Why My EP Has Not Been Released Yet and the Future of My Music Career

So, I may have been saying since about August that I would ‘soon’ release a new EP called ‘Bass Matters’ which would contain 3 tracks. There are some reasons why that EP has not come.

Since I set my Arts Award challenge of creating an EP back in October, my ideas as to how I want to progress my music production career have changed dramatically, which include:

  • Which genres I want to include in my work
  • Where my inspirations are coming from
  • What format and structure I want my records to be in

Last year, I was heavily inspired by the likes of dubstep, brostep, glitch hop, drum and bass and other rave-friendly electronic genres. I listened to rather enough of it though and it all became just noise to me, and I realised that it all followed the same format – growly basses and overly-compressed drums… and I swear that two thirds of dubstep tracks are in the same key: F minor.

Although I appreciate the art of big electronic artists like Skrillex who make all of this dirty music, I figured that it was the wrong idea to jump on to an over-loaded bandwagon of the same stuff. It’s like piling water bottles into a truck, to the point where they are all rolling out, and then you try to add another one. Why’s the new one any different? It’s just water and PVC, just like all of the other bottles.

What I am trying to say from this is that I found it hard to work out how to be original in a scene which has just too many artists, with too much attention being thrown at it.

I thought to myself therefore that the dub/bro step craze was kind of ‘last year’. In fact, more than that. It mostly became popular in 2011.

Therefore, I started listening a lot more broadly to other, more raw types of electronic music, such as techno, deep house and early progressive house (including some of deadmau5’s older stuff). It gave me a feel as to how to make electronic music sound good at a very basic level – the raw art of music. That was all during early 2013 where I was having a break from producing.

It was then that I decided to have a go at making a techno track myself, which led to my track Unexpectations, which you can check out here:

It then struck me as to how I could make my music unique. I realised after making the above track that it included many different elements of different genres. For example, it has a techno structure and beat, but has the synths of progressive house, and the bass of electro.

Therefore, a new element which I decided to include was to include many different styles of electronic music into whatever genre I am making, basically making ‘cross-over’ tracks.

Having said this, it means that I have broadened my range of inspirations. I am no longer looking at just dubstep and that kind of scene like I was last year, but all types of electronic music.

One genre which I think could be worth experimenting with is deep house, which has been growing steadily in mainstream popularity, but is not quite up to the radar like dubstep has become. It would be worth taking the opportunity to utilise it while it is becoming popular for people to recognise and enjoy my use of the genre while it’s popular.

One major example of a deep house track which has become successful is this one by Disclosure:

My recent love for deep house began when I was walking into a Superdry store while I was on holiday in May and I heard this kind of music playing, and I saw on their computer screens which album they were playing and it was this one:

…and when I got home, I bought it straight away.

Yes, I know that I lot of people don’t think that Ministry of Sound’s compilations give accurate examples of their supposed genres, but at least it’s a starting point. Since then however, I have bought more compilations from Defected and SubSoul, which also seem to be becoming popular.

With this deep house genre, I want to experiment with it as much as possible to make it easier for me to introduce my own unique production techniques.

In doing so, I would like to include tracks with and without vocals, as collaborating with vocalists increases your exposure and popularity.

This leads me on to another reason as to why my EP isn’t out: after I decided on 3 tracks, I then decided to squeeze in a 4th one, which includes vocals. I have the base track but I’m in the process of getting into contact with a singer who can work with me on this (which should be exciting). Here is the track in its current state:

I have decided to halt production on it for now so that I can easily collaborate with the singer, not only to record vocals, but also to decide together about the structure of the song, which is more of a robust collaborative process for me to learn.

My first EP, Bass Matters, is really just going to be a starting point. It will be for tracks which I really haven’t put any routine or strictly unique production styles into, but after that, my following EP should have a lot more focus and structure to it, and it should be longer. It may even become an album if I spend enough time on it.

After gathering ideas as to how I want to progress my music production into the future by working on this first EP, I now have very firm ideas as to what sort of music I want to create. From now on, my music will have a strong sense of continuity and unique sounds to my artist name, which is really how many producers become famous. For example, it’s very easy to recognise when a track has been made by Skrillex; he uses similar sounds for each of his songs and remixes.

Not only sounds will I be confident with producing, but also more with production techniques.

A couple of weeks ago I had my track ‘Unexpectations’ listened to by another producer named Gavin, who I believe is another organiser for the charity that my tutor works for, Readipop. He said that he was able to tell that my track had been made on headphones because he described as ‘overcompressed’, and I will admit the sound is not exactly as clean as it could be. What could have made it overcompressed is that when I applied sidechain compression to all of my instruments, the audio that was going to the sidechain was all of the drums together.

To fix that, I copied the project file, took away all of the drums except for the kick drum in the sidechain, then raised all of the thresholds and lowered some of the input gains for the compressors, so that now the sound is lot cleaner and I will show this new and improved version to my tutor, but I am not going to re-release the track because then I would lose the view count on my channel from deleting the old one and would make me look like I am not very good at mastering my songs. Having said this, I will apply this compression fixing technique to all of the rest of my works, and listen to the song on not just headphones, but on my PC speakers, on my big PA speakers and even on my phone to see how the song sounds on different devices. It would be really nice to have some monitor speakers but I cannot afford any at the moment because good ones are hundreds of pounds.

Gavin also taught me about good collaboration technique which I mentioned earlier, about how when working with a singer, you should experiment with different lyrics and then re-arrange them to suit the song, rather than reading off of lyrics like in pop music, because a big element of electronic music is arrangement; this creates a more robust collaborative process. He mentioned also how vocals are only needed if the track is gentle and repetitive like in house music to make it more interesting, not if there is a lot of progression like in uplifting trance.

Thankfully, the new track that I am producing is meant to be deep house so vocals should fit well with it.

When I finally finish the track and release the EP, I will release it for free rather than making people pay for it, as it is a starting point and not that brilliant, so it is not worth charging for something which some people may not be impressed by. It also means that you are not under pressure to produce more tracks quickly, as people will perceive you as being a firm producer and so will expect a lot from you; people who charge for their music are normally well-established producers, which I am not near yet. I still need to work at my own pace and structure my time around other areas of my life (I will be preparing for my GCSEs over the next year) before I can go at it full speed.

However, the main reason that I want to release for free is because the focus is not on making money from my music, but instead I want to grow my audience, which releasing for free allows for more easily than making people pay, as people do not know what to expect from me and so will be disappointed if what they buy is rubbish and they will want their money back. It also means that downloading is more easy (it would be an instant download) and accessible to anyone, as not everyone is either able or willing to pay for music on a regular basis, and means that it is spread more easily and more people will download it.

There are many examples of producers who have released their first EPs for free and have become successful. A good one is Skrillex’s first EP, ‘My Name Is Skrillex’ (2010):

I do hope to get signed to a label at some point, but doing so means that you are under more pressure to produce more tracks and so that makes you more worried about your producing, even though being under pressure can sometimes make you more creative and successful.

Overall though, being rest assured that people would be less disappointed with getting my EP for free than if they bought it if it was bad quality, and without being under any pressure and excessive time consumption (as my life is quite busy), releasing my music for free is the best choice for the moment.

In other terms of how I want to progress my music further in the future, my current choices are the following:

  • Club DJ
  • Sound engineer / studio producer

The way I am working at the moment is as a mobile DJ and producer. I know how mobile DJs get to work at special events such as weddings, but I have always been the sort of person that likes to be creative with people’s music, which is why club DJing would be a better choice for me in the future, as you are able to play a mix of records and use special equipment such as effects processors manipulate the beat (creative-choices.co.uk). You are also able to choose a style of music which will suit a particular style of audience in order to keep them dancing (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk) compared to a mobile environment where you have to cater for many different peoples’ interests in music; this former would be better for me as I would like to spend more time focusing on the creativity and intricacy of mixing. Club DJs also don’t talk very much (if at all) compared to a mobile DJ where they have to be the Master of Ceremonies for the party (hotcourses.com) and use conversation links to liven the party (creative-choices.co.uk); I’m not really the sort of person who likes speaking in front of loads of people. Club DJs sometimes have an MC with them who talks instead of the DJ (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk) which would be a better approach for me than having me talk, even though I’d prefer to not have an MC babbling over my music all of the time.

I’ve also always had an interest in sound engineering; I’ve helped out with many school productions, assemblies and shows with the sound, as well as even working alongside professionals, and I’ve always been fascinated by the intricacy involved. However, that is just one small use of sound engineering. It can be applied to many different applications such as commercial music, media (such as radio, TV, films, commercials and computer games), corporate videos and websites (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk). Work involved could include planning recording sessions, setting up microphones, checking and operating dynamics and sound levels, and using mixers, sequencers and mastering. Unfortunately, the salary is comparatively low (£13,000 to start) which is why I would like to have club DJing as a side career to have more money coming in, and so I can have two things to enjoy in my life. By day I would be in a studio, then by night I would be playing in the club (though hopefully not every night; I want a social life as well).

I would of course still be producing my own music and hopefully combining the engineer side with some collaboration as well. Producers/DJs can get seriously famous by collaborating with famous pop singers. A good example of someone who has done this is Calvin Harris, who has produced many tracks for artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Cheryl Cole and Rihanna.

What I have mentioned is that I hope to include more underground genres in my work as they are more easy to experiment with to create unique sounds, while being inspired by a much wider range of artists and genres than I was last year (both underground and mainstream) and I hope to include a more consistent theme to my musical style, while releasing my records for free for the moment. For careers, I have mentioned that I want to be a sound engineer as a main career, while also doing club DJing to have something else to look forward to.

Case Study on Music Producers Today (part of my Silver Arts Award challenge)

( References are indicated in square brackets [ ] )

“I can envision one person with a lot of machines – tapes, electronic setups – singing and speaking, and using a lot of machines” – Jim Morrison (lead singer of The Doors), 1969

These days it has never been so easy to produce great music. As little as 25 years ago, producers needed to be wealthy enough to afford an enormous studio, using analogue synths that produced basic sounds while still taking up an entire room. Nowadays, thanks to computers becoming smaller and more affordable, we can make tracks that are able to make tens of millions of views on YouTube, just by using cheap and affordable computers and laptops.

Electronic songs have changed the way that we think about music; it has brought artists from only being known in small venues and communities to people all over the world, and has transformed our attitudes towards this music, in good ways and bad ways.

The talents used to produce these tracks used to be shown in a few gifted people, but now anyone can spend a few hours on a computer and write a banger.

This is exactly how a producer from Los Angeles managed to become world-famous, and his name is Skrillex. Here is an interview of him explaining his journey of successes:

He started off his life in music as the lead singer in an emo-hardcore band called From First To Last; in 2006, he began making his own tracks [1] and he left the band in 2007 to focus on his new solo dance-orientated project. He began performing under the name Skrillex in nightclubs in Los Angeles in 2008 [2] and played mainly electro music. [3]

In 2010, he released his debut EP ‘My Name Is Skrillex’ as a free download on his MySpace page. His luck came when he started touring nationally with electronic music legend Deadmau5 later in the year, who ended up signing a record contract with Skrillex to his label, mau5trap, as he very much appreciated the new EP. [2][5]

Skrillex then started working on another new EP, focused on dubstep and electro, which he released under mau5trap in October 2010, with the name ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’. [4] It was this EP, that was unlike any other of its kind, that managed to get to place number 2 in the Beaport Top 10 within 4 days [5], and what sent him on 8 months of constant touring, [6] and what made him world-famous, and this was the headline track:

Not only was this record famous for him, but it has also changed the genre of dubstep like it has never seen before. His sound was so different to what dubstep records were like before him, that it changed the sound and culture of dubstep forever.

The genre used to be very underground in the suburbs of South London, before it started to become heard of by a slightly larger audience in 2009 [7] when artists like Nero and Skream started remixing pop tunes from artists such as La Roux. However, the genre still only remained within the UK, with only a few producers recognising it abroad.

But, when Skrillex entered the scene, he opened up the genre to people from all over the world by including new elements of other styles of music that appealed particularly to audiences within the United States, as he included elements of heavy metal in his tracks, giving a more aggressive tone, with more fluctuation in synth parameters. [7]

Other artists such as Datsik and Excision had been developing this new ‘Americanised’ dubstep before him [7], but Skrillex was the first to make it well-known.

Since Skrillex stormed the dubstep world, many other artists started to use similar sounds, with sharper, more piercing tones, throughout 2011 and 2012. Some notable ones include Doctor P, Zomboy and Knife Party. Skrillex even started his own record label in August 2011 [8] called OWSLA, with artists signed to it adopting his harsh and aggressive style, including artists such as Kill The Noise, Dillon Francis and Zedd. In fact, if you look at all artists in all electronic music styles, you will have noticed an increasing popular use of aggressiveness in the tones that are used, and Skrillex was definitely a pioneer of this convention.

Electro house is a genre that particularly uses the styles of modern dubstep, and it was brought big and mainstream in 2011 when Knife Party released their debut EP called ‘100% No Modern Talking’; one of its tracks ‘Internet Friends’ managed to get into BBC Radio 1’s top 40 dance chart – that must mean success.

Now, for a bit of backstory. Knife Party is consisted of two members, Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, of the drum & bass/electronic rock band Pendulum, and while the band split up for a break, they both decided to create a side-project for electro house and dubstep, and other club-related genres. [9] In an interview by Radio 1 producer Zane Lowe in May 2012, Swire stated that “we weren’t sure if anyone was going to take notice at all; it was just going to be a little underground thing; it’s just blown me away how quickly it’s taken off.” [10]

They have now played in clubs and festivals all over the world, including Ultra Music Festival in March 2012 in Miami.

Now, let’s just hold on a minute. We have here two very successful dance music acts, who have achieved outstanding fame, but how do these people manage to get so many fans in such a short space of time?

Well, first off, they were both originally in bands, meaning that they would have fans that were previously fans of their bands as well; however, could this mean, that as these bands are splitting and going on breaks, that bands are dying out?

You may think, ‘what is he going on about’, but here’s something for you to consider:

Take a look at the music in the current top 40 chart. How much of that music is electronic or sounds like it has obviously been arranged by a computer, and how much of it is from bands?

Now, compare that music to a chart from 20 years ago. Do you notice any difference?

That’s right. Mainstream pop songs are starting to all become made by single producers, on computers with synth software. This proves that it is possible that anyone can make great music; you don’t have to be in a group, or able to play an instrument, like 20 years ago. You don’t even have to have good keyboard skills to make good melodies; you can just draw the notes in. If you want to become famous – go ahead. It might be more straightforward than you think.

Unfortunately, huge fame can come at a price. When Skrillex had the high point of his career in 2011, there started an internet war of trolls who constantly spam any YouTube video to do with dubstep, about how they think that Skrillex ruined the genre, that he doesn’t make proper dubstep, and that he’s a complete showoff. Well, the main reason that these spammers could be doing this is because they weren’t expecting such the success that dubstep has had over the past couple of years. It may have been an underground scene since the late 1990s, [7] but genres and their culture change over time. The electronic music scene has grown so fast that it may seem like a great shock to some people.

Another example of an artist that has received hate like this (but on an even bigger scale) is a French producer called David Guetta.

Let’s look back at Skrillex and how he raised electronic music from the underground scene to being featured heavily around the world. Well, Guetta has raised that bar 5 times higher, so much so that he almost always has a track in the top 40 chart and is always featured on mainstream radio stations such as Capital FM. In fact, he has made at least one track into every compilation in the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series since volume 79 (at the time of writing this, the latest is 83), [11][12][13][14][18] as well as a few before that.

If Skrillex has loads of haters because he brought dubstep mainstream, imagine how many Guetta must have.

Just like Skrillex, Guetta began making tracks using just a laptop, and DJing in his bedroom, not being used to huge studio equipment. [15]

His original fame began as he played in numerous different night clubs; he started in the Broad Club in Paris at the age of 18 and began hosting his own club nights [17] – starting young is guaranteed to get you good attention.

He also began producing, collaborating with numerous different other artists, including producers, singers and rappers, also starting a compilation series called ‘F**k Me I’m Famous’, of the songs that he played in Ibiza. [17]

This seems pretty normal for a producer and DJ who has made good success, to do collaborations and end up playing Ibiza; however, he became famous in the mainstream market because he began working with many more famous pop artists, including will.i.am, who heard his track with Chris Willis ‘Love Is Gone’ and was very pleased with it, so he wanted him to start producing for The Black Eyed Peas, which resulted in the track ‘I Gotta Feeling’. [15]

One of his other major breakthroughs was his track ‘When Love Takes Over’ featuring Kelly Roland. The way that this track turned out was where Roland heard an instrumental of David’s and was impressed so she wanted to collaborate with him. [16]

Here’s a video of Guetta talking about his album Nothing But the Beat 2.0 and about he goes about collaborating with singers: [19]

It was almost as though it only took a couple of collaborations with mainstream pop artists and he was getting requests by so many other artists to make tracks for them – practically a snowball effect; however, in order for him to have done those collaborations, he would have needed to have worked hard with so many other producers and artists before them to be able to get to that level – he was obviously someone who wanted to carry on and achieve more than his original goals.

Conclusion

So, we have two artists, Skrillex and Guetta, who became famous in similar ways – through getting their tracks heard by other big artists (Skrillex being heard by Deadmau5), which brings me on to my next point.

These days, it is easy for anyone to get their music heard, through various websites, like Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Twitter, and making the music has been cheaper and easier than ever before.

You never know when your music will get heard by someone famous, so go on! Start making some music and sharing it today! You never know what will happen…

References:

[1] ‘Making of “Break’n A Sweat”‘ – YouTube video uploaded by user SkrillexMothership – uploaded 15/03/2012 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT40_00AGQU

[2] ‘Skrillex’ – Wikipedia – last updated 28/12/2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skrillex

[3] ‘BBC – Sound of 2012 – Skrillex Interview’ – YouTube video uploaded by user electronik666 – uploaded 03/01/2012 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucLDfg276co

[4] ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ – Wikipedia – last updated 18/12/2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scary_Monsters_and_Nice_Sprites

[5] ‘Skrillex Talks Dubstep And More’ – YouTube video uploaded by user Chris Banuchi – uploaded 02/11/2010 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_EPt6L0llg

[6] ‘Rock n Roll (Will Take You to the Mountain)’ – YouTube video uploaded by user TheOfficialSkrillex – uploaded 20/06/2011 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOofWzI3flA – I used just the description of this video for my research

[7] ‘Dubstep’ – Wikipedia – last updated 02/01/2013 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubstep

[8] ‘OWSLA’ – Wikipedia – last updated 03/01/2013- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OWSLA

[9] ‘Pendulum (band)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 01/03/2013 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendulum_(band)

[10] ‘BBC Radio 1 – Zane Lowe, 28/05/2012, Knife Party – Interview with Zane Lowe’ – BBC Radio 1 – published 29/05/2012 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00t7jbv

[11] ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 83 (UK Series)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 04/01/2013 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That’s_What_I_Call_Music!_83_(UK_series)

[12] ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 82 (UK Series)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 22/12/2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That%27s_What_I_Call_Music!_82_(UK_series)

[13] ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 81 (UK Series)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 22/12/2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That%27s_What_I_Call_Music!_81_(UK_series)

[14] ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 80 (UK series)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 05/01/2013 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That%27s_What_I_Call_Music!_80_(UK_series)

[15] ‘David Guetta Interview on The Jonathan Ross Show’ – YouTube video uploaded by user biffycat0791 – uploaded 22/09/2012 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEv-w30dCQw

[16] ‘How Clubbing Changed The World’ – Channel 4 Documentary – from August 2012

[17] ‘David Guetta’ – Wikipedia – last updated 13/01/2013 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Guetta

[18] ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 79 (UK Series)’ – Wikipedia – last updated 31/12/2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_That’s_What_I_Call_Music!_79_(UK_series)

[19] ‘David Guetta – Nothing But the Beat 2.0 – Interview’ – YouTube video by user davidguettavevo – uploaded 20/11/2012