And the winner is…Redline Alchemy!

Congratulations to Joseph Ausmus with Redline Alchemy – winner of the DOM Recording Contest!  Joseph won 15 hours of free recording time with local studio CTK Audio Productions.

Redline Alchemy is a funk rock group founded by the brothers Ausmus: Joe, Dan and Nick.  This band had been around since 2010 and itching to get back into the studio to record more of their original tunes.  Other members include local musicians (both songwriters and music educators) Corey Goldman and Nate Wilson.

Please stay tuned and we’ll follow along with their progress in the studio.

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The DOM recording contest entry window is closing

Have you registered for our free recording contest yet?  The window is closing soon.  Final entries must be submitted no later than midnight on Sunday, March 24th, 2019.  Here’s a reminder of contest details…

The winner of the DOM recording contest will receive 15 hours of free recording time at CTK Audio Productions LLC in Lakewood.  It’s up to you what you’d like to do with that time, as long as it’s original music!

CTKAudioLogo

In order to be eligible, you need to be local (live in Colorado), have original material to record, and register by midnight, March 24th, 2019.  How easy is that? And after you register once, you will be eligible for all other opportunities for the rest of 2019.

Register by emailing Marc at DenverOriginalMusic.com (with “Recording Contest” in the subject line) and include the following:

  • Your name
  • Best phone number and email to reach you
  • Band name and/or a little detail about your project
  • Only one entry per person
  • If you feel inclined, please go “like” Denver Original Music on Facebook

The winner will be drawn at random on 3/27/19 by CTK Audio productions LLC owner Chris Kellogg and the winner will be announced by the end of March.  Also please note:  your personal information is never shared!  

Good luck and thank you, CTK Audio Productions, for supporting original music!

 

Paying attention to band dynamics

When you hear a song on the radio, you may recognize one thing that is consistently true – the music will have been produced with significant dynamics.  You will be able to hear each instrument and maybe even be able to identify each recorded track. You will hear spaces between parts, degrees of volume, modifications to familiar instruments (also known as effects) and, hopefully, you will be affected emotionally by the performance.

Again, this pretty much holds true for anything that gets on the radio or really any professional form of media.  It should also be a goal to achieve when your band is playing out live. You should be able to reproduce a recording with as much taste and tact as the original.

Less is always more

In the cooking world, chefs know that “you can always add more…but it’s not usually possible to add less”  You can always add more parts, more volume, more effects. But to avoid fatiguing your listener’s ear, it’s best to start simpler and build up from there.

In the graphic design world, it’s known that quality artwork should look good first in black and white.  If it looks strong in B&W, chances are it will still hold its own when you start adding color, gradients and other special effects to the design.

The same goes for band dynamics…and here are a few more simple things that can make a big difference:

  • Quiet on verses; louder on choruses.  Sure, sometimes you might flip it (louder on verses and quieter on choruses) for effect, but loud on everything usually equals listener fatigue.
  • Rests are as important as notes.  Rests can be the quiet before the storm.  Rests make space for intensity. And rests can keep the flute player from passing out.
  • Get a grip on your tempo – playing quieter does not equal playing slower (just as playing louder does not mean playing faster).  Stay in time.
  • Try to avoid the “all or nothing” approach.  Your amp has more than just an on/off button.   Think about a lighter touch, or those volume and tone knobs for your axe’s neck and bridge, pick vs. fingers…explore your pallet.
  • Don’t play!  That’s right – sometimes the best dynamic is to just put your arms behind your back (like you are wearing handcuffs), put your ego on snooze and maybe listen to what else is going on.
EarPlugs
Is this your idea of dynamics?

Personal responsibility

Dynamics are best achieved when you are proactive, self-aware and take personal responsibility for what you are literally bringing to the mix.  If someone else is constantly needing to tell you to turn it down…you probably aren’t there yet.

Also, don’t leave your live sound up to the sound guy.  Chances are that he/she doesn’t know how you intended your songs to heard (although really good techs have the ears to figure this out).  But how about using your own ears and figuring out how to replicate your recordings without the aid of a sound tech? He/she will thank you for making the job that much easier.

Music appreciation

It’s good for an original band to play a few covers now and then.  That will force you to hear songs that did get on the radio…and why.  Have a group listening session and talk with your bandmates about the things that catch their ear.  Chances are it all comes back to dynamics…

11
But this amp goes to 11…

Think Incubation over Hibernation

hibernating
Photo by NY State Parks.

Many local bands opt to hibernate during the winter months – understandable considering how challenging it can be to get music fans out in the snow and cold.  Add traffic to the equation and the infinite menu of other entertainment options and you might almost want to go into sleep mode indefinitely. But don’t do it.

 

 

Incubation > Hibernation

Hibernation, by definition, implies spending time in an inactive or dormant state.  Not a very constructive use of your time. At the very least, hibernation to you should imply “doing things indoors” (like playing indoor gigs, recording, rehearsing, re-inventing).  The last thing you should be doing is sleeping.

Incubation, as an alternative, implies “maintaining something under favorable conditions” for development, improvement, and the inspiration to hit the pavement when springtime comes again.  But don’t sit on a goose or albatross egg – that’ll only bring you down. Instead, sit on your creativity and passion, sit on your talents and skills, maybe dwell on your marketing plan, your personnel, or your next big move.

Here’s what you can do if you incubate:

  • Write more & better tunes.
  • Rehearse your butt off, maybe even get a teacher or mentor again.
  • Record: the tunes, your rehearsals, your lyrics, your stage performance…record it all and try to learn from it.
  • Back to marketing – do you have a marketing plan?  Do you know who wants to hear your music, in what format, where, when, & why?  Take some time to think about this.
  • Promoting your music – when was the last time you submitted your tunes to a web site, radio station, contest, booking agent or festival submission?  Have you revisited your digital music sites lately? Are you on all of the major platforms and what could you do to push more people there?
  • Make a music video – “people hear with their eyes.”  While you’re at, create a youtube channel, promote that channel, create a compelling reason to visit (and revisit).
  • Organize the band better – take stock of personnel and see if some of your bandmates would like to help with the tasks.  Many of them may be far more natural salespeople, designers, accountants, project managers than you…and they are just waiting to be asked.  Use all of their talents and get them involved.
  • Back to the albatross – if your band has laid an egg in the past, if you feel like something or someone is bringing you all down, figure it out and figure out how to move on.  Your music is the vehicle to help you fly so don’t let anything sink it.
spotify
One of the top digital music platforms – are your songs available here?

A long winter…will the Broncos see their shadow?

The old sports-minded, stock show cowtown image of Denver may give you the impression that you should just go dormant in winter.  And it’s true that if the Broncos make it to a Superbowl, it could put the kibosh on some of your plans (but probably not anytime in the near future).  So make some goals, create a few to-do lists and delegate. Try to identify your biggest weaknesses and maybe turn them into your greatest strengths? For Colorado, spring is always in the air – get ready for the thaw and get  busy!

Perchancetodream
To sleep, perchance to dream…

Always make an agreement

Here’s a solid new year’s resolution for 2019:  create a Performance Agreement every single time you play out.  A performance agreement (PA) describes the logistics of your deal and the responsibilities of all parties involved.  It’s a digital confirmation of your handshake with the venue owner or hiring authority so don’t skip this step, even if it seems like you are playing a “casual gig.”

Here’s what the PA will do:

  • Clarify where and when you will be performing
  • Clarify what you will be paid (and when and how)
  • Clarify the loading, parking and other venue logistics
  • Clarify what happens when things go wrong
  • Clarify other forms of recourse

The key concept here is clarity.  When you take the time to spell everything out and make sure that both parties (the band and the venue) have a written agreement about a performance, you remove lots of gray areas – everyone knows what to expect.  And meeting expectations is the main reason to create an agreement in the first place.

ContractA written agreement is a contract

Sometimes it scares people to think they are entering a contract when they start putting things in writing.  Suddenly, they may be held accountable for details they had never even thought about before. But guess what?  Those details don’t “go away” just because you haven’t taken the time to articulate and document them.

Here are some of the most important details to consider:

  • Liability and accountability – what could go wrong and who is going to cover it when this happens?
  • Payment – don’t you want to know how much you can earn?
  • Logistics – what happens when there’s 2 inches of rainwater puddled up on the outdoor stage, submerging the electrical boxes?  Does the show still go on?

Liability happens

Again, you might not want to think about this, but every time your band plays out in the public domain stuff can happen.  A wobbly PA stand, an uneven drum riser, pyrotechnics gone terribly wrong, an unidentified and slippery substance on the floor, cable tripping hazards, indecent exposure(?), backing in to unload your gear and taking out a street lamp, leaving gear on stage after you’ve departed the venue, falling off a chair while belting out Free Fallin’ – you probably have plenty of your own stories so you get the idea…

DuctTape
Is over-engineered duct tape your best idea of liability insurance?

Some liability may already be covered by stuff like auto, theft and health insurance.  But some would best be addressed by Event or General Liability Insurance.  It might be covered by the people who own the premises, but this is why it’s best to clarify the details in an agreement.  We’ll talk more about Event Insurance in another article.

Paying all the pipers

It’s nice to know how much you are going to get paid, when and in what format.  Sure, Blockchain and Bitcoin will eventually change the game…but for now, don’t you want a little reassurance about these matters?  Your bandmates may too.

Another handy thing about a performance agreement is that you can share it easily with all of your players to temper expectations.  Do a little math, make a little love and hopefully pay everyone fairly. And hopefully too, you fully understand the concept of Independent Contractors and have those agreements in place as well.

TaylorSwift
Do you think Taylor Swift knows in advance (and in writing) what she is going to be paid for a gig? Each and every time…

As a side topic, many small, independent bands aren’t offered guaranteed pay for their performance.  But there are still calculations to be made and negotiated, and often the gray areas become even more nuanced.  Why not put the details in writing so everyone understands?

The bottom line

Have you ever been double-booked or underpaid? That well-worn adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind.  Sure, you can just wing it with venue owners, bandmates and sidemen/women. Blow off a written agreement.

But when you present your client(s) with a proper, well-communicated performance agreement, you are also presenting a sense of reliability and professionalism.  Not only will they know that you are going to show up, they’ll know what time to expect you and what you expect in compensation. You’ll all know what to do in the event of a tornado, rain…or hail.  And they will probably even ask you back.

If  you’ve read this far and you’d like a couple samples of a standard Performance Agreement, please email Marc at DenverOriginalMusic.com

A semblance of negotiation

We’re back for 2019…please stay tuned for more details on the 1Q DOM Recording Contest, but in the meantime we’ll be resuming some of our unsolicited band advice, and at a very appropriate moment in American history…

 

Whether you realize it or not, you are probably negotiating every single day of your life.  Sometimes you are negotiating with family members, co-workers, and bosses and sometimes with bandmates, venue owners or agents…and sometimes with yourself.  You’d better be nice!

And that’s the first principle of negotiation: it doesn’t cost anything to be polite.  Remember that no matter what you want, there is no acceptable reason to treat others with disrespect, and the fact is, you will get further in your discussions when you know how to leave everyone’s dignity in tact.  

“Please” and “thank you,” said authentically, are two of the most powerful words in the universe.  The most powerful word is the name of the person you are speaking with, especially if you are asking them what they want.

osakapunch
Shown here, the band Osaka Punch demonstrates one form of negotiation. (photo by Lachlan Douglas – learn more about the band at http://www.facebook.com/osakapunch)

 

Needs Assessment

Principle #2 is: take the focus off of yourself and try to discover what the other person needs.  You’ll want to be genuine here as well, and take some notes. The greatest human need is the feeling that we’ve been heard and it’s pretty easy to do if you’re willing to listen.

So as a musician looking to book a room, have you ever tried to speak with the venue owner, in person, about her/his needs?  What are their expectations? What don’t they want to see happening on their property? What are their basic rules and regulations?  Try to get deep into their needs.

Know what you want (#3)

If you know what you want, it becomes that much easier to ask for it, right?  And you will probably also know your minimal acceptable outcome.  Maybe you will even have an optimal acceptable outcome to discuss.  But if you have a vague idea of what you are trying to get, you may end up with just that.

Does that sound fuzzy?  It should. If you don’t know what you want you will probably get something very vague and unsatisfying.  For instance, if you don’t know your prevailing wage as a musician you won’t know when it’s time to say “no, I’m sorry but we won’t be playing your establishment.”

Know what they want (#4)

At this point, if you don’t know what they want you probably haven’t done a proper Needs Assessment (see #2 above).  Hopefully you asked them appropriate questions and listened to their replies and now understand what they need. Let’s go back to the Venue Owner example.  At a minimum, here’s what she/he may need:

  • Samples of your music, perhaps a press kit
  • Examples of places where you have played
  • Referrals from any satisfied customers
  • An idea of what you expect to be paid
  • An idea of your performance needs (sound system, stage size, and other special needs)
  • Ideally a Performance Agreement that will clearly lay out the terms of the transaction (we’ll cover this more next time)

In an ideal scenario, where everyone is truly coming from a point of respect and thoughtful concern for the common good, you will be able to appreciate each other’s needs and come to some reasonable conclusions.

One Caveat

Sometimes you will meet a negotiator that thinks they can run you over to get the single-minded thing they want.  They may start at the extreme end of the negotiating spectrum (like offering food or “exposure” in lieu of pay). They may take drastic measures to get their way – they may even take hostages.   Never negotiate with terrorists. Sometimes the best way to negotiate is to just walk away…

The DOM Recording Contest returns!

Are you ready?  The Denver Original Music Recording Contest is back!  Here’s your chance to win some free recording time in a quality, local studio.  It’s easy to enter and once you are registered you will be eligible for all contests throughout 2019.  But there are a few qualifiers:

  • You must be local (live in Colorado)
  • Your content must be original
  • You may register as a solo artist and/or as a band, but only one entry per person, please.

Again, you only need to register once to be eligible for contests all next year and you will receive confirmation of your entry within 2-3 days.  To register, please send an email to Marc @ DenverOriginalMusic.com with “Recording Contest” in the subject line.  To qualify, you will also need to include:

  • Your full name
  • Valid email address*
  • Best phone contact*
  • Band name and web site (if applicable) and/or a brief description of your project

*Please note that contact info is never shared.  And if you haven’t already, please go “like” the DOM on Facebook.  Thanks for being a part of Denver Original Music!