Do Drugs Help You Write Music?

Many great music artists have used drugs, but do drugs help you write music? In this week’s MondoBlog, we look at some facts and decide for ourselves.

Do drugs help you write music? In the US and Europe, the debate goes back to the early 20th century.

In 1933, Cab Calloway sang “Reefer Man.” Swing and jazz artists often had references to pot smoking in their songs. But the Great Depression and WWII shifted the focus of the world’s lyrics, and drugs didn’t openly come back into music for about 30 years.

The sixties and seventies turned drug use into a fertile field of music from artists like Janis Joplin, the Doors, and the Beatles. John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1972 that, “‘Rubber Soul’ was the pot album and ‘Revolver’ was the acid.”

More recently, Miley Cyrus admitted she supports “happy drugs” like pot and MDMA. “They make you want to be with friends,” she said. Madonna said on the Tonight Show that MDMA causes “euphoric feelings of love” and defended her lyrics about it.

And of course, artists often use more than just heavy-hitting drugs like hallucinogens. Coffee and cigarettes may seem mild as creativity enhancers, but millions of artists use them.

Stephen King, one of the world’s most prolific writers (and frontman of the Rock Bottom Remainders) says in On Writing, “I think it was quitting smoking that slowed me down; nicotine is a great synapse enhancer. The problem, of course, is that it’s killing you at the same time it’s helping you compose.”

Which brings us to the obvious counterargument: even if drugs help you write music, should artists use them?

Chris Cornell’s wife probably doesn’t think so.

The Soundgarden singer, who committed suicide in 2017, may have died of depression, not drugs. His wife said at the time, though, “I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”

When Cornell died, all the songs he could have written died with him. Other artists whose drug use may have contributed to their deaths include Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, and scores more. That’s a ton of unwritten music.

Artists whose tobacco use contributed to their deaths include Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, Lou Rawls, Serge Gainsbourg, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, and even the great Russian composer Shostakovich.

Let’s not even get into alcohol.

But when we ask, do drugs help you write music? we do need to consider that many of the very best musicians have been stone-cold sober.

The Melvins make an interesting argument for sober music because totally sober singer/songwriter “King Buzzo” Osborne grew up as close friends with Kurt Cobain. They have shared band members including bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dale Crover.

Kurt Cobain even produced many sessions of one Melvins album, “Houdini,” until the band fired Cobain for being “out of control” on drugs.

In the end, the Melvins have recorded nearly 10 times as much music as Nirvana.

Is Nirvana 10 times better than the Melvins? That’s a hard sell.

Other sober music artists include Calvin Harris, Anthony Kiedis, Ozzy Osborne, Trent Reznor, Tom Waits, James Hetfield, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and the legendary David Bowie.

So do drugs help you write music? Artists need to answer that for themselves. Finding reasons to use them might prove difficult with titanic minds proving it can be done sober, though.

After all, everyone in the above list of sober musicians is still making music except Bowie. And our beloved Bowie died of liver cancer, decades after he beat alcoholism.

Hear him talk about the importance sobriety plays in his music here.

 

That’s enough about drugs in music for now. Don’t miss last week’s bit on putting live instruments in EDM, and stay tuned next week for another MondoBlog you beautiful, brilliant people, you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live instruments in EDM and why they make sense

Live instruments in EDM make more sense than many DJs realize. Here’s why.

Live instruments in EDM may seem contradictory, but the music world can expect more and more of them. Digital composers looking for success in 2017 and beyond should see live instruments as an opportunity, therefore.

This is because the trend of live instruments in EDM has been coming for a long time.

In 2012 The LA Times quoted Deadmau5 as saying, “People assume there’s a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. None of the ‘top DJ’s in the world’ to my knowledge have. Myself included.”

This caused a huge debate among EDM artists, themselves, while everyone outside the scene nodded in agreement with Deadmau5.

EDM moved on.

Then in 2014, Saturday Night Live’s “When Will the Bass Drop?” skit lit up the discussion again. How can we consider EDM live music unless it has an obvious live component?

In that article, Autograf’s Jake Carpenter said of the SNL skit, “Build up, raise your hands, insert Lil Jon vocal drop and everyone starts jumping like pogo sticks. We’re starting to see a reaction to that.”

Now let’s skip ahead to 2016. This is four full years after Deadmau5 pointed out the problem.

Connor Jones writes for Magnetic Magazine: “The DJ model set the standard in the culture and helped foster the current era of prosperity in the scene, but it always felt as though the live aspect was a missed potential. A few artists broke the mold over the years as the EDM movement developed, but this just wasn’t the mentality driving the live scene.”

This mentality can be easily understood in terms of music evolution. Fans and artists who consider EDM to have been a brand-new invention of the year 2000 are mistaken.

EDM came from electronica, trip hop, industrial music and other genres. To get it, all you needed to do was take out the live instruments.

Naturally, that left a hole.


Today, the roster of artists who blend live instruments in EDM thrums with new blood.

It includes Gramatik, Empire of the Sun, the Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, Disclosure, the Glitch Mob, Emancipator, Modestep, Octave One, KiNK, Detroit Swindle, Destroid, Opiuo and many, many more.

Let’s remember, too, bands that helped pioneer the sound in the 1990s like the Prodigy, KMFDM, and Pop Will Eat Itself.

But the point is: what’s the difference between live instruments in EDM and great digital dance music alone? How can EDM artists use this to their advantage?

As far as live performances go, the answer is plain. Live instruments add to the entertainment factor. Music fans get more. The end.

What about the sound, though? And what about EDM artists who never play live?

True music fans can be very hard to fool if you’re trying to synthesize a live solo. The sound of live music is worth the trouble, but recording a live instrument is often easier than successfully imitating one.

Millions of people play instruments all over the world. Most of them enjoy a recording session, even an unpaid one.

Never underestimate the power of a vocalist, either. Good singers love nothing more than a microphone. The most popular EDM tracks in history include live vocals.

Should the EDM artist not want to share creative responsibility, there’s nothing stopping him or her from sampling live instruments. After all, samples of live music represent the original heart of EDM.

 

Comments and questions on this topic or others are welcome here or at smccauley@mondotunes.com. Also be sure to check out last week’s post in which we explored the advice of Rolling Stone’s top ten songwriters on writing great music.

 

Write a Good Song: Ten Lessons from Top Songwriters

We’ve been talking about how indie musicians can make an impact without playing live, and a huge part of that is making great music. You can’t get very far without knowing how to write a good song. Here are ten lessons from Rolling Stone’s top ten songwriters.

1. “You want to write songs that are bigger than life. You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things you have seen.” — Bob Dylan

Write about what you know. Be honest with your audience. Don’t fake anything.

All these statements are great advice, but it’s not enough to simply be autobiographical. If you want to know how to write a good song, the secret is in living a life worth writing about. Make some memories.

Or, take some time to look at the mundane around you in a new way. See differently.

Say something about the strange.

2. “The truth is the problem’s always been the same, really. When you think about it, when you’re writing a song, you’re always trying to write something that you love and the people will love.” — Paul McCartney

Are you, though? Or are you just trying to write something that you’ll love? Or are you just trying to write something the people will love?

In the first case, you’re best playing alone in your room. In the second case, you can justifiably be called a “sellout,” someone whose mind is on fame and fortune, not on making great music.

Keep in mind, too, that Sir Paul McCartney has written about 800 songs.

You want to know how to write a good song? Write a lot of them.

3. “I’m interested in something that means something for everyone, not just for a few kids listening to wallpaper.”

Writing a good song means saying something that might be bigger than you, bigger than the song, bigger than music, itself.

Music communicates. Let it communicate something worth getting across to people. “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors might be a kick in the pants just for fun, but Lennon’s “Imagine” asks us all to think about what peace on Earth might actually look like.

How’s that for a standard of excellence?

4. “Music should be made to make people forget their problems, if only for a short while.” — Chuck Berry

The quote speaks for itself.

Let’s look at something else Chuck said, though, while we have him in the room:

“Charlie Christian … was the greatest guitar player that ever was. But he never looked up from the guitar. I put a little dance to it. They appreciate seein’ something along with hearin’ something.”

Once you figure out how to write a good song, it’ll be time to learn how to perform your good song.

If you’re going to be onstage, you’d better put on a show.

5. “My theory of writing is to write a song that has a complete idea and tells a story in the time allotted for a record. It has to be something that really means something, not just a bunch of words on music.” — Smokey Robinson

Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “the greatest living poet.” Rolling Stone calls him, “the most influential and innovative R&B tunesmith of all time.”

That he’s talking about meaningful music — just like John Lennon does — should seem important to anyone studying how to write a good song.

6. “People … like partnerships because they can identify with the drama of two people in partnership. They can feed off a partnership, and that keeps people entertained. Besides, if you have a successful partnership, it’s self-sustaining.” — Mick Jagger on working with Keith Richards

In other words, writing a good song can often mean doing it with other people.

All kinds of writing are lonely. There’s no reason to make songs alone, though. The perspective of another person can be extremely helpful, especially if you like the music they make on their own.

If you can find somebody who helps you carve a song out of thin air you both like, then write another with that person. And another. And another.

If you learn to hate each other, but keep writing anyway, you’re probably making great music.

7. “Once I start to create a song, even if commerce is the motivation, I’m still going to try to write the best song and move people in a way that touches them. People know when you do that. They know that there’s an emotional connection, even if it’s commercial.”

Carol King has been called the most important female music artist of all time.

It’s remarkable hearing her talk so candidly about writing good songs having money as her chief motivation.

Dig it, though — even if she’s just trying to make a buck, she makes a point of touching and moving the listener.

If you’re not affecting your audience, your audience is going to go someplace more interesting.

(Also important to note: she wrote most of her early hits with her husband. After they split up, they kept working together because the music was good. See #6.)

8. “One of my deficiencies is my voice sounds sincere. I’ve tried to sound ironic. I don’t. I can’t. Dylan, everything he sings has two meanings. He’s telling you the truth and making fun of you at the same time. I sound sincere every time.” — Paul Simon

If you want to know how to write a good song, you need to know what you can’t do.

Nobody can do everything.

If you can’t hit a note, you need to know what note that is before you put people through the pain of hearing you miss it.

You don’t have to be Jimi on guitar or Mercury on mic.

Just do your music the very best you can, every time, even when you’re alone, and you’ll be surprised how great you can sound.

9. “I went, ‘Oh my God, a lot of people are listening to me. Well then they better find out who they’re worshiping. Let’s see if they can take it. Let’s get real.’ So I wrote Blue, which horrified a lot of people, you know.” — Joni Mitchell

Don’t be afraid to scare people.

In fact, scare people.

Just try it.

It’s harder than you think.

10. “Like a painter, I get my inspiration from experiences that can be painful or beautiful. “I always start from a feeling of profound gratitude — you know, ‘Only by the grace of God am I here’— and write from there. Most songwriters are inspired by an inner voice and spirit.” — Stevie Wonder

And what do you know? This is a whole lot like No. 1, what Bob Dylan said.

Find your inspiration, know what it is that fills you up emotionally and wants to come out in sound.

Try to imagine what that sounds like.

Don’t try to write a good song. Try to hear a good song that hasn’t been written yet. Once you can hear it, listen to it. Love it.

Then do your best to help other people hear it, too, by writing it down, playing it on an instrument, and maybe recording it.

If you’re writing songs before you hear them, you’re working backwards.

 

That’s all for this week! Make sure also to see last week’s piece on how to choose a great song title. You’re going to need one soon.

Good band names, good song titles: how to make them

In the 21st century, good band names and good song titles help move your music online. Here are five points to keep in mind when you want to make good band names and song titles.

  • Make sure it doesn’t already exist online

When you want to make a good band name or song title, the least you can do is check to see if someone’s already got it.

You should do it every time.

Even though they started in the 1960s, Mott the Hoople picked a great band name. Who the heck is Mott? What the crap is a hoople? They might not be making much of a statement with a name like that, but forty years later the intertubes will shoot you straight to their music.

The point is, don’t pick a name that sounds similar to anything else. Not even a little.

This rule is even truer for song titles. If you want people to be able to find your music easily, then don’t be the 50,000,000th person to upload a song called “For You,” or “Freedom,” or “Let’s Party.” Make your lyrics anything you like (of course!) but call your songs something unique so people can look them up.

  • Band names and stage names should attract listeners

The second consideration for good band names and good song titles is your intended audience.

When people who would like your music hear your name, it should make them smile.

If you can make your listener smile before they even hear your music, then you’ve probably got a new fan. They want to like you.

Think about the audience you want. Who are they? What are they like? What kind of attitudes do they have? What sorts of names do their favorite music artists have?

The Irish-American rock band from Los Angeles, Flogging Molly, did a great job picking a name their audience would like. ‘Molly’ is a traditional Irish first name. ‘Flogging’ is a nautical term, and boats are intrinsic to the Irish-American experience. They’re a punk-rock band with an aggressive sound, so the S&M motif makes sense, too. Chances are good that people who like punk rock with Irish overtones smile (and maybe even laugh) when they hear the name ‘Flogging Molly’ for the first time.

That’s how you hook a new fan. Pick a name to make them smile.

  • Don’t use obscure punctuation

Having an online presence means you need to have names the Web understands.

If you title an album “Black / White,” you may successfully make a social point, but you’ve failed to make it online because Google doesn’t treat special characters like slashes the way it does regular characters.

According to the official Google Help Page, any song, album or artist name with any of these: @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) = + [ ] \ is going to run into trouble.

“The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” illustrates this point because he changed his legal name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1992 to escape his music contract. He didn’t get out of the record deal, but he definitely made it uber hard for the media to report on him. Don’t be that guy.

Prince changed his name back around 2000 when his contract ended, and it’s a good thing he did for his online presence. That symbol he made up isn’t even on a keyboard. Talk about unsearchable.

And what of the band called ‘?!‘ Have you ever Googled them? Good luck with that.

  • Use unusual and memorable words

“Mary Poppins” is a remarkable musical in many ways, but when the songwriters decided to invent a ridiculously long word and use it for their title, they were especially brilliant. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” can’t be anything but itself. Fans don’t even have to know how to spell it because just seven letters should be enough.

What about the ’60s rock group called The Band, though?

Google will ignore ‘the,’ so all you’re really searching is, ‘band.’ It’s so unsearchable it’s like they did it on purpose.

  • Don’t be afraid to use several words

Go ahead and use whole strings of words for your song titles and artist names, if you like.

More words means more room to communicate, and longer phrases are far easier to look up online, too.

People aren’t turned off by longer phrases so long as they’re meaningful or entertaining. In fact, Wired Magazine did an article on this two years ago.

Nobody has a hard time finding “Tiptoe Through the Inferno” by MC 900 Ft. Jesus, and that track is a quarter-century old.

 

Those’re enough rules to follow without squishing your artistic liberty. I promise that the more you follow them, the less trouble you’ll have making good band names and good song titles. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your music is if nobody can find it. Be sure also to see our short guides on getting fans without playing live  and how to get signed to a label.

More next week!

-S.

Get Fans Without Playing Live Using Only the Internet

In last week’s MondoBlog, we looked at ways to get fans as quickly and predictably as possible. But some of us can’t play live or don’t want to. Here are ways to get fans without playing live using only the Internet.

Plenty of musicians today use the Internet as both their primary studio and their only performance venue. How do they form a fan base without needing to leave the house? The short answer is, today’s online studio music artist needs to have as large an Internet presence as possible.

That’s what we’ll be talking about.

For many of you, some or all of the below will not be news. Even so, only the most driven and dedicated few of you will have taken all of the below steps. That’s why today’s MondoBlog is about how to get fans without playing live, using only the Internet.

#1. Have an active Facebook page for your music project

Does this seem obvious? You might be surprised how many musicians go through the painstaking trouble of writing, recording, mixing, mastering, and distributing a music project without even making a social media account to advertise it.

Facebook is free and famously claims it always will be. It has a potential reach that spans the globe. It does not have a limit on how many legitimate social media pages a single person can operate.

Not only is Facebook an obvious go-to for advertisement and music news distribution, but seeing how many “friends” follow you is a great way to measure the growth (or decline) of your fan base.

Keep in mind, though, that artists must be active on these pages or they work in reverse. A silent band page on Facebook is the same as a vacant, closed storefront. They look awful and are bad for business.

#2. Showcase your music on BandCampSoundCloud and ReverbNation

You don’t have to put your whole catalog online for everyone’s free listening, but you do need to give the public a considerable sample of what you do.

It’s incorrect to think people will invest their attention (let alone their money) in music they haven’t heard. Very few music listeners will buy an album on faith alone.

If your music is good, people will find themselves drawn to it like ants to sugar — but you’ve got to put the sugar out, first.

“I’m on one of those sites, and one’s enough.”

Enough to what? Make it harder for potential fans to find you? Besides, you don’t want to make three identical sites, either. Have a little something exclusive on each page to encourage people to pay attention to all your webpages.

Regularly update all of them with new music and stage banter. You can’t effectively use social media and be antisocial at the same time.

#3. If you want to get fans without playing live using only the Internet, you need an official website

Ground your Internet presence on an official website. There are sites like Wix.com, WordPress.com and many others which make website creation and maintenance incredi-simple.

Use one of them to make a site with a URL like “www.YourBandNameHere.com.”

If your band name is already taken, you might even want to rebrand your music with a less common name. Redundancy hides you online. You don’t want to hide.

You don’t necessarily have to pay to have a site, but “www.50Cent.com” looks a lot more legitimate than “www.50CentTheRapper.wordpress.com.”

#4. Be active on the webpages of other indie musicians

If you make noise on the pages of your music friends and acquaintances, your acquaintances will make noise on yours. If you don’t have a large (or existing) music circle, this is a great way to make one.

To get fans without playing live using only the Internet, you’re going to need to make friends using only the Internet.

It’s fantastic that the Information Age has made this possible. It behooves us artists to take advantage.

 

Simply following the above four precepts is a lot more work than most online musicians do to make their music available. Start here, and we’ll have more for you to do later.

Watch this space!

-S

 

 

Big Fan Base: How to Get One

In last week’s MondoBlog post, we talked about how to get signed. We’ll focus this week on how to grow a big fan base so getting signed won’t be a problem to begin with.

A nice, big fan base

By far the most effective way to build a great, big fan base is by playing great music at popular music venues. That’s not an option for many independent musicians, though, so let’s explore some ways to gather fans without getting onstage.

  • Webcam Performances

Many musicians today enjoy global fame due to their presence on YouTube or other online platforms early in their career. Chance the Rapper is one of them, and the Biebs is one of them, too. If you’re reading this, chances are you own the technology necessary to tell people you’ll be performing live online at a certain time. If you don’t want to play live, simply record yourself performing and publish the video publicly on YouTube or another hosting service.

How listening parties look -- fun!
Yemi Alade’s “Mama Africa” listening party – AfroPunk
  • Listening Party

Most listening parties resemble album release parties, like the one shown above. But consider getting in touch with several independent artists in your area and throwing a larger, less-focused listening party at which everyone listens to everyone else’s tracks.

Other musicians can be an artist’s best asset, especially when putting events together for growing a big fan base. There’s a reason show promoters always book several bands for the same night. It’s much more fun to have some variety. It takes the pressure off the artist who would otherwise perform alone, too.

Sample of a download card

  • Download Cards

Since you have music available for sampling at Soundcloud or elsewhere (you do, don’t you?) why not print up some flashy download cards to entice people you meet to give your music a chance? A big fan base can be started with your printer.

The cards pictured here are from dropcards.com but vistaprint and other business card stores can be equally cheap options. Put some music online for download with a password you provide on the card. That makes it exclusive, and exclusive is attractive. This is a nearly free option any artist can fix up in an hour, tops.

ARTISTS UNITED

  • Unite with Other Musicians

Start a united group of music artists online in your music genre. Every time someone in the group publishes a new track, the others in the group listen to it and comment online.

If the members of the group keep listening to everyone’s music and publishing their own, the group will grow. This will happen painfully slowly at first, but once it gets rolling, it can get away from you in a very good way.

This trick comes from popular bloggers. Bloggers are a tight-knit crew of artists who read one another’s writing every time something goes online. This is very attractive to other new writers. You get thirty or forty people checking out your art on the regular, well look there, you’ve got a pretty great start on a nice, big fan base.

The best part is, you’ve been giving props and helpful (!) criticism to all these people and they’ve been giving it to you, so these aren’t just fans — they’re comrades. You can count on their support.

 

That’s all for this edition but more on this topic at a later date. If you have questions you’d like to see answered on the MondoBlog, please send mail to SMcCauley@mondotunes.com.

How to Get Signed to a Music Label

While there’s a ton of information involved with record labels and getting signed in 2017, artists and indie-label owners only need to know one thing, and that’s exactly how to do it.

I am asked how to get signed to a music label more often than I am asked anything. It comes in various packages, such as: “How do I get a record deal,” “how can I get my artist on a major label,” and “how do I get the attention of record executives?”

Turns out there’s a straightforward answer to the question.

You’re trying to get the attention of A&R reps, or artist-and-repertoire representatives. A&R reps are the talent scouts of the music industry. They work for big record labels sniffing out the next big thing, and they are the people who get artists signed.

Reps don’t usually look like those guys up there, though. They usually look like this guy down here.

So how do you get the attention of that guy? There are two ways, but really those ways are the same way.

  1. Build a large and growing fan base
  2. Start making money with your music

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “If I could do those two things, what would I need a label for?”

Exactly. That’s why the independent industry is bigger than ever in the 21st century.

But that doesn’t mean record label’s are worthless. There’s a point at which growing your fan base and profit margin becomes seriously hard work on the business end.

Once you’re touring twice a year, selling merch from your official website and booking shows for every Friday and Saturday night, you’ll need a manager. Probably, you’ll already have been recording and distributing your music through Mondotunes. You’re essentially running your own label at that point, and you may have noticed that it’s hard to find time to write new music while doing all that stuff.

That’s what labels are really for.

To get signed, then, you first need to worry about Number 1, above — growing a fan base. (If you’ve managed to make money as a musician without building a fan base, please let us know how you bent the laws of music physics to do it).

Building a fan base begins with making great music which people in your area will love to hear.

Once you’ve got that, it’s about getting the music to the people. This is traditionally done — and often best done — by playing live shows at venues. People at music venues go there because they like live music and are open to hearing new things. That’s your infant fan base, right there. Play for them as often as you can, and when you make them happy, they’ll come back for more. More importantly, they’ll tell other people about you.

[Watch this blog for other ideas on “How to Grow a Fan Base,” to be published soon.]

Once you’ve taken care of Number 1, Number 2 falls right in your lap. You can’t have people clamoring for your music without being able to sell them tickets, music and merchandise. You’ll be making money, and so long as you keep the good times coming for your fans, it’ll surprise you how quickly the fans and the money multiply.

This all comes back to the original question, of course.

Once an A&R rep hears about your music, hears that people are wearing your tee shirts and going to see your performances, he or she is going to ask, “are they signed?” before he or she even hears your music. When the answer comes back that you are not, in fact, signed, then you can expect a call.

That’s what record labels want in the end, of course: a piece of the action.

All you’ve got to do is be the action.

-S. McCauley

Future bass! The future of dubstep

Meet future bass, the new sound of dubstep

Let’s all take a moment to thank dubstep for everything it’s given us. It led electronica out of the nineties and into the new millennium. It gave us seminal DJs like Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Knife Party. And it gave a whole generation of young music fans a style of music to call their own.

But nothing lasts forever.

Until the year 2000, music trends were typically contained in their decade. The nineties had grunge, the eighties had new wave, the seventies had disco, etc., etc. Every new decade seemed to need a style for itself. But when the BBC’s John Peel started playing dubstep music on the radio in 2003, he was kicking off a tsunami of sound that is still going strong almost 15 years later.

To say dubstep has had a good run is an understatement. That it’s finally passing the torch to a new sound should surprise no one.

That new sound is future bass.

Rolling Stone’s David Turner describes future bass as “a still-codifying genre,” saying, “Future bass takes the ecstatic drops of dubstep or trap, but provides a warm bounce rather than a lumbering bruteness. Basslines are provided by harsh, detuned synths that buzz and purr instead of gulp and whomp.”

The earliest future-bass tracks date back to around 2007, just a couple years after dubstep had gone mainstream. Ten years later, the heir to the EDM crown is taking the throne.

Among the most influential founders of future bass is Louis The Child.

“Back in the day it was called ‘chill trap’ or ‘melodic trap,'” says Louis The Child’s Robby Hauldren. “Then it turned from this 140 [bpm] chill trap into a half-step beat, brought up a little bit more with the filtered chords that are super reverb[ed].”

And independent EDM artists like MondoTunes‘ own Chiefftone are playing for team Future Bass, too.

“I would describe future bass as being of a similar tempo and feel to dubstep, but a lot more light and mellow,” says Chiefftone, a graduate of the Point Blank music college. “Its main characteristic is a layered, often pumping, synth sound that bounces along with the beat. The synth sound is one people might associate with other styles, like trance, but with the tempo slowed down and a more hip-hop beat. And of course the bass itself is important too. Often a heavy ‘808’ or sub is used, often pumping in time with the synth.”

The Chainsmokers continue to release new future-bass tracks

But does Chiefftone agree that future bass might be the next evolution of dubstep?

“I think future bass is already becoming the next big thing. A lot of people listen to future bass every day on the radio without realising it. The Chainsmokers’ huge hits ‘Something Just Like This,’ and ‘Roses,’ are both future-bass tunes. Martin Garrix has basically changed his whole style to future bass recently with his hits ‘Scared to be Lonely’ and ‘In the name of Love’ totally falling in the style of future bass. And of course, there’s the Australian artist Flume, who pioneered the genre, who is more popular than ever.”

You heard it here first, EDM DJs, listeners and producers. Time to learn up.

-Sean McCauley

[“Stray Gun,” the new future-bass single release by Chiefftone, is available online worldwide.]

All About Music Distribution

Are you a music artist looking for info about music distribution? This handy how-to guide will tell you everything you need to know today (and a little bit more).

 

Music distribution in 2017 is all about digital. But what exactly is it? Music distribution is the act of getting your music into the hands of listeners.

That’s it.

And while it may feel like there’s an awful lot more to learn, as a musician with online access and only a little money, there’s not much else you need. This will explain how to get your music live for purchase and listening all over the world, practically overnight.

Today, nearly all music distribution is digital for lots of reasons. We’re going to assume you already know the future is in online music distribution and skip the explanations about the dinosaur methods of yesterday.

But first, let’s examine why every musician should take advantage of music distribution.

  1. Music distribution is open to everyone
  2. It’s totally affordable
  3. It makes artists money
  4. Music distribution goes around the world

That first point is one everyone should know. Nobody is turned away. No record is shut down. All the people of Earth are welcome to publish music around the world.

But you’re probably more interested in the second point. Practically anybody can afford music distribution right now.

And what of making real money? Can that actually be done? The IFPI says yes, with 50% of all music sales last year coming directly from digital and only 34% from physical formats.

Streaming alone went up more than 60%. Musicians are making more money online than in any other way, live performances included.

It is a statistical fact that everyone doubles their chances to make cash with global music distribution.

The last point mentioned above describes the reach of music distribution today. When you distribute music online, you distribute to almost every corner of the planet.

This is especially true if you choose to distribute your music through MondoTunes, which has the largest distribution network in the world, the same one used by Universal artists like U2, Lady Gaga, and the Black Eyed Peas.

So now that you know why you need music distribution, which company is right for you?

A Brief Look at Music Distribution Companies

In the beginning, there was CD Baby. Founded away back in 1998, CD Baby did exactly that. They sold CDs.

After almost 20 years, their name brand is the one most people point to first.

It’s probably due to this that Wired Magazine nods to their healthy “community vibe.”

 

Seven years later, along comes Tunecore.

Tunecore provided digital retailer solutions.

This meant that musicians could go online and make their music available from online music stores.

Wired Magazine notes that Tunecore has a simple, easy setup, which is something everyone can appreciate.

 

 

Of course we’re biased about ourselves — so here’s what LedgerNote has to say about us, instead:

“The whole point of an online music distributor is they handle all the work of getting the music out. It’s a major job for them, especially if they’re getting the music to as many outlets as possible.

“Take for example a company like MondoTunes.  Their reach includes all of the big dogs such as:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Spotify
  • Google Play
  • Tidal
  • and over 600 more…

“With one fell swoop you can hit the sites above, toss in YouTube, Vevo, Deezer, Rhapsody, and pretty much every other distributor you can imagine.  One of the main principles of a takeover in marketing is to ‘Be everywhere at all times.’  This is how you pull that off with a literal fraction of a fraction of the effort it used to take.”

Wired Magazine loves the pricing at Mondo, which was about $40 per album at the time of writing — but today you can distribute an infinite number of releases for the same amount.

What neither LedgerNote nor Wired mentions is that Mondo is the next step in the natural evolution of music distribution.

“We essentially were the ones who linked major label distribution for indie artists,” says founder Javan Mershad. “Then we embraced recent technology and leveraged it to provide unlimited uploads.”

But is music distribution through MondoTunes all about facts and figures?

Not at all.

Excuse my breaking the so-called fourth wall, but what’s most important to me (Sean McCauley) is the relationship we have to you artists out there.

Not all of us, but we’re all for you.

Everyone from the founders, to the support crew, to the press team and mastering geniuses are themselves musicians with real music experience in the trenches. We’ve performed, we’ve sold albums, we’ve printed tee-shirts, we’ve been stiffed by the show promoter and we’ve been robbed by the indie label guy.

For my money, I suggest Mondo for the simple reason that we’re artists, too, and we shoot straight.

-Sean McCauley

Senior Editor, MondoTunes

 

 

How to Make Money Selling Merch

When you’re ready to start making money selling music merchandise, here’s how to get started.

 

One of the best ways to make money as a music artist is by peddling merchandise, or “merch,” as it’s called. It’s a great way to advertise music, especially for studio musicians who can’t sell tickets to live performances. If you’ve got creativity, a computer, and just a little starting cashola, you can start selling merch inside of a week. Here are some tips to help get your merch started.

The age-old merch staple is the tee-shirt. We’ll use that as our main example.

 

The easy part is simple economics. Go online and shop around. See how many shirts you can buy for as little as possible, but stay honest with yourself about how many people are likely to buy a shirt from you in a certain amount of time. Let’s say a month. How many people purchased your music last month? That can give you a decent idea of how many people might buy a shirt if it were available.

 

But your music doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the merch equation if your merch is marketable. If it features a logo, theme, or style that is attractive to people regardless of the fact that it’s a band tee-shirt, you can sell it to people who’ve never heard your music, and advertise your music at the same time, which is of course the whole point of band merchandise to begin with.

 

Look at this merch from heavy-metal crew All Shall Perish:


How many Bernie supporters do you think bought this shirt without ever having heard the band? Some.

 

The idea is to get a logo or theme together that will appeal to as many people as possible. That’s the hard part. Once you’ve got the idea, sketch it out on a pad of paper or, even better, using a computer. You’re going to need to put it in digital form for the best bang for your buck, anyhow, so you may as well start there if you’re comfy being creative on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.

 

You’re going for a catchy logo, phrase or cool-looking image. Some of the best-selling and best-recognized music logos include the Wu-Tang ‘W’:the Grateful Dead “Jerry Bears:” and the Bad Religion “Crossbuster:” 

That last one’s a doozy. It’s too controversial for most musicians to flaunt, but controversy does sell records. If you don’t think that logo got all kinds of attention in the 1980s (and continues to do so today) then you’re crazy. For artists trying to get people talking about their music, there’s no such thing as bad press.

 

Once you’ve got a logo, printed phrase, or other image you think will sell, you can get to work doing the actual business side of merch. You’re going to have to invest in your brand before people can buy your shirts, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are companies who will sell you large, black, cotton tee-shirts at about $7 per shirt, complete with an embroidered logo, and ship it to your house for free if you buy $200 worth of them. That works out to just under 30 shirts. You can price those at an even 10 bucks per shirt and make almost 50% profit. Not bad.

 

But you don’t have to sell shirts.

 

Everyone sells shirts. Why not get custom embroidered straw hats for summertime? Cigarette lighters with your band name on them? Beer koozies? Umbrellas? You get the picture.

 

There’s an item for every musician’s bank account and fan base. If you’ve got the imagination, the world will supply the buyers.

 

Happy merchandising, and have fun telling the world about your music!

 

–Sean McCauley