Musicology 102: Being Professionally Independent
This is one where I'm sure there are people who need to hear this. Every time I go out and I hear other artists and they talk about going into the studio or making sure things are made with quality, I always ask...why? Why go through all of that work for little exposure? Then I started finding out things on my own and well, my own marketing tools are unorthodox, but they work for me. So this is kind of a testimonial type thing, but here me out:
I record my instrumentals and vocals on my phone. Now I know what you're thinking. How can you record on a phone? Well, there's an app for that. Nevertheless, it just depends on your surroundings. When I didn't have any way to record the songs I have, I used to even have two tape players that I would go back and forth recording vocals over. The quality was horrible, but the ideas were there for future use, just in case. Now that I use my phone, my recordings are much better. Sometimes, I will go to the studio and use their equipment, but when I tell them I record on my phone, their jaws always drop and wonder how I do it.
I mix everything on a free audio editor. So I'm sure most people do this, but this is coming from someone who has used Pro Tools over and over again. Love Pro Tools, but when you can't afford Pro Tools, you have to use what you have. I would send my files to my laptop via email and then convert them into WAV files and then mix them in the editor. It gets the job done, and I'm constantly learning new things that I can do for effects and mixing options.
I test my sound in my truck...and sometimes other people's cars. I know that there are others who do this so this is just so I don't feel alone. I am always writing new music so I always try to find a way to make sure things sound right over a speaker. I just always hope that when someone plays it in their vehicle that it doesn't blow their speakers.
I independently get my music out to digital music outlets. There are so many people who do this but I will share my secret. I use Symphonic Distribution because when I first found them, there was a chart with all the comparative prices, and Symphonic wasn't even on the list. However, I searched Google and on the 6th search page, there they were, the cheapest price, one time fee for all projects and to sign on, and I got to monitor my royalties, getting back 100%. That's what worked for me, and I hope they work for you, whomever you are.
I design my own album artwork. And I also do it on my phone. I use my phone for everything, as do many people. I have about 6 apps on my phone dedicated to pictures so most of the artwork that is on my website has been edited by myself. For an upcoming project, I will be taking actual photos (God-willing) but otherwise, I love having control of my art, both the music and the photography side.
Even if I had the money, I wouldn't upgrade my equipment. Let me explain something to you: Great music is just great music. I've heard great music that was professionally mixed but I've also heard great music that wasn't. I think sometimes we take professionalism for quality of the work, and that's not the case. One album I listen to constantly is Nai Palm's solo album, NeedlePaw, and when I first heard it, it was "I wish they used a noise gate on this." But then I recognized that I loved the rawness of it. It was authentic to hear whatever what going on in the background because you knew that the artist was so mesmerized in their work.
Every start is a good one. No matter whether you are recording in a closet, or in a basement, on 60 minute tapes or even a voice memo, get your work out there. Don't be fooled: People are looking for the quality of your work, not the quality of who did the mix. The mistakes that we try to edit are those things that keep the authenticity of the art.