pic by Nic Hamilton
See also: Part One.
I.D. & Baobinga – Bass Music Sessions. Diary, week 2!
Having got the tracks together to form the album, we needed to consider a few points for the actual release. The tracks would need to be ‘mastered’ (for any non-techies, this is a kind of ‘finalising’ process where the finished track is tweaked, subtly but importantly, by an engineer with the relevant expertise), we needed to arrange the artwork, and we needed to think about how we were going to get it out there to people.
This, then, brings up a question posed in the comments last time – how is it free for us? Mastering costs a lot of money, and artwork usually isn’t cheap either. The answer basically comes down to this – we pay for it with our time; either time spent now, or time spent over the last few years. This is becoming increasingly clear, and making me realise that the ‘free’ mechanism won’t work for everyone. To get a full album mastered, for instance, you’ll be looking at several hundred pounds, and it’s an important part of the process.
We’ve done it ourselves. The reason we feel we can, is because we’ve been producing for over a decade, and releasing music for 8 years now; over the last year or two, we’ve even been finding that sometimes we prefer our own ‘home’ masters to the final versions we get back later. We spent a lot of time on it, and even though we wouldn’t claim it’s going to be as polished as you’d get from a top-end studio, we know it’s good. So this is ‘free’ to us in that we didn’t lay down any cash, albeit at the cost of 8 -10 years of learning how to be professional engineers, hundreds of released tracks, a few albums, and various production work for 3rd parties. We’ve also had plenty of chance to test things out in the dance and tweak them – as shown here, Baobinga dropping the track ‘Man Down’ in Poland (it comes in at 1:25) –
With the artwork and video, we’re not paying cash-money upfront there either. This one is harder because we can’t do it ourselves, we actually need someone with real talent to help us out, so what we really have to do is find someone who can justify working for free to themselves. The best way to do this, and it’s what we’ve done in the past, is to find a designer who doesn’t have any music artwork stuff on their portfolio, and wants to get some experience under their belt (a university would be a good place to start looking). You’ll also need to be flexible – you can’t really expect someone to spend hundreds of hours adjusting and reworking something they won’t get paid for. But we do have some compensation we can offer; we have this blog, for instance, and can plug someone, or even offer them a free advert (once I get the custom theme sorted!) – which would have monetary value. However, that’s only because we’ve spent the last 8 months working hard getting the blog to a place where ads or plugs would have value.
On top of all that, there’s the promotion angle. Again, promotion is something that can really cost a lot of money, and it’s something that in this case, I am handling myself. Which is an interesting proposition, since I’ve not worked on anything like this before. Once again, however, when you think about it, I’ve already got a headstart; the years of producing and DJing mean I have a certain amount of contacts with other producers, DJ’s and promoters that may be interested; and that I can hit up to try and promote things.
Then there’s this blog. It’s something of an asset in itself – it’s currently getting around 35,000 pageviews per month, so it’s undoubtedly a valuable platform, but on top of that, working on it has provided a really good learning experience into how people market and promote their stuff – I’m a million times more aware of how internet promotion works now. And that’s only come with a lot of effort, too. I’d really recommend starting a blog, though, to anyone wondering how to promote themselves online. Even if the blog itself doesn’t go massive, you’ll start to become aware of how people use blogs and stuff to get their name around, and it’ll give you a lot of ideas.
It’s a gradual thing though, and I’m constantly seeing new ideas that I could or should do (or should have done already) – as posed in the comments last time, why not have some photos of ‘work in progress’? A great idea, and one which it is unfortunately too late to do now, unless you want to see pics of me typing blog entries. However, the same person also suggested videos of the tracks in action, which a quick trawl through youtube did yield. Thanks to Vanatoski for uploading that one – you were a step ahead of us back in May!
So thinking about all this, it becomes clear that an unknown producer/band who wanted to release a free album would struggle to make much impact. Although we’re not laying out much cash, that’s only possible because we’ve built up the skills, contacts and profile to be able to do things ourselves – things that you would otherwise need to buy access to from other people. Tricky. Does this rule out the whole ‘free’ thing to all aspiring start-up producers? Not necessarily, I don’t think, but you’d certainly need a different approach.
Back to the album at hand then, where is it up to now? Well, the promotion to artists and DJs is well underway, and I’ll elaborate on what that really entails in a couple of weeks. I’ll also show you where and how we’ll release it. In the meantime, please join the discussion in the comments below, if you’ve got any questions or insults to hurl our way, feel free!