Ma-na Music

If music be the food of love, play on.

Category: Music (Page 2 of 3)

4 Questions About The Music Industry You Should NOT Be Asking

Chances are, you are already ruining your potential to succeed in the music industry because you believe in one or more music career myths. How do I know? I am sent e-mail messages on a constant basis by tons of musicians (all seeking the answers to the WRONG questions). These are questions that may seem like good questions on the top level, but are really highly damaging questions that take them far away from their musical dreams.

To put together a successful career in music as soon as possible, you’ve got to know the questions you do NOT need to be seeking answers to, and understand how to ask much higher quality questions that will put you on the right track toward reaching your music industry goals.

These are the 4 worst music career questions you should avoid asking in order to build a successful career as a professional musician:

Bad Music Career Question #1: Do I Have To Become A ‘Starving Artist’?

A lot of people believe that making a living as a professional musician means one of two things: Either you ‘make it’ and go on to tour the world and sell millions of albums or you ‘become a starving artist’ and have to play at crappy bars and street corners just to get by. This music business myth makes sabotages people’s careers from the start, either by making them believe they need to get full time jobs unrelated to music and ‘try to do music on the side’, or be afraid of trying to enter the music business.

Fact is, the music business is made up of a large middle class and there are countless ways to earn a living. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to make a good living in the music industry versus becoming successful in an outside field. However, before you will make a lot of money, you must stop asking low quality questions. Stop worrying about becoming a starving artist and start envisioning all the different ways you can make money as a musician.

As you work in the music business, you are not forced to live from one paycheck to the next like in a normal day job. Instead, it’s always possible to be earning multiple sources of income at the same time. This makes becoming a professional musician a much more stable career choice since you don’t have to be dependent on just ONE source of income. In addition to the obvious ways that musicians seek to make money in music (selling albums/downloads, playing live shows or recording as a session musician), there is one thing you can do right now that will quickly boost your music related income:

Start growing a music teaching business. This will immediately produce multiple sources of income (your students) for you while you work much less than full time hours each week.

When you build many sources of musical income as discussed above, it’s very possible (and not as hard as you might think) to annually earn more than $100k in your music career (I know this, because I’ve helped many musicians to do it).

Bad Music Career Question #2: How Do I Get A Recording Contract?

In order to understand why this is not a good questions to ask, answer this: “Why should someone give YOU a recording contract?” If you think it’s because you write good music… try again. This is never a good enough reason for someone to sign you to a recording contract. No one is going to invest many thousands of dollars into you just because you can write good music. This would be WAY too risky of an investment (so much so that it doesn’t even make sense). Imagine that you saved up $200,000, would you then go to a casino and put it all on the line for one spin of the roulette? OR would you instead invest it into someone who has proven that they can help you earn even more (at least at a smaller level)? No doubt, you would make the wise choice and invest it into someone who would help you make more money. This is how recording labels think. So stop wondering about how you can get signed to a recording contract and start turning yourself into a ‘wise investment’ that any label would immediately see as valuable. This requires much more than writing great music, playing your instrument well or having a Facebook page.

Here are the actions you should be taking to make yourself into a valuable investment for a record company:

1. Understand what the music industry is looking for in musicians before they begin working with them.

2. Work every day to build your music career. Record companies want to see that you have a good track record before they will begin working with you. The more things you do as an independent musician, the more likely it is that you will gain the interest of a record company.

3. Get music industry training from a successful mentor who has already accomplished big things in the music industry and helped others get signed to recording contracts.

Once you begin developing your music career on your own, you will make yourself like a beacon of light and record companies will come searching for YOU!

Bad Music Career Question #3: How Can I Get My Music ‘Heard’ By More People?

The majority of musicians want to get their music heard by as many people as possible, believing that this will help them earn money and become successful pro musicians. However, the quantity of people who listen to your music is not very significant in and of itself. What really matters is the amount of people you are able to turn into a highly dedicated fans who will do anything to support you and your music.

Stop asking yourself how to get more people to hear your music and start transforming anyone who is already your fan into a real FANATIC. Only After you have a strategy in place for turning ‘casual fans’ into ‘hardcore fanatics’ will the total number of people who hear your music begin to matter.

Bad Music Career Question #4: What Is The Best Music City To Move To?

Many musicians think they will be much more likely to succeed in the music industry by moving to a ‘music city’. Then with this belief in mind, they pack up their things and move, believing that opportunities will simply ‘fall into their lap’ once they arrive. Once they have been in their new location for a while and nothing has changed, they blame it on the city and look for a new location to move to (while being completely unaware of the TRUE reasons why they aren’t successful).

Here’s the truth about ‘location’ leading to success in the music industry: Your location has nothing to do with your ability to become a successful pro musician. This applies particularly today when it is easier than ever for someone to get a recording contract, put out music, organize world tours or work as a session musician regardless of where they live. Highly successful musicians do not become that way because they lived in one area rather than another. If that were true, there would be zero successful musicians living in cities that are not known for big music scenes. The principles that lead to developing a successful music career apply exactly the same regardless of where you live.

Rather than making the massive (wasted) effort of trying to research and find the best music scene, go through the following process that has been PROVEN to work for musicians:

  1. Determine your specific musical goals.
  2. Start working together with a music business mentor to put together an effective strategy for reaching your musical goals.
  3. Work each day to get closer to achieving your goals until you reach them.

When you focus on what is most important (using the process above), you will achieve success in your music career much faster.

Now that you’ve learned why many common music career questions actually steer your music career down the wrong path, here is what you need to do to get back onto the right path:

Step 1. Think more in depth about your music career goals. Use the resources in this article to gain clarity about how the music industry works.

Step 2. Start asking yourself high quality questions on a consistent basis when trying to figure out what you must do to reach your music career goals.

Step 3. Don’t build your music career alone. Get music business training to quickly achieve big things in the music industry.

The Top 5 Myths About Making It In The Music Business

Are you searching for ways to make it in the music industry? In order to break into the music business and develop a long-lasting, successful career, it is important to (first) eliminate all of the misinformation you have heard about becoming a pro musician. Truth is, believing in music industry ‘myths’ will cause you to waste time, energy and money while never getting any closer to your music career goals.

People in the music industry are sent tons of mail each day containing recordings and other materials from talented musicians. Most of these musicians have spent their whole life working on their musical skills in order to get signed to a recording contract. Unfortunately, 99% of these musicians will not get signed, nor will they even hear back from the companies they send their music to. In many cases, music companies throw away a lot of the materials they receive from random musicians. This results in a lot of frustration for most musicians and leaves them wondering why they work hard on their musical skills but can’t seem to break into the music industry.

On the other hand, there are plenty of musicians who DO become successful in the music industry. Building a fulfilling and profitable music career is actually not as difficult as it may seem. However, the majority of musicians do not succeed because they believe in false ‘conventional wisdom’ about the music industry that ruins their chances of achieving their musical dreams. To break into the music industry and become successful, you must avoid the following music career building approaches that most people consider ‘common sense’:

1. Pursuing A Music Degree In Order To Become Successful In The Music Business

One of the most common music career myths is thinking that a music degree is the key to becoming a successful professional musician. It’s true that you can learn a lot about ‘music’ by going to university to get a music degree. However, if you go to college to get a music degree for the sole purpose of making it in the music industry, you are almost guaranteed to fail because:

  1. Most music courses do not cover the specific topic of ‘how to build a music career’. Even if you take classes about music business, they will only present you with a general model of how the music business works. They will NOT show you exactly how to build a successful career for yourself (by keeping your personal goals in mind). In fact, there are tons of musicians who graduate from big music universities only to realize that they are still clueless when it comes to actually earning a living through music. If you go to university with the intention of getting into the music business with a degree, you will ‘at best’ learn a lot about music – but end up back at square one in terms of building a music career. At worst, you will also have enormous amounts of fees and debts to pay back.
  2. People who work in the music industry are not concerned with whether you have a music degree or not. To them, it is MUCH more important that you know how to help them build their music careers, earn more money and become more successful (this requires a lot more than just musical talent).

In reality, very few professional musicians have music degrees because they simply never needed them. They made it in the music business by working together with a mentor who trained them in all the skills they needed to build value for others and earn a great living in music.

2. Taking Music Career Advice From Others Who Have Never Succeeded In The Music Industry

Chances are, you have already received a lot of advice from the people in your life about what you should do to become successful in your music career. Most people will be happy to give out ‘expert’ tips or conventional wisdom even when they really have no authority to do so. Generally speaking, these people are sincere in wanting to help you, but since they have never achieved anything significant in the music industry, their advice is more likely to send you down the wrong path than to lead you toward success.

Consider this: Asking people for music career advice (when they have never actually succeeded in the music business) is like training for a marathon with a trainer who hasn’t run a mile in his life or asking your dentist for legal advice. Additionally, asking advice from musicians who attempted to succeed in music (and failed) is equally as dangerous for your music career. Although these people are perfectly willing to tell you how you should build your music career, they do not really have the authority to do so – they will only lead you down the same path they took (which ended in failure).

Truly successful musicians do not build their careers from the ‘conventional wisdom’ of people they know or amateur musicians who never made it. They work together with a mentor who has already achieved great success and can use his experience to help them effectively reach their music career goals.

3. ‘Playing It Safe’ By Working A Full Time Job And Doing Music On The Side

Most musicians think that the only way to break into the music industry is to work at a safe and secure job while pursuing music on the side. In many cases, they are lead to believe that they can only attempt to get into the music industry once they have saved up enough money (many years down the road). Unfortunately, when people use this approach they end up getting stuck working 40 hours per week and never find the time to work on music. After training many musicians around the world to succeed in the music industry, I have seen this happen countless times. The reality is, you only have a finite amount of energy to spend during your day. When you spend it primarily working at a job that is unrelated to music, you will not have any left to go toward making progress to become a successful professional musician. The worst part is, musicians who take this approach fail to become successful in music and feel a lot of regret and resentment later on in life. There is nothing worse than this.

To build a successful long-term career in the music industry, you make your music career your #1 focus and plan for it accordingly. If you work a lot of hours at your job and have little time to pursue your musical goals, there is a problem. In fact, many musicians have been in this same situation and gone on to become professional musicians. You too, can overcome this. The best way to break into the music industry while working a full time job is to create a backup plan centered around your main music career goals. This plan should gradually help you transition away from your job in a safe and secure manner while giving you more time to work on music AND keeping you financially stable along the way.

4. Trying To Make It In Music On Your Own

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to make it in the music industry is attempting to build your music career by yourself. This is the approach that leads countless musicians to failure. Why? Because when you try to build your music career alone you are forced to either ‘guess’ about which actions you should take next or copy what someone else is doing (and ‘hope’ that it works). Without the expert guidance of a mentor who has already gained many years of experience as a highly successful musician, it is nearly impossible to ‘guess’ the correct course of action you must take to further your music career. In addition, it will not help you to copy what ‘seems to be working’ for others because their situation is different from yours – what works for them will not necessarily work for you. If you use these approaches, you will eventually:

  1. Stop trying to break into the music industry and continue working at a full time day job for the rest of your life. OR…
  2. Spend many years trying to succeed in the music business while becoming increasingly frustrated because you can’t seem to make any progress.

5. Hoping To ‘Get Discovered’ By Uploading Your Music Online

When it comes to breaking into the music industry, most musicians immediately wonder how they can put themselves out there to new fans, record labels and music companies. In an effort to do this, they upload their music to as many websites as possible thinking that this is what you are supposed to do to get noticed. The truth is, this approach will rarely get you even a handful of listeners, will not help you earn a good living as a musician and will ‘never’ get you heard by the right people in the music industry (who can help you move your career forward). Here are the reasons why most people who take this approach will fail:

  • They do not understand how to effectively promote themselves and their music.
  • They don’t have thousands of enthusiastic fans waiting for the release of their new album.
  • They have no strategy for attracting new fans while simultaneously transforming their current fans into true FANATICS.
  • They do not have a strategy to help them earn a living through multiple sources of income at once.

Musicians who achieve the greatest success in their music careers do NOT merely upload their music online and wait around to get discovered. They create a strategy for working toward their musical goals while raising their personal value in the eyes of other in the music industry (by expanding their fan base and building other important music business skills). After doing this, they simply approach the companies they want to do business with and negotiate a partnership that will bring the most benefit to both sides of the deal.

If you are serious about breaking into the music industry and becoming a successful professional musician, it is imperative that you work together with a mentor as soon as possible. By doing this, you will reach your musical goals in much less time and finally be able to make a good living as a musician.

The Five Elements Needed For Music Industry Success

You are about to learn the five critical elements that have fueled the success of all great musicians’ careers. Until you possess these key elements for yourself, it will be nearly impossible for you to reach your musical dreams and build a successful career in the music business.

Read below to discover these five key elements and take action on the information you learn:

Music Career Success Key #1 – Don’t Set Realistic Goals

All of the most well-known and successful musicians did not achieve their goals by thinking realistically about what seemed possible. On the contrary, they focused their mind like a laser ONLY on what they truly wanted. When you make your goals in line with the things you want most, you will be much more motivated to actually achieve them. More on this in a moment…

Think about this – out of the following choices, which choice would inspire you to put all your time and energy into growing a music career?:

  1. Making a recording of a demo with a band and possibly playing a few shows around town.

OR

  1. Writing chart topping songs for a killer band, then promoting your music by going on a massive world tour – playing to stadiums full of fans, earning tons of money from music sales alone and never working a regular job ever again.

Even if your goals in the music business are entirely unrelated to releasing music, the point still applies: don’t let yourself accept anything less than what you truly want in your music career, just for the sake of being realistic. Life is too precious to live it by not doing the things you really desire. When you set goals for yourself that do not inspire you, it is nearly guaranteed that you will NEVER achieve the things you truly desire in music.

All the biggest rock stars are people just like you. They began small – whether it was broke without any idea how they’d make it in music, lacking in musical talent or not having a band to play with… Just imagine where they would be now, if they would have told themselves that their music career dreams were unrealistic or didn’t seem possible. Well, of course they didn’t… they followed their dreams and went on to achieve them!

You must do what they did. Start building your music career by focusing on what you WANT, not what seems possible.

Music Career Success Key #2 – Manifest Your Musical Dreams Into Reality Before They Actually Are Reality

Musicians who never achieve anything significant in this industry, build paths to their goals by starting from where they are in the present moment.

On the other hand, musicians who achieve great success do something completely different. They plan their music career by beginning from the end point of achieving their goals, and work backwards to the present day. They imagine themselves having already accomplished their major goals, then build their lives around this vision. This is a much more effective way of accurately determining the actions required for putting together your music career.

Music Career Success Key #3 – Start Living Or Start Dying

The two keys I mentioned above are critical for building a successful music career. With this in mind, you need more than just goals and a plan of action to realize your musical dreams. You have to take action each and every day to bring yourself closer to your goals. You might think this is common knowledge, but you would be shocked at how many musicians give up on their musical dreams simply due to lack of effort (in terms of taking physical action).

Visualize this scenario (I use this as inspiration for the professional musicians whom I mentor): You’ve just found out about a disease you contracted that requires major surgery. If you don’t get this surgery, you are guaranteed to die in no more than half a year. To make matters worse, the surgery is extremely expensive and cannot be covered by your insurance company (also you can’t borrow money to pay for it). So you have a decision to make: You can allow yourself to die, OR you can take whatever action is necessary to get the money needed for the surgery.

Certainly this example is extreme, but it is a perfect illustration of the kind of mindset you need to have in order to build a successful music career. Making big moves (by taking action) in your music career is completely different than sitting around waiting for things to happen for you (allowing yourself to ‘die’).

With this in mind, hard work/consistent action does not necessarily equal music career success, when you don’t know exactly what you should be doing to reach your goals.

Music Career Success Key #4 – Have MASSIVE Reasons For Achieving Your Musical Goals

No matter what you do, something will always go wrong in your music career plans. Whenever you are faced with unexpected events in your music career, this is the time when your commitment will be put to the test. For instance, here are some challenging situations you could face:

  • Working at a day job you hate while regretting the fact that you never developed a music career backup plan to help you make a living doing what you love.
  • Playing at crappy bars all the time with your band because you don’t know how to move to bigger venues.
  • Trying to record an album, but doing so at an extremely slow and frustrating pace because you never practiced developing your recording skills.
  • Working with unmotivated band members who are bringing you (and the entire band) down.
  • Not understanding how to attract more music fans to listen to the music you worked so hard to create.

Here is what you need to do in order to maintain your commitment and dedication to achieving your music career goals:

Take out the piece of paper you have that contains the list of your written goals (that you put together in key #1 above). Then beside each one write down the big REASONS you have for pursuing them. For every musical goal you have, answer this question: “Why do I want to achieve this?” Spend a lot of time thinking about this for each goal before you write down your response, and look over your goals/reasons two times every day.

When you do this, you’ll develop the ability to maintain motivation and stay focused on the major reasons you have for reaching your goals. This will help you move forward in the difficult times when your dedication is put to the test.

Music Career Success Key #5 – Don’t Try To Build Your Music Career Blindfolded

Once you are in possession of all 4 keys mentioned above, it’s still possible that your music career will go nowhere. This occurs when you lack certainty about what to do to achieve success, are (unknowingly) sabotaging yourself or lack effective strategies to help you reach your musical goals. The last key required for building your successful career in the music industry is to train with a mentor who has experience helping musicians take their careers to the highest level.

A truly effective mentor will not simply tell you what you need to be doing in order to succeed in the music business. He will help you utilize all of the strengths you built while developing the first four keys and will keep you heading down the right path toward success, while preventing you from making the same mistakes that unsuccessful musicians make. Without this kind of training, you are essentially trying to build your music career with a blindfold on – completely oblivious to the best ways to succeed using your current skills and knowledge.

Now that you’ve learned the five keys that build the foundation of a successful music career, these are the steps you should take right now:

1. Focus on getting all the missing keys you do not currently possess.

2. Being working with an experienced music career mentor to quickly achieve your greatest musical goals.

How To Gain Music Fans And Build Promoting Skills

Would you like to know how to gain more music fans? Do you wish you knew the secret to building a huge following? Would you like to know the best way to promote yourself as a musician? If you want to achieve long lasting success in the music industry, it is absolutely essential that you have a lot of dedicated fans who are interested in what you do as a musician. In order to do this, you must learn the most effective methods for promoting both yourself and your music.

However, the answer to “How do I get more fans and promote my music career?” is not easily found by taking a highly generalized approach that ‘seems’ to work for other musicians. At any given moment, you (or the band you play in) may be struggling with various unique challenges that would require that you take specific actions in order to get more fans or strengthen your promotional efforts. That said, no matter where you are in your music career and what challenges you face, you have 3 goals to achieve if you want to both gain more music fans and promote your music:

  1. You have to get more people to check out your music.
  2. Once someone listens to your music, you need them to help support you in some manner (buying your albums, watching you live, purchasing any merchandise, etc.)
  3. You need to transform your fans into totally fanatics who will use word of mouth to tell all their friends about you and your music.

No matter what it is that you are trying to achieve in the music business, the three goals mentioned above will apply to anything you do as long as you are trying to develop a strong relationship with your fans.

These goals may all seem to be separate from one another; however, they are in fact all connected. Once you are able to achieve success with any single one of them, you will greatly improve your chances for success with any of the others. As soon as you truly ‘get’ this basic truth, you will find it much easier to be productive in your efforts.

In order to achieve great success as you promote you music to your fans, you must learn how to think in a strategic manner rather than just taking inconsistent and isolated actions (a mistake that most musicians and bands make). Instead of trying to find a general formula that you can apply to help you get more fans for your music, you need to begin thinking in the same manner as most professional musicians. While training other musicians to succeed in their music careers, I help them understand how to find creative ideas that they can apply in their own music career in order to quickly gain more music fans. Once you gain the ability to think this way in your own music career, it will become much easier for you to overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of your promotional efforts.

To illustrate what I mean and give you various steps (that you can take right now to get more music fans), here are some quick and easy things you can do to accomplish all three of the music promotion goals mentioned above.

To get you on the path to gaining more music fans and expanding upon your current music promotion efforts, I will now show you various things that you can do yourself to accomplish the three goals mentioned above.

OK, now that you have finished the assessment above, continue reading to find several actionable steps below that you can use to promote your music. While you are reading through them, do not focus as much on the actions themselves; instead think creatively to see the ideas and thinking ‘behind’ the actions to understand why they are so effective. This will keep you from simply ‘copying’ them and will lead you to come up with ideas that you can benefit from in your specific music career situation.

Music Promotion Action Step: Get more people to listen to your music.

Solution #1: Join other musicians in participating in a compilation CD. After you have released a compilation album, you have achieved a couple of important things. First, you have successfully produced a record that contains your own music. Second, not only have you gained a tool to promote yourself to your fans, but you have gained a tool that potentially promotes you to every other musician’s fans on the album (with no additional effort on your part). Remember, the goal of this is not to make money directly, but rather to use the album as a very inexpensive tool to promote your music (and the music of the other musicians) to more people on a larger scale. You can also apply this idea as a way to leverage your own album releases and products to a bigger list of fans. The idea of “leverage” (using one action to gain multiple benefits) is absolutely critical if you want to achieve a high level of success in your music career. This is something I help members in my Music Careers Mentoring Program develop and refine.

Solution #2: Work together with other musicians locally. Instead of considering other local musicians to be your competition (for gaining more fans), work together with local musical artists of a similar genre to help you gain access to larger amount of fans who are interested in hearing and seeing you play music. One method for achieving this is to work with another band to perform at the same venue in an effort to bring together the fan base of both bands. By doing this, you will not only improve your relationship with the owner of the venue (because you are bringing in more people), but you will have the opportunity to advertise your music to the other band’s fan base (and them to yours). This idea is very fundamental, but in reality not many bands take initiative to actually go out and do it. On top of that, many bands make the mistake of sharing the venue with other bands who are not in their target market, or with bands who do not make a strong effort to attract their fans to the venue (thus taking away the mutual benefit). One example of pulling this idea off (which is fairly common in the music business) is when a band with a small following becomes and opening act for a much larger band. However, if you cannot find a highly successful band to open for you can still achieve this; you will need to simply find a band that contains musicians who have enough ambition to take ACTION and implement this strategy.

Music Promotion Action Step: Get your fans to take specific actions.

Solution #1: Make sure that people have incentive to both be a fan of your music AND purchase your music. Those who have mastered the ability to successfully promote music find ways to get their fan base to buy their music as opposed to downloading it online for free. Additionally, they are able to take an average listener and turn him/her into a loyal fan. A great way to do this is to offer something special to people who actually BUY your music (that cannot be obtained by simply downloading it for free). To effectively do this, it is important that whatever you are offering cannot be easily reproduced through digital media. This could include things such as VIP passes to your concerts, merchandise or other creative and unique items. The main thing to get out this idea is that you can implement a single strategy to achieve good music promotion while also developing a stronger relationship between you and your fans.

Solution #2: Become familiar with your current fan base. It is easy to successfully promote yourself as a musician when you can put yourself out there to those who already give you their support whenever you pursue new projects in your musical career. Most musicians think that their biggest problem is a lack of music fans, when in fact, they simply do not know who their real fans are and how to get in touch with them. Instead of contacting these specific fans, a lot of musicians focus their efforts on the general public. The truth is, this approach can work; however, promoting your music in this manner will cost a great deal of money and time. To dramatically cut down on your costs with regards to money, energy and time; make your musical promotion more effective by finding an easy way to stay in touch with your fan base at all times.

Music Promotion Action Step: Transform your current fans into FANATICS

Solution #1: Put together special gatherings or events that immerse your fans in your music and engage them on a whole new level (in contrast to merely listening to your music or watching you live). There a nearly endless ways for you to do this – limited only by your own willingness to be creative. However, remember the key is to develop your relationship with your music fans.

Solution #2: Focus on rewarding your most loyal fans with unique gifts that casual listeners don’t have access to. This concept can be used together with the first point described above or as an idea by itself. If you’d like for your music fans to take a particular action (for example bringing more people to your performances or to purchase your albums), focus on finding something of high value that you can offer them that goes beyond the scope of music. (Remember: Your music fans do not necessarily want free money or t-shirts… think of something specific to offer them)

As you have read, once you take a more detailed approach to understanding specifically what it is that you want to do when it comes to “gaining more music fans”, it’s a lot easier to understand specifically which action steps you must perform to make this happen. The majority of musicians only think about improving their music while trying to appeal to the general public, but doing this is only one aspect of musical promotion. Of course, your music is important; however there are aspects of your music career that you must work on in order to effectively get more fans for your music. As soon as you begin focusing on these aspects, you will start to gain much greater results in your music promotion efforts.

How To Gain The Power To Create Intense Musical Emotion

Have you ever wondered how your favorite musicians make such great music? The answer is this: They fully understand how musical emotion works, and how to use this to create intense emotions in YOU while you listen to them. Understanding musical expression is key to becoming a great guitar player and musician. When you control emotion in music, you will gain the power to greatly affect the listener’s experience.

Most guitarists want to be able to express themselves better with their guitar playing; however, the majority of guitar players have no idea how to actually practice this skill. This leads to a lot of time being wasted on practicing guitar in a way that does not produce big results. The solution to this problem is to develop a more accurate fundamental understanding of how to develop creativity in music.

Many guitar players try to enhance their musical creativity skills by searching the music of their favorite bands for cool riffs and guitar ideas and playing them over and over. This is certainly an enjoyable activity to do when playing guitar, but in reality it does not do very much to help you to learn musical expression. If you spend a great deal of time on this, you will be missing out on the two most critical parts of being able to create emotion in music:

    1. You have to understand the manner in which great guitar players and musicians ‘think’. More specifically, this means determining WHY they choose the specific notes and ideas that they do. This is something that you cannot learn if you simply copy the “notes” of your favorite songs and guitar solos. Rather than just playing the same notes as other musicians, you must spend time thinking about the emotions you want to express, and what specific musical choices you need to make to achieve that goal. Once you gain this level of musical creativity, you will develop your own unique sound as it relates to the ideas and emotions that come from your mind.

  1. You must know how specific emotions can be created and expressed by making certain musical choices while composing music or playing a guitar solo. Additionally, you need to be able to make your audience understand exactly what emotions you want to express with your music, without having to say a single word. Many guitarists struggle greatly with doing this and as a result they end up limited to only playing the music of others without ever really expressing themselves through their guitar playing.

There is a big divide between most guitar players when it comes to music theory. Many people avoid music theory, because they believe that it is a bunch of rules that restrict their freedom of musical expression. Other people think that music theory is required for knowing how to make music. Both of these views are incomplete when comes to the big picture of the purpose of music theory.

So what is the real purpose of music theory? Music theory is a tool to accurately describe the effects of musical ideas on the emotions of whoever listens to a piece of music.

Change Your Mindset About Music Theory

Understanding how music theory really works likely means changing your current idea of what music theory is used for. Forget about music theory as simply explaining the function of scales and chords in music. Instead, music theory is all about explaining why we feel certain emotions when certain ideas are used. Knowing this is instrumental to you developing great musical expression skills.

Here is an example to illustrate how you can use this idea. As a guitar teacher, I spend a lot of time showing my students how to increase their skills with creativity. One of the exercises I use is to have my guitar students write down specific emotions they want to express in their guitar music. Then, I have them write down the specific ways to accomplish these musical expressions using a variety of music theory ideas.

Here are the most important skills you will get from learning music theory:

    1. You will gain an understanding of exactly WHY you enjoy listening to certain kinds of music. This will allow you to create the same emotions that you get from the music of your favorite artists without copying/cloning their exact guitar licks and solos. This skill will greatly enhance your musical creativity.

    1. You will be able to create music in a way that much more accurately expresses your ideas and emotions. It is common for most musicians (who are trying to write a song) to simply improvise on their instrument until something sounds “good enough.” This songwriting method is very limited and does not bring a lot of results consistently. However, if you have the knowledge of how to express specific emotions in music, it will be much easier to write great songs with less effort.

    1. Music theory gives you all the equipment you need to put together new musical ideas much more quickly, without having to rely on remembering the way something sounds. Having the ability to associate specific feelings and emotions with the musical tools needed to express them allows you to compose and organize entire sections of your music on paper (or by ear) before even playing any notes.

  1. When you understand exactly which musical choices to make in order to accurately convey a certain musical emotion, you will be able to anticipate how people will interpret your music.

What Do You Need To Do Right Now?

If your goal is to become highly skillful at musical expression, then you need to follow these steps to start achieving this on guitar:

    1. Expand your current thinking about music theory by watching the video in the link at the end of this article.

    1. Remember that although music theory is extremely important for maximizing your creativity, you need to also develop a variety of musical skills to achieve the most freedom in your musical expression.

  1. Understand that music theory skill is not developed by merely taking a certain number of music theory lessons, but rather by your ability to use your current knowledge to accurately bring out your emotions through your music. Use the exercise mentioned earlier in this article to see how well you can use theoretical music concepts to make music that is consistent with the ideas you want to express. If you struggle with this, this either means that your music theory skills are low or (most commonly) you do not understand how to use what you know in music theory in an actual musical context. If you play guitar while integrating together music theory and musical expression, you will notice a HUGE surge in creativity!

The most important thing I want you to take away from this article is the way I have defined music theory, and how you can use this understanding to enhance your own musical expression on guitar. If you keep all these things in mind, you will be able to take your musical creativity to a new level.

How To Make It In Music With The Training Of A Mentor

Have you been thinking about starting a career in music for a while, but are not sure what you must do to begin? If the answer is “yes,” then you are certainly not alone. In fact, this is a common problem for almost every musician who wants to start a career in music and become a professional in the music industry. That said, the majority of musicians become frustrated due to a lack of knowledge for the industry and give up on their dreams to pursue “stable” non-music careers. Fortunately, it does not have to end the same way for you.

The key to starting a career in music and becoming successful is finding a great mentor who has already reached the highest level of success in the music industry. In most cases, simply being around someone in the music business who knows a lot more than you is highly beneficial. That said, if you are able to not only be ‘around’ someone like this, but also receive direct advice from them about your own music career challenges, your potential success as a professional musician will increase MASSIVELY!

To show you what I mean, think about the world famous basketball star Michael Jordan. Even if you are not a basketball fan, it is likely that you have heard of the incredible success that Jordan achieved throughout his career. Over the span of about two decades, Jordan became known as one of the best athletes ever (in any sport) as he broke countless records, won many championships, and made A LOT of money from his player salary (not to mention through endorsements, shoe sales, and other means). By himself, Jordan was certainly a very talented athlete; however, he did not make it to the top alone. In every moment of his legendary career, Jordan continually received the advice, coaching and training of many mentors both within basketball and outside of basketball. As a result, he was able to take the incredible natural ability he had to play and turn it into something truly unforgettable. In fact, this situation is not exclusive to Michael Jordan, any athlete who has ever achieved incredible success has always maintained connection to a mentor even after winning major titles, awards or medals.

Similar to Michael Jordan, if you are starting a career in music, it is absolutely essential that you find a great coach, trainer or mentor who can help you leverage your natural abilities so you can achieve the highest possible success in your music career. To make the process for choosing a mentor much easier for you, I have written down the top 3 traits that your mentor should possess in order to help you start and maintain a successful career in music:

1. Is already highly successful in the music business, and is able to help you solve any problems that get in the way of your music career goals.

Starting a career in music is often a very frustrating experience for most musicians. Although there is a great deal of information about the music business online; most of it is intended for use by the general music community. As a result, you may have specific questions for your own challenges in your music career, but no specific answers to help you deal with them. On top of that, the music industry information you find online does not help you understand the difference between ‘useful’ information, and information that either no longer applies to most musicians or does not apply for you in your own music career. This is why it is absolutely essential that you find a mentor who understands the inner workings of the music industry and has already built a successful career by figuring these things out.

When you have access to personalized advice from someone like this, you will quickly be able to solve any issues that arise in your music career. This will give you the ability to approach a career in music with a clear understanding of exactly what needs to get done in order to reach your personal goals.

2. Has already helped many other musicians reach their highest music career goals (and has proof of this!).

In order to build a career in music, you will not need to complete any university program, become “certified”, or take any mandatory testing. This is something that sets the music industry apart from other industries. That said, it is very easy for amateur musicians to make claims of expertise when the reality is that they have not really achieved anything significant in their own career. It is very important that your music mentor is able to give you reliable, accurate and helpful advice that is truly effective for building a successful career in music.

A reliable method for determining whether or not a mentor can really help you in your music career is to observe the success of the musicians who he currently works with or who have worked with him in the past. A mentor who can truly help you succeed with a career in music will not necessarily need to tell you this directly. Instead, it will be obvious due to the overwhelming amount of positive feedback he receives from current (or past) musicians who have worked with this mentor and become successful in music. In the music business, a positive reputation takes a very long time to build. If you find a mentor with a reputation of getting big results for many musicians, then the chances are very good that he can do the same for you. Make sure to check for this by looking for reviews, testimonials or general feedback on your mentor’s website or other places online.

As someone who has personally trained many people to become successful professional musicians, I cannot stress enough the importance of finding a mentor as you pursue a career in music. Fact is, I would not be where I am today in the music business if it weren’t for the help of my current and former mentors. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure everything out on your own in the music business. This is the same thing that so many musicians do, and this is why most musicians DO NOT make it with successful music careers. Get the training, coaching and guidance a great mentor right now, and reach your full potential as a professional musician.

3. Has the ability to pay attention to the small details of your music career while also helping you to stay on track toward your larger, long term goals.

For many musicians, one of the greatest challenges is to stay on track toward their long term music career goals. These musicians will often become distracted by things that do not truly matter for their success, and will spend too much time on unimportant details or activities. Most commonly, it is thought that developing a successful career in music requires great musical skills. Although it is important to improve your musical skills, your success as a professional musician involves many more factors. It is important that you create an effective strategy for reach your goals in music, and stay focused on seeing it through. One of the worst things that could happen to you (I see this all the time!) is that you invest many years of your life into music, only to fail because you did not pursue what TRULY mattered.

When looking for your mentor, you must make sure that this person understands how to build highly effective strategies to help you achieve your music career goals as quickly as possible. With that in mind, it is possible that even with the right strategy in place, you may still become distracted, confused or uncertain throughout the course of your music career. Your mentor should also be able to instantly spot when these things are occurring for you and know how to help you overcome any momentary issues so that you can continue down the path to your goals.

The Music Gallery: Can Music Ever Be Valued As Fine Art?

Introduction: The Highest Art Auction in History

Recently a Christie’s art sale became the highest auction in history. The sale included works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among others and in total generated $495 million. The sale established 16 new world auction records, with nine works selling for more than $10m (£6.6m) and 23 for more than $5m (£3.2m). Christie’s said the record breaking sales reflected “a new era in the art market”.

The top lot of Wednesday’s sale was Pollock’s drip painting Number 19, 1948, which fetched $58.4m (£38.3m) – nearly twice its pre-sale estimate.

Lichtenstein’s Woman with Flowered Hat sold for $56.1 million, while another Basquiat work, Dustheads (top of article), went for $48.8 million.

All three works set the highest prices ever fetched for the artists at auction. Christie’s described the $495,021,500 total – which included commissions – as “staggering”. Only four of the 70 lots on offer went unsold.

In addition, a 1968 oil painting by Gerhard Richter has set a new record for the highest auction price achieved by a living artist. Richter’s photo-painting Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million). Sotheby’s described Domplatz, Mailand, which depicts a cityscape painted in a style that suggests a blurred photograph, as a “masterpiece of 20th Century art” and the “epitome” of the artist’s 1960s photo-painting canon. Don Bryant, founder of Napa Valley’s Bryant Family Vineyard and the painting’s new owner, said the work “just knocks me over”.

Brett Gorvy, head of post-war and contemporary art, said “The remarkable bidding and record prices set reflect a new era in the art market,” he said. Steven Murphy, CEO of Christie’s International, said new collectors were helping drive the boom.

Myths of the Music-Fine Art Price Differential

When I came across this article I was stunned at the prices these artworks were able to obtain. Several of them would hardly evoke a positive emotional response in me, while others might only slightly, but for almost all of them I really don’t understand how their prices are reflected in the work, and vice versa. Obviously, these pieces were not intended for people like me, an artist, while wealthy patrons certainly see their intrinsic artistic value clearly.

So why doesn’t music attract these kinds of prices? Is it even possible for a piece of recorded music, not music memorabilia or a music artifact (such as a rare record, LP, bootleg, T-shirt, album artwork, etc.), to be worth $1 million or more? Are all musicians and music composers doomed to struggle in the music industry and claw their way up into a career in music? If one painting can be valued at $1 million, why can’t a song or piece of music also be valued similarly? Apparently, the $.99 per download price is the highest price a song is able to command at market value, no matter what its quality or content, and the musician or composer must accept this value as such.

The financial equation looks something like this:

1 painting = $37 million

1 song = $.99

Sometimes people say that a song can change the world, but no one ever says that about paintings. So theoretically, if people want change $.99 is the price we must pay for it.

Now here are a few statements that should help us clarify what the monetary or value discrepancy between painting and music is based upon.

(1) There are fewer painters than there are musicians.

(2) Musicians are less talented than painters?

(3) It is easier to create music than it is to paint.

(4) The public values paintings more than music.

(5) Paintings are more beautiful than music.

(6) Paintings are impossible to copy unlike music.

(7) Painters work harder than musicians and composers.

(8) Blah, blah, blah.

Hardly anyone agrees with all of these statements and yet all, or at least some of them, would have to be true in order for the price of paintings to so greatly exceed the cost of music. Moreover, I doubt that art collectors and great painters have to deal with as much legal red tape as do musicians when releasing their work into the public domain, so why aren’t the rewards equal, if not greater for musicians who have to work almost as much protecting their work as in producing it. Musicians and composers, however, actually must do more than authenticate their work and obtain accurate appraisals concerning what their work is worth, but they get paid less. The equipment costs alone for musicians is much higher than it is for painters.

Maybe it’s fame, and not money, musicians are after? That would explain why most musicians settle for the low pay they receive from record deals and digital downloads. Perhaps, that’s also why many of them are touring more often to increase their fame and not their fortunes. But wait a minute, that’s where musicians actually make most of their money from live performances and the selling of merchandise, but not the music. I guess this is why many musicians see themselves not as composers, but rather as performers and entertainers.

So what can musicians do, who don’t see themselves as entertainers, but instead as composers who create music as a fine art? Because they too have a strong desire to earn a living to support themselves in their chosen profession, thus there must be a specialized approach whereby they present their work to music lovers or art collectors in search of assets and curators for unique pieces to place in their private galleries. Imagine that, a recorded piece of music that few have ever heard which is displayed and played only on a specified music player in a private art gallery or collection.

In thinking about how a musician can follow the example set by painters in the fine arts, I’ve isolated 4 principles that should help to make the spectacular financial rewards they’ve reached possible for the musician. So let’s analyze some of the characteristics that govern the market for fine art and see how musicians can apply these concepts to their creative, production, and marketing processes.

The Ideal Vehicle for Music as Fine Art

Here are 4 principles and practical suggestions for musicians who want to elevate their music into the realm of fine art by following the example of the painters of the past and present.

1) Strive to make unique music or music collections.

The composer must design experiments with sound or compositional techniques. Some music belongs in the realm of the public, while other music solely belongs in the realm of fine art. It’s really not that difficult to tell the difference. The difference is clear when one compares the environment of the nightclub and the music one finds there with the elevated environment of the ballet or opera and its music. The difference is not necessarily one in terms of types of music, but rather in the composer’s sonic fingerprint. In other words, not everyone thinks Jackson Pollock was a great painter, but everyone acknowledges that it took him years of development to reach a point where his style could be born. It’s the style of the artist or composer that will call out to the attention of wealthy patrons, the respect of peers, and the exclusive admiration of the music appreciator. In music, the style of the composer, regardless of genre, I call ‘a signature sound.’ It’s the signature sound that music and art collectors will want to own and for that they might be willing to pay or bid up the cost of ownership to a higher price.

2) Create a music gallery.

This could be modeled after the art gallery where one or several artist put their work on display. The difference with the music gallery is that you would have a hall filled with listening rooms or stations. These showings would not be live performances, but instead will be in effect sound installations. You could also separate one hall into several compartments for different composers. The music showing would be an exclusive event provided to serious music and art collectors who actively seek out sonic experiences and buy what they like. The purpose of the music gallery would be the same as the art gallery – to give the public a sample of the artist’s talent, to give critics something to write about, to have other composers comment on the work of a peer, and to create buzz in the art world. Always remember that it shouldn’t be the event that drives the buzz, but the music that makes the event.

3) Turn your music into a tangible asset.

The obvious difference between a painting and music is that one is a tangible artwork and the other is not. In other words, one of the defining characteristics of a painting is that the medium and the art are one. Unlike music, where the music must be transferred onto another object such as a cassette tape, vinyl, CD, or mP3 player before it can be perceived, whereas with a painting (or sculpture) an object has been transformed into art. So how can it be or is it even possible for a cassette, CD, or download to be transformed into art? The cassette and CD are more akin to a photograph of a painting, rather than a true expressions where the medium and the art are one.

So one step a musician can take to elevate their music into fine art is by making your music and its medium one. The best way that I can think of to do this is by looking to the past. Ironically, the vinyl LP very closely achieved this quality with album art, its sizing, and packaging. Let’s quickly discuss some of the qualities of the vinyl LP and valuable marketing angles that I think opens up interesting approaches for musicians to turn their music into fine art at price appropriate levels commiserate with earning a livelihood.

Today there are several companies around that let you customize your LP vinyl album and artwork. This is wonderful because it gives you total control over the art direction your packaging takes. This is an expressive way to bring the personality of the artist, band, or project out into physical form. Many colors are available and unique mixtures are also possible to add a dimension to your music that isn’t normally possible with cassette tapes, CD’s, or digital downloads. Even split colored and glow-in-the-dark vinyl are available for bold composers looking for something with a bit more flair.

Etched Art and Your Album

Another fantastic way to elevate the music via packaging and presentation is to consider etched art in vinyl. Etched vinyl is an image pressed into the unplayable side of your record which has a frosted appearance. The etched side does not contain any grooves or music but adds a real touch of style to your music package. I don’t know if etched art can also be a hologramic look, but that would be another dimension that would enhance the visual component of your music package.

Art and LP Sizes

The last aspect I’d like to touch on is the size of the LP. Unlike the cassettes and CD’s, which both come in a single universal size determined by the media player, LP’s are played on phonographs or turntables whose arms can adjust to the different sizes of LP’s. In general, LP’s come in 3 sizes: 7″, 10″, and 12″. And because the album covers have to provide a sleeve for a large surface, they correspondingly must also be large. At a minimum the 12″ LP will require an album cover that’s 1 square foot. That’s about 4 times the size of a standard CD and anywhere from 8 – 12 times the size of cassette tape.

Understanding this gives you an additional angle to design artwork for the music package. There might even be a way to design a painter’s canvas which can house an LP within its frame to turn it into a cover. For those musicians and composers who possess multiple artistic talents, an original painting to accompany a music release could be another profitable approach to look into. If you think about it even further the size of the 12″ LP is actually the size of a small painting. Foldable or dual LP covers are also available which provide a much larger surface with which to more greatly present amazing album art work to dazzle customers. The dual LP album cover would give you exactly a 24″ x 12″ surface to work with.

The Non-Vinyl LP and other Miscellaneous Considerations

Other more sophisticated forms of the approach I’m describing here for the LP would keep the concept of the LP at the center of the music package, while removing the vinyl as material. Ideally, the perfect substance for a fine art music LP would consist of a material that didn’t warp, couldn’t be shattered, that would prevent grooves from wearing out, and that would be scratch-proof. So that would mean you’d need to do your homework and find out what’s possible with all known exotic substances, metal alloys, industrial metals, specialized plastics, and non-scratch surfaces to achieve the perfect substance for a fine art music LP. Moreover, this substance would play CD quality sound on any or a special turntable with a uniquely designed needle made specifically for this material and album type.

If a fine art music LP were to ever come into existence it would have to stand the test of time and survive usage, storage, and travel as it transfers custody from one owner to another over decades and even centuries. These are the main reasons why owners of fine art music LP’s will need to get insurance for the asset. A non-vinyl LP could also be manufactured to blow away the art collector, music enthusiast, and investor with something like an LP made of 24-karat gold or some other precious metal like silver or platinum. This one alteration could make such an LP worth a $1 million or more depending on the aggressiveness of the bidders. Overall you’ll have to do some research of your own to discover what your options are and can be in order to raise your LP into the class of an investment, a tangible asset (collectible), and fine art. In the absence of the existence of this ideal substance, we must aim for novelty to achieve appeal.

Exclusive Music

Another aspect to explore briefly is the exclusivity factor in regard to the ownership of fine art. Not everyone can afford a Picasso, but those who can, generally, aren’t willing to share it with everyone because they want exclusive ownership over the Picasso, that’s part of the package of owning fine art.

The way to provide exclusive ownership to interested parties is through contracts, so you’ll have to hire legal advice to shape the legal framework governing ownership of a music album or music as fine art. The contract can be shaped in any number of ways according to your wishes, but basically it should state what the owner has permission to do or is prohibited from doing with the work you are selling them. You want your buyers to know that they can transfer ownership of the album to heirs or sell it to other private collectors as you can with any other tangible asset. This is part of the process of owning fine art, which they’ve come to expect in their dealings with galleries and other collectors, so deal with them as a professional.

In addition, you’ll want to legally prohibit the buyers from broadcasting or disseminating the music from your fine art LP or other media. To preserve its value the music must be kept out of the public domain and remain in the hands of those who have the right to hear it. If the owners want to talk about it and even play it for a small gathering of people as a fine art music exhibit then great, but they should not be permitted to make copies or profit from your recordings.

The beauty of a limit supply and contracts is that together they will help you to track all of the owners over your lifetime and preserve the value of your work. If one of them can be found to be responsible for leaking the material out into public, you’ll have a lawsuit on your hands which you should easily win. But if a leak was to happen, the value (price) of the LP might drop precipitously and demand could even dry up completely. But really what’s the worst that could happen, that the price of your music ends up at the low end of the price scale – $.99 per track?

A Word on Supply and Demand

Similarly, the law of supply and demand must also be part of the equation for pricing your music as fine art. Basically, the law of supply and demand works like this: the greater the supply, the lower the demand and the lower the supply, the greater the demand. In other words, the more of something there is, the less it’s worth and the less of something there is, the more it’s worth. The law doesn’t always work out this perfectly, but as a general rule it works.

The problem with this law is that it only slightly takes into account mass psychology and the way demand is created, which is by advertising, marketing, and PR (public relations). Without these 3 factors working in your favor, there will be little or no demand for your fine art music LP, no matter how small your supply is. It’s only when these 3 factors are working in your favor and demand is fairly high that the price of your singular or limited edition fine art music LP, CD, or digital audio files can rise and skyrocket. So become fluent with hope to employ advertising, marketing, and PR and make sure the demand is there among your target audience prior to releasing your work so that you can be certain your album receives a high bidding.

A Digital Point of View

Some of the ideas I’ve presented here so far can be applied to music in digital formats as well. For example, a limited edition, gorgeously designed iPod or alternative mP3 player with your fine art music programmed into a locked memory is one approach. For example, high-end buyers there’s an iPod available that’s made from 22k gold and it features an Apple logo made of diamonds, it estimate price is roughly $120,000.

Something like this could work or even just a really cool looking, READ-only thumb drive could work. You just plug it in and enjoy exclusive access to an album that only one collector or a select few have in their possession.

The number one problem with a digital format is that it’s too easy to copy files from one device to another, which is why a locked or unhackable memory is crucial. Without the locked memory, the exclusivity factor cannot exist and undermines the creation of a fine art music digital device.

4) Put your music to auction.

Part of the reason why the paintings in the beginning of this article sold for so much money is because competing bids pushed the price upward. After you’ve designed an amazing fine art music collection and package, you’ll need to decide how to sell or auction your product.

Many options for auctioning items are available but probably the most well-known is eBay, but eBay is probably not the best place to sell fine art music this way. To start it might be a good place to test the concept, but you might not reach your target clientele. Another option could be Bandcamp or Amazon, but there’s no auctioning available with these companies. However, you could set a high price for downloads, CD’s or vinyl LP’s and sell few of them.

For example, downloads might go for anywhere from $15 to $200 per track and for the album maybe the price of a mid-range painting, perhaps $800 to $2,000+.

You could also set up a simple website where you present and sell your fine art music like painters, sculptors, sketch artists, wood workers, and artisans sell their work. On your site you can talk about your album on video, with a music blog, on internet radio, through interviews, on music or artists-oriented podcasts, and through articles, so that you can send all the traffic to your eBay page or personal website where all you’re selling are copies of your limited edition collection of fine art music.

The simplicity of this plan is that you, along with eBay as your broker, control the entire process. The idea here is as with most auctions which is to watch the bidders compete with one another as everyone watches the price go higher and higher.

Name Your Price: The Radiohead Experiment

The band Radiohead did something like this but differently. Instead of auctioning a one of a kind or limited edition exclusive digital album, they allowed their fans to pay what they wanted for their new release at the time. The experiment brought in mixed results but overall was a success for the band members who made more money personally than on any previous album. However, it’s been reported that 38% of buyers spent an average of $6, while the other 62% downloaded the album without paying anything at all – $0. Globally, the average price paid was around $2.26 and $3.23 in the U.S. Of those who did pay something, 17% paid below $4, but 12% paid between $8 and $12.

This approach is unlikely to work for lesser known artists who want to present their music as fine art. The main reason why it wouldn’t is because it fails to fulfill the factor of exclusive ownership. Everyone and anyone could get a copy of the Radiohead album, therefore it’s value is reduced because the quantity available was infinite instead of limited or rare, since the demand was high.

NIN and a Tiered Approach

Likewise, tiered fine art music packages whose prices range from a few dollars up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars is a much better way to entice collectors to buy music as fine art or music as an investment.

Here’s how Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor made a small fortune with his “Ghosts I – IV” album release. In total 5 tiers are available.

The first tier offers a free download of the first 9 tracks from the album.

The 2nd tier offers a $5 digital download with a 40 page PDF.

The 3rd tier offers a 2 CD’s with a 16 page booklet for $10.

The 4th tier is a $75 deluxe edition which includes 2 audio CD’s, a data DVD with all 36 tracks in multi-track format, a 48 page book of photographs by Phillip Graybill and Rob Sheridan, a 40 page PDF book, and an accompanying slideshow on a Blu-Ray disc.

And on the 5th tier you get pretty much everything else on the lower tiers except you also get a 3rd book with art prints of imagery from Ghosts I – IV and each limited edition copy is numbered and personally signed by Trent Reznor. This limited edition was restricted to 2500 copies with a limit of one per customer for a grand total of $300. The $300 tier was known as the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package and is currently sold out.

The financials on the 5th tier look pretty good. With the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package, we know there were only 2500 copies and that each sold for $300. So, 2500 x 300 = $750,000. Imagine what prices could have been reached if Reznor had allowed the buyers to bid on the Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package. He could have started the bidding at or just below $300 and watched the prices go up from there. Interestingly, as fewer of them were available the prices might have started to get astronomical. He probably still would’ve sold every copy and his income might well have been closer to $1 million, but either he did a great job structuring his price scale as demonstrated by his results. And let’s not forget that our equation excluded the income he generated from tiers 2 – 4, which most certainly brought his total revenues far passed $1 million.

Review

As we end off let’s briefly review the factors that will lead to fine art music success.

1) Strive to make unique music or music collections. To do this you’ll need to experiment with unique methods, techniques, or styles that offer a signature sound. In the art world, this will be known as your sonic fingerprint. This is what art collectors will want to purchase and appreciate.

2) Create a music gallery. Come up with ideas for how to present your new compositions at a music exhibit. It should look and feel much like an art exhibit, but be adapted for music. This might include setting up private listening stations for individual art collectors or small rooms for a limited listening audience and where auctions can occur.

3) Turn your music into a tangible asset. Painting elevates the canvas and paint into art, whereas music can never elevate a cassette tape or CD into art. For music, the medium must be turned into art as part of the package for presenting music as fine art. Painting also elevates and transforms its medium, while music is usually transported by its medium, unless its digital, then it’s all about the music. Remember what we discussed about digital formats and the vinyl LP as ideal vehicles for selling music as fine art.

4) Above all, offer exclusivity as an essential part of the package of fine art music ownership, so find ways to guarantee this for your buyers. Art ownership is strongly based on its exclusivity, which for the collector means they are part of a very select group of individuals who have the right or privilege to receive exposure to your fine art music. If you can exclude the masses and create demand amongst a select few, then the prices you can attract will rise as few buyers try to outbid one another for exclusive ownership of your music.

5) Lastly, use an auction system to create massive profits. Keep the law of supply and demand in mind when building your music into a tangible asset and don’t forget the vital role advertising, marketing, and PR play in creating demand. There’s no purpose in creating a limited supply of anything for which there is no demand.

Conclusion

These are by no means all of the ways in which these ideas can be applied to your situation or in these formats, but whatever you choose to do you’ll need to formulate the right balance of factors that make the price of your fine art music rise. Many of you may be stunned by the extent of initial investment capital you’ll require to elevate your music into a fine art collectible, which is why you’ll have to amplify your people skills and take courses in sales training, marketing, investing and business. Several of the approaches I mentioned will require you to raise capital from a bank, institution such as a private equity firm, or venture capitalists to get you started, otherwise you’ll need to get access to personal or small business credit at low interest rates. This will give you more time to implement your program and generate your first wave of sales.

If your business plan for turning your music into fine art is solid and your sales presentation is thorough, then the money will find you as more investors see profit in the opportunity. Additionally, wealthy patrons may see your work as an important contribution to art history or your presentation may just resonate with an investor or group of investors that they may just give you money to finish your project. In either case, be business-like, get all of your agreements in writing and have them reviewed by a competent legal representative expert at intellectual property issues and financial transactions in particular.

How To License Your Music

Music is a big part of civilization. Centuries had passed but music survived and even grew to greater heights every single decade. As a matter of fact, the demand of music has been rising very steadily in the past 10 years and it will continue that way in the foreseeable future. It comes along with the big amount of revenue the music industry is currently getting year after year. It is an unstoppable force as people always look up for the next great artist around the corner, thus continuing the cycle and the relevance of music. The demand of music content is at an all time high. The global music revenue since the turn of the century has been steady. The currency is measured in billions.

As the technology grew, music got more technical, complex and in demand. Others take credit for using music they don’t own. Nowadays, independent musicians are well aware of protecting their work for legal purposes. Through music licensing, you can be ensured of your asset/work being protected legally.

What is music licensing? Music licensing is the licensed used for copyrighted music. This allows the owner of the music to maintain the copyright of their original work. It also ensures the owner of the musical work to be compensated if their music is being used by others. The music licensing companies has limited rights to use the work without separate agreements. In music licensing, you could get your work licensed in the form of music, composition and songwriting.

During the music licensing process, there are terms that would be discussed by the groups involved. If you are an independent musician, you would be the licensor. You are the one responsible of the music created, thus you are the copyright owner of the licensed work. A licensee would be the music licensing company as they would be the one who will distribute your work to other industries. They will also collect the royalty fees as distribute them back to you if your music is included in live performances, TV shows, ads, campaigns, video games, etc.

There are also two kinds of contracts in music licensing, namely exclusive contract and non-exclusive contract. Exclusive contract means having your work licensed exclusively to a single music licensing company. Only a single company has the authority to distribute and market your work. If you signed an exclusive contract to your song or album, you cannot use the same music contents and get it signed by other music licensing companies. The agreement is exclusive and confidential to the licensor and the licensee.

Non-exclusive contract allows a second party to distribute your work and it doesn’t prohibit the licensor to sell their music to other music licensing companies or licensees. An independent musician can sign a non-exclusive contract to multiple companies using the same music content. Non-exclusive contracts are generally used to prevent an individual from being locked into a restrictive contract before their work gains popularity. This type of contract is designed to protect music artists from being taken advantage of in the early stages of their respective careers while on the process of getting their music out to larger audiences.

There are also cases which involves direct payment for used music content. This is called Sync Fees. Sync fee is a license granted by a holder of a copyrighted music to allow a licensee to synchronize music with visual media such as ads, films, TV shows, movie trailers, video games, etc. For example, a video producer is in dire need of music content for a certain project and is in a limited time of finding one.

In these cases, the artist and the music licensing company will be contacted directly for the possible use of the original work and negotiate the upfront payment involved. Sync fees can range from a few dollars to a couple of hundred dollars or up to thousands. The payment usually depends on how big and established a company is. If it is a well known company, there is a probability that the sync fee will spike up in value.

We need to understand that businesses nowadays are paying premium for music at an all time high. The influx and revenue generated on different industries are worth billions of dollars and the music artists who got their music licensed will get a big share of that money. The content of music is very important. Every single company need visual and audio content. You can’t do ads, shows and movies without having any music content.

Music licensing brings compensation for assets used. This is called royalty fees. A royalty fee is the payment collected by one party from another for the ongoing use of a copyrighted asset. You can get compensated if your work is featured on live public performances. For every live use of your music, you get compensated as you own the copyright of your work.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has collected over $941 million dollars in licensing fees and distributed $827.7 million dollars in royalties to its members back in 2014. BMI on the other hand, collected more than $1.013 billion dollars in license fees and distributed over $877 million dollars in royalties to its members during the year 2015.

Music licensing is the modern way of earning through music. In the past few years, the physical sales had gone down. Streaming music has taken over because it’s more convenient and practical with the help of the World Wide Web. With the rise of streaming sales, the figures that could be collected as royalty fees could spike up in the years coming. In fact, as stated in an Australian financial review website, streaming generated $2.5 billion dollars in US music sales last year, overtaking digital downloads as the industry’s biggest source of music revenue. As stated in the picture below, the global streaming of music is projected to reach greater heights in terms of revenue in the upcoming years.

The internet contributed greatly for the rise of music licensing and streaming. 20 years ago, the distribution of music hasn’t been exactly this big. Television shows and filmmakers are the top two industries that need music content. Today, there are more and more TV shows, films, commercials, movies, ads and tons of video games that need music content. It is safe to say that the internet opened the public eye about the opportunities involved behind it.

One of the most visited sites on earth is YouTube. People use, duplicate, rework, copy, revise and perform music from different artists around the world. It also has an influx of ads which contains music content. To track all these data, YouTube has a Content ID System. If your music is licensed, you can contact this site and they will take a look at their data and see if your work is being used by other parties. As the licensor, you have the authority to take actions such as mute the audio which matches your music, block a whole video from being viewed, track the video’s viewership statistics or monetize the video by running ads against it. Every country has different rules about it. But YouTube runs a lot of ads and monetizing work from this site is very probable.

If you are an independent musician, you must improve and instill professionalism in your craft to get your chances up of being signed by a music licensing company. With billions of dollars of revenue involved today, you want at least a slice of the pie. Monetizing your passion is never easy but taking the necessary steps to make it work is a must to reach success.

Country Music History

The Beginning of Country Music

One thing that has always baffled me is the fact that whilst country music is one of the most popular genres of music in the United States, outside of the country it is not as well regarded. In fact, if you head on over to the United Kingdom you will find that it is an incredibly niche genre. Why is this baffling to me? Well, it is because country music history can be traced back to the Irish, who of course are very close to the United Kingdom (just a couple of miles over the water in fact, with half of Ireland considered part of the United Kingdom). On this page I want to take a little look at the its roots. This is before any music recordings or the like. This was when music was a form of entertainment and not just a way to make money.

Country Music, in the form that we know it, has been going strong for over three hundred years in the Southern part of North America. It was not until the 1920s that it started to gain traction though. So, where did it all begin? It began with a group of Irish immigrants who decided to settle in the Appalachian Mountains. Obviously North America is an incredibly long distance from Ireland. The boat journey was horrendous to start with and of course, space was limited. Those that headed to America could only take their most prized possessions with them. Everything else was left at home. Many Irish cherished their instruments and it was those that they took on this boat journey.

The Irish preferred to use the fiddle, the sounds of which are heard in country music to this very day. The reason why they loved the fiddle so much was because it had such a dynamic range. One second you could be playing the most upbeat music possible, and the next second you could be creating something that was almost mournful. In its history it was not just the Irish fiddle that played a roll though. The banjo got in there (from West Africa), the Mandolin (Italy) and even the Dulcimer (Germany). You got a nice blend of instruments.

It was sort of born out of a clash of cultures. Many people do not realize this, but it has a number of its roots in African music. It was born out of the white and black musicians in the southern areas of the country starting to play together. In fact, country music history shows us that back then Country Music tended to be a great deal more ‘African’ influenced than European influenced. The style has meshed too much nowadays to really tell though. It just grew from here. As the music style started to spread around the area more and more people started to introduce new elements into it. This is a constantly evolving form of music. What we regarded as country all those years ago is nothing close to what is regarded as country music right now. That is why it is so exciting. We never know where the music is going to take us next.

The Early Recordings

Country Music has been played throughout the southern part of the United States for over three hundred years now. However, it was not always as popular as it is today (where it is one of the most popular music genres in the United States). In fact, up until the 1920s very few people outside of the Appalachian area had even heard of this music style. This all changed pretty quickly though.

It was the booming industry in Atlanta which kicked started country music history in recordings. During the early days of Atlanta many people who lived in the Appalachian area started to work in the cotton mills. Just like their ancestors had done all of those years ago, they took their instruments on their travels. This means that country music started to hit Atlanta.

In the 1920s the recorded music industry was just getting started. It was particularly popular in Atlanta. In fact, Atlanta was the hub for a lot of recorded music for over twenty years. The recordings sadly started to die down in the 1950s.

Anyway, during the 1920s everybody was looking to make money with commercial music. However, nobody thought that country music would sell. Many people, including Fiddlin’ John Carson tried to get their music recorded. They were turned down by record company after record company. This was until somebody discovered that country music was actually marketable. In fact, these marketing geniuses believed that it would resonate particularly well amongst those that worked in agriculture. What a brain wave this was. It was this very idea that kicked off country music history as we know it today.

Around this time, country music was a blend of styles. It really had no definition. People just played it how they wanted. One of the first recordings launched which was regarded as country came from Henry Gilliland and A.C. Robertson. They released ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘Arkansas Traveller’. Both of these musicians were fiddlers. This is a far cry from the country music that we know nowadays which tends to be dominated by guitar players.

It was the high sales of these records which really got the country music ball rolling. Fiddlin’ John Carson, previously turned down by all of those record labels was signed by Okeh Records. He released his much beloved song ‘Little Log Cabin in the Lane’ in 1923. Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to take the country by storm though. His hit, Wreck of the Old 97, released in 1927, was absolutely fantastic. It really pushed the commercial value of country music.

Nobody had such an impact in the 1920s as the Carter Family though. Their music style was unique. Over the course of 17 years they went on to released 300 different songs. Many of which people sing to this very day. In fact, the music that the Carter Family released was meant to showcase this history of Southern America. As you can probably guess, they sold millions of records.

This is just a very brief introduction to country music history in 1920s. As you know, the style evolved from there. What we know as country though originated in these recordings. It was distinctly different to the music from three hundred years ago (although built on the same principles). It really would be interesting to see where country music takes us from here on out.

The Evolution of Travis Picking

I do not know whether you have attempted to learn guitar before. However, if you have then you will notice that there are a number of techniques that you need to get down if you want to start any hope of actually being able to play a song that another person wrote, let alone write one yourself. One of the most important techniques for a guitarist is that of ‘finger picking’. Now, there are a number of different ‘finger picking’ styles out there. The one that I want to focus on though is Travis Picking. This is because it has its roots in country music history.

Before we dive into what Travis Picking is all about, I want to discuss a little bit about where it stands in the context of country music history. As you may know, country music never really started to get a grip on popular culture until the 1920s. However, people were starting to develop their style a long time before that. One of those people was Arnold Shultz, an African-American musician who was born in Ohio County, Kentucky.

Arnold was very much surrounded by music for much of his life. In fact, his family were touring country musicians. As they went from location to location he met a number of famous musicians. He also began to develop his own style. His own style was something that had not really been heard before in country music. It was a very jazzy sound with deep base notes (sadly he was never recorded so we do not know what he done exactly). The style that he developed became firmly rooted in Kentucky Style country music. In fact, his performances had a massive influence on one Merle Travis through a country musician known as Kennedy Jones.

It was Merle Travis who began to develop the idea of Travis picking in greater depth. So, what is Travis Picking? Well, it is a thumb picking technique. It is very hard to explain if you have never played the guitar before. Basically, it is a style which involves the thumb of a finger playing the bass notes on the guitar (the top three strings). This creates a deep bass note. The other fingers then play the lower strings to add a touch of melody. As you can probably guess, absolutely no guitar picks are used here.

Nowadays, many musicians blend Travis picking into their music. In fact, I am sure that you will find elements of Travis picking in pretty much every genre out there. Even ‘rock’ musicians do it from time to time, particularly on their slower numbers. This is one of a few ‘country music’ styles which seems to have escaped the confines of country music history and worked its way into other forms of music. It really does go to show the reach that this genre of music actually as. If you want to hear a good example of Travis picking outside of Country Music then I suggest that you pay a listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’.

How to Listen to Ambient Music

Musical Vocabularies and Purposes

Many years ago, I had a college friend who was an evangelizing devotee of the abstract painter Marc Rothko. I remember her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s work, while I was thinking that I must be aesthetically challenged; I just didn’t “get” it. After all, most of the paintings were nothing but large rectangles of color, with slight irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. All of the familiar reference points of line and shape, perspective and shadow, were gone. I could appreciate them as “design,” but not as “art.” While they were pleasing enough, I couldn’t see why anyone would rhapsodize over these abstractions… until I first saw them for myself in person–a completely different experience! When I encountered them at the Museum of Modern Art, they literally stopped me in my tracks, subverting conscious thought and plunging me immediately into an altered state. They were not just flat canvases on a wall, but seemed more like living things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a fundamental connection to the Source of things. I was stunned. They didn’t “express” a feeling–they were more like feelings themselves, and they seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or anyone. When I later looked at the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of color. There was a recollection, but no recreation of my experience. This was an experience that depended on the presence of the original artifact (art: a fact).

A Tune is Not a Tone

I spent my early musical life working mostly with music that used-like representational art–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its effect. There are many vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, harmony, and structure that place music in a context of form that makes it comprehensible to listeners. “Comprehensible” is not precisely what I mean–it suggests that music communicates only intellectual ideas, whereas in fact, it conveys and expresses a whole range of ideas, feelings, sensations and associations. But there is an element of “intelligibility” to conventional forms of music that depends on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are familiar elements that listeners use to anchor their real-time experience of a composition, formal or sonic elements that are borrowed from other pieces created and listened to in the past. When I find myself humming a tune from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking one of its characteristic rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a complex sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that is easily recognizable to others familiar with the music. I may be able to share a musical idea with other musicians using the abstraction of notation. But a “tune” is not a “tone,” and a “note” is not a “sound.” It is an idea, even a powerful idea, but when I find myself humming the tune, I know that I have in some way “consumed” the music, reduced it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my own purposes.

Ambient music, and in particular, the type of ambient music I will refer to as “soundscape,” abandons, or at least loosens, many of these conventions. There is, in general, usually no hummable melody, often no recurrent rhythmic pattern, and if there is a larger “form,” it is more commonly nothing familiar or identifiable, even to astute musicologists-it might be completely idiosyncratic to the composer. Even the vocabulary of “instruments” is fluid and too vast to hold in mind. With the profusion of sounds that are electronically-generated or sourced and manipulated from field recordings, it is rare that separable and recognizable instruments or sounds can be identified-that is, “named.” Late nineteenth and early twentieth century classical composers worked hard to try to erase the familiar boundaries of individual instruments, using unusual instrumental combinations and extended instrumental techniques to blur sonic lines. Ambient music takes this even farther. The sound palette of ambient composers is more diverse and less subject to “naming” than that of composers who use ensembles of traditional instruments to present their compositions. While the savant may be able to identify a sound source as belonging to a particular method of generation (analog, FM, sample manipulation, etc.), diffuse mixing and morphing of sounds can confound even experts.

The Irrelevance of Virtuosity

To a great extent, the virtuosity of the musician-often an important element in other music genres–is replaced, in the ambient music world, by the skill of the composer in crafting and shaping the sound. Slow tempos are common, and arpeggiators and sequencers obviate, to a large degree, the need for ambient musicians to develop sophisticated keyboard skills. Complex and rapid sequences can be generated that defy the abilities of even great performers. While it is true that many ambient musicians do perform in real time, most do not. Even the notion of “performance” disappears to a large extent. Most soundscapes are recorded works; they are not commonly reproducible in real time by performers on stage. More technical knowledge of sound-producing hardware and software is necessary, but in the end, this becomes invisible to the listener, subsumed by the sound artifact of the music itself.

The mixing of sound in the studio enables ambient composers to manipulate and place sounds freely in the stereo field, unencumbered by any need to spatially represent a virtual performing ensemble. These elements become a part of the composition, whereas in other musical genres, the mix–where it can be controlled–is more of an enhancement or special effect than a compositional feature. Some ambient composers don’t even separate the mixing process from the composition. I, for one, tend to mix as I go, since the dynamics, effects, and placement in the stereo field are all integral features of my compositions.

Furniture Music

I mention these elements of ambient music because they have implications for how we might approach the genre as listeners. I do not want to suggest that there is only one narrow “way” to hear ambient music. In fact, part of the richness of the genre is that it is amenable to diverse listening approaches. In fact, one popular way to listen to ambient music is to mostly ignore it. This is what I might refer to as the environmental approach. Here, the sound is treated–in the iconic words of Erik Satie–as “furniture music.” It is played, most likely at a very low level, in the background, while the “listener” goes about his business in the environment. Musak, or “elevator music,” was an early institutional-if insipid–form of environmental music. In public settings, environmental music generally has some agenda behind it; it may be designed to get people to linger in a space, or even to leave (classical music in malls as a sonic “weapon” to disperse groups of teens). It may be intended to calm people, or to get them to spend more freely (the research as to the effectiveness of these tactics is inconclusive). The rave has its “chill room,” where over-stimulated ravers can psychically cool or calm themselves. Some hospitals are beginning to use ambient music to create a soothing environment for recovering patients.

In the home environment, environmental ambient music is self-selected and regulated. In our home, we have a number of recordings that are expressly used for environmental listening. My partner prefers a CD with the sounds of rain, wind chimes and Tibetan bells. She often uses this soundscape while she paints. The selection of music for this purpose is important. Her favorite painting CD has no progression–no beginning, middle, or end. There are no interesting developments, themes, or dramatic sonic punctuations. It is devoid of rhythm, melody and harmony. It effectively “freezes” (or perhaps the word is “frees” ) time in a perpetual present moment, and helps to create–for her–an environment that is particularly congenial to her art practice. In my own case, I use a variety of soundscapes as an environmental backdrop to my t’ai chi practice. There is typically a bit more sense of rhythm and flow to the sonic tapestries I will select for this purpose (this seems to facilitate the flow of the movement), but I avoid anything with too much musical interest for t’ai chi, as I wish to keep my focus on my breath and movement.

Music for Meditation

Some people use ambient music for meditation, and this deserves its own discussion. Many people who first begin to meditate are dismayed to discover how much mental chatter or “noise” is generated by the “monkey mind” that is the default waking state of human consciousness. Attempts to quell the endless stream of thought prove not only fruitless, but even counterproductive, since they add an additional layer of mental activity. For some people, quiet, relaxing music soothes an overactive mind, at the same time calming the body and inviting spaciousness without requiring any special technique. Admittedly, much of what is commercially sold as “relaxation” music is vapid and saccharin; it certainly doesn’t help me relax. For a more discerning listener, artistic value needs to be a criterion for “relaxation” music. I’m probably over-opinionated about this, but to me, there is a distinct difference between “mindful” and “mindless” music. While department store kiosks featuring harp and seashore sounds may appeal to the masses, I rarely discover much substance to these sonic bonbons; there are much better choices to foster an atmosphere conducive to a relaxed and supple mind.

Brainwave Entrainment

When seeking out music for meditation, consider tempos of 60 bpm or slower, since one’s heart rate tends to naturally entrain to the fundamental tempo, and a low resting pulse is desirable to enter meditative states. Also consider music which uses binaural beats. These are usually created with difference tones in the left and right channels, and can gradually and subtly guide the brain to relax into the lower frequency brainwaves, from ordinary waking consciousness (beta waves: 14-40 Hz), down to relaxed or even trance states (alpha waves: 7.5 – 14 Hz). At brainwaves below 7 Hz, you are just sleeping. Binaural beats are based on the idea of brain entrainment, the tendency of the brain to sync up with a reference frequency. Binaural programs can also induce sleep, and there is ambient music designed for this very purpose.

Music heavy in the low frequency range can activate fearful or anxious states for some people, so for such individuals, it may be best to choose music for meditation that is richer on the mid- and high end, or more evenly balanced across the frequency range. For a soothing “sound bath,” some people like to somewhat roll off bass frequencies with the tone control on the stereo system. And for sure, if you are planning on using ambient music for meditation, it should be played at a low volume; let it blend in with the soundscape of everyday life-the whoosh of traffic, the occasional dog barking, and so forth. Let it be an element in the soundscape rather than taking it over. This can help with the practice of mindful attention to the moment. For musicians, music for meditation may actually add an element of distraction, as the mind becomes involved with musical ideas. For this reason, I personally, do not use music for meditation. I prefer simply sitting in a relatively quiet space and allowing whatever environmental sounds that may be present to occur, without (hopefully) naming or interpreting them.

Music for Massage and Acupuncture

Massage and acupuncture treatments can be enhanced with ambient music, and here many of the same the guidelines apply. I recommend that you bring your own music to these sessions, if possible. Practitioners may or may not share your taste, and there’s almost nothing worse than having to listen to some godawful drivel when you’re trying to relax. I have compiled several mix CDs for massage, and mine generally have a shape to them that helps me first settle and relax with something calm and diffused, then something more rhythmic, as the massage therapist works on problem areas, then, at the end, a very spacious section, in which I can completely zone-out, and let my body enjoy the after-effects of the massage. This is my personal preference; if you want to make your own mix for massage, you should find the combination that suits you.

Immersive Listening – Headphones or Speakers?

This leaves one final type of listening that I’d like to discuss: deep listening, listening to ambient music as musical art form. Here, you give immerse yourself in the sound and give it your full attention. The first question is consider is: headphones or speakers? There are pros and cons to both. Headphones are preferred by many ambient listeners for a variety of reasons. First, they isolate the music from environmental sounds, particularly if the headphones have a noise-cancellation feature. Second, and probably more importantly, they emphasize the width of the stereo field and allow one to clearly hear panning effects (moving from left to right, or right to left) that are sometimes very salient features of ambient music. Most ambient composers are likely to mix primarily with quality near-field studio monitors, but they almost universally check mixes very carefully with headphones for stereo placement and movement of sounds.

The most popular types of headphones are closed-cup, open cup and in-ear (ear buds). Ear buds are cheap and easy to take on-the-go. They are most commonly used with iPods or other mp3 listening devices. Since they are inserted directly into the ear canal, they should be used with extreme caution, and only at low volumes, to protect the ears. Low frequency response is poor and subject to distortion. Some people-myself included-find them uncomfortable and cannot use them. For travel or use in waiting rooms, I prefer a light, over-ear headphone.

Closed-cup headphones reduce environmental noise-especially those with noise-cancellation. Make sure, if you decide on noise-cancelling headphones, to make sure that the feature actually works. Some claims are exaggerated. Some closed-cup headphones may be uncomfortable for longer listening sessions, to be sure any headphone you consider buying fits you well, is not too heavy, and does not make your head feel like it’s in a vise. A disadvantage of the closed cup is that bass frequency response may be limited-without a port to let some compression (sound) escape, lower frequency sound production may not be adequate. It is partly in the nature of headphones that low frequencies will not be well-represented. It simply takes a larger cone to create lower frequency sounds, and distance for them to develop (the lowest audible frequencies are several feet long). One alternative strategy is to use open-cup headphones in conjunction with speakers in the room-especially if a subwoofer is available. This way, the lows are picked up, both through the open ports in the headphones, and through the body.

The most immersive listening environment I have experienced was on a “sound table,” where sound vibration comes to the ears and directly through the body by means of transducers built into the cushioned surface. For sound healing, this may be the ultimate technology. But most of us (including myself) do not have regular access to this technology.

A cheaper alternative to the sound table is to lie comfortably on a couch or on cushions with bookshelf-size speakers placed a foot or two from each ear; it’s like having a pair of huge, open cup headphones! With this arrangement, you are immersed in the sound without pressure on the head or ears from wearing headphones, and the bass is less compromised. Experimenting with different configurations of the speakers, I have found that placing the speakers slightly above and behind the head offers a particularly pleasing sound.

Recording Formats

Some listeners may prefer a “surround sound” scheme, although it is difficult to find much music specifically encoded for this format. Surround sound has not really taken hold commercially for serious music listening. This is unfortunate, since besides the availability of true 3D sound reproduction, the 24-bit DVD surround format provides superior clarity and a greater practical dynamic range. While commercial surround sound setups are popular in home entertainment centers, they are primarily used for movie watching. Some music has been specifically encoded for surround systems-most of it, film scores, since they were already encoded for surround in the first place.

But it appears that at least for the present and near future, most listeners will be working with 16-bit stereo systems, and nearly all of the output of contemporary ambient composers is formatted for this playback. The low volume level of many ambient recordings means that the top bits of 16 bit recordings are often unused-a compromise that removes them from the odious “volume wars” of popular music, but also limits bit-resolution. Compression through MP3 encoding tends to “flatten” recordings and distort low frequencies. Listening carefully, one can often also hear warbling or other artifacts introduced by compression. While necessary for streaming, I find most recordings are irreparably damaged when encoded at bit rates below 320 bps. (I do hope and believe that more albums will become available in the 24-bit FLAC format. While not yet practical for streaming, this format promises to deliver recordings of superior audio quality, albeit longer download times.) Just because rock and pop listeners who download their recordings on iTunes may have given up on audio fidelity doesn’t mean we have to! One can make the case that ambient music, in particular, deserves the best sound possible.

Immersive Listening – Attention and Process

As far as where to place one’s attention in immersive listening, good ambient music offers many possible inroads. If the music is drone-based, there won’t likely be much harmonic movement, so the ear will be more likely engaged with texture and atmosphere. Drones, often consisting of either a primary tonic tone or a root and fifth combined, anchor a piece and provide a backdrop for the tension and release of other tones, as they alternately pull away from the drone in dissonance, or draw back to it in consonance. Melodic and rhythmic components are both optional elements in ambient music, and tend to claim one’s aural attention when present. They emphasize time over space, since melodic phrases are like musical sentences, with a beginning, middle and end-and rhythms divide time into periodic units. A highly melodic piece requires more sustained attention, whereas a purely atmospheric piece may allow the listener to fade in and out. I love both types of ambient music, and while more of my own pieces are melodic than not, I have created non-melodic compositions as well.

I’ve already alluded to the creative use of stereo space by ambient composers, and once listening strategy I enjoy is to visualize a spherical area extending around my ears and in front of me, in which I track sounds as they originate and dissipate within this field. The skillful use of dynamics, delay and reverb, and EQ enable ambient composers to create vivid three-dimensional illusions, and as a listener, I enjoy putting my attention on sound placement and movement in the stereo field as an integral element of the composition. Besides the lateral placement of sound between right and left channels, one can listen to the “height” of sounds in the stereo field, as the ear places higher frequencies “above” and lower frequencies “below.” One can also notice the distances of sounds, observing how some are present and close, while others recede into the distance. It is also interesting to notice how sounds react in an imaginary space. Ambient music is typically very heavily reverbed, the perceived container for sound often cavernous. Letting the ear follow a sound as it echoes in virtual space and then gradually fades can create a vivid mental picture of the size of the soundstage.

Ambient music is also rich with sounds that evolve in tone over time, employing a variety of morphing and filter-controlled effects that make an individual sound into its own journey. Listening for changing harmonics in a sound, especially the upper partials that define a sound’s timbre, is a rewarding exercise in mindfulness of sound that reveals interesting details in a piece.

Ambient composers may evoke any number of types of harmonic palettes in their work. Some fine work is purely tonal or triadic, even completely diatonic (using only seven tones of a scale), while works may employ extended harmonies, including exotic scales, bitonality (simultaneous sounding of harmonies in different keys), quartal harmony (based on fourths instead of thirds), and even complete atonality (no “home key,” but equal participation of all twelve tones. I have heard some very fine music using alternate tunings and temperaments. This is frequently a feature of tribal or world-music influenced ambient. A tuning which takes listeners out of the familiar Western equal-tempered scales can open up wonderful sonic vistas. Listening for harmonic “spice” is a great way to enter into an ambient piece that may involve creative use of tonality and tuning. It is not necessary to “identify” exactly what these elements are musicologically. Over-intellectualization can even get in the way of fully appreciating an ambient composition. But being aware of these possibilities, and listening for them, can open up the ear and increase one’s personal connection to a piece of music.

Much ambient music has a strong visual component, at least to me. It is not surprising that so many ambient composers are also visual artists or at least dabble in visual art forms-as I do. While few composers or listeners may have true synesthesia (seeing music as color or shape-or colors as musical tones), the practice of visualization during the listening experience opens up many connections between the senses and can enrich the experience. Some pieces have a strong sense of “story,” and writing or telling a story that emerges from an ambient music listening experience can be a wonderful way to communicate your vision of a piece to others. It is also interesting to experiment with listening with eyes open and closed. For me, these are very different experiences. I find that by limiting visual sensory input, my hearing becomes more acute, and I am able to notice much more that I can with my eyes open. On the other hand, there are some wonderful videos made to accompany ambient music, well-worth exploring. Multi-media presentation may also represent one of the more viable venues for ambient music in the concert hall. Audiences may not accept purely recorded music as a “performance,” but the addition of visuals creates a more complete “live” experience.

There is a tremendous variety of style within the genre of ambient music, ranging from New Age space music to very dark, industrial noise-oriented music. I try to sample as much as I can, learning from and appreciating the diversity of this growing genre. It is exciting to be a part of this still-emerging format, both as a composer and a listener.

Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén