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.
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.
Spotify ad studio is essentially an advertising platform that makes it possible for anyone to create an ad and manage it through the Spotify platform. If you are a musician, a band, or a business owner – especially in the music industry, this platform is perfect for you. It targets people who are already interested in the industry and it allows for greater communication with your followers and potential fans. Spotify offers different types of Campaign Objectives for whatever you are looking to promote.
How to sign up:
In order to sign up, you need to start with a Spotify account then sign up for Ad Studio. If you already have an existing Spotify account, then you should already be able to sign up for Ad Studio.
Types of Ads:
– 30 second (or less) audio recording that will be listened to by users who have the free subscription to Spotify – Your ad includes a clickable image which is presented on the screen for the duration of the ad and is linked to the landing page of your choice (your website, your Spotify account, a page to purchase tickets/RSVP, etc.).
How to create your first ad (once you’ve created an account with ad studio):
– Choose your objective:
The first step in this process is to name your ad and select an objective (this is your end goal. Do you want to promote your next show? Your new song? Your new merch release? Etc.) Whatever your end goal is, keep it in mind as you create your ad.
– Select your audience and your budget:
If you haven’t figured out your target demographic, it’s time to get on that, because it is highly important when it comes to setting your ad up for success.
Also, make sure you are promoting your ad in a timely manner. If your show is tomorrow, then it’s probably not a good idea to create an ad. Depending on what you are trying to get the word out about, you probably want to promote it between 2-4 weeks before the day of. This allows your followers and listeners to make plans to be there or tune in that day. When it comes to your budget, think about how many people you want to reach and how much you are willing to spend to reach them. When it comes to budgeting for an ad, it’s not about how much you spend, but HOW you spend it. Be smart and do your research.
Lastly, you will need to schedule your ad. The benefit of doing everything in a timely manner is that it gives you the opportunity to fix any issues if they happen to come up.
– Create your ad:
This is where you can get creative and start adding your image, your voice recording and your link. When it comes to all of these things, make sure that they are enticing. Make sure your voice recording is clear and that the message is straight and to the point, remember you have 30 seconds. It is also important that whoever is speaking is not monotone, or too excited, a nice middle point is just right. For your photo make sure that it is appropriate for your audience and that it reflects your brand and your message in the right way.
– Submit for approval:
Lastly, once you submit Spotify will review your ad and ensure that it aligns with their community guidelines. Once they have approved your ad, then you are good to go and your ad will launch on the day it’s been scheduled.
As music makers, this is an exciting and innovative feature that Spotify has created. It is now easier than ever for artists to create awareness of their work and to spread the word about what they are doing.