Updated: Apr 10, 2022
Written by: CL KID (Charles Martinez)
*I am currently a recording artist/music producer in Orlando, FL. My artist name is CL KID and my music is within the hip-hop/rap genre. I have followed these steps below myself to create my brand and grow my reach in the music industry. I DO NOT represent any of the brands mentioned below.
START YOUR MUSIC CAREER
What does it take to start a music career? Many people will tell you it’s near impossible. They will say the market is too competitive and it’ll cost you too much money to create a finished product. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Today’s technology has generated unlimited paths to pursue your dream. Years ago, producing a radio-ready hit song would require deep pockets and personal connections to the music industry. This is no longer the case. Creating music has been simplified and if you’re smart in your approach it can be cost-effective. From online tools to social media, making your dream a reality has never been more achievable. Here are some basic steps to follow which will guide you in your pursuit of your music dreams.
Step 1: Tune-out Dream Killers.
This first step is more of a prerequisite towards the process. However, its importance cannot be overlooked. As I mentioned above, many people will be in your ear throughout the entirety of your development. DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO HOLD YOU BACK! As said by Jay-Z in his hit track, “Already Home”, “everybody can tell you how to do it, they never did it”. This is especially true in the music industry. So many people defer to follow their dreams because of fear or lack of education in their respective fields. Those who have quit on their pursuit of happiness will speak very lowly of their experiences. Failure usually comes from a lack of planning, in-organization, and a weak mindset. Patience is key to success. Create goals, stay focused and set aside time each day to make progress towards your vision. Self-belief is the strongest accomplice in progression.
Step 2: Brand Creation/Social Media
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I’m on step 2 and I haven’t started making music?” Of course, you’re ready to get into the studio and record your first project. Unfortunately, there’s some housekeeping to take care of beforehand. Let’s begin with social media. In today’s era, everyone has a social media account, if not various accounts. This is crucial in marketing your brand. Brand recognition is necessary for a successful product in every industry. Consider this, when say the word, “soda”, you may instantly think of such brands as Coke or Pepsi. These products have created enough brand awareness in their market that it’s become impossible to ignore. Same goes for the music industry.
Ever wonder why radio stations play the same songs over and over? Or why the same artists always get a push online? This is because radio stations and playlist companies recognize those artists’ ability to sell. I myself was told by a radio station representative that these companies, “don’t try to sell the music, they try to sell the brand.” Artists such as, Drake, Post Malone, or Cardi B can release numerous tracks and always get infinite plays. This is usually regardless of the quality of work being produced. Radio stations and online entities know people are loyal to the brand created with said individuals and are willing to listen.“Step 2” requires attention because without brand recognition and a social media presence, your music will never be heard.
So how do you create brand loyalty and a strong social media presence? I’m sure you already have accounts with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. These will help you create growth and range in your overall product. YOU are the product! The great thing about social media is that it can be used as a tool to promote yourself. Once you have a completed musical work, you can post audio or video to these accounts so that your friends and family can hear or see your work. Hashtags, and a YouTube account for video files, will help those outside of our circle to come across your work. Having all of these online accounts are necessary before you begin making music so that you have an established platform to push your music, even at a minimum level.
Step 3: Song Writing
Finally! You are ready to start making music. You have tons of ideas and are brimming with excitement. Song writing is the first step of the music creation process. However, it does not have to be. Some artists prefer to have an instrumental track to write to. Creating an instrumental track is another step in the process altogether, so let’s focus on the lyrics themselves. In creating a song, its helpful to develop the main topic you wish to promote. From this, you can create the song’s title. This will help you to generate ideas for lyrics that will direct the listener back to the overall theme. For example, a song with a title of, “My Heart’s Desire”, may provoke thoughts of love or passion. Having the title created first can help you derive lyrics from that starting point. From there, you can structure your song in any way you deem fit. Your chorus should present your main point with a catch melody. This is your most marketable part of your song. The verses will supplement the chorus.
If you plan on using a producer, (which we will discuss further in step 4) the first thing they will require when making your instrumental is the tempo of the song. The tempo simply put is the speed of your song. This is measured in beats per minute. If you lack knowledge in music production or composition, DO NOT WORRY. Many times, producers will ask you to list songs from other popular artists that you compare your song’s style to. This will allow them to get an idea of what you are looking for musically in order to match your lyrics to the beat.
Step 4: Creating an Instrumental Track
So, you’ve written a great song that you can feel good about. The lyrics promote the feelings you wish to endorse and the melody is catchy and trendy. So far in the process, you have spent a total of ZERO dollars! If you’re reading this article it is likely that your revenue stream is minimal. NO PROBLEM. This is usually the case for independent artists upcoming in the music game. Nevertheless, creating an instrumental track to go with your lyrics can be one the most expensive part of the process. Even still, there are ways to minimize this financial burden.
Most studios will offer an engineer to create your beat for you. Music studio businesses have the programs, sounds, and equipment to live record and produce a radio-ready instrumental. This is something you cannot truly compete with. Once again, DO NOT WORRY. Professional studios can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, engineers can charge $100/hr to produce the simplest of beats for a client. Many of them require deposits and even make you purchase blocks of time prior to coming in. This is to ensure revenue for their business. This is where its important to do your research. Online companies, such as Fiverr, allow you to connect with producers all over the world. The online marketplace is over-saturated with musical engineers. This is a major competitor to brick-and-mortar studios.Many studios find it difficult to remain open due to these online institutions.
FINANCIALLY VIABLE SOLUTION: SAVING MONEY IS EVERYTHING! Fiverr is an online company which allows users to connect and file exchange freely, much like social media outlets. Various services are offered through the website and a seemingly unlimited number of producers are amongst these. Although these producers WILL CHARGE YOU to create an instrumental track, they are highly cost-effective and worth the investment. You may spend $300 on a fully-produced instrumental track at a local studio. In doing so, you will likely have little to no control on the final sound of that track. On Fiverr, you may get the same product for less than $50. Many producers online are desperate to get their names out there and charge $5-10 on a fully produced beat. These are usually simple versions of beats but are fully ready to be used on your song. Even Instagram can help you connect with producers around the world who are excited to work with new artists to boost credibility. Creating an instrumental for your song does not have to be expensive. Look around and compare prices before making a decision.
One other method of making an instrumental track is doing so yourself. This requires up front costs of purchasing a DAW. DAWS (Digital Audio Workstations) are programs used by producers to make your instrumental track. These programs come with thousands of sounds to choose from and can create a full orchestral composition if used properly. The issues with these are:
Purchasing a full DAW can cost hundred of dollars.In addition, running these programs requires computer RAM space and usually an interface. An interface will cost about $100 roughly. Interfaces send audio data throughout the computer and are necessary to running a fluid program.
Using a DAW requires engineering education or experience. These music programs, such as FL Studios, Logic, Cubase, etc., have vast potential. There are numerous tools and plug-ins that entail a wide understanding of music production. This does not make it impossible to use, however. Each DAW has unique variations, but each program essentially employs the same overall concepts. If your patient, you can learn to use the programs with time. Most of the necessary processes are simple to figure out and there are millions of online videos and blogs that you can contact if lost on any particular aspect.
While learning the basics of a particular DAW can be simplified, the skill of music production is still difficult. Creating a musical track is a talent equal to that of song writing. Neither come without creativity. And this is where engineers find their value. A great engineer can take your song to the next level and put you in competition with top artists internationally. If you can learn the program and have the creativity to produce a high-level instrumental, then carry-on with confidence. If not, a well-produced musical track is worth spending time searching online for.
Step 5: Recording Your Song
At this point, you have your lyrics arranged and an industry-level music production ready to go. Now it’s time to record your vocals! This process is the most difficult part to replace when it comes to cost. You could purchase a microphone and the necessary equipment to record professionally. This would not be of financial value on a single song basis. If you plan to record regularly and have disposable income, arranging your own recording setup could but worth the investment. For the rest of us, there is still some tips to consider when your ready to record your first single.
First things first, studio engineers and producers HAVE SEEN IT ALL! All producers share common experiences when recording independent artists, both good and bad. Many artists will come into the studio unorganized. Their lyrics written on paper or partially incomplete and reading off their phones. DO NOT BE THIS PERSON! While this article gives several approaches in making your song dreams come true, the main objective remains as such: CUTTING COSTS! Before walking into any studio, be fully prepared. This means knowing your song by heart, word for word, and able to perform your lyrics with energy. Recording a song can be intimidating. But as I have pointed out once already, engineers have seen it all.Keep in mind that your recording session is being billed by the hour. The faster you get your song completed, the cheaper the cost. This makes it crucial that you can recite your song smoothly as if it were your favorite song by another artist on the radio. PERFORMANCE IS EVERYTHING AND ENERGY IS KEY! You may start off nervous, but do your best to shake it off. Find a studio that works well for you and personalizes your visit. Working with an engineer your comfortable speaking with will lead to the best final project. They will want to see you succeed and will likely help you through the process if you’re amiable. ALWAYS BE PERSONABLE!
Step 6: Post-production
You’ve completed your song. It's fully recorded with vocals and music. Many studios will include mixing and mastering in the cost of your recording session. BE SURE TO INQUIRE OF THIS PRIOR TO RECORDING. Mixing and mastering handles the volume levels of each sound within the music and vocals. It also entails cleaning up all aspects of the song and balancing technical audio output, as well as many other engineering values. This is necessary to meeting the standard of the industry. Always inquire prior to recording how many edit sessions your studio will allow. If your song is completed and returned to you, you may not like several parts you wish to be fixed or edited. Most studios will not allow you to go back and forth fixing various portions of your song. Keep your edits listed and organized by time marks (minute and second of each desired fix) before returning to the studio with your requests.
Step 7: Getting Noticed
Your song is finally finished! You’re excited to share it with your friends and are looking for that record deal. Getting noticed and “making it” in the music world is subjective. Your goals will set how you handle this step. Of course, most would love to be signed by a label and be the next big star. This is not true for everyone. If your goal was to record a song and enjoy a hobby, then your process is done.Congratulations! You now have your song as an MP3 or WAV file that you are free to share to the world. If your aiming higher than that, there’s still some work to be done.
If you have any aspirations to make money off your music, it is vital that you setup a copyright for your work. This can be done on a government copyright website for about $35. Be sure to file your work under the proper subset of recording in order to avoid higher, unnecessary costs. Your work is protected upon payment, so you do not have to wait to receive paperwork or further confirmation to feel safe.
Once copyright on your song is taken care of, you are now ready to distribute your music. You are able to submit your song directly to some major streaming sites.However, this is not always the case.Some major carriers require a distribution label to receive your music. As an independent artist this can be handled by companies such as Distrokid or CD Baby, amongst others. These companies distribute your song (and collect various types of royalties) to streaming services such as Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, YouTube, etc. The cost of these services is usually annually around $20 per account at their simplest forms. This is sufficient for independent artists and worth the cost.
With your song copyrighted and distributed to many outlets, you can now share your song with a professional touch. Once listed by these streaming sites, they will send you links to your songs. These links should be shared on social media in order to have the image as an artist you’re craving. Social media will be your best friend in promoting your music.
Earlier you established a social media presence if you have not done so prior to reading this. Keep in mind, having a social media account does not mean you have a social media presence. Your Facebook or Instagram account may be filled with personal pictures and day to day quotes that do not pertain to music. While fans and supporters love the personal aspects of following stars on social media, this may hinder your image. If you feel you wish to post tons of personal pictures and daily food pictures, it may be helpful to create a separate account for your music page. You want outside individuals to look at your page and equate it to music. Its okay to personalize your pages here and there, but NEVER LET NEW FOLLOWERS FAIL TO RECOGNIZE YOU ARE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY! Always use relevant hashtags in your posts (you can search online which are current for your genre at that time) and tag established stars you most compare to when possible. Also, ensure you are following many people within your industry that you aspire to be like. This will help others with similar interests notice you as well
Step 8: Getting Paid
Getting your song out there DOES NOT GET YOU PAID! Music artists get paid through royalties and performances. Record deals offer different kinds of payments with which each individual has agreed upon. As for you, an independent artist, royalties and live performances will be your income. Putting out one song is not likely to generate any real income. Even still, if you dream to make it in the industry you should sign up with a company that will collect royalties owed to you. Whenever your song is played, you are owed money. These are royalties. They are less than pennies on the dollar but can add up substantially if your song were to get millions of plays.
Agencies like BMI and ASCAP collect royalties for you and direct deposit them to your account at minimal costs. This is essential if you plan to make this a career. Be sure to compare royalty collection agencies as some will only collect from your country and not internationally. Also, look into companies such as, Songtrust and Soundexchange. There are many different types of royalties you can be owed and you want to ensure you collect them all. You can be paid as a writer, performer, producer, and owner of your song. A combination of BMI (or ASCAP), Distrokid, Songtrust, and Soundexchange will allow you to maximize your payouts on your music.
Step 9: Producing a Video
A music video is a great way to promote your music, and more importantly yourself. Your social media should include photos of you that look professionally taken. This can be done with your phone at this level with phone cameras being as advanced as there currently are. Music videos will help take your image to the next level. While not a necessary part of the process, they can help create that brand you need to rise above others. Not every song requires a music video. Some songs promote a strong message or create a vibe that listeners may want to get behind. These songs supplemented with an MP4 video file can boosts listeners in a major way. Video costs can be highly expensive. Always search locally for people you may know that can handle the job professionally before blindly spending money. If affordable, proceed with the video.
In lieu of a video due to high costs or other reasons, create a simple lyric video or logo video with your music behind it. These work as fine placeholders for video streaming sites such as YouTube or Dailymotion. Most computers come with a preinstalled video editor that can be used to create these easily and for free. Again, Fiverr is another simple source of networking. Video producers offer their services on the site as well. Always take a moment to consider this option for easy savings.
Step 10: What’s Next?
You are now an artist in the music community. Repeat the process to create new songs. Your experience will only make you better and more focused on your style. When you’re loving your music, others will too. Never give up on pursuing your dream. Constantly reevaluate your goals and set new marks. Keep yourself challenged and grow from both positive and negative experiences. Do live performances locally whenever possible. Make new songs. Network with others like you in your area. Hopefully you will get noticed by the right people and become a star. Believe in your process and trust your path. You are now in the music industry!
Be sure to follow CL KID for future articles and content: https://linktr.ee/CLKID