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5 Simple Truths I Learned About Music Career Success


5 Simple Truths I Learned About Music Career Success

by Kari Estrin             


Derik Nelson, singer-songwriter

Derik Nelson, singer-songwriter

There’s lots of advice on how to have a successful career in music, but in the end, knowing these five tips will give you a “leg up.”. Of course, each of us may define what success is differently – but however you define it, these tips will also help you chart a steadier course along the way.



One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to be individual, be true to what special talents you have, what you’re writing and your vocal style. Although some artists may imitate others, your best shot (unless you’re into tribute bands) is in developing your own unique sound.



Sometimes the best song you ever wrote happened in five minutes with no edits. That is a gift from the muse, but that’s not always the usual case. Don’t be afraid to edit your songs to make them even better, take voice lessons if you need to hit the notes the way you’d like, or beef up your instrumental work with lessons when you’re starting out. Do what it takes to refine your sound by editing, rewriting, resigning and of course, practice. Reach out for help and expertise – it’s all around you and some of it is free for the finding!



You may have written songs that are jazz, blues, pop, singer/songwriter and country, but just because you have all that talent, know what are you trying to project to your audience? It’s great to be multi-talented and to occasionally throw something atypical into a set artfully, but with so many choices of talent, you need to have a sound and image that people will instantly recognize as yours. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your appeal and have a harder time standing out above the crowd.



Do you understand who comes to see you and if so, do you know can you reach them? Is Instagram or Twitter the social media your audience prefer – or are your fans mostly on Facebook? Knowing your audience, the medium that they will respond to in order to engage them to come to live shows, sell your music and reach them on an emotional level is important.



Arrive at gigs on time and prepared; thank those who work with you or do your sound, serve the drinks or do your backstage catering and let them know you appreciate them. When you’re starting out and even after you “make” it, making those around you comfortable and valued goes a long way to your longevity in business. But learn your business as well – there are resources, including info on the ‘net to help you know the best way to negotiate a contract, how to deal with conflict, what are common music business practices, etc. There are plenty of people who might want to take advantage of you in the business, so if you know more about best how it works and are savvy, you’ll be more protected. Although many bands we may worship have/had a lot of that “bad boy” image – trashing hotel rooms, demanding those brown M & M’s,that’s generally not the smartest way to think you’ll advance yourself or survive in the business these days!


Kari Estrin

Kari Estrin

Kari’s wide expertise in the music industry spans four and a half decades. Starting in the early 70’s to her concert/festival production days in the 80’s in the Boston/Cambridge area (Harvard, The Berklee, Symphony Hall, Newport Folk, etc) Kari carved out her national reputation. She managed/booked/tour managed guitar legend Tony Rice in the early 80’s and world music act, The 3 Mustaphas 3, who reached No. 1 in Billboard Magazine, truly establishing Kari as a sought after professional. Her groundbreaking Career Assessment System predates “coaching” and has helped a wide variety of artists, from beginning to established, to take their careers to new heights and expanded levels as Kari pioneered working with the “whole” artist in her integrative and holistic approach. She is also is an acoustic music radio promoter and her artists have topped the Folk DJ charts for roughly 17 years. http://www.kariestrin.com

For more information on entering IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com




5 Tips to Top Your Mix


5 Tips to Top Your Mix

5 Tips to Top Your Mix

5 Tips to Top Your Mix

A brief insight to some mixing techniques we use that could help you achieve a better end product and how we work here in MixButton.

First – Initial Thoughts

Simply write down your initial thoughts on pen and paper upon listening for the first time, and what direction you feel you want the track to go in. Write down how you want each section to make you feel, and any specific effects you think could work with fresh ears.

This is a simple process that is often overlooked and is great at laying down your initial instincts for the track, instead of figuring out half way through the mix.

There is only one chance for a first impression so you must capitalize on it and capture your ideas from the start.

Second – Mono Image EQ

Many of us want to get the mix sounding good early on, but mixing is a gradual process. A quick pan to the side often misleads your ear into hearing the respective instrument cleaner that it actually is. This is because the instrument is no longer competing in a frequency space.

Without disrupting your individual tracks, make sure the final output bus is in mono and start to EQ the different instruments.

As they are all on top of each other and competing for space, you will find when you treat them you will have to work harder and have to be more precise.

After making sure all instruments can be heard and are working well together, change the final output back to stereo and you will find your mix sounding a lot better.

Third – Fine Automation Key for feeling

It is important to remember that music has to make people feel something, as that is the design of the artist. A big give away of many amateur mixers is that the sections do not really move to each other and so the track does not connect with the listener.

Fine automation on a DAW or fader riding, is crucial with many instruments especially legato style sounds and notes, for example voice or strings. Obviously the performer has a responsibility to give the recording dynamics and movement, but it is also the responsibly of the mixer to bring that to the listeners ear in order that they can connect to the track easily. This is vital with the main vocal.

Fourth – Stereo Bus Cleaning

This is a tip for near the end of your mixing process to deal with any final frequency disruptions or inconsistencies.

On the stereo bus, place any linear EQ and select either a high pass or low pass filter. The idea is to isolate the low or high frequencies at once. For example, a low pass at 300hz would give you a good idea of how the bottom end of your mix is working and if there are any clashing sounds that you need to address. Same concept goes with the high-end frequencies.

Fifth – 1db or not db

Even Shakespeare struggled with the concept of mixing and chose to express this through his play Hamlet.

What he learned was that a mix is rarely transformed with one action or a secret switch that suddenly makes the mix sound good. Rather many little things, each treating individual parts of the track culminating in an overall better mix.

While you may not think 1db here or 2 db there makes a difference in the short-term immediate sound. We have to mix with the vision that these little changes are together affecting the overall sound.

So it is important to be patient with the precision at which you work as many small changes make a big difference.

MixButton (www.mixbutton.com) is online mixing studio for the masses ready to take your music to the next level. Visit the website and listen to some samples to find out what we could do for your music.

For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com


Audition Tips For Music College or Conservatory


Audition Prep Tips For Music College or Conservatory

(From Berklee’s Former Dean of Admissions)  

Audition Prep Tips For Music College or Conservatory

Audition Prep Tips For Music College or Conservatory

1. What are the best strategies for applying for music college or conservatory? This question somewhat depends on whether a student is applying to study Classical music or Jazz/Pop/Contemporary music. Why? The key to a student’s successful music education in a traditional(classical) conservatory is primarily their private lesson instructor – or referred to as the studio.A student considering various music schools should first research the faculty teaching on their principal instrument. Do they like the teachers performances, interpretation, etc.? The reason being, is that after four years under the tutelage of said teacher, their own playing will be highly influenced by the teacher’s approach to music. Also, they should, if possible, request a “trial lesson” with as many teachers as being considered. Just because a specific teacher/performer has a renown reputation, does not necessarily mean you will enjoy their teaching style or will “gel” with them. Finally, the student needs to know how many and what type of ensembles are offered at each school. Are you interested in Chamber music, Symphony, or a Solo career? If you are a singer, are you interested in traditional opera, more contemporary works/ensembles, or even Chorale or Education. In the world of Jazz/Contemporary music the principal instrument teacher while important is not the end-all, be-all for selecting a school or music college. Many students are not necessarily intending to be performers.They might be intending to pursue a major in Songwriting, or Music Production & Engineering, or Music Education, or Composition. In this case the faculty teaching those courses become important to the student’s choice of school. Students are advised to research and read the background and professional experience of faculty. Also, their are internet sites out there where students attending an institution actually comment and rate a professor’s effectiveness. However – buyer beware; some students just have a grudge against a teacher and may rate him/her poorly , even when not deserved.Another strategy is to research the success of students who have attended(not necessarily graduated) from any given institution. What is the least reliable means for judging whether a school is right or wrong for you? – the college’s own materials and website. They can be helpful to a limited degree. But be aware, they are written and produced by professionals who are expected to present the school in the most favorable – albeit not always accurate – light. Trust me, I was one of those professionals for many years. The BEST way to assess whether a school might be right for you? Visit;take a lesson, attend a class, and speak with students – in the hallways,in the cafeteria, in the practice rooms. The true authorities at any school, college, or university are an aggregate of the students who attend or have attended. Keep in mind – You are an individual and must in the end judge for yourself according to your goals, your perspective, and may be best of all – your gut.

2. What are the best strategies for a music college or conservatory audition?

This answer is easy – practice, practice, practice. Sound familiar? However, there are a few strategies that can help. A. First and foremost: You must know the exact requirements and expectations of any school’s audition policy. They are usually clearly stated on the Admission’s website. Follow them, or you might be sorely  disappointed later on when admissions decisions are sent out. B. Next – experience a “mock audition”. Have your teacher, or someone you seek out who is familiar with the audition process, or a music college consulting firm like *Music School Central *put you through the paces of what a real music school audition will be like. Then learn from that experience. Follow their advice, double your efforts, and remain positive. C. Hire an experienced teacher to isolate and work with you exclusively on your audition repertoire; the notes, the interpretation, the presentation. At *Music School Central* we even coach students on their entrance, their handshake, their demeanor, and their exit. Don’t underestimate the importance of seemingly small details. D. Stay laser-focused. Sometimes that might mean temporarily giving up some outside interests or extracurricular activities. However, you must keep in mind – you have but one “job” in the near future – to get into the college of your choice. All else can be put on hold for the short-term. In the end, you’re either ready for your audition or not. You can’t cram into weeks or even months what is essentially a multi-year preparation.

*Steve Lipman is an independent music college consultant based in Boston,MA. Following a long and successful career at Berklee College of Music,Steve is the Founder and President of Steve Lipman Associates and a principal partner in **Music School Central/Music College Consulting Services. SLA and MSC help music students and their families to identify appropriate music schools, colleges, and universities, assist in all phases of the application procedures, and guide students through the pre-screening and audition process.*

For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com


Expert Musician Advice: KNOW YOUR OWN STRENGTHS



by Ralph Murphy


Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter

One of the top ten questions I get asked by newcomers to the industry is, “How do I get heard in the music business?” Before I can answer that, I have to know exactly what they want to be “heard.” When I ask them about their goals — whether they want to be songwriters or recording artists — the most common response is, “Both.”


Listen to the truth

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that, while many of thenewcomers I counsel may be gifted as songwriters or as singers, very, very few are equally blessed with both talents. While one ability may come rather naturally, the other often needs significant honing.


The problem is, not everyone wants to hear the truth. Some great singers (who are average songwriters) can make the really average songs they’ve written shine through the sheer power of their vocal ability. They make the phrase “I love you” sound so good that you almost believe they invented it. In equal numbers come the great songwriters (who are average singers) who have been told by family, friends, lovers, and late-night adoring coffeehouse/honky-tonk buffoons that, despite the fact that their tempo, pitch and teeth are bad, they have star quality. And no matter how badly they sing, their songs are still strong enough to survive a mediocre vocal performance and sound like hits. (This is the only reason karaokemanufacturers are not hunted for sport!)


Check your ego at the door

The bottom line is: lose your ego. It’s called “absenting of self.” The person most likely to come between you and your career goal is you. Don’t make the best of your talent a donkey for the least of your talent. Get some unbiased feedback from industry pros (available through a variety of NSAI programs), and if you are indeed weaker in one area, focus on your strength.


If you’re a great singer — but an average writer — don’t be upset if someone loves your voice but wants you to sing someone else’s songs. Go find those great songs while you learn to become a better writer. By the same token, if you’re a great songwriter — but an average singer — don’t be upset if someone wants to record your songs but passes on you as an artist. Remember, this is called the music “business,” and the business end of our industry knows that the majority of the G.A.P. (Great American Public) just wants to hear great records. They don’t lie awake nights wondering who wrote and/or sang the songs they like on the radio.


Be smart

If you have a sneaking suspicion that the preceding law even remotely applies to you, then do yourself this favor: picture the music industry as a large building with an entrance for singers on one side, and an entrance for songwriters on the other. Maybe you can’t go through both doors at the same time, but you can concentrate on getting inside through the door that opens the most easily for you. Who knows? Once you’re inside, you can end up just about anywhere.


Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter and expert, has been successful for five decades. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle’s “Talking in Your Sleep” and “Half the Way”. Consistently charting songs in an ever-changing musical environment makes him a member of that very small group of professionals who make a living ding what they love to do. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. Achieving “hit writer” status has always been a formidable goal for any songwriter. Never more so however than in the 21st century. Catching the ear of the monumentally distracted, fragmented listener has never been more difficult. Getting their attention, inviting them in to your song and keeping them there for long enough for your song to become “their song” requires more than being just a “good” songwriter.

Murphy's Law of Songwriting

Murphy’s Law of Songwriting

*His new book Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting “The Book” arms the songwriter for success by demystifying the process and opening the door to serious professional songwriting. Hall of fame songwriter Paul Williams said in his review of the book “If there was a hit songwriters secret handshake “Da Murphy” would probably have included it.” To get the book, enter 3 or more songs at the 11th Annual IAMA and receive this exclusive book for FREE» 


Expert advice: Recording Tips For The Indie Artist


By Brian Tarquin

Recording Studio with  Brian Tarquin

Recording Studio with Brian Tarquin

I remember, as an adolescent in the ‘70s, recording guitar parts on my Dad’s Grundig 2-track 1/4-inch reel-to-reel tape machine, using a razor to edit the tape—which I still do today. That’s right. I find it necessary, for certain types of music, to record to 2-inch tape, especially when tracking drums, bass and rhythm guitars.

But today, of course, all one has to do is buy a computer, Mac or PC, and there are a plethora of digital recording platforms that come complete with tons of music loops to help you create songs. This takes the worry out of the recording process, letting the artist concentrate on the actual music at hand and not so much on the technical aspect of it. But all of this high-tech freedom to create doesn’t mean you can overlook some essential areas.

To help you get better results for your DIY recording projects, here are some tips and tricks that always work for me.

Combine Both the Analog and Digital Worlds
Even with the convenience of using built-in samples and recording everything in the “Box,” I find you need to combine both the analog and the digital worlds. That’s why I mix everything out of Pro Tools or Logic through my analog classic Trident recording console and use physical outboard gear, like Urei 1176, LA-4, and so on.

Though an indie artist does not have to go to that extent, if you want to record guitar I strongly recommend recording it from an amp with a very affordable mic, like a Shure SM57. Direct guitar signals are not very pleasing to listen to and many of the plug-ins have a processed sound.

Before I had a recording studio, I recorded guitar cabinets with a SM57 in my apartment in Los Angeles, I would place the amp in a closet, so as not to disturb the neighbors. To an all-digital song, this brings the track alive with an actual live instrument.

Keep in mind, if you want to change the tone of the instrument then move the mic first before you reach for any of your EQ plug ins. Usually this is the most natural and effective way.

Invest in Tools of the Trade
You would be surprised how many instruments the SM57 can record—everything imaginable. For less than a 100 bucks this is the most versatile microphone a musician can own, being able to record everything from horns to drums. There are also companies like CAD, Nady and Audix that make affordable mic sets for drums as well. Plus, depending on your digital interface you may want to use a mic preamp, which, again, a plethora of companies make from 99 bucks to thousands. One of my favorites is the Universal Audio 610.

But remember you don’t have to break the bank to get pro audio equipment today; there are so many affordable companies that manufacture gear for every price range. Bear in mind, this is a one-time expense for an essential item that you can use for many projects. If you plan on doing recording music for your livelihood, then it is a good investment.

Don’t Drown Under Too Many Tracks
This is an area where I see so many musicians drown themselves. Just because you can have unlimited tracks doesn’t mean you have to use tons of tracks for a song. If the song really calls for many tracks and crossfades, okay, then go ahead. But I still like the track limitation we had in the past—there was no choice but to stop recording take after take—simply because you would run out of tracks. Decisions had to be made when the take was completed so you could then move on.

Believe me, after 20 years doing this, 99.9 percent of times the best takes are usually within the first three; after that you can hear musicians start to wane. I advise you to label every track, such as Bass 1, Bass Chorus, Sax Solo and so on; otherwise during mixdown you’ll waste way too much time searching for the correct tracks to mix. There is nothing worse than having 45 tracks staring at you, unlabeled, for a five-minute song, in which you have to determine how to reconfigure the whole song.

Don’t Crush the Living Essence Out of Your Mix to Make It Loud
Man, when the Waves L2 Processor came out, yes it made everything loud, but destroyed so many mixes just for the sake of loudness! Music has to have some sort of dynamics, not just soaring levels constantly in the red. This is why vinyl has been making a come back in recent years, especially the old recordings, like David Bowie’s Diamond DogsLed Zeppelin IV, etc.—those records possess dynamics, no matter how much they rock out. Hell, even the hair bands had dynamics in their mixes.

If you crush the living essence out of your mix and make it loud, you’ll lose all of the tone of the instruments and vocals. But fortunately there is a great, affordable mastering plug-in that doesn’t squash your mix and still keeps it alive: the Slate Digital FG-X. For 200 bucks this plug-in is terrific. It keeps your dynamics in place and still gives you the loudness you need for modern-sounding tracks.

Bottom Line
Today’s musician can be it all: the engineer, producer and artist all in the confines of their own home. So use the technology to your advantage and take your time when recording to get the performances correct. And always be well rehearsed before you hit that red button!

(Reprinted by Permission, courtesy of Music Connection magazine

BRIAN TARQUIN is the winner of multiple Emmy Awards, having established himself as a top-rate TV composer/guitarist. In 2006 SESAC honored him with the Network Television Performance Award. In addition, Tarquin has produced and composed the Guitar Masters series, trading licks with such guitar greats as Leslie West, Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan, Frank Gambale, Andy Timmons, Chris Poland (Megadeth) and Hal Lindes (Dire Straits). For further information, visit http://tvfilmtrax.com.

For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), visit: http://www.inacoustic.com/entry.html




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