Thursday, 16 April 2015

7 Steps To Pop Super Stardom (And You Won't Have To Lose The Shirt Off Your Back Either)

They say everyone has a book or a a pop song hiding somewhere inside of them. I don't know about the book, but the song? Here's 7 simple steps you can take right now to turn a potential hit pop tune into reality!

1. Compose a catchy song - kinda goes without saying, almost.

2. Grab a DAW, short for digital audio workstation (sequencer) and download onto your laptop. There are some great free DAWs you can use - check out LMMS, for example (just Google it). Or for less than $100, try Cockos Reaper, Mutools Mulab or Zynewave Podium. I've tried each one and they're all extremely good.

3. Create the drum, bass and instrument tracks. Don't mix them down.

4. Buy a half-decent USB microphone (the Yeti from Blue Microphones is excellent and costs around $130). Record the vocal track of the song in your DAW of choice.

5. Now do two things - convert the completed tracks (drums, bass and instruments) into a midi file; and create a WAV file of the tracks with the vocals included.

Recording studio

That's phase one of the project completed. The next step, Step 6, involves finding a reasonably-priced recording studio to professionally record the vocals. Unless you plaster your living room or broom cupboard with cardboard egg cartons, to absorb both audible and inaudible extraneous noise, you'll never be able to achieve the desired vocal quality.

So how much will that cost you? Shop around. About $30 (£20) to $45 (£30) an hour is not unreasonable. And three hours in the studio should be more than enough time to lay down the vocals. Just hand the studio the midi track you've saved onto a pen drive and, hey presto, there are your drums, bass and instrument tracks ready to go. The WAV file simply allows the studio to gain an impression of what the vocals sound like against the instruments.

If, at this point, you decide the track perhaps needs the addition of a guitar part, ask the studio if they can suggest a competent and reasonably-priced session guitarist. Most studios will have several musicians that they regularly use. Anything around $110 (£75) per hour is reasonable - it shouldn't take any more than an hour to lay down a guitar track, for example.

Adding it up

So let's add up what we've spent so far:

Catchy song - $0.00; DAW - free to $100 (£67); microphone - $130 (£87); studio time, including session guitarist - around $225 (£150). Total cost: $455 (£305) (approximately).

We'll probably need to add maybe two hours of mixdown time in the studio to produce a master copy of the track, as well as MP3 and WAV versions to upload to music stores and streaming websites. So add another $60 (£40) to the cost, which brings the total to $515 (£345).

But there's one final piece of the jigsaw to consider, Step 7, distribution, to the likes of  iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other top stores and streaming websites. And, again, that'll bump up the final bill.


However, unless you know about ISRC numbers and bar codes, which have to be incorporated into your MP3 or CD in order for official music charts around the world to track any sales you make, you're better off leaving that side of things to one of the many distribution companies which you can find online. And because there are plenty of them, offering all sorts of plans and deals, it can all become rather confusing and time consuming.

The use of a distribution company is vital because they know how to correctly format the track so it'll be accepted by iTunes and the other stores. And many will issue the track with an ISRC number and bar code as part of the deal.

After much research and deliberation, I finally went with DistroKid. Their plans start at $19.99 (£13.50) per year, which allows you to upload unlimited songs and albums. And they're fast and deliver precisely what they say. I'm impressed (and, no, I'm not an affiliate or something like that).

So there you have it, a final bill of around $535 (£359) and seven steps to potential pop super stardom. Marketing is the next stage, of course, but that's a story for another day.

And here is an example. Click  on the 'We Are Skittles' tab at the top of the page to listen to the end result, or simply click this link instead. Money well spent? Let me know what you think.

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