Music Blogs

So you want a recording contract (part 4)?

  • By Trev@circlestudios
  • 2 August 2013

Our music industry blog today comes from a soffit mounted prison cell in the heart of Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham.
This week I have had a band in the studio who have been leading figures in the metal scene for 25 years.   Even I was struck how they epitomised everything I've talked about so far in these blogs in terms of brand and image. They reminded me, in case I'd forgotten, how important image is in the overall makeup of the brand.   For example, despite the fact that they were in the studio, away from prying public eyes, they maintained their 'look' (black clothes and shades).  What I suspect initially had just been a way of identifying with their fans, had become an integral part of who they were: they had become their public image and their image has become them. I also had a clear vision both of their brand and the extent they would go to in order to protect that: while the press had been invited to come around on the final evening (as it was the last day of recording of their forthcoming album) and indeed had flown in from around the world for the opportunity,  they weren't actually allowed to take any photos.  An official photographer had been brought in for the occasion. This ensured that no awkward moments or less than perfect photos appeared of what was a pretty auspicious occasion. The final thing this band reminded me of was how hard the guys at the top work at getting their music right.  During the recording process, while they were willing to be open minded and explore how their work could be tweaked here or presented differently there, they were completely focused on the end game: getting the best possible recording they could get.  No stone went unturned in their pursuit of sonic perfection. And for me, that still differentiates bands who are at the top of their game.  
Wiith the above in mind, let's get back to the plot.
When you've thought about your brand in the way I've previously discussed and you've got the image to match, you need material to play in order to appeal to your target audience.  Unless of course you just want them to look at you. But then you'd be models.  Not a band. In which case you might as well get your bum out again as previously discussed. 
So will any old material do? What should you play? How should you sound?  The good news is, unless you are a manufactured band, hopefully you have already found the core of your sound.  Because after all, that's what makes you a band in the first place isn't it? Now call me old fashioned but, in my view, this bit is pretty damn important.  And yeah, their are bands from time immemorium who can disprove this (The Monkeys, The Sex Pistols, etc) but, without exception, they had huge machines on their side who drafted in top songwriters in to create the material and top musicians to play it.  So again, unless you've got pots of money to do that, you need to start with a good song and an ability to play/sing in time and in tune.
Now i've gotta tell ya, there are bands out there who can do a stunning job on all of the stuff I've talked about so far while forgetting entirely about the fundamentals. One unsigned band I know of play a stunner on all of the brand and marketing stuff.  Their social media is first class. They tour widely.  They've supported some big acts at decent shows, but success still eludes them.  Why's that?  In my view its because they've forgotten about the fundamentals.  So while they rehearse their onstage routine to the nth degree, and have spent thousands on professional videos of them playing in warehouses and in fields and the like, their music simply doesn't cut it. Their live shows are marred by weak playing and out of tune vocals and their recorded music is badly recorded and produced.  I mentioned them to a major label contact a few weeks ago just to see whether their amazing PR and marketing efforts had paid off.  It had. My friend knew them well. Was amazed at how good they were at getting their message out and communicating with their audiences.  But thought they were terrible.  Indeed, he told me they had become a bit of a joke among the A&R community.  So the moral of this week's tale? Know your brand, work hard on engaging your audiences.  But don't forget about the fundamentals.  Because if your music sucks, whether its live or recorded, you are going nowhere. 
The author of Machiavelli's Guide, Trev is a record producer and Chief Engineer at one of the UK's top studios, Circle Recording Studios in Birmingham.  Check it out at www.circlestudios.co.uk. He has worked with clients ranging from record labels to audio product developers and manufacturers. As this blog goes to press, he is working on a songwriting commission for London's Royal Military Tournament. Go follow @circlestudios on twitter if you like the kind of inane rambling you get to read here or look up Circle Recording Studios Birmingham on Facebook