Why just having a great song isn't enoughSep 13, 2022
A great song is no longer enough to make you successful.
The music industry is rapidly changing. The old guard is gone and you no longer need a record deal to be recognized as a successful artist. What were once tried and true revenue streams are now in a state of flux, and while some (live performances) were temporarily shunted, new ones are constantly being introduced. This is creating an abundance of opportunities for the independent/recording musician.
Some of which include:
Live streaming from your home
Releasing music directly to your fans via direct downloads
At this very moment, there are more ways than ever that you can make money with your music. But here’s the thing… so can everyone else. So why should anyone listen to your music?
There is a lot of competition out there.
The general public, aka your potential audience, is being bombarded non-stop with an endless array of platforms vying for their attention. For the past few years, they’ve been binge-watching everything from Stranger Things to Yellowstone, engaging in marathon online gaming sessions, and sampling the overabundance of new podcasts, webinars, and YouTube videos appearing daily. Let’s not forget social media.
Faced with unlimited options, streaming and listening fatigue has set in. It’s a big pool and right now everyone is swimming in it.
How do you set yourself apart?
By making your product the best it can be. That includes having clear branding, an engaging online presence, and a strong social media following. But, you also need a quality product to sell. By quality product, I mean starting with a great song or well-rehearsed performance and ending with a professional quality mix.
You might have a great song but if it doesn’t sound good, you won’t find much of an audience. Attention spans are very short and labels, managers, and music supervisors receive an incredible amount of demos daily. Your music must grab them right from the start. Much of what they receive doesn’t even make it past the first song. If the production is low quality, i.e. the mix is bad, it might not make it past the first 30 seconds.
This is equally important if you’re releasing your music directly to the public via streaming, your website, YouTube, etc. They might listen once, but if it’s not a pleasurable experience- because the vocals are hard to hear, there is distortion, or the mix is muddy, they’ll move on to someone else quickly forgetting about you.
The good news is, these days almost everyone has a DAW in their home. It’s no longer necessary to spend an enormous amount of time and money in a professional studio to put out a quality product.
Even if you aren’t a skilled sound engineer, there are some things that you can do to set yourself up for success.
Simple ways you can improve the production quality of your tracks.
1- If recording acoustic instruments, make sure they are well-tuned, toned, and in top condition. Guitar tones should be dialed in and noise-free. Replace any cables that are intermittent and/or buzzing. Instruments with active pickups should have fresh batteries. Eliminate any ground buzz problems among electronics like pedal boards, keyboard rigs, etc.
2- Use the right tools. Choose microphones to suit your needs. Experiment with microphone placement to get the sound that you are looking for. Be sure to get a good signal level into your DAW from all of your sources for the best quality sounds.
3- When using electronic/computer-based sounds like loops, plugins, virtual instruments, or samples spend some time listening and choosing those that fit the style and tone of your project.
4- Nothing ruins a great song like distortion. Set your gain structure correctly to avoid clippind and/or distortion in the mix. Your mix should have clarity and definition, be well balanced, and free of distortion. Distortion as an occasional effect is acceptable but don’t overdo it. Distortion due to overdriving the signal level is extremely unpleasant and can cause your track to be unusable. Even at almost undistinguishable levels, when distortion is present it causes ear fatigue, and though the listener might not know why, they just don’t enjoy listening to the song.
5- Have an end goal in mind. What do you want your mix to sound like? If you have no idea where to start, find a reference track. Listen to what’s hot right now in the same genre or format you’re pitching to. Make some notes on what you hear and use it as a guide for your mix.
6- If you’re doing it all in house, take your time to get the mix right. Be sure to listen to your mix on a variety of listening devices. Since you don’t know what your audience will be listening to test the mix on headphones, earbuds, your car stereo, home stereo, Bluetooth speakers, etc. What sounds amazing in your Auralexed studio on your JBL monitors might sound very different through earbuds. You want to make sure it translates well across all devices. If there are drastic differences, find a happy medium.
7- Use EQ to create clarity, clean up problem frequencies, and add impact and punch. Use compression judiciously. Too much will suck the life out of your mix making it dull and flat. Spend time finding the correct settings for reverb and delay as well as any other effects you are using.
8- Be sure that the mix is well balanced and has depth in the 3-dimensional space not only in the stereo imaging but also from front to back and top to bottom. Can you hear all of the instruments clearly and does everything sound good? Is the vocal clear and present and sitting properly in the mix?
9- Take it all the way. If you’re hiring someone to mix your songs, don’t just pick someone at random, listen to some of their work. Is the quality up to par? If you can’t afford to hire a professional, be cautious of going with a ‘great deal’. If someone is offering to mix your songs for a super low price, it’s likely the results will be super low quality. You could probably save money and do an equal or better job yourself.
You’ve put in years of practice to master the art of being a musician/songwriter, take it one step further and learn some production and mixing techniques. Give your audience something that they can enjoy listening to.
When you’ve invested the time and energy into writing a great song tweaking it until it’s just right, make sure to do the same thing for your mix. With so much competition you need to stack the odds in your favor. Don’t overlook the importance of a professional quality mix.
For 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mixes Right Now CLICK HERE