Even if you’re locked away in a basement for eight hours a day with a metronome and a torturous practice book that is equal parts Mel Bay/Guantanomo Bay, you’re still not assured of transcendent six-string skills. Sure, you may get stenographer-like dexterity and harmonic book-smarts up the f-hole, but playing soul-shaking music often requires a more diverse skill set. But this doesn’t mean that attaining the level of expression produced by someone like Jeff Beck necessitates a life of guitar monk-dom.
First, don’t worry about the transcendent and unattainable talent of Jeff Beck. That’s just silly. What you need to do is ensure that whatever you play makes the hair on your arms stand up and quiver with bliss and excitement.
Here at Guitar Player, we figure that if you’re going to expand and maximize your talents, you may as well learn from the best. So we offer these 25 tips from cats who know their stuff—from rock royalty to jazz patriarchs to any-and-all top-of-their-game bad-asses.
Hopefully, you’ll find something in these cosmic, practical, and musical nuggets of wisdom that will kick that rut-raddled mind of yours into higher gears of inspiration.
1. Joe Satriani
“Moving into uncharted territory is a key ingredient to making your practice sessions a success. Playing the same stuff over and over will only take you so far. Introduce a new set of chord voicings, tunings, or scale patterns to your routine every week. It’s not necessary to know how to implement the stuff right away, just make your fingers go to new places, and let the musicality follow naturally.”
2. Carlos Santana
“A good way to crave your individuality is to get a tape recorder and get into a room that’s kind of dark—where you don’t have interruptions—and then just play with a rhythm machine. After a while, it’s like a deck of cards on the table, and you can begin to see the riffs that came from this guy, the riffs that came from that guy, and then the two or three riffs that are yours. Then you start concentrating on your riffs until you develop an individual sound.”
3. Steve Lukather
“The most important thing to remember when you’re attempting to increase your speed is to relax. Don’t push your muscles beyond what they can give. Practice for about a half hour, and then take a break. You can always resume after a few minutes. This is especially important when you’re trying to get seriously twisted patterns under your fingers. I used to sit in from of the TV when I was a kid, and alternate-pick scales very lightly. I wasn’t really paying attention, and it actually helped that I wasn’t concentrating so much, because I stayed relaxed, and yet I was able to build up my technique and stamina. But never keep playing if you start to feel pain. Ever. Tendonitis is no joke.”
4. Jerry Garcia
“To work on picking dynamics, plug into a practice amp and turn your guitar all the way up. Then play arpeggios—very quietly at the beginning, and then gradually louder by adjusting your touch. The goal is to vary your dynamics, but not change the position of your hands. Many guitarists change the way they hold their hands when changing dynamics. As a result, they end up with a ‘light-touch’ group of licks—the very fast stuff—but they don’t develop any power. What you want to achieve is continually making those conversions back and forth from quiet to loud picking.”
5. Rusty Cooley
“Wherever your guitar is when you’re sitting and practicing is where it should be when you’re standing. I discovered this the hard way. Years ago, I’d practice my solos sitting down—and I’d nail them—only to go to rehearsal and blow it because my right- and left-hand positioning was completely different when I stood up. Now, most players think it looks uncool to wear your guitar up high, but I think it’s cooler to sound kick ass than it is to look cool and suck! Zakk Wylde slings his Les Paul really low, but as soon as a solo comes up, he’ll put his foot on a stage monitor to raise his guitar up. Hell, Tom Morello wears his guitar so high that he says it sometimes hits him in the chin. So, for the sake of killer guitar playing, raise ’em up!”
6. Barney Kessel
“Keep your guitar out of the case and handy. Practice short periods—anywhere from five to 45 minutes—many times throughout the day, rather than for one prolonged period. Often times, five minutes is enough time to work on a technique or musical passage. The whole idea of practice is to get your reflexes working like a gunfighter’s, so you can pull out that gun and be instantly hot.”
7. Nels Cline
“Don’t listen to unimaginative naysayers when it comes to personal creative expression. At some point, there will no doubt emerge a conflict between the rules of instrumental mastery, and the need to follow one’s own intuition. Be strong! The only so-called advancements in art—forget about commerce—have come about when someone has either boldly modified or completely disregarded the norm. Those who deviate must stay true to themselves.”
8. Dave Wronski
“To balance your pickups, plug your guitar into something with level meters, such as a 4-track recorder. Play each string individually, and adjust the pickup height until the level of each string hits the same point on the meters. Typically, you’ll have to lower the bass side of the pickup. If your guitar’s overall output is quieter than what you had, simply turn up your amp to compensate. The benefit here is string-to-string clarity.”
9. Jimmy Page
“There’s a very old recording maxim that goes, ‘Distance makes depth.’ I’ve used that a hell of a lot—whether it’s tracking guitars or the whole band. People are used to close-miking amps, but I’d have a mic out around the back, as well, and then balance the two. Also, you shouldn’t have to use EQ in the studio if the instruments sound right. You should be able to get the right tones simply with the science of microphone placement.”
10. James Hetfield
“For heavy rhythm, it has to be downpicking. It’s absolutely key. It’s tighter sounding, and a lot chunkier.”
11. Oz Noy
Moving In Stereo
“Try using two amps and some stereo effects to get a bigger sound onstage. A ping-pong delay sounds huge when you stand between both amps, and any type of stereo chorus, flanger, phaser, or, in my case, a Leslie simulator, creates the illusion of an even wider sound. Panning your signal from side-to-side is a cool effect. I do it using a stereo Ernie Ball volume pedal. I like the amps to be almost identical, while others—including Stevie Ray Vaughan—prefer two amps that have different sounds that compensate for each other. Finally, it’s important to understand that unless both of your amps are miked, and panned left and right in the house, nobody except you will hear the stereo effect.”
12. Jeff Beck
“Over-indulgence in anything is wrong—whether it’s practicing 50 hours a day, or eating too much food. There’s a balance with me, as there should be with everything and everybody. I’ve tried to keep it so that I’m able to execute the ideas that come out, but practicing too much depresses me. I get good speed, but then I start playing nonsense because I’m not thinking. A good layoff makes me think a lot. It helps me get both things together—the creativity and the speed.”
13. Al Di Meola
“A good way to work on alternate picking is to choose three or four notes, and work on those. Too often, players who are trying to improve their right hand dexterity get hung up by trying to play too many notes with the left hand. I hear a lot of players running whole scales from the sixth string to the first, and playing them really sloppy. Keeping it very basic—using only a few notes—and playing slowly with perfect rhythm is a task in itself.”
14. Marty Stuart
“The greatest musicians are knowledgeable about music’s roots. Experience provides authenticity for the music we create. Eric Clapton and Keith Richards can teach you a mess of blues, but it’s good to find out about the original artists whose tunes they covered, such as Robert Johnson. It’s like the old saying: ‘How can you know where you are going, if you don’t understand where you’ve been?’”
15. Deke Dickerson
“Use your pinkie! When I first started playing, an older country musician told me to keep practicing with my left-hand pinkie—even though it felt awkward—until it was second nature. That was the best advice I ever got. You were born with five fingers—don’t forget to use ’em all!”
16. Stevie Ray Vaughan
“Use big strings. I like a set with a .013 E string, but I’ve gone as high as a .018-.074 set. They’ll eat your hands, your tuning pegs, and your amp, but they sound great.”
17. Wes Montgomery
Hang in There
“It takes time to develop every aspect of your technique. A lot of people don’t realize the crises you’ve got to go through. I used to get headaches when I started doing the octave thing, but, over time, I was fine. All it takes is to hear a little improvement in your playing, and that little bit of inspiration is often enough to push you even further.”
18. Eric Johnson
“Remind yourself that you’re free to feel great instead of reserved or insecure. When you’re feeling good, you’re more apt to take chances onstage, and if you make a bunch of mistakes, it won’t matter. It’s almost like you’re the instrument, and the music is flowing through you like electricity. Like John Coltrane said—the paramount aspect of being a musician is to try to get more in touch and in tune with yourself. When you do that, its like returning to the center and everything emanates from there. You automatically become a better musician in becoming a more aware individual.”
19. Dickey Betts
“Learn to damp notes to control feedback and noise when playing slide at high volumes. Many people play slide with a pick, and then use the heel of the hand or something to control the sound. The style I got from Duane Allman is to use the thumb and the first two fingers without a pick. If you have glass or steel on your left hand, and a plastic pick in your right, you are completely isolated from your instrument. What you have to learn to do is to strike a note, then stop the note with the fingers before you strike another one, so only one note sounds at a time. It works kind of like a damper pedal on a piano.”
20. Joe Pass
“Practicing eighth-note lines with a triplet feel is very helpful for improving one’s rhythmic feel for jazz. Of course, the best way to get a jazz feel is to play with records or with a group. It’s something you’ve got to inherently feel. A lot of rock players have such a straight-eight feel that they can’t play jazz. They’re too stiff.”
21. Steve Vai
“Try to separate yourself from what your fingers are doing and listen to the amp.”
22. Allan Holdsworth
“When playing legato, try to make all of the notes come out at a consistent volume. To achieve even more control, practice accenting the notes that aren’t picked.”
23. Pete Townshend
“For an electric guitarist to solo effectively on an acoustic guitar you need to develop tricks to avoid the expectation of sustain that comes from playing electrics. Try cascades, for example. Drop arpeggios over open strings, and let the open strings sing as you pick with your fingers. It’s kind of a country style of playing, but it works very well in-between heavily strummed parts and fingered lead lines.”
24. David Gilmour
“A bit of delay can smooth out the unpleasant, raw frequencies you get from a fuzz box. I have two units, and I have different echo settings on both. There are times when I have both running at the same time for certain effects. During solos, I usually try to set the delays to have some rhythmic time signature in common with the tune. I usually set them to a triplet—the notes all intertwine, so it doesn’t really matter anyway, but I find that a triplet delay is very melodic.”
25. Eric Clapton
“Don’t play every lick you know before the end of the set, because then you’re screwed. You’ll just end up repeating yourself. But it’s a very youthful thing to jam—it’s like sowing wild oats. But as grow older, you become interested in doing something more lasting. You have to settle down and make everything count—make sure what you do is worthy of being heard again. I’ve become more devoted to the song, and I feel that jamming, unless it has a goal at the end of it, is pretty much a waste of time.”
Strap length matters?
Peter Hodgson of gibson.com thinks so. Here’s his article, “From Zakk to Jimmy Page: A Study in Strap Length”
We guitarists reveal ourselves to the world in a lot of different ways. Our note choices, the tones we choose, the notes we avoid, styles we gravitate to. Playing music is a very personal form of communication, unique to every individual, yet it’s also a universal language with enough common information to be understood by anyone. And just as with verbal communication, body language is crucial when it comes to guitar. You can tell a lot about a guitarist by how they wear their instrument. And that is the crux of our hypothesis today: that strap length is directly related to personality and musical style. This is merely a hypothesis, one of many possible interpretations of the strapular-guitaristic-personality matrix.
There are six main guitar strap length personality types: Low-precise, Low-relaxed, Mid-precise, Mid-relaxed, High-precise and High-relaxed. There are very, very few exceptions – for example, those who exclusively play sitting down, or who have an entirely unorthodox technique like WWIII guitarist Chet Thompson, whose party trick is playing the guitar upside down with the body on his shoulder and the headstock between his legs, with both hands on the fretboard.
Zakk Wylde is capable of incredibly nimble feats of guitar daring. The speedy ascending licks in the “No More Tears” solo, the epic harmonics of “Harvester Of Pain,” and of course nailing the neoclassical fury of Randy Rhoads nightly on stage with Ozzy Osbourne – all are indicative of Zakk’s technical command of the instrument. But watch Zakk in concert and you’ll see that the guitar itself is part of the performance, not simply an instrument to perform upon. Zakk wears his guitar low and if that’s the perfect position from which to blast out a fast alternate-picked chugging riff like “Parade Of The Dead,” so be it. But when it comes to laying into those precise solos, Zakk typically hoists his Les Paul into a much more shred-friendly position. Whatever it takes to do the job, Zakk is able to do it while simultaneously stalking the stage like a heavy metal viking god.
In the studio, Jimmy Page is a sonic explorer, a brilliant arranger and producer, and a man who can craft three-dimensional musical experiences seemingly as easily as breathing. But on stage an entirely different side of Page’s musicality comes out. The studio craftsman is pushed aside by a swaggering rock god, the ultimate guitar hero, with exaggerated gestures and sure, the occasional gloriously sloppy note. Page’s onstage blues-meets-prototypical-metal style doesn’t just work better with a low-slung Les Paul: it practically demands it.
Joe Bonamassa is that rare kind of player who lives in the moment yet never seems to lose control of what they’re expressing at the same time. He has the ability to see in between each beat, each note, and pull out the most perfectly phrased licks and melodies time and time again from his Les Pauls (such as the Gibson Custom Joe Bonamassa Les Paul and the Gibson USA Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Studio). If you watch his hands while he’s playing, there isn’t a single muscle twitch that seems to be out of his control, yet the musical results are always human, never mechanical.
Paul Gilbert is still a very precise axeman – that’s why this category called Mid-relaxed instead of Mid-sloppy – but he’s the perfect example of a player who wears their guitar mostly around the mid level (around tummy-height rather than sub-belt or encroaching-on-chest) and who employs their whole body in playing guitar. In clinics and lessons Gilbert is fond of expressing the importance of using ones’ picking hand as a type of metronome, letting it travel far away from the strings before crashing right back down on the perfect beat. It’s the same type of approach used by great funk guitarists like Nile Rogers, whose pioneering rhythm style is dependent on the physical manifestation of rhythm.
The electric riffs Tom Morello has pumped out with Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club are deceptively nuanced and intricate. Just listen to the fine details in the rhythm guitar work of “Killing In The Name” by RATM or Audioslave’s “Revelations” – surely Morello wouldn’t be able to rock out that hard or play such sensitive arpeggios if he was slinging his strap down at Johnny Ramone levels.
Albert Hammond Jr.
One half of the guitar team from The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr. is instantly recognizable even in silhouette: his distinctive ‘just out of bed’ hairstyle and high-slung guitar are very identifiable. Hammond regularly employs a very loose picking technique that appears to originate from his elbow rather than the wrist, and his guitars are worn at precisely the right height for maximum efficiency and attack. And if you listen closely to The Strokes in headphone it becomes immediately apparent who is doing what. Nick Valensi handles more of the lead and single note work, while Hammond’s insistent, consistent strumming technique makes him a rhythm guitarist in the truest sense of the word.
By Ari Herstand
Last weekend at the ASCAP Music Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel I attended the Music Supervisor panel containing 5 music supervisors who actively place music in film and television.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had about 30 TV placements (20 in the last year from my new record). I’ve gotten songs placed on high profile shows that are known for their music, like One Tree Hill and shows you’ve never heard of, where music is very much “background,” like Friendzone. And everything in between.
And I’ve also been 1 week away from having a song on So You Think You Can Dance. Contracts were signed. The only problem was, the contestant who was going to dance to my song got bumped. Balls.
There is no one way to get music placed on TV (or in film). In addition to how I’ve gone about it, I’ve spoken with many of my musician friends who make livings on song placements about this.
According to the Guild of Music Supervisors, the definition/role of a music supervisor is defined as:
“A qualified professional who oversees all music related aspects of film, television, advertising, video games and any other existing or emerging visual media platforms as required.”
Music supervisors are the actual people who take the cues from the producers and director when the “picture is locked” and underscore the picture with songs. The composer underscores the picture with original, scored compositions written specifically for that scene.
Sometimes (most of the time) music supervisors use the instrumental version and most of the time it’s just a small snippet of the song (however, now I have to brag a bit, One Tree Hill used all 3:43 of my song – words and music. But that’s very rare).
On the ASCAP panel sat Rebecca Rienks, who currently places music for E! (you know those promo montage spots that always seem to have Ryan Seacrest looking… Seacresty); Holly Hung, who primarily places music in film trailers; Jeff Gray just finished a feature film; Lindsay Wolfington (who placed me in One Tree Hill), mostly works on TV shows; and the moderator, Jason Kramer, is a music supervisor at Elias Arts, a music production company that specializes in original music composition and sound design for TV, films and commercials. Kramer is also a host on Los Angeles’ KCRW.
They rapped for just over an hour about what types of music they look for, day to day challenges (mainly dealing with producers who say stuff like “can you make this more purple?”) and showed us some of the spots they’ve placed music in.
“As long as it fits and tonally hits everything that it needs to hit, it doesn’t matter if it’s an indie band, somebody not signed, somebody just dropped, if it works it works.” – Holly Hung, Music Supervisor
Hung told a story about working on a trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. She said they had a Coldplay song as temp music and she spent 3 weeks looking for a replacement for it. She scoured iTunes and found a band who had just gotten dropped by their label and the singer was currently working at Starbucks. She used the song and the band got $80,000 for the placement.
Getting Music To The Music Supervisors
As you can imagine, music supervisors get inundated with emails from people wanting their music placed. Be it musicians, licensing companies, publishing companies, managers or just fans of the supe (that’s short for music supervisor – and yes they have fans), supes can get overwhelmed and are very picky about HOW they will take submissions.
DO NOT ATTACH MP3s
There’s no correct way to get music placed, but there are a few incorrect ways. All supes on the panel said do not attach mp3s to an email. It clutters up their inbox and will go directly to the trash (and your email will probably get blocked).
How To Get Your Email Opened
Hung said to put who you sound like in the subject line. Like “Sounds like Coldplay.” Keep the body short and to the point and only send the songs that make sense for the project that supe is working on. So, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Do not send your tear-jerker ballad to Rienks who needs upbeat, fun, exciting music for her E! spots.
How To Get Your Song Listened To
In the email, include links to where the song can be quickly listened to (without having to be downloaded) where there is ALSO an option to download it if they want to use it. Also, directly below the song, include a link to the instrumental.
Wolfington mentioned that she loves Box.com. Box.com (unlike Dropbox) will open a window with a player and it has a download link in the upper right hand corner. Very convenient.
Do not include links to ALL of your music. Send the best 1-3 songs that will work for that supe’s current project.
If the supe wants more of your music, she’ll ask.
In the email, it may help to list a couple distinctive adjectives below each song or key lyrics. Like:
epic, explosion at end,
key lyrics: “I will find the artist inside me”
full wav: link to box.com
instrumental wav: link to box.com
And yes, always upload .wavs. Not mp3s. If the supe wants to experiment with your song in the spot, she isn’t going to want to have to REEDIT in the wav once she realizes it’s a low-quality mp3.
If you don’t have a publishing company, there are companies out there who solely pitch music to music supervisors. Unlike publishing companies, they do not own any part of your song. Similarly, though, they will not go hunt down your mechanical royalties around the world for you (like publishing companies will).
Some will take a back-end percentage of your performance royalties (like from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN), and others won’t. Some will work with you non-exclusively and others (the more established ones) will require you to work exclusively with them.
Typically licensing companies will take about 30-50% of the total sync fee and 30-50% of the back-end performance royalties.
All network TV shows have a budget for music. Most higher profile cable TV shows have a budget for music. Most reality shows have a very tiny budget for music and will not pay you for the placement unless they have to.
Network TV shows will typically pay $3,000+ (depending on the spot and your level of clout). Cable TV shows will typically pay $750+ and reality shows on cable mostly pay indie artists nothing. Movies, trailers and commercials typically pay the most: $20,000+.
But these are very loose numbers. I’ve heard of major label artists getting $30,000 for a cable show and indie bands making $80,000 for a trailer.
Before you breakout the pitchforks for the reality TV show producers, you won’t NOT get paid EVER for these spots, you just won’t get paid up front. Meaning, many of these shows will ask you for the rights to place your music for free, knowing that you’ll make back-end songwriter/publisher performance royalties from your PRO (Performing Rights Organization – ASCAP, BMI, etc). If you get a bunch of these kinds of placements, they can really add up. It just takes about 9-18 months to see that check, though. These shows also (to compensate for their lack of payment) do a decent job of maximizing the band’s exposure. Most shows have an entire music section on their websites that list all music from each episode with links to iTunes and Spotify and to the bands’ websites. The Real World also puts the name of the song and the artist on the screen while the song is playing.
So, it’s not completely free. It can be pretty decent exposure.
And hey, if you don’t want to let them use your song for free, there is no one forcing you to.
Also worth noting, you don’t make any performance royalties when the movies are shown in theaters. There’s no legitimate reason why. It’s one of those messed up parts of the music business.
Pay To Submit Companies
There are companies like MusicXray.com, Sonicbids.com and Taxi.com who charge you to submit to music supervisors (oh you also have pay to become a member) for consideration. Taxi.com openly admits that only 6% of their artists get some kind of deal (who knows how many paid submissions they already submitted). But one of the music supervisors on the panel (I’ll withhold who) when asked about these companies, said, “it’s bad business.”
I’ve never actually heard of anyone getting a placement through these services. If you have PLEASE post it in the comments.
You have to see it from the supe’s perspective. They want music from people they trust, like licensing companies, publishing companies and musicians who they have a relationship with. Not some service that pushes out music where the only barrier for entry is a fee.
How To Get In The Door
Now that you know HOW to submit, how do you know WHO to submit to? Well, simple, do your research. The first handful of placements I got were from watching TV shows, noting the kind of music they used, looking at who the music supervisor was (they’re always listed in the ending credits – or on IMDB), Googling a bit to find their email, and cold emailing. Actually, I tweeted Lindsay Wolfington my song for One Tree Hill.
They’re all mostly on Twitter too.
Above all DO NOT SPAM them. This is a quick way to get blacklisted and blocked. Be polite and respectful. Make sure your emails are short and to the point.
If you don’t get a response don’t think they’re not interested. Wolfington mentioned that she puts all of these emails in a folder and when she’s looking for music, she sifts through the folder. So make sure your links don’t expire.
If you want to find a licensing company, there are a ton out there. Google around for a bit. Ask your friends who have gotten placements who they use. Check the credits of films to see who the song is “Courtesy of” – if it’s not a label, it’s most likely the licensing or publishing company.
I get asked all the time who are some good licensing companies out there, and the fact is, I don’t know all of them. I don’t know most of them. I’ve worked with a handful of them and have a few now who pitch me (non-exclusively), but it’s pointless for me to share this information because then the few licensing companies I know would get flooded by your emails. Do your research and find the company that’s the best fit for you.
Getting songs placed on TV shows and in movies is a highly sought after part of the music industry. Some musicians make their entire income off of it. Many companies do exclusively this. Like any avenue in the music industry, if you want to do well, you must put in the time necessary to master it. You can’t blast out 50 emails to 50 music supervisors and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It takes years of building up relationships, networking and trial and error. And again, DO NOT send out music that is not right for the show (or underdeveloped). That gives a bad name to all self-pitching artists. Every time a supe gets an email from an artist with shitty music or music that is completely different from what she places, she is less likely to open another email in the future. Don’t hurt your fellow independent musicians. Be respectful and be professional.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of Ari’s Take.
A recent change in the law will allow musicians to exchange free beer, buffet food and ‘exposure’ for petrol, rent and guitar strings. Under the new legislation, it will be possible to pay for studio time or even a mortgage, by mentioning the ‘really big gig’ you performed at last week for no money, especially if there were celebs at it.
A bass player from Manchester said:
“This is really good news for bands and musicians. I’m looking forward to buying a new bass with the sausage rolls and four pints of Strongbow I was promised for doing a wedding last week. At last, the government are doing something to support working musicians,”
Under the old law, it was impossible to pay for any kind of goods or service with the bullshit idea that you are ‘getting your name out there’ by entertaining a bored crowd that have never heard of you, trying their hardest to get legless and cop off with each other at a badly organised event. But this new legislation paves the way for people that don’t want to pay for bands to hire bands, and for musicians to pay their mortgages with plastic glasses of warm ale and vague promises of future paid work.
“I was offered an unpaid spot at a posh wedding, on the promise that there were influential people among the guests that might help my career. I’m looking forward to name-dropping some B-list celebs and people off the telly at my building society, and getting a third off my mortgage this month,”
Said a professional flute player from Southampton.
“I’ve been a professional musician for fifteen years, and I normally feel like telling people to fuck off when they ask me to do stuff like that. But now I can finally afford to live on the total twaddle of some tight fisted bugger that wants me to do them a favour and doesn’t want to pay me,”
Photo from Wikipedia
April 30, 2015 by
Not sure if this is true, or Just in the USA, but you gotta love the premise !
Admin, Larger Than Life Entertainment
Why does music bring us pleasure? Well, the simple answer is that it changes our brain chemistry… literally. Music triggers the parts of our brain associated with reward, motivation, and emotion, which causes the feelings of pleasure that we get when we put our headphones on.
So even though we can’t necessarily pinpoint exactly what it is about music that excites us, we know it happens. We are lucky enough to have the opportunities to see our favorite groups and listen to them at home, at work, or on-the-go. For the longest time, music has been an important part of everyday life, and defines decades and generations.
And yet, all along, our brains are behind it all.
Robert J. Zatorre, Professor of Neuroscience at McGill University, and Valorie N. Salimpoor, a Postdoctoral Neuroscientist at Rotman Research Institute, have been researching the relationship between our brains and music. If you’ve ever felt a rush hearing the climax of a song or the sudden shift in cadence in another, you aren’t alone. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released, which usually occurs in response to positive stimuli like food or sex. According to neuroscientists, however, dopamine is released right before that favorite part too. In a study of brain function and music, scientists found that the more neural activity and dopamine released, the more money the listener was willing to spend to purchase said music.
But the relationship between our brains and music doesn’t stop there. The auditory cortex actually allows us to recall music and experience it again, even if it’s not playing. For musicians, the auditory cortex just might be the most important part. The ability to create music and re-arrange music in our heads starts there as well. We can even pick out wrong notes and incorrect changes in sound.
All of this brain function leads to music being an important part of our lives. Whether you’re listening to your favorite record at home or watching a live show, music undoubtedly changes the way we feel. So next time you hear a song and feel a sudden pulse, remember that your brain is feeling it too.
And it will make you want to listen more.
by Drew Evans Source: NY Times
Being a DJ is awesome, but boy can it change you! You suddenly find yourself behaving in certain ways, almost involuntarily, and doing things that many “normal” people think are crazy. I’m not talking about going deaf, developing a drug habit and hanging out with people half your age (these are all things you can definitely control, if you want/need to), but more about the subtle behavioral changes that kind of sneak up on you, until they’re totally ingrained in who you are! Like…
- You can never go to a nightclub and have fun – Oh, no. Even if you can get over the secret jealousy of wanting to be DJing, you’re hyper-critical of everything, from the DJs to the sound system to the way the door is being run… the lot. The more you DJ out, the more this one creeps up on you, until going out simply becomes research/checking out the competition. You, in short, become a not very fun person to go out with
- You spot instantly when a CD loops in a bar, café etc… You feel you are generally the only person who notices background music anyway, and so naturally, you’re the only one who gets upset when you hear a CD play on loop. It’s especially annoying in nice restaurants, where you can’t help yourself thinking: “Why did they pay so much attention to everything apart from the music?” Saying this out loud, though, usually gets you a kick under the table from your other half for being so miserable
- You can spot instantly when a speaker is distorting, even at 50 yards! – Picture this: You’re on a lovely beach with friends or partner, sun shining, cold drink, and in the distance, a little beach shack plays top 40 radio… through a distorted old speaker. Can you relax? No chance. That little plastic speaker becomes the bane of your life until you are finally out of earshot. Even the crap they’re playing becomes secondary to the quality!
- You can no longer count past four – Crazy but true, you find yourself counting any rhythm anywhere or just an imaginary rhythm in your head, and naturally, you go “one, two, three, four” round and round. (At least you’re not a microphone roadie with a rock band, they get stuck at “one-two! one – TWO!”)
- You can’t hear a song that you know played in full, without hearing “your” transitions – “Why isn’t song X coming in?” you think, until you remember that this isn’t actually your mix but just one of “your” songs being played somewhere else. Related: Not liking the speed a song is being played at, because you play it at a different speed…
- You hear mistakes when everyone else thinks the DJ is awesome – Smart DJs learn not to point out train wrecks and other DJing errors to their friends, who – we learn – are not afflicted like us and generally happy to dance through even appalling errors. Related: Spotting mixes that aren’t in key
- You get annoyed when TV commercials brutally edit songs – …and what really annoys you is that they are not respecting the underlying song structure (see point 4 – see, you can’t help it! You’re subconsciously counting those beats and bars in fours…)
- When someone asks you “what’s your favorite music?” you reply “for what purpose?” – Being unable to separate what you like from what you think any given dance floor might like is bad, but it’s hard to stop this developing from the necessary skill of simply separating the two things in your head
- Instantly spotting when your windscreen wipers, indicator lights or even a loud clock are in time with the music you’re playing – This one really does feel close to madness sometimes (for me anyway), spotting a beat match between car hardware and car stereo… Related: Beat matching your strides to the songs on your headphones when our running
- You can’t help yourself frantically trying to remember snippets of song lyrics in order to Google them later – …normally when Shazam fails to recognize a new song you know you’ve got to have…
- You are utterly unable to keep yourself away from DJ booths – Mainly this is to see the equipment the DJ is using, hopefully it isn’t to make requests, although I am personally fond of just shaking the DJ’s hand on the way out if I’ve enjoyed his or her music… after all, we all know how much that means, don’t we?
- Having the sudden urge to go and adjust the sound when another DJ is playing – Right, I’ve actually done this (in fact, it was the pitch). Some dude was playing 80s mega-mixes at +8 and he slipped off to the toilet, so I marched up and set it all to the right speed… only to slink away like a coward when I saw him returning! True story 🙂
- You turn anything with a volume fader into DJ equipment – …and so get irrationally annoyed at any kind of audio gear that has electronic up/down volume controls instead of a knob you can use to cut the music in and out quickly with!
- You are the only person who spots the odd song from the 90s at a “so-called” 80s night – I mean, we can all hopefully understand why no normal, sane person would care about this… but it’s wrong, isn’t it?
Seriously, I do hope you can still go out and have fun at least sometimes, and that you can see how us DJs maybe can be just a little annoying to everyone else, at least every now and then! I wanted to end with a true story from our friends over at Tuff Covers. One of that gang went to a pre-natal appointment and when the nurse scanned their tiny unborn baby, and its little heartbeat echoed through the examination room… I quote: “I knew the BPM of the baby’s heartbeat before the machine even worked it out”!
There really is no hope for some people… 🙂
This article originally appeared on Sonicbids
With album sales nowhere near what they used to be (unless your name is Taylor Swift, who probably doesn’t frequent indie artist advice columns), and streaming not yet a truly viable source of income for musicians, a lot of artists are looking for new ways to distribute their work that will both reach their fans and result in some remuneration.
Three such methods that are gaining in popularity are the new fan-funding site Patreon, the concept of artist-run subscriptions, and going old school with special cassette releases. What all three of these methods of distribution have in common is that they give fans something exclusive, and they create a unique connection between the artist and the fan. Here’s what else you need to know about distro’s newest stars.
Do you use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or PledgeMusic but hate having to constantly launch new campaigns, and re-ask all your fans for support? Patreon has found a way to streamline the process.
Patreon was created by Jack Conte, who is one half of the musical duo Pomplamoose, when he noticed his YouTube views weren’t doing as much for his bottom line as he’d hoped. Rather than a one-time campaign, Patreon is a platform where fans contribute a set amount per project. For example, a fan can decide to pledge $1 per song for an artist, and that artist will get $1 every time he or she creates a song.
According to Patreon’s Head of Marketing and Special Projects, Erica Costello, this cuts out quite a few, oftentimes unnecessary, people. “Literal middlemen have come between artists and their supporters for way too long,” she explains. “Artists and supporters belong together!”
A few big names have been using Patreon, including the queen of crowdfunding Amanda Palmer and Ryan Leslie. That said, Costello notes artists of that notoriety aren’t necessarily who Patreon is focused on. “We’re super stoked to host Amanda Palmer and Ryan [Leslie],” she says, “but we take pride in serving the creative middle class. Patreon is the primary source of income for so many singer-songwriters who were struggling to pay rent and eat food, even though millions of people watched and loved their creations on ad-based platforms like YouTube.”
Patreon, at its essence, is a modern day, more advanced version of a fan club. Pentatonix, the a cappella supergroup known for their tight relationship with their fans, uses the service, and according to the group’s Scott Hoying, “A fan club is a perfect title for it. There’s more of a sense of a community, though, because it’s all digital.”
Ari Herstand, who’s a musician but uses Patreon to support his music business blog, adds, “Fans crave a closer engagement and exclusive content from their favorite artists.” He notes Patreon “gives fans a [nearly] direct line to support their favorite independent artists more than just paying for a download, which has turned into a cold, detached, digital transaction, quite different from the feeling fans would get visiting a record store and buying their favorite artist’s record.”
With constant access to your fans’ bank accounts, however, how does an artist make sure that their relationship with their fans stays a happy one? According to Hoying, “Putting out good content and staying interactive with the patrons will keep all parties happy.” Herstand seconds this, saying, “If the artist continues to show their fans that they actually care about them, and continues to be authentic and honest, the fans will stay loyal.”
2. Artist-run subscriptions
Magazines have been published for hundreds of years, and for hundreds of years people have subscribed to the magazines which featured topics in which they were interested. Some indie musicians are looking to use that ideology as a way to sell their music.
Coole High, a hip-hop and smooth jazz artist, remembers first hearing about the artist subscription concept in 2009, when he met Tim Sweeney, who ran a music strategy conference in LA. “He had this brilliant idea of independent artists having their own subscription models to sell their music, merch, etc.” The comparison made at the time was Netflix versus Blockbuster.
In 2009, however, the tech wasn’t quite there yet to make it happen. Now it is, which is why Coole High recently launched a way for fans to subscribe to his work for $20 a year. That subscription includes his extensive back catalog, any new releases that come out in the next year, discounts on tickets and merch, and subscription exclusives in the form of videos and concert streams.
Dance pop artist HoneyChrome has also launched a subscription format, noting “it’s like the fan pays the artist to be an artist, not pay the record label to manufacture one release.”
They key to making this form of distribution work, according to Coole High, is in the connection an artist has with his or her fans. “It’s really about creating a new and more intimate but effective way to connect with the people who really appreciate what you do, who you are, and what you’re about.” He adds, “A lot of my fans can’t make it from France to see me do a gig in NYC, so now with the subscription they’d have access to live streaming of select concerts or performances from virtually any location I can access WiFi.”
Both Coole High and HoneyChrome also love the fact that this form of distribution discards the traditional way of how artists release albums. With a subscription format, much like how Beyonce and Drake have dropped albums out of the blue, artists can release music whenever they want to. “Typical album/EP/single release schedules are fading,” HoneyChrome explains. “Artists like myself are creating more and more music faster than ever, and we want it to be heard. This answers our call.”
3. Cassette tapes
Yes, you read that right. There are artists and labels going back in time and releasing albums via cassette tape. Some artists are doing cassette-only exclusives, while indie labels like Burger Records boast a giant catalog of cassette releases. (And when we say “giant,” we mean it. Their site features over 200 albums available on cassette.)
Most music fans aren’t about to add a tape deck to their lives, but many still have them in their cars and others have older boomboxes that have the ability to play tapes. You’re definitely targeting a very specific audience with a release on cassette, but when done correctly, it can reap some pretty impressive rewards.
For his most recent tour, Stones Throw Records artist Homeboy Sandman had a tour-exclusive cassette release, meaning the only way to get it was to buy it at one of his tour dates. “Everybody’s hyped over it,” he says of the cassette release, which he credits Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf for coming up with. “I sell it more than any other piece of merch. More than vinyl, hats, or CDs.”
Homeboy Sandman feels that the exclusive nature of the release, which makes the album a collectible, is partly what inspires so many people to purchase it. “Nobody’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just get it online, so I don’t have to carry it home.’”
From an artist’s standpoint, he notes that the cassette tape is a format that is more challenging to rip and put online, so a cassette release will likely have to be bought if someone wants to hear it.
The positive reaction he’s received from his first cassette release has Homeboy Sandman thinking of future uses for the format. As he says, “If I had some of my actual albums available on cassette, it seems like they would sell, too.”
Which one of these burgeoning forms of distribution is right for you? We don’t know, but we can give you three words of advice regarding this: know your audience. If you have an older crowd that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and is prone to long car trips, a cassette release may be right up their alley. If your fans have fervently supported every one of your releases, perhaps you may want to try one of the subscription ideas.
There are a lot of ways to get your music out there, and as HoneyChrome notes, they all have the same ultimate goal. “I think we are just trying to get back to making everyone happy, fans and artists.”
Adam Bernard is a music industry veteran who has been working in media since 2000. If you live in the NYC area, you’ve probably seen him at a show. He prefers his venues intimate, his whiskey on the rocks, and his baseball played without the DH. Follow him at @adamsworldblog.