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.

British Music Experience Review

Yesterday I visited the British Music Experience museum at the O2 in London. The first thing to say is that I have never before been so emersed in musical history, because this museum holds practically all records about music that has shaped our modern culture in Britain. Here is their promo video:

Before I even got there I knew that they keep up with modern customer desires – they use ‘smart tickets’ which allow you to bookmark your favourite parts of the exhibits – there were card readers throughout the museum where you just place the card on the reader and it registers for you (a bit like an Oyster card); you can then look back at what you have seen, on the website.

When you got in you were shown a really well-made video explaining what they have in the exhibits and how the smart ticket works.

I also knew, when I entered the main exhibition area (which they call ‘The Core’), that they ensure a pleasing appearance, with a multitude of lighting and projector effects throughout.

I was a little bit surprised as to how small the whole museum was, but that didn’t matter – there was already enough information to take in…

They had certain rooms designated to certain time periods and eras of British music. It started off with the mid-50s when Britain was inspired by American styles such as jazz and blues, creating the skiffle genre, which was responsible for creating pop music (with groups such as The Beatles and The Kinks), while some artists started to use harder sounds, forming early rock music – more artists started to follow this trend and some used inspirations from other genres such as RnB from the US, creating many diverse styles of rock – in the mid-70s during harsh economic times, artists such as the Sex Pistols started punk rock to protest, while other artists were developing hard rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal started to appear in the 80s, which was also a time when electronic instruments had started to be used by pop artists making electro-pop and new wave, which inspired underground rock artists to a new genre: brit pop, which was responsible for the more modern pop sounds, e.g. with boy and girl bands, and singer-songwriters, which is where we are in the present day.

It was totally fascinating experiencing this broad journey of how musical styles have evolved throughout time, and I’m sure, if you are a musician and keen in this gripping history, then I’m sure that you will love it too.

There were bucket-loads of interactive artefacts with hundreds of video clips and timelines which give insight into certain genres’ histories. There were even display cases filled with historic and valuable items, including guitars and clothes that various rock legends have played and worn, but they’re not your stereotypical boring cabinets with tiny bits of text – you put headphones on and a commentary gives more information about them, with video clips of them being used, on screens to the side.

It doesn’t stop there either. There were also displays (with headphones and commentaries) of various types of playback mediums used throughout history, such as gramaphones, cassette players and VCRs. Opposite were screens with headphones, with timelines of big broadcasts (e.g. TV and radio shows) throughout the years.

I’m not even nearly finished. There was a touchscreen (and headphones), which they called ‘Hey DJ!’ which showcases classic and important dance tracks (most were from the acid house era of the 1980s).

Last, but certainly not least, there was an interactive studio with various instruments and a vocal booth, with video tutorials on how to play them – I had a go at the guitar.

At the end of the visit, you are put into a room with a great big 3-sided cinema screen, with a number of screens behind it giving 3-dimensional effects, with strobe lights and a big sound system – in here they show highlights from famous concert videos – the lights and the sound really make you feel like you’re at a festival.

Coming here I think has really been valuable to me, to understand more about how modern styles of music and cultures of music in Britain have formed, and how people used to experience music.

I rate this museum 4 out of 5 – I would love to have rated it 5 but there are two things which are stopping me from doing that.

Firstly, I was in there for a while and I was getting hungry, and it was about lunchtime. Me and my mum therefore asked one of the members of staff if we could leave and come back in again – they didn’t let us. We eventually had to get the manager involved in order to let us leave. Not letting you go and have something to eat when there are no food facilities in the museum is really stupid.

Also, the smart ticket system is confusing – I realised, when I registered my ticket on their website, that you can only look at the information that you have bookmarked if you scan the ticket after you have looked at it (I did it mostly the other way round, so I got barely any information available) – they could have made that clearer.

Despite the mishaps, if you’re an aspiring musician like me, then visiting the British Music Experience is an unmissable chance to learn once and for all how music in Britain has got to what it is today.