Music technology has, no doubt, made it a lot easier for new bands and musicians to produce and promote their work. More and more bands are using home software for recording or mixing and platforms such as SoundCloud or Bandcamp to promote their music. However, though ever-advancing technologies have the potential of easing the stress of an aspiring band or musician, should we be wary of the risk of crossing the line towards complete reliance on technology to make music?
We find out from our own tech-savvies — Fauxe, Seyra and MONSTER CAT — what aspiring bands or musicians should look out for when it comes to exploiting music technology.
Bedroom studio VS professional recording studio
For electronic music producer Fauxe, the rise of home recording studios, or ‘bedroom studios’, has given more flexibility for him to work independently. Producing his music through software such as Reasonand Recycle has helped him to speed up the production process while still allowing him to push his creative and musical boundaries. The ability to work in his bedroom studio also means that there are less distractions.
He hasn’t completely neglected the (costly) idea of working in a professional studio though, but for now, “working around my means is the only option”.
Striking a balance is Seyra; the experimental folk/indie rock band uses Ableton Live for sound design and composition, Logic Pro for tracking and mixing, as well as a buffet of plug-ins such as Waves, Native Instruments and SoundToys. But instead of a bedroom, Seyra has created their own makeshift studio, housing their own equipment. And similar to Fauxe, they are given the flexibility to make real-time decisions on their music experiments before hitting a professional recording studio for a well-prepared and productive session, helping them save time and money.
“look at [technology] as the icing, not the cake; it is a mere tool to achieve your music vision, but what makes a great song depends on what the musician writes.” – MONSTER CAT
MONSTER CAT chooses to keep it as organic as possible when producing their lusciously emotive folk/rock genre. However, they do admit to experimenting through Ableton, Massive and Reason, and using the Roland SPD-SX drum pad for live performances.
But recording with a “professional producer in a well-equipped studio is something bands should work towards”, they say, stressing the advantages of working with a producer. “He/she is very often a sound engineer as well as an additional songwriter, giving you a fresh pair of ears, forcing you to rethink arrangements and [throwing] uncomfortable curve balls at you.”
Working from home has also allowed MONSTER CAT to engage in opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to, like collaborations with Los Angeles hip hop group Dominant Genetikz and Michigan rapper Ajax Stacks — all thanks to the Internet.
They sum up their take on exploiting music technology by reminding bands to “look at [technology] as the icing, not the cake; it is a mere tool to achieve your music vision, but what makes a great song depends on what the musician writes.”
Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp
Now that you’ve made your music, it’s time to put it out there. Facebook, Soundcloud and Bandcamp make up the ultimate promotional mix for bands and musicians to engage with fans.
Fauxe agrees that technology opens the musician to a much bigger audience, however bands should remember that “once you post your music out, the world becomes your audience; it’s not just Singapore.” People from all over the world will be critiquing your music, so you have to be prepared for whatever feedback they bring — good or bad.
“…once you post your music out, the world becomes your audience; it’s not just Singapore.” – Fauxe
And always remember that engaging with your fans through such platforms is a two-way process. While you attempt to get to know your fans, you should allow them to get to know you too. Seyra keeps it “sincere and funny”, while actively engaging with their fans on their Facebook page as well as their recently launched website. Bringing the band’s personality across requires “a lot of self-intuition and time immersing in the social media culture,” which is a melting pot of bands trying to make themselves heard, making targeting important — “make your voice heard to the right people”.
Like technology, social media platforms are continuously advancing and bands who don’t keep up will risk re-starting their promotional efforts each time a platform collapses or becomes less relevant. MONSTER CAT aims to keep a step ahead of music platforms by making their music available on newer platforms such as Spotify — a music service that is not available in Singapore just yet — and recently registering with on-demand music service Deezer, which has recently become available in Singapore.
From technology to success
Ultimately, a band or musician’s success through technology is relative — it really depends on your goals. If you view YouTube stardom as success, by all means, go crazy with your video uploads and pray that a producer will spot you.
To Fauxe, success is being a musician that possesses a true and distinct identity. With technology, finding yourself doesn’t require a spiritual journey to India (though it did work wonders for The Beatles). All you need to do is hunt through SoundCloud or Youtube. By listening to the output of thousands of producers, you can discover a sound that reflects you.
Seyra believes that success depends on what you want your music to do to people, and to yourself — whether it is to inspire, preach or simply entertain. If you’ve achieved your goals, your endeavour has succeeded. Seyra adds, “No matter how niche or banal your music is, as long as you can find the right audience, you are more likely to be successful in reaching your goal.” They count on turnouts at their gigs (which they announce through their Facebook page and website) to measure their success, and also to gauge where they stand in the music community.
“While you attempt to get to know your fans, you should allow them to get to know you too.” – Seyra
Similarly, MONSTER CAT reckons that everything has to stem from the band’s long-term goal. “Be it cash, popularity or longevity, figuring this out will help you determine whether a band should be signed, stay wholly independent or adopt a mix of both.” For MONSTER CAT, their goal was to play in the band for a living, and that determined their decision to get signed to KittyWu Records, and to have their managers, Errol and Lesley, deal with the distribution and promotion so that they could continue to focus on their songwriting.
There is no winning formula for success in such a temperamental industry. However, knowing that the one thing to expect is the unexpected is an epiphany in itself. Technology has changed the way the industry works, opening up opportunities to those that may never have had them. But with increased opportunity comes increased competition, and so, perhaps, the best advice out there is to keep on top of who your fans are, where they are, and why they like you. Once you’ve figured this out, take the ball and run with it. And don’t look back.
By Nurl Azlea