There is an album's worth of songs in your head but the corporate route to market is not viable. Sound familiar? Well fear not because you can Do-It-Yourself!
This article is basically a summary of the wisdom I gleaned from my experiences with the Virtual Strangers cyberband. This international collaboration was formed in 2003 (after broadband finally arrived in my region) and we are now preparing to release album #3, "Curse of their Kind."
Computer: In order to become the centre of your home studio, your computer will require the following minimum specifications, but if you can stretch to a faster processor and additional RAM then it is highly recommended:
1. OS: WinXP SP3 or similarly stable operating system.
2. PROCESSOR / RAM / ROM:
* Processor - 2GHz
* RAM - 2GB
* Hard Drives - You will need two of these, one for your OS and the other for your recording projects. The HDs must spin at 7200rpm minimum.
3. MONITOR: Procure a TFT monitor. Unlike CRT monitors, TFTs don't cause your magnetic pickups to hum when you are sat in front of them.
4. SPEAKERS: Use a set of speakers or headphones which will ensure your product sounds great to your fans. Don't splash out on high-end cans if your fans listen to music on their IPod headphones.
5. Optimize your PC so that all non-essential services are turned off. Read this useful guide.
If you are well-heeled, then consider a Mac Pro.
Recording Hardware and Software: I use a ProTools-based Firewire-powered Digidesign Rack Factory Plus, but a basic USB-powered MBox will more than suffice (I used one for our first two albums). ProTools is the industry standard and the interface, tools and workflow suits me. I have used rival companies products but found them wanting. Check that the computer and OS you are using is compatible with Protools.
Even if you use apps by companies (like Cubase, Cakewalk and Logic), the rest of the article is still relevant.
Preamp & I/Os: All Digidesign hardware provides preamps for controlling the volume and a variety of inputs/outputs (the number depends on the product). They do not however provide any EQ or FX so you might want to consider a dedicated front-end like your guitar/microphone amplifier or a Line6 Pod-like device.
Leads: Quality leads make a huge difference to achieving a noise-free signal. I use Van Damme products.
Internet Access: An uncapped connection with a 1 to 2mb/sec speed. You will be using this to share your songs so data transfer limits are not ideal. Time is precious so the faster your bandwidth the better!
Email / chat client: Keeping in touch is essential.
Internet browser and file-transfer service: Internet Explorer and yousendit.com will suffice. File transfer sites enable you to share large files with your fans and band. It is not wise to send large files (> 2MB) by email because most accounts are capped.
File Transfer Protocol: You will need a simple FTP client to upload files and manage/maintain your website.
Industry standards: Compare your finished tracks with those of commercial releases you admire. There are superb professional resources online if you need assistance. You might even consider enrolling on a music technology or production course in your local college. If you still can't achieve that extra 5%, then I suggest you employ a company like Rodney Mills; his expertise and priceless outboard gear is definitely worthy of consideration.
You could employ your own CD writer and printer but 1000 CDs with a full-coloured face and a 4-page booklet in a shrink-wrapped jewel case should be an affordable option from retailers like pure-music.co.uk.
Webspace: Purchase your band's URL and a chunk of webspace to host your website from companies like streamline.net. Start with an affordable basic package; you can always upgrade later.
Design & Build: Employ a proficient web-designer (or learn how to code an application like Dreamweaver) and produce a quality website for your band. People are wary of amateur-looking websites.
E-commerce: You can set up a PayPal account to handle your website sales. Their slice is a small commission per transaction. You can then take orders by email and issue secure invoices. You can upgrade to dedicated point-of-sale facilities later.
Social networking: Take advantage of free social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook and Spotify to maximize your web presence.
In order to benefit from the services of online retailers like ITunes, Amazon and Spotify, you will need a digital distribution deal with a company like TuneCore or The Orchard. They will
assess the production quality of your product and if successful, will charge you a small fee for an account. Your album will appear on iTunes and other download sites within three months. You will earn a percentage of each download that is sold by Apple.
The taxman may be interested in your books if you manage to break even (or turn a profit!) so be sure to keep accurate records. I maintain a spreadsheet that details my outgoings.
Albums take time, money, patience and determination. Good luck and enjoy!
Guy Pople is a music, education and multimedia specialist based in the UK`s North-West. He plays guitars, studies theory and runs St Annes Music in Lytham St. Annes, a one-stop shop for musicians on the Fylde coast of Lancashire. St Annes Music offers professional instruments, recording, tuition and accessories.
His live band Nomad is currently building up their original music. You can catch him
on Virtual Strangers.
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