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Tech Production – Workflow, Arranging, Mixing, & Sneak Look/Listen at a Work in Progress

Here's a track that's 80% done. I quickly go over some minor mix tweaks I do on my groups so I can export out of Maschine and then give it the final treatment in Ableton Live. While I work in Maschine and you may not, the take away is committing your material to audio and then approaching the next stage of production. For me it's tweaking the arrangement, recording some new takes of the synth, adding swooshes and FX, and lastly I'll polish up the mix. The mix as it is is "good enough" to move along to these next parts of the process.  So when I start working on the arrangement, I know my mix is up to snuff so I no longer fiddle w/ EQ, compression and shit like that. Stay tuned for more videos as I complete this. If you want to go deeper into things with me check out my course.

a primer on Facebook ads for DJs and producers

The Basics of Facebook Ads for DJs and Producers

If you build a better mouse trap the world isn't going to race to your door step.  They are more likely to yawn or say "so what."

So when it comes to building an audience, just putting your stuff out there isn't going to move the needle.  More than likely you'll get a trickle of likes and follows.

You have to promote yourself.

There's basically 2 ways.  Paid and "organic."  Organic is nice but it takes time, it's also something the underground community prides itself on.  The brick by brick building of a brand, word of mouth and so on.  We music makers tend to view advertising as "yucky" but this is a limiting belief.  We know some artist have bought fans which come from "bot farms," but don't disregard all advertising because of this foolishness.

10 years ago tit was easy to get a lot of growth just by putting stuff out there.   Today things have evolved - you can't only rely on "organic" growth.  It's going to be slow and frustrating unless you get lucky.  So let's make our own luck.

What most people think of as promotion is really public relations.  Working with influencers, posting and sharing on social this is all PR.  It's creating a favorable image by communicating with the masses .  This is great but it's hard to measure and takes lots of time.  Good to do but you can't have all your eggs in PR.

Typically "PR" campaigns involve lots of manual labor with no guarantee of a pay off, such as a favorable mention in the press that would result in bookings or record sales. By manual labor I mean cultivating a list of influencers or people in the press and then doing direct out reach.  Or submitting your music to popular blogs.

Getting back to basic text book basics, marketing is price, place, promotion and price.  The promotion part consists of personal selling, direct marketing, sales promotions, advertisements, and public relations.

Personal selling is the sales hustle - think "buy my mix CD." You can do that but you need an audience first.

Direct marketing - this is selling directly to the masses without a distributor, like you selling your music direct to fans without Beatport or digital distribution.

Advertising- this is how you build an audience. More on that in a second.

PR. This is about communicating with the public and building up a good brand. Posting on social is what we're most familiar with. Or maybe you run a Facebook group to establish yourself as an expert or taste maker - good stuff but time consuming with no immediate pay off in terms of bookings, music sales or even new rampage likes. There's press releases too but that's another subject. It's still another thing that takes time and money with no immediate result.

Back to advertising. This is how you grow because Facebook and many big media sites are pay to play.  If you are active on social, you have to put some money behind your activity to fuel growth - and it has to be done in a strategic way because otherwise you'll waste money.

Even DJs have to advertise to reach high percentages of their audiences. Paid campaigns also allow super specific targeting options. Like a European based DJ could run an ad just to her US fans that like Output if she want to laser in on a specific audience for an upcoming gig.

When you advertise consider that people are in 3 basic stages.

  • Awareness (I think I need new studio monitors)
  • Consideration (I'm considering Yamaha's, KRKs, or Focal Alpha's and looking at reviews of each)
  • Decision making or "conversion" (I'm ready to buy some Yamahas and looking for the best price on HS8s)

Facebook offers you the ability to create new campaigns based on these 3 stages.

In addition you want to reach the right audience. This is a key part of campaign planning. Audience, message, results.  An audience could be people that like the same things you do - fans of DJs you like, like websites such as Resident Advisor, or Attack Magazine, an audience could be people who already like your page, friends of people who like your page, people who visited your website in the past 30 days.  These are all examples of audiences.

The smart approach to use when resources are limited are to reach people at the consideration or decision making stages.

So if you're a new producer you want to reach other DJs who not only play your genre but also like things like Beatport or track source.

These are your buyers. The more general clubber or festival goer may spend little to nothing buying music.

Driving to beatport is not really advised because you can't measure the result.

You measure results by placing the Facebook pixel across your website, so you should have a website. It's not that hard to do a basic one.

If I was building an audience from scratch, I'd probably do things like:

Drive website clicks to my own site, where people can sign up for my email list in exchange for a free piece of music.

Upload a video of an original track to Facebook while building an audience of people who watched at least 50% if it's a longer video say 2 minutes or more.

Use retargeting ads to promote something to these people interested enough to watch my stuff for a decent amount of time.

To get this right, you need to have some tracks to give away or sell and your own website.

For a general awareness play it's not a bad idea to run an ad the way Agent Orange has, but in the long run ads like these are not sustainable because you can only track link clicks.  It's impossible for him to measure sales on beatport back to clicks spend on Facebook.

This is just a primer on using paid Facebook ads, remember that the best thing you can do is to be out supporting other parties and meeting people.  But again, this is like PR, you just don't know if each time you go out you're going to make a solid connection.

Consider that for the cost of a couple nights out you can buy web hosting for a year and pay for a basic website theme.  For a few bucks a day here and there you can begin advertising your stuff to build an audience.

Let me know your questions and comments because I could go real deep on this if you like.



don't switch DAWs for dance music production

Trust me, there's no good reason to switch DAWs or music production software programs.

Hitting a plateau, frustration, the idea that the grass is greener, the yearning for a new shiny object - these are NOT good reasons to switch but are distractions.  And when you fall into these mindsets, marketing hype from software companies starts resonating with you.

We've all been there.

And it applies to gear as well.

I'm not faulting software companies, like any business they need to market their product.

The underlying message nearly 100% of the time is that if you adopt this software magical things will happen.

It will be easer.

It will be better.

"You'll be on an industry standard"

Let's just label these marketing half truths.

They are true IF you learn them and put in the work.

And this takes time.

Time that could be spent developing your music, your ear, your song structure, or mixing.

At the end of the day, software will not make or break a record.  It's merely a tool to get the job done.

When you know it's nothing more than that, you won't get distracted by marketing hype, or go down a costly road of frustration.

Because if you adopt a new technology, you have to learn it.

Pick the DAW or music production software that's right for you and stick with it.

I'm not saying don't ever make a switch, but do it with healthy skepticism and planning.

If you don't have any tracks out or signed you have bigger fish to fry than switching DAWs.

If you have gotten to that point, ask yourself if a new DAW is what you really need right now to get to the next level.

The answer is probably no.

Recently, I bought into the marketing from Harrison, about their DAW mixbus.

I liked that it's super-affordable, analog based, and has a limited set of features, so I pulled the trigger on a $39 sale of version 3.0.

And you know what happened, it's been collecting dust.

It does sound nice, it's just that when I get to the point of fine tuning the arrangement of a track, then adding some automations and giving it that last bit of mixing polish....I just didn't know how to do that stuff in Mixbus.

And the time to learn something new didn't justify the perceived benefits.

Here's an example of the opposite.

Back when I first got into production I plunked down $2,000 for a near mint Korg Triton keyboard. This was the bomb back in the day, however it was more for pop, hip hop, RnB, perhaps more mainstream dance.

I did get a lot of use out of it...but it wasn't the best fit because I just didn't have enough experience to know better when I originally bought it.

I'm also not a keyboard player.  I've dabbled a bit, but I'm not really passionate about it.

This was before you could quantize notes as you were playing so inputting music with a keyboard was a tad harder.

And if you wanted to play chords, you had to know some scales and theory, unlike today. Sure theory helps, because you can add in notes that are not typical, or voice chords differently but today you can play triads, 7ths...all with the push of a button without having to worry about hitting the wrong note.

My point is that a couple years later I dabbled with an Akai MPC 2000.  I loved it and took to it quickly.  I still love the idea of crate digging, sampling sounds and making beats.

I do that with Native Instruments Maschine.

My point is that producing from a keyboard is not the way to go for me. I'm more a drum pad guy.

So it makes sense for me to work that way.

So I stick with Maschine for dance music production.

There are times when I feel like doing something new..but it's better for me to channel that into learning my existing stuff more deeply.

Back to DAWs.

If you mainly use a DAW to mix and arrange then stick to that DAW.

If you need something to Jam then perhaps look at Ableton.

I mainly use Ableton Live to arrange and mix.  So I'm not leaving anytime soon because it's good enough for that and other things. Remember I don't need all the functionality that someone who records and mixes bands would.

IF you are on a DAW and it feels kinda rigid and not as creative as you'd like then maybe look to Ableton, Fruity Loops, or Reason.

At the end of the day DAWs/ or music production software programs fall into 2 camps.

You have the more mixing focused ones (Protools, Logic, Cubase etc)  or you have the more creative/instrument centered DAWS like

Ableton, Fruity Loops, Reason...if you're real old school Acid Loops and ReBirth (Reason's predecessor)

If you're in the right camp, then don't switch. 

Because at the end of the day people are making hits on all the different platforms and again it's not software that will make or break a record.

The things that matter are your sound selections, hooks and music riffs, mixing, arrangement.

All basic stuff that's existed far far longer than music software.

Basic, but not easy.

And because it's the MUSIC that makes a track, I focus on that - NOT learning every single feature in Ableton Live or Maschine.

In Ableton I know about 3-4 keyboard short cuts.

I pretty much use it to finesse the arrangement and final mix of a track.

Stuff like setting levels, copy/paste, move, drag.  Loop clips, draw/ record automation.  Record/edit audio.  Organize tracks into groups or busses, not using effects like an idiot.  Tending to cut rather than boost EQ. Not clipping.

Pretty basic stuff.

Now if you're in the business of recording and mixing clients THEN you need to get much more advanced as a user of a DAW/production software.  Why? Because time is money and most of the people you'll work with in the beginning will suck and may not be tolerable to listen to for a while. So taking too long to get their project done well will hurt your ROI and ears.

To wrap up, until you have a handful of tracks signed all you need to do with your DAW is record, edit, arrange and mix your music.  You don't to be an advanced user of a DAW to do this.

That's all for now.


The Weekly Wrap Up June 9 2017

Here's a video on Mixing where I show you the plugins I use on different tracks in the mix like the master fader, along with individual tracks as well as groups or busses.


Also, streaming live is not that hard or expensive.

Here's a quick one where I'm dabbling w/ Maschine Jam.


What you need"

Rode SC4 available on Amazon and lots of places.  This converts a stereo input into a mic input for your smart phone, I'm using an iPhone.

Then you need something like this to go from your mixer to the Rode connector.

**this is important**

You're phone takes a mic level input, your mixer or soundcard sends line level signal which is MUCH hotter than a mic level signal.

So you'll need to send a very low level signal into your phone or you will get distortion.

What does this mean?

On a DJ mixer you must use an output with a knob that controls the signal going out.  For example I'm using the booth out on my DJ mixer and I have the output set to 9 o clock.  This is very low.

If you don't have control over your output then you will need this attenuator by Fentronix.

In the clip on facebook above, it doesn't sound super great because I'm just jamming and when I further arrange and mix this tune I'll be making sure it sounds good in mono.  Using this method which is quite easy and cheap you'll be broadcasting in mono.

This is fine for streaming DJ sets where the music is already mix, mastered and sounding good in mono.

Enjoy and see you next time.