Let’s take a second to admire the affordability of the latest and greatest technology of 2021. This list would be entirely different if it were written 3 years ago, and let’s face it – within 6 months this list might as well be updated. I’d like to keep this list as simple as possible so I’ll name 3 microphones at 3 different price points and give my opinion on why I think they’re the best of today. These microphones were all chosen based on their versatility at their price point and not necessarily on the type of microphone they are. Lastly, I’ll keep this list COVID friendly and under $1000. Let’s get started!
Coming in at the most affordable of this list is the obvious AT2020. The little brother of the AT4040 (that’s been a workhorse for many studios) is a great start for anyone that wants to get their feet wet. It’s a simple and easy-to-use medium-diaphragm condenser microphone. Just be sure to flip that +48v switch and get started. Price $99.
This microphone has been put side by side with some of the most expensive big-name Neumann’s under the same signal chain and has stood its ground. It’s versatile, durable, and great on pretty much anything. Side by side and pound for pound this microphone will sound good on just about anything. Weighing in at $499, you’ll consider it money well spent.
There’s a lot of controversy over Slate’s VMS, but its groundbreaking technology has paved the way for a new niche in the market. One microphone that can emulate the sounds of other microphones with the flip of a switch. The only limitation is that sometimes you need more than one. A larger system will run a pretty penny, but for a single microphone in a home studio setup, this will go a long way. You can choose different microphones, pre-amps, and emulations until you drop. A vintage U47 can run up to 45,000 for a single microphone, and this system will run $999.
When we think about merch, we are looking at basically any type of product you can slap your brands name on and sell to your fans. It can be a shirt, poster, bracelet, sticker, CD, lanyard, pop-socket, YOU NAME IT.
When it comes to deciding what to pick for your merch, the first thing to do is think about what best represents YOU. What do you like? It is important for you to actually like what you are selling because you will naturally wear the products and sell them much easier.
The second thing to think about is your audience. What is their age range? What kinds of stuff do you see them wearing to your shows? What is their style? By asking yourself these questions you can determine what you should focus on. For example, if you are a rock band and your fans like to enjoy beer and drinks while they rock out at your shows, then it’s probably a good idea to stamp your band’s name on a beer glass or some shot glasses.
The third thing to think about is having a variety of things for everyone. Even if you age range tends to be older, always remember that music has no age limit, so try and have a few things that anyone can buy (buttons, stickers, lanyards, etc.). Usually these things tend to be really small, so it’s a smart idea to keep them by the register just to offer as a quick impulse buy for your customers, but also for quality control so you can keep an eye on them. We go more into depth with HOW to sell in our e-book, which you can preorder here: How to Turn Your Fans Into Customers – Ebook.
Now that you’ve decided what kind of merch you want to sell, let’s get into how to design it.
For starters, you need a logo. If you already have one, great, but if you don’t, there are a bunch of great resources you can use to create one. When it comes to a logo, use something that represents you, your music, and don’t break the bank – especially if you’re just starting out. Here are some of our favorite places to go to for logo making:
Once your merch is in, then market it like crazy. Stick your stickers in places around your city, have some friends model your shirts for some photos to post on Instagram, and simply just raise awareness about your merch and where your fans can get it.
How To Get Inspired: Top 5 Tips for Finding Inspiration
Many times, inspiration has a way of showing up at the most inopportune moments and when you need it most, it has a way of deciding not to show up. This quick guide is meant to help you through those moments when you are pressed for time and need to produce results. Like many things in the creative space, it’s best to practice and find ways that work best for you, but when you get the ball rolling it’s hard to get it to stop. Many of our readers are songwriters producers and musicians, but this guide is not specific to our audience. Let’s call it a “catch-all” for creatives across the whole spectrum.
What Is Inspiration?
Let’s start by defining what inspiration is not. Inspiration is not a magical place where all of your great ideas pop out of nowhere. It isn’t something that just shows up at your beck and call, and it most certainly isn’t something that fixes all of your problems.
Inspiration is a skill that is developed. It’s your brain’s ability to read between the lines and paint outside the box.
Much like those of us who have attempted to get into shape, we know that motivation is very similar. Inspiration and motivation are like long-lost cousins. You may be able to be motivated and inspired to go to the gym for a week, but after about a month the will to continue is much harder to develop.
How do we develop inspiration?
Do not skip to the next step before your doing this first.
First, we need to get the train rolling. This part is easier said than done, but all you need to do is start doing something to get the creative juices flowing. Much like our example of going to the gym: the hardest part is getting there.
If you are writing a song or an essay, it doesn’t matter what you write about. Just start playing a few chords you’ve never played before or write a few words that you never thought would go together. Most importantly, keep an open mind as to what you are creating can become. Do this without personal judgment or malice, and most importantly do everything in your power not to get frustrated or upset.
Next, be patient. It may take 10 – 15 minutes to get things flowing, but if you are not used to this initial step, 10 – 15 minutes may seem like an eternity. Remember to stay calm and level-headed.
This is the next step:
If you are still having a hard time getting through, try using your 5 senses to pull a bit harder, but remember if you attempt to do this without first priming your brain, you are likely to get more distracted than inspired. Remember that the intention is to find something that will fuel your inspiration. Once you’ve found it, use it. Do not continue to consume inspiration without creating it.
Sight: Look at painting or photographs that will inspire an emotion or train of thought. Art has a way of inspiring art, so anything goes here. Graffiti, Dali, Picasso, or even magazines can fuel inspiration. Be careful about using videos as inspiration, they are the most distracting of the bunch.
Smell: Sometimes the smell of the open-air or NYC sewer has a way of bringing out the words from where you didn’t think to find them.
Touch: Try laying on the grass or carpet. Maybe the cold floor will tell you more about yourself than you even realize.
Hear: Find inspiration in the sounds of the city streets or birds in the morning. Listing to your surroundings and you’ll be surprised what you can conjure up.
Taste: The taste of food, wine, or bitter spirits – grilled cheese and onion rings. All of those ingredients tell a story better story than you thought they would.
A word of caution
From my experience, it’s best to not turn to external sources for inspiration. Rather, don’t let that be your only way of finding inspiration. Inspiration comes from many places, but if your only source comes from drugs or alcohol it will inevitably impair your judgment and leave you more clouded than originally intended. These tools and exercises should only be used to spark the flame, not control the fire.
Podcast Editing Tips: Speed Up Your Workflow in 5 Easy Steps
There’s a reason many podcasters forward their podcast edit’s to the Pros. Biggest reason? They simply don’t want to deal with it. The editing process is seen by most to be time-consuming, flat, and outright boring. We’ll be giving you some of our biggest time-saving tips to save you hours of editing time on your next podcast.
If you want to save yourself a couple of hours of editing right away, send us your podcast for a free trial of our editing service (no credit card required). Check that out here: Upload Form.
This is where most of you are going to skip to the next section because you think it isn’t important. “Organization” is at the top of the list for a reason. Putting in a little bit of time on the front end will almost ALWAYS save you time on the back end. Anything you can do to make finding projects and files quickly and easily will mean you’ll spend less time thinking about where you put things or looking for where you left the files. That includes sound effects, bumpers, podcast episodes, advertisements, music beds, project files, exports, and quite literally everything else.
Let’s talk about file structure real quick. Most people say you should find a way that works for you because every situation is different. I say that’s baloney. Our system works, so I’ll give that away to you because “Merry Christmas”. Feel free to add, improve, take away or whatever. If you do, comment down below what you did and why you did it to help everyone else out too.
All of your project files should be located in 1 (one) place on your computer or external hard drive. Always have a backup drive or 3 just in case because computers have a strange way of showing their love. We like to organize it like this:
User’s Mac Pro > hard drive > users > Studio 411 > Music > Podcasts > Client Name > Podcast Episode
Once you have your files organized you add folders that will be your “go-to” for that project. Like a “Source Media” folder, or even sound effects the client likes to be consistent with. That would look like this:
Here’s the part most of you are going to skip to. If you didn’t read the first part, I’d recommend you read it and come back to this. If you didn’t read it the first time, you’ve proven the point that doing things in an unorganized way will take more time to do.
Templates will not fix all of your problems. It will just set you up for faster workflow. The ultimate point I try to make with designing your template is to make sure that you:
Don’t look for things you use all the time
Are already set up
Are ultimately ready to go
Here’s what your template could look like:
When you start a new session, most DAW’s will give you the option to start a session from a saved template. All you would need is re-name the session to something appropriate. The example above is literally the template we use for most podcast applications and gives us the ability to duplicate if we need more tracks, and has instructions for some of the newer people on the team.
In Pro Tools, you have the option of leaving plugins “inactive”. This comes in handy if you need to record the podcast, you won’t be using any processing power for having them in the session. Whenever you are ready to work on your post-production, all you have to do is switch them to “Active” and you’re ready to rock and roll.
It isn’t far fetched to assume that most people calculate “speed” as equivalent to using hotkeys. Knowing which hotkeys to use is half the battle. It’s just as important to use them consistently. If you need to think about what to use, and what the command for that function is you’ve already thought about it too long. The whole point of using them is to condense your thought process and speed up your workflow. The faster you can get the required task completed, the better. It doesn’t matter how you get to the end result, just make sure that it works for you.
If I had a dime for every time anyone told me that they don’t know how to speed up their productivity, I’d have around $2.70. All jokes aside, lack of focus is one of the biggest killers of someone’s workflow. Every distraction you can think of will take its toll on the project. Do not multi-task. Do not check your emails. Do not message clients. Do not answer phone calls. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
A 100% focus is needed to do one task right and correctly. If you do this, consistently, over time, you will get astoundingly faster than you ever dreamed you could. Pretend as though your boss was standing over your shoulder watching you work the whole time, and you’ll get the idea of the amount of focus I’m talking about. Better yet, ask your boss to stand next to you while you work and then you’ll really fly.
This is a dream come true for us software nerds. When offline bounce finally became available on our platform everyone I knew rejoiced. Except for the ones that already had it (they only made fun of us). My point is, if you’ve never heard of offline bounce do yourself a favor and make sure you jump on a platform that has it. Most podcasts we edit are between 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Offline bounce will make it up to 10x faster to export the entire length of the podcast.
When it comes to long projects, it’s going to save you lots of time to not have to wait for the entire length of the project to export for you to send it off to where it needs to go. All of that time adds up. Imagine if you never had to wait an hour to jump to the next project again.
That’s about it. I hope that this short list of tips helps you work on your next project. If you are working on something please feel free to comment below what you are working on and start a conversation with us. If you need help with your podcast project, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Every indie artist knows that time is of the essence because lets face it, studio time is most definitely money. A successful studio session can be broken down into two very powerful words: Work Flow. Developing a good work flow takes some practice and repetition, but with consistency you can manage your own in no time! Here are a few steps on how to get started to help make life a little easier and less stressful in the studio.
An important part of developing a good workflow is to prioritize. Completing the hardest tasks on your to-do list first is proven to be the most productive. By focusing on the most important/ the most difficult task, your attention and energy is strong and fresh and it allows you to put your best into the project. If you leave it last on your list, then by the time you get to it you will not be able to give it the attention it requires for it to get done.
When developing a good work flow multi-tasking is a big no-no. Multi-tasking means that your focus is split between many different things. Multi-tasking leads to becoming overwhelmed and the chance of making a mistake is much higher.
Keep everything organized
It is also very important that you try to keep everything as organized as possible. This also goes hand in hand with prioritizing.
If you need to, write down a list of all the things you need to get done. This helps with not having to figure out with what you have to do next. Many times it seems as though you have an overwhelming amount to do, but when you write everything down it is much more attainable.
Another way of staying organized is by keeping all of your sessions and files in one place where you don’t have to keep searching for where they are and having to try to remember where they are again.
Good communication goes a long way with anyone you are working with or for. If you are working with someone it is important to keep each other in the loop with what is being worked on so there won’t be miscommunication and having ended up creating more work than needed to.
It is extremely important to have a good communication with a client, make sure to keep them updated on what is going on with the project or when it will be ready so they will be able to plan for it accordingly.
Last but not least, make sure to take breaks in between. Taking breaks while working in the studio ensures you don’t get overwhelmed or stressed. Taking breaks also help with clearing your mind to be able to come back in with a fresh mind ready for new ideas! A relaxed mind is a productive mind.
There are many way to get your music out to the public, one of the most common ways of doing it is by earning through plays on every stream. Streaming services vary from anything on Youtube or Spotify to Apple Music and even Amazon!
Here is a list (from highest to lowest) of the most used music streaming websites and how much they pay per stream, download, play and/or share:
Napster: $0.019 per stream
Tidal : $0.0125 per stream
Apple Music: $0.00735 per stream
Google Play Music: $0.00676 per stream
Deezer: $0.00640 per stream
Spotify: $0.00473 per stream
Amazon Music: $0.00402 per stream
Pandora Premium: $0.00133 per stream
YouTube: $0.00069 per stream
Soundcloud is by far the most complicated service at the moment. Rates vary depending on the countries that play the music and you would need access to monetize your account either directly or though an affiliate distributor. Most accounts don’t make any money at all, and the ones that are monetized are paid based on how many people click the ads on the streams.
Here’s a general breakdown: $0.0025 to $0.004/stream (~$2.50–$4.00/1000 plays.)
It’s an average of about $3 / 1000 plays.
That being said, the pay also varies depending on what country that play comes from.
How to earn the minimum wage?
Here’s a breakdown of what it would take to make about $1,160 per month in the United States for each streaming service:
Tidal : 92,800
Apple Music: 157,823
Google Play Music: 171,598
Amazon Music: 288,557
Pandora Premium: 872,180
How to get started:
A easy way to get started on monetizing your music on streaming services is by reading our blog on Music Distribution. You’ll see a list of the top music distribution sites, rates, and royalty splits (if any). Check that out here:
Depending on the platform on where your music gets heard, you may find your checks coming in a little fatter. This information may be useful to you to determine where you want to focus your marketing strategy. You might find that Youtube has a larger audience and it may be easier to rack up your streams, but the pay is substantially lower.
Depending on your individual goals you may opt to try to push your existing audience to follow you and listen on a more suitable streaming service.