Questions, Tips and Thanks

As you may, or may not know, I’m never really satisfied with whatever musical output I make. Sure, I enjoy the process of making the music. I also make the kind of music I want to hear and I’m pleased with it, or proud of it, for a short while. But then the questions start to come. ‘Why would anyone want to hear it?’ ‘Why would anyone actually buy it?’ ‘Am I doing this for all the right reasons?’ Etc, etc.

This mainly comes from an occasional lack of confidence in my abilities as a musician. I always wish I’d pursued my initial interest in the bass-guitar all those years ago and mastered, or refined at least, the instrument. I’m not a technical musician in that sense. I should have also continued and persevered with my piano lessons which my parents duly paid for and encouraged me in when I was 10 years old. I would have been a ‘player’…..someone who could have read sheet music and, possibly, learned how to compose.

Instead, I took the easy route. As an adolescent, this is the prefered way isn’t it? But such a pity.

I was bought little Casio home keyboards and a Mattell Synsonics drum machine. From there I graduated to a Roland MC202 (very cheap in those days….£50) and a Roland Drumatix. And so, my interest in making bleeps and squelches and drones began. Aged 17.

But I was never an accomplished ‘musician‘. What I was/am is someone who heard a tune in his head and could transcribe it into real sound, mostly with the aid of whatever technology I had to hand. I guess that’s a talent of sorts. Without this ability, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

The music is for me. I am forever humbled and gratified that some other people actually seem to like it too. That always amazes me. I believe in my music…I do like it, but I also doubt and question it at times. Such is the way…

So, as a (very) ‘niche’ musician/producer/whatever, what keeps me going, musically? Well, it’s the support of good people, good listeners. I don’t make much money from my music, I don’t do gigs, I don’t crave your adulation (that’s what enables me to make the music without too much worrying!). I know, that in the scheme of things, my music is small. But it has been, at times, heard by thousands. That’s fantastic to me.

So, thank you good people. Thanks for listening, reading, watching and sharing.

I’ve learned a little on the way. If you’re a DIY music-type-person wanting to get heard, but not particularly bothered about cash, fame/infamy or plaudits, maybe these little bullets of experience may help. They’ve been published elsewhere perhaps by people much more ‘in the know’ than me. But, this is my take on it:

  • Make lots of music……..never stop. Find/make time to do it. It’s never been easier in some respects. I have recorded stuff on the train, in bed, on a phone and visiting friends. I have neighbours who I don’t want to upset, so I often record, mix and master on headphones….sometimes cheap ones.
  • Share it on a streaming service. I started with Last.fm and the response was phenomenal. There are 14,000+ unique listeners who have heard my stuff on there. Not just me, but the likes of Northcape and SK123. Check out their Last.fm pages…amazing. Last.fm may seem a bit passe, but you’d be amazed to see how many people still use it worldwide. In some countries, it’s the only source of new streamed music.
  • Write a blog. Not only does it keep people informed about your new music and activities, but it’s a good place to rant and share new discoveries and what you like….it doesn’t always have to be about you (though it invariably is!).
  • Create lots of ‘content’ (shudder…I hate that word). Mixes, videos, images…..I have a friend who only ever listens to streamed music, she hardly ever pays for stuff…..she also exclusively uses Youtube for it. There are many people like that; that’s what music media is nowadays (if you’re of a certain age, like me, get used to it!).
  • Create a visual identity……same typeface/font on all your sites, a logo (though this can up the ‘cheese factor’ if done badly), the same backgrounds, etc. Something people will recognize without reading the actual words.
  • Get your music onto Bandcamp. Excellent site. Aurovine also.
  • Now this is a contentious one: don’t push for radio-plays, etc. Let them come to you. If you have built a bit of a presence online/live/etc, ‘they’ will come. You can help this process by uploading music to BBC Introducing and adding your music to Fresh On The Net (their dropbox is here). But please, don’t start randomly spamming DJs and ranting on about how you’re the saviour of popular music and the best thing since canned orgasms. It makes people suspicious.
  • Do not denigrate podcasts or internet radio….they are your friends. They may not be massive, but any exposure is good exposure (unless you’re caught in a park with your pants around your ankles, masturbating over a catalogue of power-tools…..that’s not good). Also, you can build good genuine relationships with DJs and broadcasters.
  • Be friendly/aloof/whacky, but do it with a realistic heart, sincerity and humility. No-one likes a show-off, a psycho or a faker.
  • I don’t do this next one very well myself, but I know some who do it exceptionally well and it has helped them greatly. It’s a well-worn path though, so all I’ll say is: “Use social media wisely”.
  • Ditto: “Play live”.
  • Other musicians are often the most supportive, so grow proper relationships with them. Also collaborate, remix and promote. It’s karma, man!

So, all common-sense stuff I think. Some may disagree….though, I hasten to add, I’m not saying these are the only way, or a way to critical and financial ‘success’ (that’d make me a major hypocrite)….every band/artist has their own needs, there’s not one true way. Plus, I’m not claiming to be some kind of DIY guru, so don’t start emailing me telling me I’m wrong. It works for me….but might not for you.

Anyway, thanks for reading/listening. If you want the audiobook version of this post…..highlight it and click on your text-to-speech button. Just to hear it say: “masturbating over a catalogue of power-tools”…..hilarious.

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