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.
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 artist wants to know how to “make it” big in the music industry. There isn’t a secret formula to make it happen, but there are definitely proven ways to get you there. Here are our top tips for independent musicians to skyrocket their success. Follow these few steps and you too will see massive results in your music career.
Stop waiting for a record label
Many musicians who sign to a major record label never actually end up releasing music. Some artists end up getting “shelved” and the artist can not release those songs through another label. Labels can drop an artist as quickly as they signed them.
I don’t know a single person that will give away millions of dollars in cash and resources on a single gamble. Too many artists rely on the hard work of someone else to get them where they want to be. No one is going to do the hard work for you. Concentrate on doing your own thing and don’t worry about chasing a deal. Nowadays, major labels hardly ever sign an artist without a successful independent career behind them.
Don’t assume that major labels know the secrets of the industry, or that signing a record deal is even a good idea. There’s no guarantee you’ll get “famous” if you sign a record deal. Many artists owe record labels money after all is set and done.
Marketing, Brand Identity & Awareness
Develop a system to put yourself and your music in front of a new audience. Whether that’s through live performances or social groups, getting your music in front of as many new people as possible will increase the likeliness of them following your career.
Get yourself some professional graphics that you can use across all your promotional channels; from your website and social media accounts, to your posters, flyers, business cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse mats and more! Creating amazing graphics is cheaper if you’re a professional at Adobe Photoshop. If not, you’ll be better off hiring an experienced graphic designer.
You want your logos and branding to become recognizable. If they look great, people will be more willing to buy your t-shirt when they’re browsing through your merchandise. A strong brand identity will help develop a strong brand awareness.
Connect with fans
There is no substitute to building a strong relationship with your fans. It is the most important aspect to build your success as an independent artist. As you grow your fan base, you’ll need to sustain and connect with your listeners both online and in person.
Your amazing live set is a must have for an great first impression. It’ll help you win over new fans and keep them interested in your upcoming music. Remember that the show is key, but connecting with them off stage is just as important.
Online, you’ll need to make sure to post regularly and interact with your audience as often as possible. Not only should you post interesting content, but replying and interacting with your fans is crucial.
Play to your strengths
If stage presence is your strong suit, you could try and secure a residency at a local venue. A regular gig slot puts your music in front of new people every week, and earns you extra cash to fund your career.
If you’ve got a creative mind and know your way around a camera and editing software, why not focus on a Youtube Channel/Vlog?
Maybe you’re a great writer and want to feature your music on your blog. The possibilities are endless!
Do not ignore streaming
Getting playlisted on Spotify and Apple Music is an invaluable (and free) way to put your music in front of new listeners. Some artists have reservations about putting their music on streaming platforms, but it’s a fantastic way to get known and reach new fans as an unsigned artist.
How Putting in Your 10k Hours Will Find Your Niche
Everyone is curious to know if they’re truly found the right audience for their music. We put in a lot of time to perform and refine our sound. We put ourselves out there to see if it really sticks, but how do we really know if we’ve truly found our niche?
A lot of what defines our niche is a balance between our creativity and the audience that follows the music we create. If the music changes, so does the audience. How do we find our place in the market so to speak? Here are a few things to think about:
1. Where have you invested your time?
If you want to know where to invest your time, simply look at where you have already invested your time. Lets say, for example, in the last few years you might have learned how to play an instrument for one or two hours a day. Or you might have wrote songs in a certain style. Or you might have spent a lot of time on production.
Those are good signs of where you should invest your 10,000 hours. You already invest part of that 10,000 hours so you only need to invest the rest. The difference is now you do it consciously and deliberately. You will be more effective that way.
A key thing in finding your niche is putting in your 10k hours. If you want to work on a your marketing skills and songwriting skills, you’ll need to invest the same amount of time on both to reach those 10K hours. For example, if you spend 1 hour on production, and 1 hour on marketing 5 days a week, you’ll reach your 10k hours in 41.6 years. Here are some more examples:
2 hours/day x 7 days/week = 14.8 years
4 hours/day x 5 days/week = 10.4 years
(you get the point)
2. What are your passions?
10,000 hours is an astonishing amount of time. Finding the motivation to stick to one thing for that amount of time is vastly difficult. Actually, that’s the reason why 10,000 is the magic number for world-class expertise. Most people never even reach that number. Only a select few actually reach the 10,000 hours mark and that’s why they become world class.
If you’re doing something you love to do, reaching the 10,000 hours mark will be a lot easier. You’ll be able to get through the tough times, and earn some grit. It will help you overcome complacency. If you’re not doing something you love, it isn’t likely that you’ll ever reach the 10k hours mark.
3. What opportunities does the age give you?
In the book, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, he shows that your birth date has significant influence on your success. Gladwell shows that being born in mid 1950s is great if you want to be a computer entrepreneur. In the mid 1970s when the personal computer came to fruition, you’d be in good position to hedge that market. You wouldn’t have been too old that you already had an established job with older generations of computers. Neither would you have been too young to have the necessary skills to take advantage of the opportunity.
What opportunities does your birth date give you? What opportunities do you have right now? What opportunity is currently open for you?
Answering these questions is not easy because it’s difficult to see whether or not something will be hot. When Bill Gates did his 10,000 hours of practice to learn programming, he might not know that it would eventually put him in a perfect position to be a software mogul. You need to have faith in something and believe that the dots will eventually connect. In Steve Jobs’ words:
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something ”” your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Top 5 Mistakes Artists Lose Money On In Recording Studios
Lets be honest, studio time isn’t cheap. Even if you’re rolling in cash you probably won’t have many opportunities nail the best take. Inexperienced artists are more likely to make a lot of mistakes, and as you can imagine, this could lead to a lot of time and money wasted.
(Big tip: We’re offering a FREE trial of our mixing and mastering services for a limited time. Click here for more information.)
So, lets get to it:
Be On Time
There is no room for being late to a recording session. Neither the studio or the engineer will lose sleep over this. Studio time is booked on a block basis and if you don’t show up on time, there’s a good chance you’re paying around $5 every minute you’re late. The studio may even give your block away if they don’t think you are going to show up. Always get there 10 to 15 minutes early to warm up so that you can get started recording as soon as possible.
Have a Goal
Lets push the 20 minute planning session to a few days before booking your studio time. Ask yourself, what do you hope to accomplish for the day? The answer is always going to be different, but make sure that you do this before walking in the studio. It’s all too common to have a planning session and realistically, the less time you waste the more you’ll get out of your session. Remember, time is money.
Don’t Waste Time
Many musicians want to learn their parts or treat a recording session like a practice session, but recording a song isn’t the same as performing it live. It’s a completely different process, and a lot of time takes a different type of practice. By the time you start recording, you need to know just how every part of the song goes. There are times that inspiration may hit, and you want to add or try something new, but those decisions need to be taken with caution. That 10 second part can quickly turn into an hour or more if you’re not careful. Rule of thumb: if it’s not working in the first 15 minutes, it isn’t meant to be.
The best way to explain a high quality recording is comparing it to video. Lets say you’re browsing for a TV at your local electronics store. You’ll might see some old 1080p and maybe the new 4K TV’s. You’ll get a pretty good idea of how much better the 4K looks when it’s placed side by side with a 1080. The microphone is basically like putting a big magnifying glass over your instrument or voice. Every imperfection will be heard in high definition (including your performance). If you don’t have great equipment try to borrow it or rent it from someone that does.
Listen to Your Sound Engineer
Your sound engineer is in charge of making sure you sound like a million dollars. It’s probably a good idea to make sure he/she does the best they can do for your project. Be respectful, and open minded to their advice. It’s not always wise to insult the cook that’s making the food you’re going to eat. In this case, the engineer is the cook making the food you’re fans will be eating. Unless you’re a seasoned engineer, it’s best to let them do their thing.