Music Production and Promotion Tips

How Much Do DJs Get Paid?

Posted on | September 2, 2012 | No Comments

Being a DJ is many people’s dream job. Touring around dropping your favourite tracks for money, being worshipped by audiences everywhere and having a working environment which is the pinnacle of most peoples’ social lives. If you’re a music lover, being a DJ is probably something you’ve dreamt of at some point, but as with any career or part time job, you have to consider the financial implications, so how much do DJs get paid, and is it a viable career option?

The first thing to say is that just like any other career, there are different levels of success and popularity, and along with that comes different price brackets. Not only this, there are loads of different styles, genres and audiences that require DJs, which will also dictate how much a DJ gets paid…

A ‘Local’ DJ

I’m calling it a Local DJ anyway. What I mean by this is the kind of DJ that will play parties and events locally as well as the odd bar and nightclub. Depending on what sort of an area you’re in, this can be enough work to keep you going, and is certainly a great way to make money to get you through your education or alongside another part time job. Be warned, though, this isn’t the most glamourous of jobs in the DJing field, and you should be prepared to do some unfulfilling gigs (kids parties, weddings etc.) in order to make some dollar. Basically, your pay will be in the hundreds rather than thousands weekly, and there will probably be dry spells, but Local DJs can definitely make enough money to get by and even live comfortably.

A ‘National’ DJ

Now we’re talking about what most people who want to be DJs will aspire to. By national DJs I mean those in demand in multiple locations, and who will get calls asking them to play hundreds of miles away. If you’re in demand like this, prepare to be able to charge thousands per gig, and to have the creative freedom to play whatever you like (not the cheesy songs you’ll be asked to play at family functions). National DJs can make a lot of money if they stay busy, more gigs are available on a wider spectrum, and pay can be sizeable. Hundreds of thousands of dollars/pounds aren’t out of the question if you stay busy.

A ‘Superstar’ DJ

It’s no secret that the best DJs in the world get to superstar celebrity status. Now, I’m talking international, full blown tours, playing the biggest clubs and most renowned venues in the world, and probably dabbling in producing music too. If you play your cards right, have a good team and a good business mind, as well as being incredible at spinning tracks, millions are not out of the question. In fact, DJ Tiesto is famously rumoured to charge a Million dollars to play ONE GIG. These really are celebrity realms and wont be reached with ease, but it’s achievable. Go forth and drop the tracks, and see where you can get to in your DJ career…

Best Cover Band Songs

Posted on | August 27, 2012 | No Comments

If you’re in a cover band, you’ll know that your choice of songs is absolutely essential. The chances are that as a cover band, you’re mainly booked for functions or events, and you’re expected to lift the mood and give people something to dance or rock out to! Nobody will want to hear a cover of a Kraftwerk B Side or an Aphex Twin track I’m afraid, and you have to make sure you choose the right tracks for your set list. So what are the ultimate best cover band songs for you to wow your audience and fill the dance floors? Below is a huge list of the tried and tested with a few wildcards thrown in for good measure. Some are fast, frantic dance numbers, some are to take it down a notch and bring a bit of romance, and some are just for the shear beauty.

Aretha Franklin – Respect
Aretha Franklin – Rescue Me
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Micheal Jackson – Blame It On The Boogie
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man
Oasis – Dont Look Back In Anger
Oasis – Wonderwall
Elvis Presley – Hound Dog
The Who – Pinball Wizard
The Who – My Generation
The Kinks – You Really Got Me
The Kinks – Lola
Alice Cooper – Schools Out
Elvis Costello – Pump It Up
Billy Idol – White Wedding
Kool and The Gang – Ladies Night
Prince – When Doves Cry
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
The Police – Dont Stand So Close to Me
The Police – Message in a Bottle
B-52s – Love Shack
Stealers Wheel – Stuck in the Middle
Prince – 1999
The Knack – My Sharona
No Doubt – Don’t Speak
Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star
U2 – One
U2 – Vertigo
U2 – With Or Without You
Foo Fighters – Everlong
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man
Kings Of Leon – Sex On Fire
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
The Troggs – Wild Thing
Bill Haley and The Comets – Rock Around The Clock
The Monkees – I’m a Believer
The Killers – Mr Brightside
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
Eagles – Hotel California
Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
Chuck Berry – Jonny B. Goode
The Jam – Town Called Malice
Paul Weller – You Do Something To Me
Carly Simon – Nobody Does it Better

The list is endless really, and I could go on. The point is that some of the songs listed above might not be the most fulfilling to play or artistic/creative, but they’re crowd pleasers, and that’s exactly what you’re looking for in a covers band. I realise some might not sound like they suit your style or ability, but you can put your own slant on it, that’s what cover versions are all about.

Feel free to post any more genius ideas for the best cover band songs in the comments below.

Producers That Use Logic and Logic Pro

Posted on | August 21, 2012 | No Comments

It is always interesting to know what synths, instruments and software the top producers are using to make their music. Whether you’re an aspiring musician or a professional, it’s good to keep abreast of the trends in the industry, software being one of them. DAWs and software have changed hugely over the last 10 years, and are always being reinvented and reworked. Software has become more accessible and we’re even seeing songs work their way into the charts and onto the radios that have been produced on cheap software that you wouldn’t call industry standard. Logic and Logic Pro however have continued to stamp their authority on the world of music production, and the software is used by some top musicians and producers, as listed below.

Mark Foster (Foster the People) - Foster the People shot to prominance in 2011 with a string of hit songs including ‘Helena Beat’, ‘Call it What You Want’ and ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ which featured on their album Torches. Mark Foster said about using the Software; “Logic felt so intuitive, as if a musician had created it. It really sped up my workflow while letting me stay creative. I didn’t have to be a sound engineer to work the program, so I could just be a songwriter.”

Markus Dravs (Producer who has worked with Coldplay, Brian Eno and Arcade Fire) – Top Producer Markus Dravs is a huge advocate of the program, with an interview about the recording and production of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’, he said;  ”It’s important to me to be able to keep working on a project, whatever the surroundings or hardware available. Many times I would take a session and continue working on it while traveling somewhere. Second, I enjoy having a few smaller satellite stations set up so band members can experiment with ideas and bring them to the table while other things may be going on elsewhere. Finally, because I also enjoy working on different styles of music quite a bit, I try to introduce programmed aspects into band productions and acoustic instruments into a more electronic environment: Logic gives me the best of both worlds.

Franz Ferdinand – Brit rockers Franz Ferdinand are big advocates of Logic too, and once again talk about how easy it makes composing on the go, as charismatic frontman Alex Kapranos says:  “When I want to get an arrangement together, Logic is brilliant for that, and very, very straightforward. It lets you get to a rough demo really quickly.”

“Switch” AKA Dave Taylor – Producer of the brilliant MIA and composer in his own right, Switch is another who uses Apple’s music software. “I walk into a studio for, say, a new band, and there’s this amazing mixing desk in a huge room, and I say to them, ‘OK, cool, here’s a stereo pair, can you just plug me into the channel and, oh, yeah, take a few hours off.’ I think it surprises people that I really just don’t do anything outside of Logic.”

Other notable users of Logic include electronica duo Plaid, The Killers and Paul Van Dyk, as well as a bunch more that simply haven’t been interviewed on the subject. I use logic myself and am a huge fan of everything it offers my music from composing to mixing and beyond.

Coolest Music venues around Manchester – Zedara

Posted on | August 13, 2012 | No Comments

For decades Manchester has been notorious for its music scene. Dubbed ‘Madchester’ in the late 1980s, the city was home to a style of music which blended dance, alternative rock and psychedelic sounds, to create a unique brand of indie rock. Bands such as the Charlatans, the Stone Roses and New Order, all helped pioneer this movement and lead a cultural revolution. Many other famous musicians, such as Morrisey, were born or raised in the city and helped to build its fame as a musical hub. To this day Manchester still maintains its cultural significance, and has many very popular and exciting music venues.

One of the most famous and entertaining of Manchester’s music venues is the Band On The Wall club. Playing and exhibiting many different artists and genres that might otherwise be ignored this club is a shining example of Manchester’s musical appeal. Run on a non-profit footing, it strives to exhibit as much local talent as possible and give breaks to unsigned artists.

The Deaf Institute is another one of the city’s renowned clubs. Located inside the historically listed Neo-gothic facade of the Deaf and Dumb institute, the venue is aesthetically stunning and also a meeting place for some of the most fashionable of the city’s local musicians and performers. Offering both international and local acts, the club consistently stages an acclaimed variety of shows. It is definitely a must visit for music-savvy tourists.

Manchester also has music venues that can cater for more intimate performances. The Ruby Lounge offers wild nights and a sweaty thrill, with fans able to get up close and personal with some of the city’s finest emerging musical talent. With something on every night, you’re bound to find something to your taste.

There are many great reasons for the music lovers among us to visit Manchester, even if you are just looking for an excellent night out or weekend trip, with the Manchester music scene certain to not disappoint. If you are intending to stay in Manchester overnight, to get the feel of the city and visit as many of its fantastic entertainment venues as you can, it is worth finding a quality hotel. There are many, many places to stay in and around Manchester, all of which offer good quality at low prices. There are also numerous specialty boutique hotels which offer a more luxurious service – well worth the cost if you are feeling decadent. Where ever you choose to stay, Manchester’s music venues will not disappoint, and are sure to leave you spoilt for choice.

Musicians Former Jobs – Before They Were Famous

Posted on | August 9, 2012 | No Comments

We’ve all seen ‘before they were famous’ lists before. They’re fun, right?! As well as being fun though, they can be truly inspiring to those of us who are having to work in jobs we dont necessarily care about while trying to create a career for ourselves in the music industry. So who are the famous musicians who used to hold down jobs as pen salesmen or zookeepers, and where are they now? Here is our list of musicians and their former jobs.

Madonna – Dunkin’ Donuts

She wasn’t always a queen of pop, and once upon a time Madonna had to pay her way by working at Dunkin’ Donuts in the USA. Apparently our favourite material girl got fired from her position.

Cindi Lauper – Dog Kennel Cleaner

Perhaps girls do just wanna have fun, but I cant imagine Cindi had a lot of fun cleaning out dog poop in her former job as a dog kennel cleaner.

Eddie Vedder – Security Guard

Grunge icon Eddie Vedder used to work as a night time security guard, which I can believe. If you believe the rumours, he was sacked for playing his guitar on the job.

Ozzy Osbourne – Trainee Plumber.

Ozzy Osbourne; prince of darkness… and O bends. To prepare himself for the heavy metal lifestyle, Ozzy worked as a plumbing trainee in his native UK.

Rod Stewart – Grave Digger

Rod was a talented sportsman as a kid, and had trials at many of the UKs best football (soccer) teams. Having failed to make a career as a footballer he had to take a job digging graves. Fortunately he didn’t stay there for long and moved into music as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Jennifer Lopez – Legal Assistant

J Lo used to ply her trade in an office job for a firm of lawyers, slightly different to the variety act she has become today.

Kurt Cobain – Janitor

Perhaps Kurt’s life of grunge inspired him to coin the genre of grunge music. Famously, Cobain was a janitor before he found fame as frontman of Nirvana. Perhaps he quit because of the smell of teen spirit.

Mariah Carey – Waitress

Having survived just one day training as a beauty consultant, Mariah Carey says she was fired from loads of waitress jobs before she found fame. I’m not completely surprised.

Mick Jagger – Porter at a Mental Hospital

Mick payed his way through school by working at a mental hospital.


Lists like this are always a bit of fun, and it is interesting how life can change paths. Hopefully this will act as inspiration for those of us who have to get up and work a job we’re not passionate about on our quest for musician status.

The Demo CD – A Musician’s Best Friend

Posted on | August 6, 2012 | No Comments

The demo CD has been around since the birth of home recording, superseded by the demo tape and with its routes set firmly in the 80s, demo CDs have become easier and easier to produce and are more useful than ever. During my studies of music, and pursuit of a career producing music for movies and television, a wise man once told me that I must always carry a demo CD – ALWAYS. It is a gold nugget of advice that has stayed with me, and here is why your Demo CD should be carried around like a religious text.

Firstly, they’re probably better produced than ever before. Home recording is of a decent quality these days, and there are recording studios in many towns and cities which will make sure your tunes are sounding their best, or at least good enough for people to take them seriously.

So why do I always need to have one? I’m not saying you’re going to meet the head of EMI while you’re sitting at a bar or popping to the shop for some milk, but the truth is you never know who you’re going to meet, and every new fan or contact you can create is worth doing so, and will act as a stepping stone on your route to success.

Picture the scene; an aspiring musician gets talking to somebody at a train station, at the shops, in a bar… this ‘somebody’ doesn’t look particularly smart or important, they’re just friendly. Lets face it, a musician will eventually turn the conversation to music, at which point the newly found friend might but in with ‘oh my Dad runs a venue in x town’ or ‘my Mother is a journalist, she writes about local musicians’. Boom, a stepping stone. ‘Okay, cool, I’ll leave my demo CD with you.’ The demo CD is a tangible thing that wont be forgotten, once they have it on their person it is a reminder of what they have agreed to do. Compare this to ‘Oh okay, cool, I don’t have anything to leave with you, but my band is called “x”‘ – besides there probably being a few bands sharing your name, the person may forget not only you but your band name, and their contact never hears your music.

It isn’t all about making contacts either. Fans are just as important! How much will somebody treasure the gift of a demo CD directly from the artist if you go on to make a success of yourself. Building a personal relationship around your music will mean that if your music is liked, your new friend will become an advocate and promotional machine for your music. Every single person you can get to join your tribe is so important.

We live in an age of MP3s and iPods, but it is so important as a musician that you remember to carry a physical CD (or a bunch of them) with you at all times. It’s your best promotional tool; why leave it at home?

Programming Drums

Posted on | July 2, 2012 | No Comments

Whether you’re a maker of Jazz, rock and roll, Dubstep or Hip Hop, advances in musical technology over the last 15-20 years have made it possible for the average Joe bedroom musician to program their own drum beats on a computer rather than having to rely on standard recordings and bland, rehashed and reused loops. There are loads of ways to program drums now, and it can be a bit of  a minefield getting started, so here is Zedara’s guide to programming drums.

Firstly, you’ll need a DAW. “A What?!” Digital Audio Workstation, a program that allows you to put multiple tracks together and start to build a song. This is the very core of making music on a computer and you may well already have experience with one. My personal weapon of choice is the amazing Logic Pro Studio, but it’s not cheap, and for beginners I would recommend starting out with something like Fruity Loops or Reaper. I’m not going to go into the specifics of starting new tracks on these pieces of software, otherwise this article might end up the size of a Tolstoy book, so you’ll have to refer to a manual for that .

From here, you have a couple of choices. You can use a VSTi or virtual instrument to create your drum loops, or you can drag and drop the samples yourself. What’s the difference? Well, a Virtual Instrument such as Logic’s ESX24 will allow you to load all of your drum sounds onto a midi track, and play it like any other instrument, or map out the MIDI keys manually. This might be a good call for a beginner, and a good way to get started in creating beats, but for the most control, I would suggest that you add tracks manually and drag and drop the samples, simply because it gives you much more control over things like effects once the beat has been made.

You’ll need a good set of sounds to get on your way, too. Fortunately, lots of the more expensive softwares come with loads of samples to get you on your way. Logic has a load of drum kits and samples to get started with. Failing this, unfortunately you may have to open your wallet for good quality samples, but to get yourself going, google ‘free drum hits’ or ‘free drum samples’ and you’ll find some useful sounds.

Finally, you’ll need an understanding of music, and the genre you are creating drums for. For example. a Dubstep beat, nine times out of ten will be at 140 bpm, and the time signature is 4/4. If this is gobbledegook, make sure you look for some information on beats, bars, time signatures and tempos to get a grasp of the subject. If you want to make Dance music, you’ll want a tempo around 123-130bpm, drum and bass is at about 165-170, the list goes on. Listening to music that you hope to emulate and taking tips like this are fine, just make sure you dont end up copying them outright.

Drums are the basis of most types of music, and are important to get right. If you can program beats well, you’re half way to a decent track. It’s an art that takes a lot more than what I’ve mentioned above to master, but keep going and you’ll get there. Happy drumming folks.

How to Promote Your Band on Facebook

Posted on | June 25, 2012 | No Comments

Facebook is a big player when it comes to promoting just about anything these days. The social media site is a hub for a huge portion of the population, who use Facebook day in day out, and it’s growing all the time, too. Social media makes it simpler to reach your target audience than it ever has been before, and to hook them into your network for the future. Used correctly, the big blue website can be a massive help in the career of a musician, and you might even ‘go viral’ and end up being the talk of the world! (Okay, it’s a pipe dream, but it could happen!)

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with Facebook ‘pages’, if you’re not, stop at this point and head over to google to do a bit of research (hey, I cant do everything around here). To make the best of promoting your band on Facebook, you need one of their pages. Got one? Great. What to do with it? Well first off, you should make it look appealing. Fill in loads of information, make sure your music can be heard on the page and that anything you have that can show what you do (youtube videos, soundcloud recordings etc.) are embedded on your page and allow people to judge whether they’re fans of your music or not. Get a photo or two on there, and your band logo, professional looking ones, not something you made on MS Paint! You can get a half decent logo made for you on Fiverr.com for $5, so there’s really no excuse for not looking pro, and you can take a decent photo on a new iPhone, so again, it’s not unattainable – present yourself as best you can.

Now it might be time to call on some favours. You will need a helping hand with your band page in order to get people to ‘like’ your band. Ask your friends and family first, and start closer to home! Once you have a platform of even 5o fans, you can ask them to share your page with their friends and so on and so forth, you can grow your network of fans a little like this. On top of this, people that dont know you and hit your page will see that you already have some fans, and know you mean business!

In my opinion, the key to getting a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook is integration. You must be producing loads of content, music, videos and otherwise, and putting them out there for people to see both on your Facebook page (peoples friends will see any content that your friends ‘like’ or comment on) and outside of Facebook too – somebody may see a Youtube video of yours and if your Facebook link is within, go on to ‘like’ your page. If it is presented as discussed then you will be presenting the right image to get people interested.

The alternative method of getting ‘likes’, and one worth considering, is to run an advertising campaign within Facebook. Not ideal, I know, as it’s not FREE like the methods I’ve talked about already, but if you have any budget at all that you can sling on a Facebook ad campaign, you can target your ads in a way that will get you seen by a relevant audience. Inspired by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Facebook lets you advertise just to their fans if you want, and this is a great way to kick start your page. Remember, once you have somebody on your page they will see your updates until they ‘unlike’ you, so even if you pay 20 cents for a like, you might gain a fan forever.

The etiquette of your Facebook page is the last thing I will talk about. It goes without saying really, but I’ll make it crystal clear. Don’t spam, don’t do anything that will annoy your fans, and dont post to their news feeds constantly, they will stop paying attention or block you altogether.

How to Start Making Electronic Music

Posted on | June 20, 2012 | No Comments

We all love electronic music, right? And all of the brilliant genres that have sprung from the ability to make music in the world of digital. Making music in every genre is more accessible than ever, and perhaps more exciting than ever because of this.You can start making electronic music too! Exciting, huh? Here’s Zedara’s guide to getting started making dubstep, dance, or anything you might be able to bunch under the ‘electronic’ tag.

Firstly, you’ll need some software, and no it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Personally, as an iMac user, I love Logic Pro for all of my music production needs, and I’d recommend it to anybody, but you might not be a mac user, and you might not have the cash laying around. I only managed to get it myself as I got a huge student discount at the time. The Mac Vs PC debate isn’t one I want to get into here, but for a cross-platform solution, you should look into software such as Reaper. Reaper even has a free version, which makes it amazing for getting started, thought it can be a little clunky at first and takes some getting the hang of. Sequencing and putting multiple tracks into a song may be one of the biggest challenges you face at first, and you need to throw yourself into software to learn how to add these tracks to your music.

Other software I would recommend includes Cubase and Fruity Loops.

My next big tip for getting started with making electronic music is to get your hands on a MIDI keyboard. You can pick them up really cheap these days, and they’ll help when it comes to composing melodies, and even recording drums (you can assign the keys to drum sounds and compose this way).

Learn how to make sounds on a synthesizer or instrument plugin. Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release are the key areas to making an instrument sound. Virtual instrument ‘plugins’ can be applied (and may already come with) your software, and will probably have some ‘presets’ you can use, but if you want to create some awesome synth sounds then try and get your head around how synths work.

Make sure you know plenty about the type of music you’re creating. Hey, I’m all for originality, but you’ll have to draw your inspiration from somewhere. Dont try making dubstep at 200 bpm, it probably wont sound good, try and grow familiar with the way the genre of music in question is made.

Get your hands on some good loops and samples. I’m not saying to make your compositions out of other peoples loops, as this is never going to really get you anywhere, but they can be a great starting point and inspire the rest of a song, usually when I use a loop, by the end of the song I can delete it and replace it with my own sounds, it’s just a foundation to build from. I recommend Looperman.com for samples (you’ll just need to make an account).

My final tip in terms of getting started with making electronic music is more of a psychological one; don’t force it! You can’t force inspiration, so if it’s not working out for you, go do something else and return to your masterpiece later.

Happy music making folks!

Blue Yeti Microphone Review

Posted on | June 13, 2012 | No Comments

We all knew deep down that USB microphones would start to catch up with dynamic and condenser studio mics, and ‘Blue’ microphones seem to be leading the charge. The Blue Yeti Microphone has been on the market a little while now and has certainly caused a stir, but where does it rank, and how suitable is it for your music, vocal or podcast needs?

The first thing that strikes me about this mic, or any mic made by Blue in fact, is just how cool it is! I’m a sucker for all things that look nice and are fun to use, which is one of the reasons I’m such an apple fiend (yes, they’re compatible with mac’s), but these mics look like something a futuristic elvis would hold on stage. The microphone was clearly designed to be ‘plug and play’ and there is very little that is complicated about it when it comes to usability. The mic has simple controls that allow you to adjust Recording Pattern - cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional & stereo – and gain.

The different recording patterns you can use are one of the real plus points to these microphones, and they mean that the microphone is one of the most versatile you’ll come across, and is suitable for podcasting, recording instruments, vocals, voiceovers, field recordings, you name it, this bad boy can do it.

So how does the sound weigh up? Well, surprisingly good actually. USB mics have always been pretty substandard, but the Blue Yeti Microphone really challenges that stereotype. Whether you’re looking to record a vocal track, guitar track, some samples, whatever! The versatility of the microphone means that it really does a solid job of absolutely everything, and the sound is absolutely great. I’m not just talking about bedroom demos either, the blue yeti microphone and other members of the blue mic family have been used in real recordings that can be used in real record stores by bands such as Liars, Manchester Orchestra, TV on the Radio…the list goes on. The mic delivers a clean sound that has been trusted by some top musicians and producers, the idea that this is available in the comfort of your own home is exciting for all DIY musicians.

What do you need to get started with the mic? A recent PC or Mac. That’s it. It has ‘plug and play’ functionality, which means you don’t even need to install a driver to get going. Another stunning features is the fact that (with an adaptor) this plugs into an iPad or iPhone, allowing quality recordings while you’re on the go, and just show off to your friends! The package comes with adjustable stand, USB cable, and instructions.

In summary, this is a beautiful Microphone which will cope with all of your home recording needs without even breaking sweat. Blue microphones mark the next step of a recording transition from expensive studio to bedroom. A must buy.

Get it on Amazon (US)

Get it on Amazon (UK)


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