How Musicians Get an Edge
in the Music Business!
Dennis Lively and Gene Barry
Copyright © 2005 by The LiveMark Company
How Musicians Get an Edge
in the Music Business!
Dennis Lively and Gene Barry
Copyright © 2005 by The LiveMark Company
All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduces,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without written permission from the publisher. No patent
liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information
contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in
the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume
no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability
assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information
Printed in the United States of America
First printing: February 2005
We would like to acknowledge the many great musicians
we have worked with over the years in our careers. Even
though they are very busy with their own businesses, they
have always been helpful, personable and just great people to
talk to and learn from!
Of course, we always have to thank our wives, Cheryl and
Peggy, for everything. They are the ones that make this all
Dennis Lively and Gene Barry
How Musicians Get an Edge
in the Music Business!
Do you ever wonder why some musicians make it in the music industry and others
We've all heard great bands that never even made it off the ground! Where did they
The truth is they didn't cover all their bases. You can be the greatest musician in the
world, and it won't get you anywhere if you don't understand the business!
That’s why I created a website to teach the 4 P’s of the music industry.
Whether you are a amateur or professional musician, you must master these four
areas, or you’re wasting your time.
The 4 P's of the music business are the 4 areas you must master, in order to be
successful as a music artist. They are:
Nail down all four of these and you'll be successful.
...because there really are no other variables.
Of course, that doesn't mean you'll be an international star, but if you want to work
hard to create music that inspires and excites people for a living, the four P's are all
you have to worry about.
Let's examine these 4 requirements right now...
#1...Playing is a given. There are a thousand sites on the internet that deal with
This book is totally different. It teaches you the other 3 P's... the three other books
This is the information that will give you an edge in the music business.
Have you ever seen a really GREAT band and wondered why they weren't "making
I've seen tons of them... bands that are way better than the stuff you listen to every
day on the radio. So what gives? What are they doing wrong?
...they're only concentrating on one or two of the 4 P's. They'll never make it
anywhere if they don't learn to balance the other two or three.
Just because you're playing does not mean you're performing. Any jazz artist can
tell you that. They have watched their crowds thin slowly year after year... and it has
nothing to do with the music (in my humble opinion).
Face it... we live in a visual society. If you want to be successful (in a large market)
you have to learn to accept this fact. It is on your shoulders to make your music
visually entertaining for your audience.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you do cartwheels on stage. Depending on
your style of music, this may be as simple as adding some stage lighting, or
videotaping a performance to pay attention to your facial expressions.
Believe me, you'll be surprised at all the little things you start to notice. Like it or
not... these are all a part of your performance. That's the bad news. Here's the good
Most musicians will NEVER take the time to consider this stuff. They don't want to be
bothered with it. That's good news for you, because it means you've got an edge on
Stop right now, and think of something you could do to add more visual excitement
to your stage show. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive, but if you can
improve one visual aspect every week, you'll be on the right track in no time.
Whatever you do, make sure that it adds to the music. When people talk about your
performance, you want them to comment on how good the music was... not your
bass player's face paint.
Alright, now you know that you have to be entertaining to be successful. Seems
...then why do so few people do it really well?
Maybe for the same reason they don't do the third "P" of the music business.
"What was that third P again," you ask...
Man... start paying better attention, didn't I tell you this stuff is important ;-)
So now you're playing great music and entertaining the crowd visually. The problem
is you need to put more people in the crowd to see that you're doing all this stuff...
You've been there before, haven't you? Your band is doing really great, and you're in
the middle of a show, thinking...
"Man, what's the deal... there should be more people than this! What the hell is
wrong with this town?!"
You know the problem can't be the club, because the TAS band (Totally Awful Sh*t
band) played the night before and drew over a thousand people. You were there, so
you know that the TAS band... well lets be honest... they sucked!
...so how come your band's rippin' it up tonight and there's only a hundred people
there to watch?
Kevin Costner has some great kung-fu-zen-buddhist advice here...
Did you ever see "Field of Dreams"?
No, not the one with all the wolves, the other Kevin Costner movie!
He builds a baseball stadium in his backyard and all these famous baseball players
come back from the dead to play there. He knew it would work because this eerie
voice kept telling him, "If you build it, they will come"
Everyone who watches the movie can tell you it's hokey. They might like the movie,
but they still know it's just cheesy fiction.
So why do musicians still believe "If you book it, they will come"?
It just doesn't make sense... then again, not much in life ever does.
Anyway, If you haven't figured it out yet, the hidden message here is:
PROMOTE YOUR BAND!!!
... sorry, didn't mean to yell, but it's that important!
What's that you were saying...
"I know I need to promote my band... but how do I do that?!"
Good question! Glad to see you're finally paying attention ;-)
...Alright! We're getting somewhere now-only one more P to cover. This one may
actually be the most important in terms of the effort you'll have to put in, compared
to the benefits you'll see.
A band is only as strong as its weakest link. Ninety percent of the time, that link is
production (sound and lighting). Why does it always happen that way?
Well... because it's expensive-and...
... Oh yeah, it's complicated too!
Alright, I know this stuff seems like rocket science sometimes, but the basics are
really easy to grasp...
... as long as you don't make one of these two mistakes:
1. Thinking it's impossible
2. Thinking it's too easy
Everyone seems to run into one of these two problems. Lets examine each one
Thinking it's impossible
The basics of sound and lighting are fairly simple. You don't have to be Brainy
Smurf to make your band sound and look good. You just have to pick up a few new
Why It's the Weakest Link for Most Bands, and What
You Can Do to Fix It
Far too often I see people making music production more complicated than it actually
is. Why do they do this?
Well, they're trying to give rules that apply to sound production for huge venues and
concerts, as well as small shows. No wonder it gets complicated!
As a result, most bands decide that it is just out of their reach to mess with
professional sound and lighting. Of course, they might get a set of speakers and a PA
head, some mics and a few par cans… They may even get a mixing console and
some other pretty expensive equipment. But they never really bother learning much
about the stuff.
That's too bad :-(
For most bands that I've seen, music production is their weakest link. If they would
just take a little time to learn about these things, the difference would be like night
and day! So why don't they do something about it? Well lots of them try reading to
learn more, but the books are written in gibberish.
Perhaps you have read books like this before. More likely, you have started books
like this and put them down, because you felt your time was being wasted. You were
right to do that. You have more important things to do with your time! Spend that
time practicing your instrument, writing, or working on your band's website (you
don't have one YET? Wake up and get with the program, it's 2001!!!). Unless you
plan on doing a lot of consulting and installation work, or running sound in an arena,
the bulk of the music production information in most books is useless.
This section of the site is devoted to giving musicians practical information about live
music production and recording techniques.
Instead of a class on physics, I am going to give you all the tips, tricks, secrets, and
shortcuts that professional companies use every day to make bands just like yours
sound their best. My reasoning behind this strategy is simple. Why give you thirty
pages of information on reading microphone specs, when I could just tell you which
ones to buy and how to use them.
I know what you really want. You want it spelled out in black and white, without all
the technical mumbo jumbo. Many books will tell you that mic selection is based on
personal taste. This is a load of CRAP! There are certain mics that simply sound
better than others. These tend to be a LOT better than their equally priced
competition (by the way, they're probably not the same ones you think I'm going to
recommend). Due to advancing computer technology, music production has
improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. You don't have to pay a million bucks
to take advantage of this emerging technology, either.
Many of the sound manuals on the market have been around for years and are put
out with very little revision to keep them up to date. Because of the vast
improvements made to affordable stage microphones, any sound book more than a
few years old cannot give you any good advice on selecting components because the
technology changes so rapidly. This statement is also true of all the other gear that I
am going to recommend (especially electronic gear!).
One of the main problems with the other books written about music production is
that they cover too much ground. The author will explain the theory behind speaker
construction, so that no matter how big or small the system, the book will apply. By
trying to reach so many different people, they become less useful. You are paying for
information that you don't want or need. As a result, you have to read through all
this technical stuff that you don't care about and are never going to use (that is if
you don't get frustrated and tear the book up first).
One of the most important things I ever learned in life was that if you try to satisfy
everyone, you end up satisfying nobody. If you are interested in the physics of how
sound works, or the parts of a speaker, you can go to Barnes & Nobles and read
those books for free, while you drink a cup of mocha strawberry coffee. I'm not
going to make you waste time on something you can read for free. By the way, if
you are interested in any of these books, I will be listing them, with links to
Amazon.com, when I have a little more time.
Instead, I will give you all the information that you need to put together and run a
sound system that will adequately cover a crowd up to about 500 people. If your
needs become larger down the road, you can easily add more amplifiers and
speakers later. I have found that this will suit the needs of most bands or clubs, and
these are the people that need professional quality music production, but are unable
to pay a contractor hundreds or thousands of dollars to design that system for them.
If you think that means you, then let's get started.
A Crash Course in Stage Mic Techniques
for the Live Band
Now that we understand the basics of a mixing board, we need a way to get signals
into it… enter the wonderful world of wired and wireless stage microphones. Think of
a microphone as an ear. If you are standing right in front of a guitar player on a
small stage, the guitar is going to be louder than the other instruments. That's why
all the sounds are directed into a mixer… to blend them together. You can't just put a
mic anywhere on stage because it will pick up all of the sounds around it equally. If
you mic a kick drum a foot in front of the drum, the mic will probably pick up the
guitar also. When you try to put more low frequencies in the kick, you will also be
adding them to the guitar.
This may seem obvious, but it shows us that microphone placement is VERY
important when trying to get the right sort of sound. When a mic on one instrument
picks up the sounds of other instruments, we call it bleeding. There are two basic
ways that we keep sounds from bleeding on stage.
The first way is to use directional microphones. Directional microphones pick up
sound in only one direction (imagine that). Other types of microphones are called
omnidirectional (pick up sound equally from all sides) and figure 8 (don't worry
about it). There are three types of directional microphones. They are 1) cardioid, 2)
hypercardioid, and 3) supercardioid. These are referred to as polar patterns. They
determine where the mic picks up most of the sound. For example, a cardioid mic
picks up most of its sound from the front of the mic, a little from the sides, and
hardly anything from the back. A supercardioid picks up mostly from the front also,
but it picks up less from the sides and a more from a narrow area in the back. This
will be important when we get to the subject of monitors and feedback.
Besides the polar pattern, there are two basic types of microphones--- Dynamic and
condenser. Because of the way they pick up sound, condensers tend to sound a little
better, especially in the higher frequencies, however on stage, you will want to use
almost all dynamic mics, because:
1) They can handle more abuse
2) They can handle higher sound pressure levels (volumes) such as drums and loud
3) They are generally a lot cheaper
I have listed microphones right after mixers, because these are the two important
parts of a sound system. If you get good mics and a good mixer, you will be much
better off than if you have junky microphones and expensive speakers or amplifiers.
This works off one of the most basic rules of sound: Garbage in… garbage out. In
other works, if you get a bad sound in the beginning of your sound chain because
you have cheap mics, or you put them in a bad location, the best speakers in the
world can't do much to make them sound better.
When buying mics, we need to pay special attention to two things: the vocals
(especially the lead vocal) and the kick drum. I swear to you that if a sound engineer
can get a good solid kick drum sound that hits the audience in the chest, and a vocal
that is clear and easy to make out, without being piercing… he can get away with
murder after that! I'm not saying that you should just mic the kick and the vocals…
but it makes sense to spend more money and pay special attention to the sounds
that the crowd is going to immediately lock in to.
As far as kick drum, advances in microphone construction have produced some
incredible mics recently. I will make this part very easy on you. Buy either a Shure
Beta 52, or a Sennheiser E-602. Either of these mics will make your kick drum sound
great (assuming that you use the micing techniques I cover in the other sections).
You can expect to pay around two hundred dollars for either one.
For a long time, the AKG D112 was a mainstay of live sound reinforcement. They
were great mics, but they just can't stand up against newer technology. There are a
number of other microphones you may hear about for kick drum. Many of them are
very good, but they all have their faults. For instance, the Audio Technica ATM25 is a
great mic, but it distorts at higher SPL's. Stick with the 53 or the E-602.
For lead vocal, you will need a mic that not only sounds good by also rejects other
sounds around it, so you don't have guitar and cymbals bleeding into it. You will also
need a microphone with good feedback rejection to get the high monitor levels most
lead singers like (they just can't get enough of themselves). I recommend the Audix
OM-5. Not only does this mic sound good, they pick up very little stage noise, and
can be turned way up in the monitors without feedback problems. They're also pretty
close to indestructible. They run a little under two hundred dollars. I recommend you
look for one used online. (Actually, this is the way I recommend looking for most of
the gear you buy.) A friend of my just told me at a show last night that he bought
his OM-5 on e-Bay for $80. It's in perfect condition… and that's half what most stores
will charge you!
If you can afford to spend a little more, the Shure Beta 87 is a professional stage
standard. However, this mic is a little more prone to feedback and tends to pick up a
lot of extra stage noise… especially cymbals!
For cheaper backup vocal microphones, there are a number of options. The Shure
SM58 is a long time standard, known for its durability. The Audix OM-2 is also a good
mic. Both run about a hundred dollars. The most important advice I can give on
choosing backup vocal mics is to be realistic about how often they will be used. If the
guitar player only sings a few notes during the choruses, don't spend a lot of money
that could be put to better use elsewhere. At the same time, don't go and buy a ten
dollar mic from Radio Shack, because it will pick up the rest of the instruments on
stage and sound like crap, not to mention cause a lot of feedback problems.
For guitar, the Shure SM57 is a tried and true standard. If you can afford to spend a
little more money, you can get a Beta57 or an Audix D3, but the SM57 will do the
job just fine in most cases. Bass guitar, on the other hand should be run direct. Most
bass amps have a direct output built in. If you run into one that doesn't, you can
plug the bass into a direct box. There will be an output to run from the box to the
bass cab on stage, and a mic output to run into the mixer. Whirlwind makes good
direct boxes, or you could just go with a cheaper Rapco or similar box (although I
don't recommend it). If you play bass and you're looking for a really good direct box,
try a SansAmp Bass Driver. It has a great preamp and EQ circuit, but it's kind of
expensive (as far as direct boxes go) for about two hundred dollars.
PA System Speakers
What You Need To Know
I have chosen to discuss PA system speakers before amplifiers for one very
important reason. After everything is mixed, we must reproduce the music so that
everyone can hear it. When most people think about volume, they think about
amplifiers (watts). The best way to increase volume is NOT bigger amps. There are
two important reasons for this:
1) Due to physics (magic), you must triple the power of an amplifier to make it
sound louder (A 300 watt amplifier will only be noticeably louder than a 100 watt
amp). To double the volume you hear you have to increase the power TEN TIMES!!!
In other words to make a 1,000 watt PA system twice as loud you'd need 10,000
2) Some speakers are more efficient than others (one will be louder than the next).
This comparison is measure by the speaker's SPL (sound pressure level). Try to find
a speaker with the highest possible SPL to get the most bang for your amplifier buck.
By the way, some companies try to cheat this rating. Make sure that the SPL was
measured at "1 watt/1 meter".
If your looking for well rounded, bang for your buck PA system speakers, JBL,
Yamaha, Carvin, and EV are all good picks. When looking for speakers, I recommend
you look for a double 15" and horn speaker. These are usually 4 ohm cabinets. You
don't have to know what that means, just know that you will get more power (and
therefore more volume) out of the same amplifier than with 8 ohm cabinets. There
are trade offs, of course, but they can easily be minimized. These cabinets also tend
to be slightly more efficient (louder per watt) than their single 15" counterparts.
Besides, I think pole mounted speakers look cheesy, don't you?
There are so many variables to speakers, and their response in a particular
environment, that it would be a waste of time to even bring them up. Instead of
burying you in useless technical garble I will give you some tips on PA system
Go listen to different speakers at your local music store. If possible go someplace
where they know you, so you won't feel rushed. Compare speakers by playing a
familiar CD through them.
* Be sure to use the same song and amplifier on each speaker and don't use any EQ.
* Listen to the way the PA system speaker sounds at different volume levels. Don't
get stuck buying something that sounds like a wet fart when you turn up the volume,
just because you were afraid to turn it up at the store. The same speaker will not
sound exactly (sometimes not even vaguely) the same at two different volume
levels. Be sure to ask first before you crank it up!
* Ask the salesperson if you can try them out in a club that you play often…
absolutely do this if you are installing the speakers permanently.
* If they say no and you're still not totally comfortable, go somewhere else. Most
good mail order companies offer a thirty day return policy. Try your local retailers
first to avoid return shipping costs. If you threaten to use a mail order company,
many stores will make concessions, rather than lose your business.
* Remember… you're just trying to get your money's worth. Don't let anyone rush
you into a decision you'll regret later.
* Never make a decision about a PA system speaker without having another to test it
against--- Don't buy the first speaker you listen to just because the salesperson tells
you it sounds good. Go forth and compare!
These guidelines should put you on the right path to finding a set of speakers to suit
your individual needs
Six Home Recording Studio
Here's six home recording studio secrets. Follow these guidelines on your next
project and take your home recording to the next level.
1.) Great Mic+Great Preamp= Great Tone
This is the single most important element in the home recording chain. If you can
only afford to spend a few hundred dollars on microphones, DON'T buy an
assortment of mics. Buy ONE good mic and ONE good preamp. If you're on a budget,
the Audio Technica AT4033 is a terrific mic for the home recording studio. If you can
afford to spend a little more, the newer, Shure KSM 32 is nearly impossible to beat
for the price.
Match either of these with a good quality tube preamp and you are on your way to
great tone. If you can't swing the price, consider borrowing or renting one from a
friend, local music store, or recording studio. Many mail order stores offer a 30 day
money back guarantee on their merchandise. Most home recording sessions could be
finished in less than thirty days ;-) If you can't find any way to get your hands on a
decent mic and preamp, either try harder, or don't bother reading the rest of this
article. You'll just be wasting your time... which brings us to rule #.2
2.) Garbage in... garbage out
This is one of my favorite home recording studio expressions. It basically means that
you should always try to improve the sound at the SOURCE, or at lease as close to
the source as possible. For instance, if your gear sounds like #*@#, no amount of
fancy studio gear will ever make it sound like a great rig. If someone tells you that
they'll just fix a problem "in the mix", tell them politely to stop and fix it NOW. If
you're paying that person to record your band, pack your gear and get out before
you waste any more of your money! Remember, always try to get a good sound at
the source. The next two tips offer some advice on ways to improve your "source
3.) Use a track sheet to keep track of your tracks!
Writing down what you record, as you do it will save you LOTS of headaches in the
long run. Use a separate track sheet for every song. That way you won't get
confused when one song has a harmonica on track 6 and the next song has a vocal
harmony on the same track. I also like to make notes about each track I record. I
write down mic placement, EQ, and amplifier settings. That way I can reproduce the
sound (or at least get close) later if I have to. You can buy track sheets, but the
easiest thing to do is just get a calendar, or print them out on computer. Use a
different page for each song.
4.) Eliminate background noise
Before recording every track, turn up the volume on your control room speakers or
headphones. Now listen for background noise. What do you hear? Can you hear cars
on the interstate... hum from ceiling lights... your dog barking outside... washing
machine...sound of an air conditioner vent right above your overhead drum mic? Try
to eliminate as many of these problems as possible. Turn off the AC and the dryer
while you're recording. If you have a dog, make sure he has something to chew on--
who knows how many of the best guitar solos ever recorded had to be scrapped,
because Fido started barking halfway through a truly zen moment. Finally, find a
lamp that won't hum... or play by candlelight. The intimate vibe often brings out the
best in singers.
A little bit of background noise may seem like no big deal, but when you add that
little bit from each one of the tracks you record, it adds up. If it's not part of the
song, keep it off the tape!
5.) Add effects at mixdown, NOT during recording.
Sometimes, it's hard to get a good idea of how the elements of a song will blend
until they're all recorded. If you add effects while recording, you're stuck with them!
You'll be pretty upset later when that perfect vocal track that took you all day is
washed out with reverb, and there's nothing you can do about it! There may be
limitations, depending on how many effect sends your mixer has. If you want to use
more effects than you have sends, you may have to do a little planning ahead. On
the other hand, if you have lots of sends, you can add all your effects after you finish
recording the tracks. You can even add guitar effects (stomp boxes) this way. Just
remember that you should only add those effects that you would normally put in
your effects loop of your amp (delay, chorus, flange, etc).
6.) Have a plan
* Proper planning will save you loads of time, and insure that your final product
reflects your musical vision. Chart out the structure of every song before recording
it. Write this down. Now, decide on a tempo. Be SPECIFIC. Use a metronome to find
out what bpm (beats per minute) the song grooves at. Write it down.
* Now decide on the melodic focus. Look at the song structure and decide what is
the most important element at each section. There should be a center of focus that is
traded off throughout the song. For instance, during the verse, the focus is usually
the vocal (there are exceptions). The spotlight might then move to the guitar for a
solo, or a melodic bass line in the bridge. Decide on these things early in the game,
so you know how to build around them.
* Chart out the energy of the song as a graph. A song should move and take the
listener somewhere. This is the number one mistake that I find in songwriting, in
relation to planning. The best way to give part of a song an incredible feeling of
energy is to start from nowhere and build it up to a climax. A good example of this is
a bridge that totally breaks down, then slowly builds into a loud rocking outro
chorus. This technique is about as standard as peanut butter and jelly in popular
music. Don't let that keep you from using it. People do it because it's effective.
* Chart out the instrumentation. Make sure that parts are not redundant. A piano
part that is in the same octave range as a clean guitar will get cluttered. You can
only fit so much into the sonic spectrum. Try to keep each part in a separate range,
so they don't fight each other. If you do well at this, a good song, recorded well will
almost mix itself!
I hope these home recording tips make life easier for you in your home recording
studio. I got some neat sounds from experimenting when I was a novice. Ultimately
though, I had to learn from the professionals to get the results I wanted. You could
figure out all that stuff on your own, but it would take forever. Why do that when
you could just learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Find someone who knows more than you and learn from their experience. There are
also a number of good online forums for home studio recording. I recommend
HomeRecording.com. If you have a slow modem, it may take awhile to get around.
This particular forum loads very slowly. But there is a lot of good information in the
home recording studio archives.
How to Postition PA Speakers for
The first big decision you have to make when setting up in a venue is speaker
placement. If will give you a few pointers to get you started and then you will have
to use your ears.
1) Always place the main speakers in front of all the stage mics
2) Make sure your speakers are not in direct contact with the stage (especially the
3) Make sure that your horns (tweeters) are high enough to reach the back of the
crowd. It doesn't do you much good to have them so low they blow the ears off
everyone in the front, and no one in the back can hear them.
4) Keep your speakers from aiming down the length of a wall. If you have to place
speakers against a wall, make sure they are pointed slightly in towards the center of
5) Always put your sub(s) directly on the floor. If possible, you can put them in a
corner to increase the bass. The more surfaces it is in contact the louder it will be.
(roughly 3dB per wall) Take advantage of free volume!
The most obvious place to put the speakers is on either side of the stage. If the
stage does not cover the whole room, this will result in the best sound for the people
who really want to hear the music (the people in front of the stage). Put your amp
rack by the speaker nearest a wall outlet and plug up your speakers. After you get
the rest of the PA set up, you will want to check the placement of the speakers.
Connect a CD Player to a line input of your mixer and play a disc you are extremely
familiar with. It should be a song you have listened to on a number of different
Every room will sound slightly different. The idea is to use a graphic EQ to minimize
these characteristics. When you're finished, the CD should sound vaguely like it does
in your car or home stereo (Of course this is not possible in every venue). You want
to start by adjusting your crossover and changing the angle of your speakers to
figure out what sounds best. While doing this, it's a good idea to keep your graphic
EQ set flat (all the faders at center detent).
After you have adjusted your crossover and speaker positions, it is time to go back
and fine tune with your graphic EQ. Boost each fader one at a time to get an idea
what that particular frequency sounds like. As you do this, listen to the CD and try to
figure out whether that frequency needs to be boosted or cut (or just left alone in
You shouldn't have to make any major changes on your graphic EQ. If you end up
with a curve that looks like a big wave, you probably have a problem somewhere
else in your system chain (or you have crappy speakers).
Unravel the Mystery of the Mixing Console
The mixer, usually called a mixing board or mixing console, is the heart of the sound
system. Looking a mixing board can be intimidating at first, but once you understand
the basics of how they're laid out, everything else is simple. Each vertical column
(that's up and down for you scholars) is called a channel. Once you know what all
the controls on one channel do, you basically understand the whole board, because
it's just more of the same thing. The first thing you will notice at the top of a channel
is a knob labeled Trim or Gain. This works with the fader at the bottom of the board
to control the volume of the instrument in that channel. Along with the fader, this is
the most important control on the channel. I will show you exactly how to use it in
the next section.
Somewhere in the middle of the channel you will find the EQ section. All of the
mixers that I will recommend (Allen&Heath, Soundcraft, Mackie, and Behringer) will
use either a three or four band EQ. A three band EQ will have controls for hi, mid,
and low frequencies. A four band will split the mid frequencies into hi-mids and low-
All three bands will come in one of three different formats. The first is a fixed
frequency or fixed EQ. With a fixed EQ, you can't choose what frequency to boost or
cut. This is usually the way the high and low bands are set up. A fixed EQ section will
be controlled by one knob to control the amount of boost or cut, just like on a home
The next type of EQ is called a sweepable or swept EQ. This type of EQ section has
two knobs. It is just like the fixed EQ, but it adds another knob to adjust the
frequency you want to boost or cut. The last type of EQ is a parametric EQ. If you
end up with a board that has a parametric EQ, you'll probably want to leave the
extra control alone for now. I'll go into more detail on this in the next section.
There may also be high-cut or low-cut switches in the EQ section. Low cut switches
are VERY useful, for getting rid out low frequency noise and cleaning up a mix. Use it
on every channel except the Kick, bass, floor toms, synths and other low frequency
instruments, such as Bari-Sax or tuba (don't laugh, I've actually done sound for a
few bands with tuba players!)
High cut buttons are useful in getting rid of high end hiss and noise, without losing
the crispness of a vocal or instrument (very useful when the guitar player insists that
INSISTS that he needs the presence control on 11 to get "his" sound). There may
also be an "EQ in/out" button. This feature simply turns the EQ on and off, but is
very useful to compare the "EQ'd" sound to the original one.
There! You now understand the different kinds of EQ controls on a mixing board. The
EQ sections of most mixing boards take up much of the space on the board. You
already know what all of those do after only three paragraphs. See, this isn't so
hard! Lets go ahead and knock out another third of those knobs now that they don't
seem so intimidating anymore.
The other large group of knobs on the channel strip will be labeled "aux sends".
These are used for two purposes:
1) Creating monitor mixes for performers onstage
2) Adding effects such as Reverb and Echo.
Sends used for monitor mixes should be pre-fader. This just means that when you
move the fader to adjust the volume of an instrument in the main speakers, its
volume in the monitors stays the same. Post-fader sends are used for effects.
These sends respond to changes in volume (fader) level. That way, when you turn a
vocal down, the reverb on it goes down too. Otherwise, the vocal would become
drowned out when you lower the singer's volume. Some aux sends have switches to
adjust whether they are pre or post. Others just come that way from the factory.
Just remember: Pre for monitors; post for effects. If you get the two confused, just
remember that your monitors always come first. These sends then go to the aux
master sends, which adjust the volume of each mix in the same way that the main
fader controls the volume of the main mix (the PA). You can think of each of these as
a different master volume control for each monitor mix. Effects sends (post fader
aux's) have to be returned to the board, so that they can be mixed in with
everything else. Auxiliary returns are provided for this purpose, but I prefer to return
the effects to a channel so that I can use the channel's EQ to help it blend with the
mix. I know this all sounds confusing, just keep reading and it will all make sense in
Creating monitor mixes
Since each performer may want to hear some instruments louder than others, the
auxiliary sends (aux sends) are used to create individual monitor mixes. It works like
a grid. Say you have two separate monitor mixes. The drummer has one mix
(because they whine the most) and the rest of the band has another mix. We will
send the drummers mix on aux 1. If for instance, he wants to hear more of his kick
drum and the kick is on channel 1 of the board, you would turn up aux send 1 on
channel 1. On the other hand, if he wanted more lead vocal (which lets say is
plugged into channel 16), you would turn up aux 1 on channel 16.
Whenever you need to adjust something in the monitors, just:
1) Go to the channel of the instrument you want to adjust and
2) Go down the channel strip until you come to the aux send for the monitor mix you
want to adjust. It works the same way for two monitor mixes or ten. Effects sends
work in much the same way as monitor sends. For a simple setup I would use a
reverb and a delay. While monitor sends leave the board and go to the monitors
onstage, effects have to come back to the board, so that they can be mixed in with
In other words, just like the monitor sends are creating a little mix for a monitor, the
effects sends are creating another mix of instruments that you want to add a
particular effect to. For instance, if we are using an aux send for a reverb, we would
go to the vocal channel and turn up that aux to put some reverb on the vocal. Then
we might go to the toms and snare and put more reverb on them so they don't cover
up the vocal. Then, this mix goes out of the send and puts reverb on all of this mix.
The "reverb mix" can then be adjusted in to the rest to the mix. If you're not even
sure exactly what reverb is, or how to use it, don't sweat, we'll cover that later.
Don't get me wrong. Like anything else in life, it will require some effort...
BUT...if you are willing to put in that effort, I will give you all the information you
Once you start to grasp these concepts, you will have to avoid the second problem:
Thinking it's too easy
Don't kid yourself. Just because you're a musician (even if you're a great one)
doesn't mean you can automatically tackle lighting and sound engineering. When
musicians spend so much money in these areas, it's amazing that they don't spend
more time learning to use the stuff.
Think about it... a guy spends ten years learning to play guitar. He has two grand
invested in a nice Strat and a Fender combo. He goes out and spends five grand on a
PA system and doesn't even bother to read the manual. Musicians just assume that
sound and lighting systems run themselves...
Don't assume that what you're doing right now is "good enough" (This still applies to
your individual tone, even if you hire out an independent sound contractor). People
that settle for "good enough" always end up dead last. You don't want to end up
there with them! ...if you really pay attention, you'll be amazed at what you'll learn.
You'll eliminate the weakest link in your chain, so that people can really appreciate
Sound engineers love to give advice. If you catch them with the right attitude, you'll
learn a lot. After all, they have to sit in the back of the room all night. They'll gladly
teach you everything they know about EQ and compression, just to have someone to
The point is... learn everything you can! There's a lot to sound and lighting. If you
can master just a little bit of it, the difference will be like night and day for your
I suggest that you absorb the information in thisbook a little bit at a time. Otherwise,
you're bound to miss something. If you play in a band (as opposed to being a solo
performer) a good idea might be to divide duties between members.
Let one person learn about booking, while another gets involved in promotion, and
another into sound engineering, etc. It'll make the task a lot more manageable.
One last point...
...please, please support each other! There's a ton of information out there, and it
can be really overwhelming at times. Support other local musicians. If you find this
site useful, tell your friends, so they can benefit too! This is a hard enough business
to be in, without having to deal with bad attitudes! If you don't love what you do and
you can't support other people trying to do what they love, find another profession...
... I hear there's lots of openings out there for used car salesmen ;-)
Now that you've discovered the other aspects of the music industry, it's time to take
your career or hobby to the next level...
The Poor Man's (Musician's) Guide to Free Advertising
Having problems with music promotion? Can’t get people to come to your shows?
Chances are you need some publicity…
… assuming your band doesn’t suck ;-)
Music promotion is one of the most important (and most often forgotten)
components of a successful music career. It is the third of the “4 P’s” of the music
Don't know what the 4P's are!? You must have skipped over our tutorial for the
...Shame on you ;-)
If you already have a firm handle on the first two P’s, it’s time to learn more about
music promotion. To do that, you have to learn two more P’s (is this “P” thing getting
ridiculous yet, or what ;-)
Publicity and Public Relations
Technically, publicity is part of public relations. I listed it separately here because
publicity plays such a large role in the success of a band or artist…
… and because it starts with a “P” ;-)
Basically, we’re talking about ways to get free advertising. Most often this makes
people think of newspaper and radio coverage. Although these are two good
examples of free music promotion, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
If you want to get specific, a guy who comes to your show and tells his friends about
you is providing free advertising. If his recommendation is strong enough, the guy
he talks to may tell three other guys, and so on…
Don’t think that counts as advertising?
… you’re wrong!
Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing force on the planet… because that
endorsement is coming from a trusted friend, rather than an unknown (such as a
radio or TV commercial)
Huge corporations spend millions of dollars trying to stir word of mouth promotion,
within groups called opinion leaders. Why?
… because it works!
Alright, we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Before you can start a word of
mouth buzz, you have to get people out to your shows to begin with. The problem is
that many clubs aren’t willing to get off their butts to do music promotion for the
bands that play there. This brings up an important question:
Is it the responsibility of the band or the club to promote an event?
Answer: Who cares!
The people who argue this point are the ones who lose the game. While they’re busy
trying to bring justice and equality to the world, the band down the street is handling
their own music promotion. When one artist draws a thousand and the other draws
fifty, who do you think will be asked back…
… not the guy that bugged them about promotion!
Bottom line: If you’re not willing to get out there and do your own music
promotion, nine out of ten clubs will find someone else who will.
Moral of the story...
Put some thought and effort into music promotion and you'll be ahead of ninety
percent of your competition.
Lets find out more about music promotion
The Universal Law of Local Bands and
Before you can have any success on the road, your local band should conquer its
hometown. Consider it a testing ground. You’re close to home, your friends are there
to support you, and you already have contacts with local venues (hopefully).
The best way for a local band to gain popularity over a large area is to start small
and expand that circle gradually. It will take some time for word of mouth to
spread. If you try to bite off more than you can chew, without the proper marketing
behind you (ie: a record label and lots of money) you’ll end up shooting yourself in
By expanding your area slowly, you will build contacts and become a sort of “local
band out of town”, giving you the home court advantage everywhere you play. For
this reason, I will refer to groups as local bands, even when they are playing out of
Chances are most of your gigs will be in clubs or bars. It’s very important that you
understand a few basic principles to put you on firm footing, which brings us to…
The Universal Law of Local Bands and Club Owners
Clubs and bars are in business to make money. Everything you do is just buying you
time, until a more profitable local band comes along. Sorry… that’s just the way the
Can you blame ‘em though? They got into business to make money getting people
drunk, not to save the whales or pay your car insurance!
Here’s what you can do to work with the system, instead of trying to fight it…
Now that you know what club owners are really interested in, you can do a better job
of communicating with them to get what you want.
When you come into town for the first time, tell the owner that with a little exposure,
you can build a good crowd and keep those people coming back. If he thinks there’s
a good chance he’ll make money in the long run, he’s way more likely to do some
music promotion for you. This can literally make the difference, between success and
failure for you. Let him know that you want to build a following, and you’re willing to
work with him to do whatever that takes. Don’t tell him you’re the hippest new
wave of disco fusion metal…
… he doesn’t care! -Unless, of course, he happens to be very into disco fusion metal
Remember, I said that the main factor in getting a club to help with music promotion
was profit, not head count. If a local band only draws a hundred people, but every
one of those people rings up an eighty dollar bar tab, you’re sure to be a hit
everywhere you play!
At the end of the night, if the club owner happens to pay you personally, ask him
how business was. Don’t press the issue, just let him know that you’re concerned
that he does well. Managers and owners like to know that you’re on the same
wavelength as them.
Here’s a surprise: Do the same thing for the bartenders… ask them if they did ok.
Believe it or not, they can be the strongest promotional force you can have. Often,
owners will ask employees for opinions of the band. If that weren’t enough, consider
There may be anywhere from fifteen to a hundred people who call a venue during
the day to ask about the entertainment later that night. Do you know who picks up
You guessed it! If those bartenders like you, they’ll have great things to say about
you over the phone. That’s fifteen to a hundred people who might not have come
… and it didn’t cost you a penny--- the wonders of word of mouth promotion!
If you work hard at these relationships and keeping in mind what motivates each of
these people, they will help you out along the way. On top of that, you’re still going
to have to do some promotion yourself. If you’re on a label, they’ll take care of most
of this for you (for a hefty cost!) Otherwise, you’re going to have to go it alone.
Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Unsigned bands can still make something
happen. You just need a little bit of knowledge behind you to take your local band to
the next level.
Touring and promotion for the unsigned
I’ve mentioned in other areas of this book that local and unsigned bands will often
have to “go it alone”, without promotional help from the clubs they play at. What all
this boils down to is the realization that if you are an unsigned band, you will have to
become your own “one man promotion army”.
Don’t worry… the basics are easy to grasp. Even basic promotion will make a huge
impact, and will cost little or nothing to do.
Ready… ok, first things first…
We start by announcing our gigs to every media outlet possible. At this stage, you
just want to make a big list. Brainstorm any place that provides free entertainment
listings. This will include the local newspapers, as well as the smaller monthly
entertainment guides. Both usually list weekly or monthly event calendars. Nine out
of ten times, it doesn’t cost you a penny to be listed in these.
Ask around and expand your list as much as possible. Many radio stations
(especially college radio) do event calendars. They’ll add your listing for free, so
long as you submit according to their guidelines… which brings us to the next step
Media Contact List
Contact every media outlet on their list and tell them you’re an unsigned band, and
you want to be listed in their entertainment calendar. Ask them what their entry
deadline is. For example, to get into the May listings, you my have to submit by April
15. Also ask what their preferred method of submission is. Make a note next to every
Some editors like you to fax your listings, others prefer to get them by email so they
can just cut and paste. If they give you this option, be sure to take it. It removes the
possibility that their intern, working on three hours of sleep to study for exams, will
misspell your band’s name, when he copies it from the fax. I’ve seen all sorts of
ridiculous misspellings. When people see this, it immediately puts a label on you…
… “small unknown unsigned band”
Some editors will even take calendar listings over the phone. Avoid this if possible…
not only for the above reason, but in a second, you’ll see that it’s more work in the
Alright! Now you have a list of every free media outlet and their preferred method of
submission, along with their deadlines. The next step is to type up your calendar for
the month. If that’s only one or two shows, don’t worry… you have to start
Once your list is typed, it’s just a matter of emailing it or faxing it to every editor. If
you use email, try to use the blind CC function on your email software. We want to
avoid the look of cheap mass submission.
If you’re somewhat computer inclined, use the help feature in your email software to
learn how to do a mail merge (if it has one). This way, you can transfer the name
and personal information for each editor from your list, without having to do it
You’ll be coming back to these people soon to try and interest them in your band.
Start building name recognition early in the game. The more personal you are, the
better their chances of remembering your little unsigned band.
As you get new information about these people (first and last names, nicknames,
etc…) add it to the list we started earlier. It’ll become a valuable resource very
Do it all over again…
As you expand into new cities, you’ll repeat the process each time. Some clubs may
already be aware of all these free advertising opportunities. Asking the owner ahead
of time could save you some research and legwork. On top of that it shows that
you’re doing your part to promote your shows.
If the club already submits to these media outlets, it doesn’t hurt for you to double
their efforts. That way, if they slack off for a week, it doesn’t affect you. Make sure
you’re not irritating the editor or staff, by doubling the submissions. As long as
you’re not pissing anyone off, you’re helping build name recognition with the staff of
----If you’re pissing someone off, you’re still building name recognition… just not the
type you want ;-)
Now that your unsigned band has been listed in all the free resources, we’ll have to
be a little bit creative to find other places to seek publicity.
Free events calendars will only take a few minutes each month to provide a pretty
good payoff. Although there are other “free” methods of advertising, I will list them
in the following sections because they are not really free. They all take time, and
… you get the idea. Even if you have all the free time in the world, it makes sense to
put your effort where the biggest payoff will be.
As an unsigned band, without professional backing, you really have your hands full.
It’s time to start thinking smart and making the most of your time.
That means you have to learn some basics of marketing for the unsigned band
Secrets for bands and artists searching for their target
If you’re an unsigned band, you have to make the most of your promotional efforts.
After all, you only have so many hours a day to take care of business and still write
… time to learn the basics of band and artist marketing… don’t worry, it’s not nearly
as hard as it sounds :-)
Basics of band and artist marketing
The general idea here is to spend your time and effort where they will have the
greatest effect. The first step in this process is to figure out who your audience is.
Do you play for mostly younger crowds, older crowds, men, women, college
Don’t assume that your music appeals equally to everyone. If you’re playing Mozart
Concertos, you need to advertise mainly to older professionals, not inner city youth…
… and vice-versa if your band plays industrial death rap ;-)
I know it sounds simple, but believe me, record labels spend big money on band and
… and they do it for a reason!
I can boil the majority of a five year college education and a degree in mass media
down to one simple idea:
“If you market to everybody, you market to nobody”
Understand? Good, then repeat after me…
“If you market to everybody, you market to nobody”
Figure out what your target market is and then figure out how to reach those
people. In other words, if you’re hanging posters to promote a show (always make
sure it’s legal first) don’t hang them all over the street in the same places every
other band and artist does. You’re wasting your time… why? Because…
“If you market to everybody, you market to nobody”
Sorry, but repetition is the mother of… something… I forgot…
Anyway, instead of hanging those flyers randomly, figure out where your audience
will be. For instance, if you play for an older crowd, ask local restaurants if you can
hang flyers there. Tell them that a number of people that come to the restaurant go
see your shows, and they would be providing a service to their customers, by
advertising your shows.
If your crowd is mainly college students, the best way to reach them is… duh!
… but wait… many colleges won’t let you put flyers up… they make you hand them
Yuk! That sounds like a waste of time!
Instead, get creative and figure out where else you can find that crowd.
Is school just starting back into session?
Aha! Go to the local textbook store and ask them if they will drop flyers into people’s
bags as they checkout. In return, tell them you’ll thank them a few times throughout
the show. If your band does interviews on college radio, you could also offer plug
them on the air.
If you pick the right bookstore, you could end up reaching half the university. If just
one out of ten of those people comes to see you play, you can expect a line around
This is just one example. Use a little creativity, and you can have a successful band
artist marketing campaign on a shoestring budget!
Of course, once you have people coming to your shows, you have to keep them
The importance of public relations for musicians… artist
Why is public relations so critical to artist management?
Well, whether you play rock, classical, or flamenco, you are a performer. As a
performer, your image is one of the most powerful factors you have working for you
(or against you, depending on how well you handle it).
What do I mean by your image?
Well, when you perform in front of people you don’t know personally, those people
will make a decision about you based on a one to three hour performance, and
maybe a two or three minute conversation.
Does this perception reflect your true personality?
Of course not!
… but people still do it anyway.
Think about how many people have a five word conversation with a celebrity, then
report to the world that they were “Not stuck up at all… just a regular guy”
“Hi, Mr Gibson, how are you?” “I’m great, how are you?”
After hearing these five words, this girl will tell every person she meets for the rest
of her life that she met Mel Gibson and he was “soooo cool and totally down to
Why will she do this?!
Because he said “how are you?”
…isn’t that amazing!
I know you’re sitting there nodding your head and grinning right now…
… what you should be doing is going back and re-reading the last ten lines of text…
the answers to an effective word of mouth advertising campaign are all included in
People will make up their mind about you based on short encounters, so make sure it
ends up being a positive memory. Thank them for coming out, ask them if they’re
enjoying the show… if you play any cover music, ask them if they have any requests
(even if you’re sure you won’t know it)
While your talking to them, have them sign your mailing list…
…you do have a mailing list, don’t you!
These lists used to be an expensive part of artist management, because of postage,
labor, and printing. On top of that, you had to get people’s full mailing address. Most
people don’t feel like stopping to do all that writing… especially after they’ve had a
beer or ten!
Today, nearly everyone I know has an email address… even if they don’t have
internet access (read: live in a cave). It only takes a couple of seconds for someone
to give you their email address. You can even have them jot it down while you’re
having a conversation, but for cryin out loud… don’t stop there!
If someone comes up to you after a set, and starts telling them how much they like
your band, talk to them awhile and get to know them. When you have to get back
onstage, ask them if they’ll get their friends to sign your mailing list. Hey, this is a
lot of work! Why not get some of your fans to do your artist management for you?
If you announce the list during the show, try to give some incentive for people to
sign it. For example raffle off a prize or something…
Be careful though, make sure there’s a way to check the results. A band I used to
play with gave away a bottle of Jack Daniels one night in a similar fashion. After we
went through all the effort of listed the names, almost half ended up being fake!
Here’s what you do… tell the crowd that the winner will be notified by email. You can
also tell them that they’ll be disqualified if they enter more than once. “Hey, it’s only
It’s also a good idea to give away prizes at random with email notifications… just
cheap stuff like T-shirts or bumper stickers. Let people know you’re giving this stuff
away in their email notices. That way they’ll be sure to open their mail from you to
get calendars, etc, instead of letting it get buried in a sea of email.
One more note about email. Keep it personal… like you’re talking to a friend of yours
to tell them about your upcoming shows.
Use the blind CC function for lists up to a hundred names or so… when it get’s too
big, use a free online mailing list… don’t leave a thousand names listed in the cc
field. It’s cheesy and it invades people’s privacy. Anyone can copy that field and send
those people junk, viruses, etc… be considerate.
Learn how to do a mail merge with your email software to put people’s first name in
the subject and salutation lines… it’s not as hard as it sounds… just look up help for
“mail merge” or ask a friend who knows about computers.
If you pay any attention at all to the 4P’s we’ve talked about in this short
book, your band will be head and shoulders above all of the bands in your hometown
(and probably in your region), simply because 95% of the other bands don’t even
know what the 4 P’s are!
An important part of any band’s promotional activities is having an effective
website. One that informs, captures emails and sells CDs and other stuff for you.
I highly recommend http://www.barrpicker.com as a resource for you to build
your own website, or if you’re not really into web building, the dudes will build one
for you at VERY reasonable prices.
If you pay attention to the 4 P’s, have a kick-ass website and work at both of
them, you will truly be THE band in your area.
I hope you have found this little book helpful. I applaud you for going out
there every weekend and playing for the crowd.
To your success,
Dennis Lively and Gene Barry