Academy Dashboard Forum Production Music Business Selling songs. I'm completely discombobulated.

  • This topic has 6 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 6 years ago by Tony.
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    Nick Carella

      Hi guys!

      I've been playing guitar and writing music for the last 10 years. About a year ago I've decided to take it a little bit more seriously and rented a small place to build a studio.

      I've recorded and mixed a couple of friend's material with a various degree of personal satisfaction. But my #1 goal was to finish my album. Right now I have it mostly written and badly recorded.

      Now I think that maybe I should just find a professional performers and record them in a professional studio, because I'm spreading thin here. I know that my current level of guitar playing, mixing and recording isn't enough to achieve my goal and I'm not sure I will be able to learn all those things to a suitable degree, considering I have a day job 🙂

      So now I see two paths before me.

      #1 Composing
      I can focus on composing and producing demo tracks to the best of my abilities. They probable could not be use as soundtracks or sold on iTunes, but maybe I could sell them to artists. How do I market myself? I'm slightly ashamed to put my stuff out there, on iTunes, Spotify, etc. because the quality of home produced songs is high right now and the competition is strong. Would be able to cut through? I feel like the listeners expectation of quality is so damn high that I will not be able to market songs to general audience. Where should I put my demos? I've heard about Taxi and some other services but I'm not quite sure as to what is considered "good enough". Should I concentrate on finding local artists and write songs for them?

      Is this enough to be successful in a current music business?

      #2 Producing
      I can hire professional performers and mixers to finish the song, even without me as a performer. It opens many doors as to how can I market my stuff. I could approach local indie movie producers, license material to commercials, youtube video, etc – the possibilities are endless.
      It feel require a different mindset, because it will require additional investments on my side.

      The #2 path look more simple in a way. Not easy, but simple. Write a song, choose performers to record, record, find a mixer and it's done. Release the song, market the song. Maybe it will be successful, maybe not, but the road is somewhat clear. And much easier in the 2018 than in 1985.

      The #1 path looks more peaceful to me. I write, I record it how I can, concentrating primarily on artistic decisions, not technical. But what can I do with the song? How can I share it? Getting the song heard by other people will always be important to me, but someone else should re-record it and release it? How can one do it? Is it sustainable?

      I went ahead and attached the latest version of one of my songs. It features mostly unrehearsed vocal line and I view it as a music sheet. We try different things, we record it, listen to it. I hope that some day I'll be able to say - "that's it! that's how it should be done" and then re-record all the parts until its good.

      Jeff Macdonald

        You raise some interesting questions, which in the spirit of creating dialogue I will create more questions from. I think in order to determine your definition of success. To some that maybe writing and recording all the parts to an album. I am working with a client currently that is playing all the parts of his record - surely we could find better session players for instruments that he isn't as proficient with, but his end goal is to have played each and every part. That is how he as determined his success. To others, success might be having a song chart, or play as background for a TV show or film. All of these outcomes will require different approaches.

        If you define success as releasing music you have done, I would success path #1. Just be prolific and improve as you go. Don't sit on a project because you have determined 'it could be better'. Get it as good as you can at that time and release it, then move on to the next project and continue to improve your craft as you release new material. I would continue to practice as well, to become proficient with your tools as this will help them become less of a barrier to productivity and creativity.

        IF you are looking to have songs chart, or be licensed you are looking for a polished end product. I would say path #2 will get you there much faster. There are established musicians, many are Academy members, that offer remote recording services to provide professional instrument records for productions. You can cherry pick from around the world the best musicians within your budget. However, you will need a decent demo of the song, so Path #1 works its way back in here.

        I think overall it's a matter of knowing when to move on to something new and stop dwelling on a project trying to make it 'perfect'. I suffer from this at times, but have been trying to force myself to set deadlines for releases, especially of my own productions, so I don't have the time to be overly critical. I also rely heavily on hired guns to fill the gaps where I cannot reasonably play a part. It's still my idea and song regardless of who plays it.



        Andrew (AKA Ajay)

          Hi Nick,

          I agree with Jeff, deciding on what success means to you is a great question to ask yourself?

          I consider myself as a "success" in the music industry because I've been lucky enough to do music/entertainment for a living, I haven't made millions but to me I've been successful!

          In regards to finishing a project, you always have to ask yourself "what am I trying to achieve?". Sometimes just finishing to the best of your ability is enough, it's a snapshot of time of where you were and how much you've learnt up until now? We should continue to learn and grow as we go along, yes you could better but it doesn't have to be right now does it?

          Thanks for this post, it's a very interesting subject success. Nearly 30 years into this business and still every day I learn something new.

          Andrew (AKA Ajay)


            You will probably still have questions after watching this, but it may help you sort some things out. Search YouTube for this video:

            John Mayer - "Information and inspiration" - Berklee Clinic 2008 (Pt.1)

            It is a 10 year old video. But, a lot of what he says still holds true. As mentioned above, you have to choose (for yourself) what "success" means to YOU.

            To paraphrase John Mayer, you have to set goals and decide what you want to try and do. Keep in mind the the music Industry has changed even more since this was made in 2008.

            For example I look at some BIG known bands, and they are selling 14,000 copies. Bands I love. I look at even BIGGER bands and the best of the best in their styles and they are selling under 200,000 copies. So the days of 20 million copies are over. No more Alanis' "Jagged Little Pill" or Guns N' Roses "Appetite For Destruction" etc... for "rock/pop rock" albums. Even worse, not even the pop stars are moving that many albums. I have seen albums charting with less than 7,000 copies I think. I would like to think I could load up my truck with cds and sell 5,000 copies to complete strangers on the street for $5 each... I know this isn't easy and more/less just making a point that the industry is dead for most rock/metal.

            Adele's 25 album:

            "25 is just the sixth album released since 2001 to have sold 8 million copies. It follows 21, Usher’s Confessions (released in 2004, 10.3 million sold), 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003, 8.4 million), Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me (2002, 11.1 million) and Eminem’s The Eminem Show (2002, 10.6 million)."

            There is the reality. And none of those are metal or rock albums.

            And every one of those people were promotion powerhouses. I've never heard a 50 Cent song. But, I know who he is. I never bought an Eminem record, but I can sing a few lines from 3 or 4 of his songs. I know 4 words from Norah Jones music even though I don't remember what she looks like. They got their music to me. Somehow, they got it out there. One way or the other, I know these people. That is power.

            So would I go out and hire people to record and sing my songs and make "my album" so that even if it is a hit I get .00000000007 of a penny each time Spotify plays it?


            Major artists are struggling to figure out the industry. New artists are getting ripped off to new heights with 360 Deals. Meaning that t-shirts, coffee cups, everything, they trick you into giving them a percentage to get their investment back.

            Unless you want the full EVENT stage setups of Taylor Swift, they aren't even concerts, they are like grand events now (like Ice Capades or something!) HUGE SHOWS, then I don't think you need the industry to help you.

            I am not saying to not follow your dreams. But, when you look at every band except Metallica and a few others, that have 40 year careers almost, suffering in metal and having day jobs etc. It's safe to say that the business model, as we knew it, is dead.

            But, that John Mayer video will get you thinking. "Will I be happy selling 400 cds? Will I be happy with 1000 YouTube Subscribers? Or do I need 100,000 YouTube Subscribers to feel successful?" He says it helps to set goals.

            I will say he is right because I accidentally found this out 10 years ago.

            I was in a band. High school guys I knew in the day. They were younger, bought some of my gear etc. So I joined on drums. They had a Myspace Music. I said cool, I will get Myspace people on my site to follow. They said they only add friends. I said what? You want to add anyone that will listen. Not just friends and your family. lol They disagreed and said it was fake to have 500 Myspace fans if you only knew 50 people in real life.

            I left the band, started my own one man band. Promoted like an MF'er (back when you could without getting banned) and I wanted to beat their Profile views, song plays and fan count. And response.

            Keep in mind this is when Pop singer Lights was starting out, and when Colbie Caillat basically got the first Myspace related career. She even let fans vote on what songs made her album etc.

            I ended up with 48,000 "fans" and bands on my list. Were some people that never talked or listened? Hell yeah. lol But of those 48,000, 2000 or so took the time to comment and listen. Of those 2000, 400 or so would talk and stay in touch. Of those 400, 30 or so would write me everyday. Of those 30, I still know about 10 of them.

            It seems weird to have to get 48,000 people to get 10 people you are in touch with still, even though you deleted your band page 2 years later in like 2013... But, I had the music time of my life. Bands sharing music. People talking gear. Or people just talking. I was in touch with Billy Sheehan a few times, drummer Atma Anur from Richie Kotzen's original solo cds and Cacophony with Becker and Marty etc... It was a good time.

            A hell of a better time than being in that crap band with 3 high school "friends" I don't even talk to anymore.

            By the way. I never made a dime and gave everything away free.

            I still felt successful. Because, I set those stupid goals of Plays, Profile Views and Fans. And a few long lasting friendships with some of the coolest people on Earth.

            All from a stupid Music Site that isn't even around anymore really.

            But, it was a cool ride. The coolest.

            Never made a dime. Never sold a T-Shirt. Never made a T-Shirt. lol Didn't care. It was awesome.

            I think if you put your music first and your guitar first and your songwriting first and let the rest fall into place with your (realistic) goals, you will be further ahead.

            For example if you get help from Produce Like A Pro and your recordings sound the way you want them to, and by then you are playing how you want to, and heck, maybe you find a local person to help record or join the band for free, I think you'll be much happier.

            Again I am not saying to give up on selling 10,000,000 albums. Or playing a concert on the moon or anything. But, I think small goals and building up is a much better plan than going to Nashville and paying to get your song performed and then trying to market your songs or album.

            For example, imagine right now that you put a cd out and it sells 350 copies. The next one sells 375 copies. The next one 800 copies because you joined up with a local guitarist and his fans love your songwriting too. 800 copies sounds small. But, you are playing YOUR music. You are in control. You own everything.

            Now imagine you sign a bad record deal (happens ALL the time). Watch Goo Goo Dolls "Behind The Music". That band was as big as it gets with "Name" on the radio. They ended up OWING the record label money after that album. Because the company made videos, travel expenses, hotels etc recoupable expenses. So the Goos sold records and OWED money.

            Music is music. And music business is music business. And very often they do not mix well.

            Let me know what you think of that Mayer clinic, especially the part early, about expectations. It made sense to me at least. It might or might not help you.

            Nick Carella

              Wow! Thank you for your responses, it helps very much!

              I'll watch "Information and inspiration" this weekend.

              Meanwhile I decided to try and combine both of my passions. I released a first album today - Original Soundtrack for a game my friends make. Just to test the waters and to learn how to do it. I chose bandcamp and distrokid as platforms.

              And also I started producing a track with another friend where we had to hire a session musician. So far it's great.

              I'm not expecting to win any awards with this music, but at least I'll have a portfolio and maybe someone else with hire me as a composer or as a mixing engineer. I'm lucky enough to have a decent day job that allows me to experiment with music career.

              Also I started building my online presence in twitter and other media to try and reach new audience.

              I spent many days thinking about what it success to me and for now it is rather simple. Getting people to listen to my music.

              It means I should write more and publish it. Now that I've made a first step in that direction I feel so much better.

              Thanks, Jack and Andrew. A snapshot of time it is.

              Tony, thank you for telling this story, it really means a lot. This particular release sold just 4 copies for now, but it's really okay 🙂

              I heard random people from around the world saying nice thing about it on streams or forums and that's enough for now 🙂


                It's a good Clinic. John has great interviews if they make him talk guitar or music. There is also a YouTube drum series called "I'd Hit That" (lol) look up:

                Jojo Mayer I'd Hit That interview.

                He gives background on his drumming, producing career flow. From when he was a kid to now.

                Must be a "Mayer" thing.

                Changing my name to Tony Mayer tonight, and I will be successful tomorrow. Watch!



                  I also forgot to say. I listened to your song. I think it's better than you think it is. With that strong vocal it seems the backing tracks are too quiet. Like when the rock stuff kicks in, it seems like the music needs to be louder, or the vocals quieter or eq things out of each others way so they can stay loud. Without becoming a mess. I technically don't know how to fix those levels. But someone here does. And more importantly, the vocals and the intro etc... It has a good sound.

                  Just seems like the band has a volume knob, and the singer is on 7, and the rest of the band on 4 so it's not balanced. Or something. Not sure how to say.

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