Advice for closeted musicians
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 12:09
At the Brock Press, we want to share with readers the many resources out there for all artists who may need help getting their work acknowledged.
For some musicians this can be a difficult task, especially if for those in a band that is starting to think long term about recording, distributing the music and perhaps booking shows and touring.
First, if you already have mastered these tasks, you should pass along such knowledge to those with less experience than you – this is the first step in growing a healthy music scene.
“My advice for beginners is don’t think you have to go out and drop thousands on gear, and pay for professional recordings right off the bat. Work with minimal resources and within limitations because that is half of the fun,” said Ben Pearson from the indie rock quintet, Talk In Blue, based out of St. Catharines.
For recording, it is rewarding to record your own music, but you may or may not be happy with the results. Pearson, who has recorded at home on a laptop, friends’ makeshift studios and a few professional studios, believes that writing a quality song takes precedence over having quality production.
“If you want to pay someone else to record you so you don’t have to invest in the gear, consider finding a producer or engineer who is also in the amateur stages because they will be considerably cheaper and more open to suggestions of how you want things to sound,” said Pearson.
There are also many professional recording studios in the area that musicians should eventually take advantage of when they are ready.
Sessions on the River (SOTR) Recording Studio, located in Fort Erie, is actively engaging with musicians who need help promoting their music during the recording process.
“Normally musicians would record an album and spend months in the studio, without any media or advertising. They would wait until the CD is done and start promoting it. Our goal is to start promoting during the recording process. Broadcast sessions online, invite fans to a session and sell tickets that would go directly to the recording costs,” said Chris Curry, producer, engineer and founder of SOTR.
SOTR offers private recording sessions as well as public recording sessions. Public recording sessions act as live concerts. “Nowhere in the region or Canada offers this,” said Curry.
“The landscape of the music industry is changing and the traditional way of doing business has changed with the advent of the Internet. Record labels are holding back on big record deals, with smaller recording, video and marketing budgets. Our label is essentially [here] to help musicians to get to the next level,” said Curry.
When it comes to band dynamics Eric Smith, who plays in the band White Mouse, advises those who want to start a band not to stress.
“If you rush things with people then it takes longer for you all to understand how you mesh with those people. Also, don’t be scared of asking musicians of different genres to jam something they wouldn’t - sometimes that gives the greatest outcome,” said Smith.
After recording is finished, many musicians want to quickly release what they have produced. This process could be very rewarding, but with added risk attached.
“Recording and actually having your music pressed onto vinyl is one of the most rewarding parts of all your hard work. You now, finally, get to share your music on a whole other scale than just playing shows - you now get to share what you’ve created with, well, the whole World really,” said Vanessa Gloux, co-founder of Pint-Sized Records based out of Calgary.
Pint-Sized Records has a model that is based on releasing limited–run vinyls and cassettes for bands across Canada.
“We want to help promote a strong local music scene in Calgary and Canada as well as perhaps pave a new, refreshing way to do so,” said Gloux.
If having vinyl pressed exceeds your budget, contact independent record labels who have interest in putting out records.
“We play a supportive role,” said Timur Inceoglu, who helps run IndoorShoes, a local record label. “Almost every dollar that is earned is re-invested back into our company. With bands we help financially, we just provide them with the dollar amount needed for a project in the hopes of pushing them into the direction of self-sustainability.”
Another method of distrubting music is by doing it yourself.
“For a young band it is okay to have burnt CDs with homemade covers. Building a fan-base is a slow process and too many bands end up spending hundreds if not thousands pressing professionally looking CDs that end up propping up an uneven coffee table,” said Pearson.
Playing shows is another aspect that musicians in the Niagara Region will have many opportunities to pick up on. Communicating with local promoters is not as intimidating as it may sound. They need local musicians as much as the musicians need the opportunity to play.
“If you are trying to break into new cities or even play locally, be willing to take opening spots on shows at DIY spaces, coffee shops and art functions. Don’t expect too much, you will undoubtedly have to play to empty rooms. Be kind, professional and network with the people playing or running these shows. Try to coordinate things with other groups or promoters who have a similar style to your own,” said Pearson.
When looking into out of town shows, show-trades are how most bands operate. When booking shows in another town, try running your own shows or contacting local promoters who are willing to facilitate the show-trade.
Merchandise is also a risky endeavor that most musicians should consider with caution about. However, if there is a fan-base to buy the merchandise, musicians should consider what sort of items in which they want to invest.
Connecting with artists who are willing to design images for clothing, patches, stickers or album covers is a great opportunity for their work to be recognized as well. Communicating with other artists is important, especially if the people putting in time are expected to be paid.