Getting Better Gigs

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Let’s talk gigs.

Playing shows is key to gathering more fans. As the digital age marches on, some may argue that posting videos of your songs can replace gigging. There is absolutely a place for garnering fans through conduits such as YouTube, but I would submit that there is still a prevalent place for the live show. “Why?” you may ask. There’s something remarkable about being at a great show. You can build a rapport with your audience – they’ll see a side of you and your band that doesn’t translate or may be edited out of video performances. That’s the stuff – the “je ne sais quoi” that starts a budding fan’s devotion to you. Live performing also allows you to develop relationships with promoters and booking managers and cultivate community among the bands with whom you share the stage. Hooray! Winning. So, let’s talk about how to get some gigs.

Create a Press Kit with Demo!

This is actually a subject that needs it’s own article (and we’ll be covering it in depth soon). But, in a nutshell your press kit should look professional. If you’re looking for radio play as well as gigs, you may as well get your demo replicated, as many radio stations won’t even look at duplicated CDs. If you’re band is not quite ready to seek out radio play, go for duplication. They look great and you can order them in smaller quantities. Include – printed – on your demo song titles, and artwork (if you have it) and contact information. In fact, you’ll want to include your contact information on all the materials you submit. This is huge. Don’t give your recipients an excuse not to call you by skipping this step. From there, you’ll want to include a cover letter, as this press kit is basically your band’s resume. It would be a good idea to mention the times and days you’re willing to work. (Hint: Any day, anytime is encouraged.) Also, submit your band’s bio, lyrics to the songs on your demo, a list of artists who have a similar sound as your band, high-resolution press photos of the band and of logos, website and social media pages and, if applicable, tour dates, promotional videos, and press coverage – reviews and interviews. Also, contact information. Did I say that already? Album specific artwork or your band logo is a bonus. You can get a professional logo done for a relatively inexpensive price on freelance sites. It’s not a bad idea to have honest outside input concerning the look of your press kit. Have someone proof read all of your printed material. Then, once you’re press kit looks like the professional masterpiece you desire, it’s time to…

Do your research

Consider you genre and the audiences who tend to gravitate toward your music. If your tunes cater to the classic rock-loving over 50 crowd, you probably shouldn’t approach a tween honky-tonk. So get the names and websites of venues in a 50-mile radius (or however far you’re willing to drive for a gig) and find out if you’re a good fit for the crowds they draw. If your fans tend to be under age, consider whether the venue is 18 or 21 years and up. If you want to expand your reach, consider looking into charitable organizations in your area that hold fundraisers featuring live music. Other outside the box options might be checking into whether food truck parks or microbreweries need musical entertainment. Don’t forget open houses, private parties, and retail grand openings. Heck, some sandwich shops feature live performers, depending on your sound. Keep your eyes open. When you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s best to take your press kit to them in person. In order to communicate a respect for their time, and in an effort not to waste yours, find out who makes the booking decisions and ask to meet with them. Ideally you should set this meeting up over the phone, though it can be done through email. Keep in mind, however, emails are easier to miss or ignore. Engaging them face-to-face, even if brief, ensures your demo gets in the right hands (and isn’t lost in the mail) and puts a real-live person with the music and biographical information. It’s much harder for anyone to say “no” to a personable human with whom they’ve interacted – especially, if all the other demos were mailed in. In that way you are competing with other bands. But, on the whole other bands should be viewed as commiserators, potential collaborators, and resources. Just saying.

Take ANYTHING you can get.

Draw near. I have valuable words of wisdom to share with you. While bar managers, club owners, and venue promoters may adore music – your music, even – they do not feature live tunes for any other reason than to draw more alcohol-purchasing people and make money. They may, but probably don’t care about your aspirations. Sorry. Now, this may not be news to you. But if it is, this means if you are building your fan base, there’s a great chance that you should not expect a weekend slot on a stage at a venue – unless they’re open at five in the afternoon. Thus, if you get a call from a promoter who has listened to your demo and wants to book you, you take the Monday night opening they have for you. Or, better yet, as before hinted, express your eagerness to take Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever day or time) gigs in your press kit. This allows you to build a reputation with the bar managers that says you’re willing to work. Then promote that show to all your existing fans. Use your social media, your YouTube channel, and your newsletter to let people know you need their support. Offer free swag or a free house concert or some other promo to the people who bring five or more of their fellow music lovers. Then be professional and do your very best. Be the band the Monday night regulars invite their friends to. Play to the Wednesday afternoon audience like they’re your greatest fans. You never know who is in the audience or if they’ve ever heard your music before. You could be winning over new fans or promoters looking for talent. As you play more and more in time slots like these, the further you will increase your chances of playing more desirable days and times, thus being more accessible to your fans and their friends. Again, winning. By the way, the word tends to get out about dependable bands that bring in money spenders. Once you’ve built a solid reputation with one or two promoters, other venue owners are more likely offer you gig spots when asked.

Get to Know Your Fellow Musicians

I’ve said it before (even in this very article) and I’ll say it again. Other local bands are your friends. Getting to know bands and artists who are established in the local scene can only help your chances of playing more live shows – especially bands who have a similar sound as you. Attend their shows. Get on their mailing lists. Reach out to them outside of their shows and see if they’ll meet with you. Ask them if you can pick their brains about how to break into the scene. Have a demo with you wherever you go and share it with the bands with whom you’re building relationships. These are the people you can collaborate with. Then, in time, you will be top of mind when that band needs an opening band or are asked by booking agents if they know anyone else who has a similar sound as them. This serves the purpose of both engaging in community and cultivating new leads into your sure-to-be illustrious music career.

Now go get those gigs!

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Songwriting: Tips for sharpening your creative edge

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

If you are trying to make it in music today, it is likely that you’re writing at least some of your own songs. This can be a daunting task considering the seemingly inexhaustible volumes of music in the world today. And yet, the hits just keep coming. (Granted not all the music you hear on the radio is created equally, but I digress.) So what can you do to make your songs the best they can possibly be? Let’s chat.

1. Be a student

This could seem like a pretty basic concept – maybe one from which you feel you’ve graduated. There is an argument, however, for lifelong learning. There are always ways to improve. And when you improve your musicianship, you will unwittingly (or maybe wittingly) advance your songwriting chops. So, maybe you’re a guitar player? How often do you practice on daily basis? Practicing scales, learning other artists’ lead parts, developing your finger picking – these are just a few ways to get better as an instrumentalist. You’re a lead singer? How are your harmonies? Regardless of which instrument is your focus there is always room for improving your knowledge of theory. The more you learn about musical concepts, the more you’ll know which rules can be bent or, even broken. Continuing your musical education will not only improve your ability to write, it will make you a more valuable musician in the long run. Need help figuring out where to start? There are music theory workbooks and websites out there for people just like you. Another approach you could take is to make a rough recording – nothing fancy (think iPhone recording in your room) – of you performing your song. This will help you hear the things you like about your song and the things you may want to work on. If you’re looking for a higher level of intervention, it may be time to get some lessons or take a class. Or…

2. Collaborate

The grand thing about this time in which you are creating new works of audible art is your access to resources. You don’t have to be a lone wolf – or a band of lone wolves, as the case may be. In other words, even if you and your band mates write together, you can never underestimate the power of outside input. Some of the best songs were written by two (or more) talented people – people from different backgrounds and influences. Writing with others helps inspire you. You’ll think of creative solutions to your hook writing or harmonies you never thought of before. Writing with someone else takes some courage. You’re putting yourself out there for the sake of an excellent song. If you’re nervous about introducing new songs to the world at large, keep in mind a collaborator can be a safe source of feedback. They are, after all, in the same creative boat with you. You’re coming to them because you know you need a fresh perspective. If rapport is developed with your co-writing cohort, you will be able to lend perspective to their songs. Outside feedback from other writers helps you understand your writing strengths and recognize the areas you need to develop. If you’re not sure where to find a co-writer or writing community, consider joining a songwriting organization. There are scads websites devoted to helping you locate organizations relatively close to you. If your proximity to the closest organization is prohibitive to meeting in person, you can always join an online community of writers. A note about collaborating: I have a friend who always likes to say, “It’s easier to turn a car in motion.” Meaning, you can more easily change directions if you’re already moving. This saying has many a life application, however in this instance I’d like to relate it to what you bring to the songwriting table. In other words, if you want to co-write, start with songs that already have some structure. Bring the melody to a chorus or the lyrics. Something. Don’t bring nothing and expect a co-writer to do everything. That’s less co-writing and more watching someone else work. Unless you set out to write a song from scratch with someone else, it will behoove you to have some material that needs work. Even if you’re starting from scratch, having brainstormed ideas before you meet will help you capitalize on your time together. Not only will this will express a willingness to contribute to the process, you’ll be showing respect for your co-collaborator – respect you surely want reciprocated. If all goes well, you’ll learn a lot and perhaps write with others in the future. Winning!

3. Just write

At the end of the day, songwriting is a skill that has to be developed. The more you practice writing, the more you’ll understand what kind of writer you are. You’ll start to see a kind of songwriting identity emerge. It’s not easy, though. I don’t know about you, but it can be intimidating to have a blank page before me. Sometimes when I can’t think of what I want to write about I still just have to put words to paper and get the ideas unstuck. In terms of lyrical writing, it may be necessary to journal or just write down a stream of consciousness for a bit. This may feel weird to you, especially if you’re pretty structured. Writing anything and everything that comes to mind can really spark a fun idea or remind of something you wanted to say. If you’re reading a book or magazine (or pamphlet), try taking a couple of sentences from the literature and boiling it down to a couple of words. Say it in a new way.

4. Listen and get inspired

If you’re not the type who writes your lyrics first, but still find yourself stuck trying to find a chord progression into the bridge or pulling in a seamless verse, take heart! There is help for you too. The exercises for melody writing are a little more abstract, but just as useful. Walk away from your efforts for a bit – just a pause – and start listening to the music from artists you consider to be your influences. When you listen to a given song, don’t just turn on the music in the background. Really listen. Right from the beginning take note of the structure of the verse and compare it to the chorus. Does the rhythm pattern change? What are the notes doing from verse to chorus in the context of the rhythm? Is there a lift? Are note values getting longer in the chorus? Do this with a handful of songs, or until you formulate a plan for your song’s melody. Really study these songs. You might even look outside your favorites. Listen to new genres you might not have considered. Another exercise you can do is just start playing. Play (or sing) a song you know or a portion of the song you have nailed down and just keep playing it over and over. It’s a form of musical stream of consciousness. Jam for a while and just see what happens. If you’re singing a song, nix the lyrics and let the melody carry you where it will. From an instrumental stand point, this requires you to have at least a measure of proficiency. You need to get comfortable enough on your instrument to be able to jam without playing the same four chords over and over again. If you want to play the same four chords, go for it.

5. Know your strengths

This may not be what you want to hear. And far be it from me to tell anyone to give up on their goals. But, sometimes despite a person’s musical talent, their writing is just not up to snuff. There are a couple ways to proceed if this is you. One: keep working on it. As it was said earlier, songwriting is a skill. Some people are more naturally gifted from the get-go, but no matter who you are, the more you write the better a songwriter you’ll become. Keep working on it until you’re satisfied. Two: There is no shame in seeking out little (or un-) known songs to cover. You can do this in lieu of writing your own songs or while you are honing your writing craft. You don’t have to dig very deeply to find many popular artists who perform songs written by others. Whether you look through a catalog, like ASCAP, or find an undiscovered writer in your community, you could take someone’s song and make into your own amazing version. And, who knows? You could be helping up-and-coming songwriters by performing their songs. There’s potential for musical symbiosis. Good vibes all around.


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YouTube – How To Make It Work For You

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Three Steps To Improve Performance

This feels like old news, but it’s possible you haven’t heard. If you’re not leveraging YouTube to your advantage, you have a gap in your approach to music sales. Maybe you don’t want to make a living from your music or you love your day job. That’s fine. You can probably stop reading this now. Or maybe you already have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Millions, even. You too may stop reading this. If neither of these exceptions apply to you, then settle in. Let’s talk The YouTube. *wink*

You live in a wondrous time! Just look at the Internet. It’s an amazing resource to the independent artist and band. The thing is you’re busy – out there pounding the pavement, rocking various houses night after night. But, ask any wildly successful artist. To make that dollar, you’re going to have to spend time, both on and off the stage to develop your fan base. (Unless you’re posting your performances. Then bully to you!) And in this day in which we live it’s now easier than ever to reach untapped fans via YouTube.

But first, the bad news: You won’t make any livable wage monetizing YouTube videos until you start raking in views in the hundreds of millions. Some sources report that YouTube pays $.0003 per play. This means that in order for you to pull in minimum wage you would have to have views in the tens of millions, depending on your state’s minimum wage. So that’s the bummer. But, the good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on monetization to make YouTube work for you. There are lots of examples of bands and artists (and puppeteers and style gurus and… you get the idea) who have used streaming video to get their names out there and launch their careers onto other more lucrative platforms. Remember, if you’re trying to make a living from you music, you’re not just a musician. You’re in music business. Time to get savvy. Here are a few ways to yield desirable results from YouTube.

Invite your viewers to take it to the next level and subscribe.

Make no mistake. Gathering subscribers is important. Create your channel, make delightful viewing material and call your viewers to action by encouraging them to subscribe. (Just don’t expect to make noticeable amounts of money directly from YouTube doing this.) You have to say the words too. Here’s why: In most cases, people hear about a great video. They go watch the video. They move on with their day. The end. Don’t let this be your viewers. At the end of your video, thank them for watching and then say, “subscribe!” It’s that simple. You could add a please for good measure. Or confetti. Do you, but say the words.

Invite them to your website so they can buy your stuff.

Every subscriber you procure is now your fan. They have taken time to subscribe and this means they like you. Congratulations! Now it’s time to tell them how they can listen to your awesome music wherever they go, by driving them to your website or digital storefront to buy tracks they can’t get on YouTube. You may want to incentify people to subscribe by giving them a coupon code to save a dollar off your album (which is sold only on your website or Amazon, right?). Or maybe YouTube subscribers get access to extra video content or mp3 tracks that your average schmo can’t get. Hock your interesting and hilarious t-shirts and bumper stickers by sending these captive fans to your shop. Your subscribers will not necessarily arrive at the brilliant decision to visit your website. You must invite them to do so.

Make lots of interesting content. Lots!

Here’s the deal. There are many reasons to have a prolific amount of content. One of the reasons is this: the more you’re out there, the more you increase your chances of getting subscribers. You’ll reach people you wouldn’t normally have access to through other outlets – especially younger music fans. YouTube is the most listened to music platform. The most! Gathering more fans from the juggernaut of all music conduits can help you completely bypass a music label – like so many other successful musicians have – and allow you to do music on your own terms. Or maybe you want a music contract. Perfect! Having a huge number of subscribers can only help your cause. Having a large subscriber following also means drawing the attention of potential sponsors. YouTubers who have been successful at accumulating lots of subscribers have definitely grabbed the attention of sponsors. These sponsors can pay thousands of dollars for one video that includes a mention or placement of their product. This is not a farfetched pipe-dream, either. Sponsors are well within reach. It’s hard work, of course. Nothing worth doing will ever come easy. (Sorry.) But, the rewards include garnering a larger fan base and getting to make a living from your music and videos.

So now that you know why tons of content is a must, let’s talk about what you should post. Your video subject matter should be as diverse as you and you’re music, but you don’t have to over think everything you post. Sometimes these videos are just something fun – a day-in-the-life bit or a tutorial of some kind. I can hear some of your eyes rolling right now as you read this. This may feel beneath you or pandering, even. But, try to keep an open mind about this. It’s not selling out. You’re not giving into the man. You’re dominating various digital avenues so that they work for you. Think groceries and rent – and beyond! You’re not giving in. You’re making the Internet your bitch. So get creative. By all means, post your music and your shows and your time in the studio. But, also keep in mind that people will be endeared to you by getting to see behind the proverbial curtain a bit. Talk to your fans and let them see your fun side. Cover your favorite popular songs. Reveal to them your stupid human trick. Do skits. Get viewers to vote on which guitar strap or pair of skinny jeans you’ll wear at your next performance. Video your band’s trust exercises or day of water skiing. Whatever. You’re imaginative. Just give the fans what they want and make lots and lots of content.

There’s another perk of posting tons of videos. If you haven’t created a YouTube channel or your haven’t been posting very much, creating a lot of content will also help fast track the process of gathering subscribers and getting noticed by sponsors. And bonus, the more momentum you pick up, the more monetizing your content will pay. Again, not lucrative amounts, but it’s better than nothing.

It’s time – your time. Start using YouTube like the music business tool it is.

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Conflict In The Band – Fix It In 5 Easy Steps

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

AKA: Not cool, man

No matter how famously you get along with your band mates, at one point or another you will find yourself, at the very least, disagreeing about something. This is one of the downsides of human interaction. Whether it’s creative differences or something on a more personal note, resolving conflict is never easy. In most cases, though, working through your dispute is ideal for the future of your band and, ultimately, your own success.

So just how do you get to the other side of a trouble spot in your musical road? Experts agree there are a handful of steps that are relatively universal in most partnerships. Here are some helpful ways to let the healing begin.

Step 1: Identify the problem.

The reasons for conflict can range from annoying to life threatening. The key is to discern the root of the issue. Was there an incident that caused a rift or is it a philosophical approach that clashes with your own? The discussion will look different depending on your answer to the above question. How serious is the issue at hand? Will it negatively affect the band’s future? Is it possible you have a part to play in the problem (i.e. something you might be doing to incite this person)?

Step 2: Be specific.

If there is something definitive other than – “He just bugs me” – you will have a better chance of sorting through things and being heard. Attacking the person’s character will create a defensive posture in your band mate. It’s ideal to address the problem without striking at the person’s identity or worth. You don’t want to hinder the future of your band by making hurtful comments that will not soon be forgotten. Solutions are the goal, not more lingering tension. Here’s an example of what addressing a specific issue might look like: “Hey John, I noticed it’s been hard for you to get to rehearsal on time. You’re a great guitarist. Is there a reason 7pm isn’t working for you?” This is a pretty cut-and-dry example and conflict can definitely be much stickier than this, but the sentiment of understanding and openness in the above example still applies in most cases.

Step 3: Ask earnest questions and be willing to listen.

This is a tough one if you are feeling particularly irked. However, there are very few cases in life where going into a conversation with your guns blazing is a good idea. Depending on how long the problem has existed for you, there’s a very good chance your musical co-worker doesn’t know they have affronted you. From the time you crossed over into Peeved-ville until the time you actually talk to the person about your concerns, you may have built up a false narrative about them. “They’re doing it on purpose.” “He knows it bothers me, but he does it anyway.” “She must really not like me.” The problem is, the person in question may have no idea their actions effected you, much less offended you – especially if you haven’t mentioned it in the past. There’s a good chance he or she means nothing by their actions and doesn’t even know you are stewing about it. Is it possible they know they’re bothering you? Sure. But it’s always a good rule of thumb to give your band mate the benefit of the doubt.

When you approach your colleague, do it when you are calm and willing to hear them out. Have some genuine questions ready for them. People are more willing to discuss difficult subjects when they feel safe. Attacking first and asking questions later leaves no room for an explanation or a game plan for solutions. Listening is key at this point. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and listen in the way you would want them to listen to you. It is better to let them finish without interruption. And while you’re listening, try to be mindful of your body language and facial expressions. Once you’ve heard them out, process what they’ve said and respond. Note: This is where it benefits you to know what kind of processor you are. If it takes time to unpack the implications of what is being said to you, you may let the person know that you will need time to think. Here’s what that might look like: “Hey, I may need some time to process what you’ve said. Can we talk more about this once I’ve chewed on it for a bit?” You may find that the person you are talking to needs time to think about what you are saying to them. It might be a good idea to afford them the same space for processing.

Step 4: Work toward solutions.

Once you have both had the chance to talk about your situation and have agreed on the problem in question, it’s best not to get stuck in activities that will only exacerbate the problem (i.e. blaming, dwelling on the past, pointing out faults). Sometimes during these conversations it becomes apparent that your actions or reactions have impacted the relationship or circumstance negatively. Try to be cognizant of ways you can help the situation. It’s never easy admitting you were wrong, but it is sometimes necessary to move on. Once you have acknowledged (and apologized for) any misdeeds on your part, it’s time to collaborate on solutions. This is a team effort. You can start with questions like, “How do you think we should move forward?” or “What are some things we can do to improve the situation?” Be prepared to bring your own ideas to the table too. Remember too, when only one party’s needs are fulfilled, the conflict isn’t really resolved and will probably continue. This is why it pays to really work with the other person to find answers that work for everybody. This is a process and may take some time to navigate.

Step 5: Verbally agree upon a solution.

This step gets missed many times. The importance of verbally agreeing on the solution is that you both walk away from the conversation knowing what is to be done, what is expected of you, and what to do if problems arise in the future. Verbally agreeing on your solutions will ensure you are all on the same page and helps clarify any expectations that were previously ambiguous. It may feel awkward, but you both need to say it aloud. It might go something like this, “I agree that creative collaboration is what’s best for our relationship and the band’s future. Moving forward, I will be more open to your creative input.” The other person also needs to verbalize agreement and responsibility. Also, you both need to assent to a viable plan for what to do if arguments occur in the future.

Note: What happens if you follow these steps and things still suck? Unlike your average sitcom, life and relationships generally do not get sorted out in a half hour segment. These things take time. If you feel that after having gone through these steps and really tried to work with the person things are not smoothing out, you may consider bringing an impartial third party into the situation. Whether it is a mutual trusted friend or a professional mediator, having someone who has no vested interest in one side versus the other could be helpful. If you can work through your problems, you will have a stronger bond with the other person, which translates to better chances of success for your band.

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Secrets to a Great Single Part Two: The Stand Alone Single

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

If you ask almost anyone if modern technology has decreased our attention span, they will probably give you a brief “yes” before returning their eyes to their smart phone and constantly-updated Twitter feed.

This shortened attention span- along with iTunes single-handedly changing the way we purchase music- means that, now more than ever, fans love singles. And while die-hard album lovers and musicians mourn the loss of the 12 song LP, most fans clamor for new music to be delivered to them more often than once every year or two.

This new trend leaves artists in a bit of a bind. Full length albums are often more creatively fulfilling than a single or 3-song EP, but in order for up-and-coming musicians to stay in front of their fans and keep costs down, these shorter album forms may be necessary.

In Part One of this series we talked about choosing the right song for your single.

Today we are going to highlight what you need to do if you are recording a standalone single. This single is not a song you pulled off your album, but a song that gets recorded and released separate from an album.

You should approach recording your single the same way you would approach recording an album–with a few small differences.

Determine a Purpose

What is releasing a single going to do for you? Figuring out why you’re recording a single will help you determine the production aspects you may need.

  • Are you sending it to booking agents and promoters? If you are recording a single to help you get live shows, you probably want to record something that is comparable to how you actually sound live.
  • Are you putting it directly into the hands of your fans? A totally stripped down recording may make your fans feel close to you, which can lead to better fan engagement. On the other hand, your fans might be ready for a fully produced, full band sound. It’s all about knowing your audience.
  • Do you want to debut it on a music blog? If you want optimize your single for press, you need to make sure the quality is at the same standard that major artists achieve. Modern technology has made this quality standard very accessible, so you shouldn’t skip things like professional mixing and mastering.

Decide Where/How You Want to Record

Are you going to be creating this single in your home, in a studio, or a hybrid of both? Do you want to bring on a producer/sound engineer?

You also need to decide how much you are willing to pay to get the single recorded.

Recording cost can vary greatly, and only you know how much you are comfortable spending to get your music recorded.

There are great home studio options to record your music yourself, or you could go to a professional studio. If you are not sure which option will work best for you (or if you should try a hybrid of the two) you can read this article for more information on choosing the best recording process for you.

If you are using the single for press and promotional purposes, hiring a producer who is experienced in your genre can be a great investment. Singles can also be a good place to “audition” a producer or sound engineer. You can determine how well you work together on one song before you commit to recording an entire album with them.

This is also a good time to start looking at mixing and mastering engineers. Do some research on engineers in your area, or look at who mixed and mastered your favorite artists, and see if they fit into your recording budget!

Are You Recording More Than One Single?

I know, this might seem a little counter-intuitive. A single is just one song.

But if you feel like you have another song that deserves to be recorded, you might want to consider going ahead and recording 2 or 3 singles at once. This will give you some extra material to release over the next few months.

Recording 2 or 3 songs at once will also allow you to plan ahead in your release strategy, and you can bundle them into an EP after you’ve promoted the songs individually!

Decide on a Release Format

Will you release the single only online? There are lots of affordable distribution services that can get your music into most major online retailers (Check out Mondotunes, ONErpm, and TuneCore). Will the single only be available on one platform? NoiseTrade is a great “pay what you want” site that many fans use to discover new music, and NoiseTrade likes exclusives!

You could also have the single available exclusively on your website, or only available after fans sign up for your email list.

You also need to decide if you’ll have a physical product to go with your single. If you are planning on recording three singles, it might be a good idea to go ahead and order a physical CD with all three songs on it to sell at your shows. Three songs will also fit nicely on a 7” vinyl if you want to go that route.

Making the right decisions for your music in the recording stage will help make the rest of the process of releasing a single go more smoothly. Be sure when you record that you are getting a song that you are really excited about showing off to the world.

Have you recorded a single lately? What was your recording process like? Is recording a few singles better than investing in an album? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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Crafting a Set List: Your First Step to a Great Gig

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

You’ve gotten THE gig, and you’re super excited. You’ve been rehearsing, but now you’ve kicked rehearsals up a notch or twelve. You’ve also come to the place that most musicians dread but every musician must deal with: You have to make a set list.

Some bands don’t bother with set lists, but they are important. Why? A bad set list can ruin a show. A good set list can take a decent band and make it sound like a good band. A great set list can reel a listener in, keep them with you for the entire show, and win you new fans.

There are many different things to consider when creating a set list, but we are going to focus on five key elements for creating and using your set list to its fullest potential. These five elements are:

  • Purpose/Audience
  • The Technical Stuff
  • The “Feel” of the Song
  • Transitions
  • The Art of Spontaneity

The Basics

Before we send you off into the world of set list creating, we should go over a few basic concepts.

  • For the purposes of this article, a “set” is going to be 12 songs. Depending on your songs and what kind of set you are playing, this number will vary, and that’s okay. Once you’ve looked at the five key elements of creating a set list, and you know how much time you’ll have for your set, you can adjust your number accordingly.
  • Generally, a good set is divided into three or four parts, with each part having its own peaks and valleys. Let’s call them “set-sections.” The number of set-sections you will have will depend on the length of your set, but even a two song set needs to have contrast within it.
  • Not all sets will look the same. You may have a gig where it’s appropriate to play an album in its entirety. Or, you may have a gig where you only play covers. These rules are not one size fits all. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fit the set to the gig, whatever that may look like.

Now let’s look at what you can do to craft a great set list.

Purpose and Audience

When you create a set list, you need to determine the purpose of your set.

The first consideration is the setting or venue. A set for a coffeehouse will probably look different from what you would play at a wedding, and a wedding set list will look nothing like a set for a summer festival. The venue itself will help determine some of your decisions—a small stage with only enough room for two people might not be the best time to play a song that sounds best with your full band.

The second, and perhaps most important, consideration is the audience. At each of the places I mentioned above, the audience will react to you in very different ways. This is why you should create your set list with your audience in mind. They are, after all, the people who are (hopefully) paying to see you. If you are in a small room and people are paying attention, it might be all right to bust out the B-side from your second release that no one but your mom has heard. But, at a busy festival or in a crowded bar, you may want to play songs that are known attention-grabbers or fan favorites that have stood the test of time.

When you have a general idea of the audience you will be playing for, you have another factor to consider: How do you want the audience to respond? You are onstage and have a microphone to carry your voice across the murmur of the crowd. People will be listening to you, even if it’s only for a moment. There is some authority, however small it may be, that comes with your position. Do you want your audience to get up and have a good time? Great! Plan your set so they can get up and dance, and give them a couple slow songs to grab a drink.  You want to raise awareness for your favorite cause? Use your music to put people in a frame of mind that will allow them listen to you when you talk about that charity. You can’t force people’s responses, but if you have a purpose for your set, you can help guide your audience in the direction you want them to go.

The Technical Stuff

Okay, so you’ve identified your setting, your audience, and your purpose. Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of creating your list. There are a few rules to keep in mind that deal with the details of your songs.


Though the average listener might not know what key you’re playing in, if you play too many songs in the same key consecutively, the audience will likely think everything sounded the same and lose interest—even if the songs have different tempos and a different feel.  A good rule of thumb is to never play more than two songs in a row that are in the same key.


As with key, it makes a difference to vary the tempo within your set list. Try to categorize your songs into slow (60-80 BPM), mid-tempo (80-110 BPM), and fast (110 BPM and above). Then, in each of your set-sections, try to have a variety of tempos. You can also group tempos or have one slow set-section that has some tempo variation with its broader “slow” category. Maybe try slow-mid-slow in one section, or come way down and do a slow-slow-mid and ramp back up into a more energetic set-section. This variety keeps your audience from losing interest.

Complexity and Energy

If your drummer has gone crazy playing over 140 BPM for the last set-section, you may want to slow down a little bit and give his muscles a break. Really, it’s the same no matter what instrument you play.  The lead singer may enjoy nailing those difficult high notes, but—if you don’t bring it back to their comfort range—their voice will begin to tire, and your sound may suffer. Try to keep your more challenging numbers separated to give you and your band a break. Bring them back in when you need to re-capture your audience.

The “Feel” of the Song

In the same way that you don’t want too many songs in the same key played together, you also want to pay attention to the “feel” of the song. Though the term “feel” is subjective, there are a few concrete things we can look at.


Is the song shuffled? Does it have more of a dance beat? Are all the choruses played half-time? Try to separate rhythmically similar songs, or only play two back to back.


In the same way that you can tell the difference between a flute and a trumpet, your lead singer’s voice has different timbres, or sounds, that fit together in different ways. Likewise, you can switch effects on an electric guitar or switch to an acoustic guitar to further vary the timbre of your set. Keep these differences in mind from song to song, and use timbre as a way to bring diversity to your set. By experimenting with timbre in a set-section, you may create a whole new feel that you and your band love.

Mix in these experiments with a tried-and-true song to keep your audience engaged.


It’s important to consider how you are going to get from one song to another. Are you going to tell a story? Introduce your bandmates? Go straight from one song to the next? Planning your transitions will help your show run smoothly.

Transitions are also the main distinguishing factor between an amateur musician and a professional career musician.

Practical Tips:

  • Know who is going to start the song. Is you drummer counting off? Is the guitarist starting out with a riff? Assigning responsibility for the start of the song lets everyone be on the same page and helps eliminate empty time between songs.
  • Have an instrument play behind spoken transitions. This prepares your audience and your band for what’s happening next. It also adds sonic interest to the story.
  • Carefully craft a musical transition between songs. This can be difficult, but, when done well, it can impress your audience and keep them engaged with what’s happening onstage. It’s best to do this with songs that are in related keys. For example, if your current song is in C, and the next song is in G, a musical transition will work well since G is the dominant chord in the key of C.

The Art of Spontaneity

It’s important to have a plan for your set and transitions as you prepare for your show. But what happens when life throws a curve ball your direction? Perhaps your audience isn’t paying attention to your well-crafted set, or the sound man gives you a 10 minute warning 20 minutes from your big ending. What do you do then?

When a wrench gets thrown in the works (because sooner or later it will happen), you don’t have to be afraid IF you have rehearsed well. Being unprepared when challenges arise is when real problems begin. Knowing your whole set so well that you could play it in your sleep helps you recover quickly when things don’t go as planned.

If the audience isn’t listening the way you would like them to, try rearranging your set-sections or the individual songs in those sections. If you have to cut your set short, know what you want to eliminate and where you want to pick back up.

You may even find that a change in your set leads to something marvelous. If you forget a song in the middle of the set, you might find that the audience actually responds better without that song.

I can promise you that you will have problems, but they only stay problems when you don’t learn from them. If you can recover well and take stock of what happened, those problems become opportunities for you to play an even better show next time.

Creating a great set list is a skill that takes practice and lots of trial and error. The more shows you play, the better your sets will be. Don’t be afraid to get out there and try different sets, but pay attention to people’s reactions. Figure out what works for you, and you will be on your way to having a great live show.

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