as a writer. The music is current but has a classic vibe to it which sets it up to last the test of time. Vocal melodies are on point, you’ll be singing along after a listen or two, without them being predictable. His ability to shuffle between rapping and singing keeps things interesting but this album is all about the songs, they’re dope. That’s not to take away from his skills as an artist, if anything it sheds more light on them. When the songs feel real, the delivery has to be perfect and with “Turn The Lights On”, Rico delivers.

Go ahead and check it out and Rico if you’re reading this we salute you!

-HS

Avery Wilson

music, music business, music industry

Adele, Sam Smith, Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Jessie J, Bruno Mars- what do these singers all have in common? Incredible voices. 

The music business is dead on its ass, how many times have we heard that? The truth is, it’s not. It’s become saturated with weak music- the type you won’t be hearing on ‘classic’ radio stations in 20-30 years- but real singers stand out and still make it big. We just need more of them. This guy, Avery Wilson, is next. Mannnnn can he sing. Those of you who watch The Voice may remember him when he was 16. He’s since taken 3 years out to work on his craft and now he’s back with the support of Clive Davis and Sean Garrett (Google if you don’t know them, but you really should). If your math is up to scratch you’ll realize Avery is just 19 now, hard to believe when you hear him sing. We’ll let his song do the rest of talking for him, it’s a beautiful mid tempo ballad with a stripped back production that lets his vocal take center stage. With more hits like this, Avery has a really bright future ahead of him. If you haven’t heard it already, check out his debut “If I Have To”

New Music Tuesday- Ciara

music, music business, music industry


We’re a little sleepy after the Sesac awards last night but bring you New Music Tuesday, back by popular demand..

This week we’re giving our girl Ciara a shout out for her new album ‘Jackie’. 

Ciara has been quiet for a while now but she’s back strong as ever with this record and is a testament to just staying on your grind and not following the crowd. She bided her time and the music world needed her again, the lane she occupies is completely empty right now with a lot of artists who do similar music either falling off the map or moving over to other genres to get traction on radio. The album also features production from Polow Da Don, a favorite of ours who has been flying under the radar recently. 

Anyways go ahead and have a listen on the streaming service of your choice and check out the lead single “I Bet” above. 

-HS

Switch Up Your Style

music, music business, music industry

The music business is cold, it’ll slam the door in your face just as soon as it invited you in the room. Today you’re hot shit, the big dog in town, tomorrow no one wants to pick the phone up or reply to your emails.

Part of it is fear, label execs don’t want to take risks in case they fail and lose their job. Part of it is wanting the next shiny new toy, the new sound, whoever produced artist X’s new album has to produce yours as they got to number one and that’s where you wanna be. You don’t care that the songs are whack and just regurgitated versions of someone else’s as long as you get to number one. The problem you run into there is you won’t have an identity as an artist, you’ll just be riding a wave until it fizzles out and hits the shore. Then what? People didn’t make your song a hit because of you, they just liked the song. There are so many one hit wonders and that’s why, the artist didn’t stay true to themselves and no one knew who they truly were. The same happens to songwriters and producers. We have a number of friends who were the go-to guys, they won grammys, had number ones and now can’t get a song on anyone’s album because they got left behind.

Pharrell Williams is a perfect example of someone who stayed true to themselves and he’s now bigger than ever. A lot of folks didn’t know who he was until “Get Lucky” came out, they had no idea who the Neptunes or N.E.R.D were. He’s been making hits for 20 years!! He has a signature sound, you always know when it’s him, but he evolved and kept his identity as an artist and producer. Eventually the labels came back to him and gave him the push again. Even after “Get Lucky” blew up they took their sweet ass time before they put out “Happy” which ended up being bigger. You didn’t hear him jump on the EDM (that’s a godawful term by the way) bandwagon or do the trap style hiphop, he did Pharrell Williams and waited for his time to come back around.

It’s not easy to not follow the trends, we all want to get paid and get on radio but if you don’t have an identity why are people gonna keep coming back to hear your music? It’s one thing to throw in certain sounds or melodies to keep your songs current but to try and jump on whatever is popular all the time isn’t good for the long run.

Have faith in yourself and your music. You don’t want to be the next Pharrell or Timbaland. You just want to be next. Bide your time and don’t look for the instant gratification. This game is a bitch and it’ll eat you up if you don’t stay ahead of it.

-HS

Streaming Payouts (Yup, ANOTHER streaming post!)

music, music business, music industry

There’s a lot of talk about music streaming at the moment, partly thanks to TIDAL’s launch and subsequent flop, Apple’s pending entry into the game and labels, artists and songwriters shouting from the rooftops about how unfair the pay outs are.

Let’s be real, the payouts are shit but it’s not the streaming services’ fault (more on that in a second) and according to some mind boggling work posted here, streaming services actually pay more per play than radio does if we were to break it down by actual listener count.

**Before we continue, we know we talk about Spotify a lot but really they’re the only player right now until Apple step in so they’re the best example to use.**

When we say the payouts aren’t the streaming services’ fault what we mean is that they can only pay out from what they are making. If Spotify has 15 million paid subscribers that means they have $150million of revenue per month or $1.8bn annually. They pay out 70% of that which leaves $1.2bn in the pot to split between all the parties, if you want to know how they calculate what to pay check out their explanation here, it’s actually a very interesting read.

The problem with the music industry right now is the streaming services are lacking volume, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…more people equals more money. Those bitching about the money made from streaming services probably don’t subscribe to one which is rather ironic. Get on board the streaming train, music sales are dead! Tell your friends to get on it, tell your family, the more paid subscribers we can get on whatever platform they choose means a bigger pot.

Look a little closer at the Spotify article and you’ll see that by law in the US, statutes dictate that publishers be paid 21% the amount that master recording owners receive. This is actually equal to, if not more than the general 9.1 cents paid out to publishers when a song is purchased digitallty or physically (it’s hard to judge as the percentage that 9.1 cents equates to will vary depending on how much a song is sold for). So just like with radio, if you’re comparing apples to apples, streaming services actually pay out pretty nicely, they just don’t have much to pay out with. Like we mentioned above, Spotify only has 15 millions subscribers world wide, that’s nothing! Wait until there are 150 million, 500 million and hopefully one day billions of people subscribing to streaming services. That’s where the industry is headed and it sucks right now, but we’re all in it together (which is why TIDAL leaves such a bad taste in a lot of our mouths- successful, rich artists complaining they don’t make enough money. It created a bit of a ‘them vs us’.).

Buying an artist’s album isn’t supporting them as much as you’d like to think, they don’t make that much off of album sales- bands and artists never did. Check out the 30 Seconds To Mars movie ‘Artifact’ if you want to know more about that (or even if you don’t, it’s a really good movie). Go and watch them on tour, that’s supporting them, (unless they signed a dreaded 360 deal). Buying their album vs streaming it won’t make you a better fan nor will it likely make them that much more money.

What’s also worth noting is you don’t hear anyone complaining about DJs getting paid 6-7 figures for one night playing other people’s music (sidenote: there is NOTHING wrong with them being paid that but if the mentality that streaming services aren’t allowed to make money off of others’ music exists, why are you OK with DJs doing it? They’re not paying out 70% of their fees to the rights holders like the streaming services are). Sure, writers and publishers get performance royalties from our songs playing in clubs and bars but nothing like 6-7 figures (and the venue/DJ has to report the songs played so you’re relying on that too). There just seems to be a lack of understanding as to what people are actually complaining about when it comes to streaming pay outs. More money coming in means more money coming out. It’s that simple.

Rant over.

Until the next one.

-HS

Make Good Music!!!

music, music business, music industry

We had AJ Lehrman in the lab with us last night, sidenote: watch out for him, and the process kinda inspired this post.

As a songwriter/producer you’ll create hundreds of songs over the course of a few years and realistically only about 1-5% of them actually get used. The right song has to come at the right time for the right person and you’ll find yourself with so much music that goes unused and potentially wasted.

What typically happens for us is record label X will tell us artist Y needs certain types of songs. We’ll then get to work on 3-5 different options that meet the criteria in various ways and send them back over. Sometimes what the label wants changes or they don’t feel the stuff we’ve sent over is a good match- not that they don’t like the song but as we’ve said above, it has to be the right song at the right time for the right artist. Go through this process a few times and all of a sudden you have 20-25 songs just sitting there waiting to be heard (repeat that over a few years and you’ll have quite the back catalog). This is why it’s so important not to try and follow trends and just make good music.

When AJ and his team told us the direction they were thinking of going in we started on a few new songs and went back to the music we’d made a number of years ago that fit the description. We narrowed our choices down to 7-8 tracks and let AJ decide which ones he liked. Some of the more appropriate music was the stuff we’d made back in 2010, it of course needed some updating and refreshing but because all the melodic elements were solid it was easy to bring them to 2015 with a few tweaks to the mix etc. This was only possible because we actively try not to date our songs, using certain sounds to match what is happening on radio is fine- that’s an easy fix later on- but if you’re using certain melodies or cadences from a particular time period you’ll find yourself starting from scratch all too often and potentially adding to a growing catalog of unused and unheard music.

As songwriters/producers we decided at the outset to be smart with our work and not follow everyone else as it’s all too easy to get left behind, it happens to way too many people. Right now DJ Mustard has a signature sound that A&R’s are most likely inundated with copycats of from other producers. When the new sound comes along those songs will be unusable because they’ll be too 2015.

Take home message- just make good music and don’t stop. Don’t try to be anyone else, just do you and you’ll be in the right place at the right time and have the right song for the right artist.

-HS

Singing Down Live

music, music business, music industry

We happened to flick over to the MTV Movie Awards last night before Game of Thrones (it’s back!!!). Fall Out Boy were performing “Centuries”, a song we previously posted about. Straight away it was obvious that they had pitched the song down a couple keys or so. This is pretty common practice, Rihanna is an artist that does it all the time and we’re not saying there’s anything wrong it- but it’s interesting how often it happens nowadays.

The key of a song is often dictated by the energy it brings to a chord progression and also the range of the vocalist. There are certain artists we work with that sound great in particular keys so we write songs to match. Conversely we may write a song and have to change the key because it just sounds better a few steps up (we have some pretty amusing demo vocals where we sound like chipmunks after pitching them up).

The problem a lot of vocalists run into now is that us tricky producers and engineers are able to tune and tweak the hell out of their recordings to make them sound great in the key that brings the best out of the song. We say this is a problem because this can’t be done live and artists have to reproduce a vocal that sounds close to the original without all the processes we have available in the studio. To counter this, the artist will sing the song down a few keys which to most people goes unnoticed but it can often make the song drag because it loses that energy we mentioned earlier. Take a song like Sia’s “Chandelier”, the way she hits those high notes is what makes the song. If she were to sing it down a couple keys it would lose that intensity and her voice wouldn’t sparkle quite as much. We haven’t seen her do this live so can’t comment as to whether she does it in its original key or not though.

This is often a conversation we have with artists in the studio, “just remember you have to sing this live, are you sure you want to go to THAT note?”. There’s nothing worse than someone’s vocal ability being exposed live because they don’t have the technology to mask their flaws. There are cases where it may be necessary because the singer is sick and his voice is compromised but for the most part the song gets pitched down because the singer just can’t perform it in its original key.

We’re not arguing for or against the decision to do this but it is something listeners should become more aware of, particularly as it’s happening more often. Does it mean the singer isn’t as good as we thought they were? No, not necessarily. It’s just becoming more apparent now that a lot of work goes on in the studio to make a song sound the way it does and without the technology or techniques producers use, an artist may not be able to deliver what we thought they could.

Just some food for thought, listen out for it, when you see a song being performed on tv or online, pull out your phone and play the song along with it and you’ll hear if they’re singing down or not. Betcha it happens more often than you realize!

-HS