To Buy or not to Buy? A Realist’s Guide to Gear

cropped-fc_550x550_white-3.jpgI’m probably not the best person to write this. After all, I am basking in the twilight of my Man Child years. That point in time where people no longer lecture you about your decisions, because you’re now just “That Guy.”

We’ve moved on to the digital age, and there’s a reason why Amazon has taken over nearly every aspect of our lives. You could blame it purely on capitalism. Yet that doesn’t stop me from buying some weird ass candy from Japan because somebody told me that it was the greatest thing ever.

We’re neck deep in this gluttony, and it’s over extending to our creative lives as well. I know SO MANY artists who are in this cycle of constantly buying shit that they don’t need. Whether it’s a $700 synth, a saxophone, a cello, a bass guitar, new plugins, a midi keyboard, etc. You get the idea. If you’re reading this, you’ve either done it, or you’re about to do it.

For me personally it was plug ins, and guitar pedals. Every single time I’d pay $60 dollars for a new pedal, thinking it was going to dramatically change my sound. That I’d be able to explore whole entire new landscapes–only to revert back to Fruity loops. Then the plugins I actually bought, one was The Sounds of India. And I have to ask, does any of my music sound anything like Indian music? The answer is no.

Why did I do it? Because I was really into the Blank Banshee song Cerulean. I thought the sitar that blended into the guitar in that track, was so fucking fantastic that I bought a $60 plugin that I never used. Then I remembered all The Beatles documentaries I’d watched where they went to India and how all of a sudden their music got all psychedelic from the Western/Eastern music fusion.

IF only my music could sound like THAT.

And that’s where the problem lies. Most of the time when somebody has a hankering for a new piece of gear 99.9999% of the time it’s because they want to sound like somebody else.

When I released my album, it was poorly received. One internet reviewer (who I paid) gave it a 1 out of 5 review. Which I agree with now in retrospect. Yet that review hurt so much at the time. That coupled with the fact I was ordered to go to rehab for my drinking, it was not the best time in my life.

In my therapy group there was one guy who took an interest in my music, and he listened to the whole album. He said he enjoyed it, all though he felt I hadn’t found my sound yet. And how could I have? I was buying stupid plugins trying to sound like every other person, when I had an entire DAW at my fingertips.

So when I quit buying plugins, started to explore the tools at my disposal–surprise I began to have a more coherent sound. A sound that was unique. A sound that was my own.

So before you buy that new piece of equipment, I have to ask: Have you explored all the possibilities your instrument provides? Did you try to write a song in a different key? Did you try to learn how to play it better? Is there a way to replicate the sound you want without needing to buy something?

And most importantly. Are you trying to sound like someone else?

There’s a reason popular genres always get stale. First there are the innovators, then there are the imitators, and then there are the record deals. It’s why music tourism is a thing. Why delve deep into a music genre when everybody is trying to sound the same? Why give that underground artist a chance when their music sounds like every other persons?

So for the answer to whether you should buy that gear or not. No. Not until you know every single nook and cranny in the gear you got. Not until you’ve worked on that piece of equipment for so long, that you are sicked and tired of looking at it. Because rock bands have been around forever and they’ve been doing just fine with a guitar, bass, and drums. If you can’t do more with an entire electronic orchestra at your fingertips–then I have two words for you.

Git Gud.

To Pay or not to Pay? A Realist’s guide to Soundcloud

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So a really quick question; say that you have a tinder, and somehow you get over 1000 matches–yet none of them respond to your messages–are you successful in getting laid? No. If you use Tinder just to get validation that you’re pretty, then you were successful in your goal, but most people use Tinder to get laid. Likewise the same principle can apply to Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify etc.

So why not spend money on promotion or fake plays? Why not make yourself appear popular? And my retort to that is; did you start making music to appear to be a musician? Or did you make music to be a musician?

“Well nobody listens to my music! So I gotta get promotion somehow!” Which is a very valid response, and common problem that most people face. So I’ll breakdown what works and what doesn’t work. Because I’m in the same boat as you. I’m not a success story, but I’ve failed enough to know what doesn’t work.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING

Never do. Firstly it costs wayyyyy too much. Secondly who clicks on ads on facebook? Serious question, have you, any of your friends, or people who might be interested in your music ever clicked on a facebook add? No. The same applies to twitter, reddit, etc. The only people who may click on an add are boomers. And guess what? Boomers aren’t going to be really interested in anything that’s not Hotel California. So unless you’re making some good ole Dad rock, you’re not going to see a real return in investment. So DO NOT pay for social media advertising.

BLOGS

This post is ironic, since I run a music review blog, and I’m telling you that blogs are a waste of time. Yet I gotta be real with you. I’ve been featured so far on 6 blogs, most of them are podunk websites, but I haven’t seen any real plays come from any of those blogs. Here it maybe different since I do try to actually to write up a decent review of an album–and people have told me that this site has made them want to check out new artists–but the proof is in the pudding. If you don’t see an increase in plays, it’s generally because that’s how music blogs are. Yet people clamor all over each other on twitter and everywhere else, and EVEN PAY MONEY just to get featured on a blog. Don’t waste your money on blogs, especially sites like Submithub. I write this blog as a side project, and it’s not that hard to do. So if someone believes that they NEED YOUR MONEY to review your music, then they’re just garbage people.

REDDIT

Unless you somehow have gotten a foothold in a certain type of subreddit, you’re not going to have much luck getting your music listened to on Reddit. I’ve seen plenty of extremely talented artists shill their music on Reddit just to be down-voted into oblivion. Why? Because of other musicians who just posted their music 5 minutes ago, who want to be the top song in the past 24 hours. If there is a more counter-productive system of shilling music, then I don’t know what is.

The second reason is because Redditors tend not to listen to something that’s not already popular. Because of how Reddit operates, it relies on appealing to authority–to appealing to the masses–through their upvote system. Think about it, if you see something with 5000 upvotes you’re immediately going to think it’s quality, regardless of whether it is or not. Just like if someone says, “statistics show”, or “scientists say.” I’m not going to check that shit out. I’ll usually take their word for it. Everybody does it, don’t try to be a contrarian and say that you don’t. So unless you’re doing a cover of an already popular song, making meme music, or doing something weird or quirky–you’re not going to get that many plays relying on Reddit.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Unless you got relatives in the music business, you’re not going to get many plays from your friends or family. Why? Think about it, what makes social media such a depressing place? Because people post all their success, and it causes people to feel depressed about themselves. You can have the most solid group of friends to ever exist. You can have, let’s say, 500 friends who are rooting for you–who share your music every chance they get. Let’s say that they have 10 really good friends who will check out everything they do. That’s only 5k plays at most. But the fact of the matter is, most people don’t have that loyal of friends. Plus let’s say you are killing it, how is that going to make people feel? It’s going to make them jealous, or it’s going to bum them out that they aren’t living their lives up to it’s fullest potential. So unless it’s memeable, funny, or lighthearted most people aren’t going to be checking your music out.

ONLINE RADIO SHOWS

I drive an old car, so I don’t have an aux cable. So I usually listen to whatever is on the radio. So when this song, Despacito came out, I enjoyed it. Now did I know that it was Justin Bieber singing it? No. Not once. Because anytime I heard anything that wasn’t music, I changed the station. It was only after one of my coworkers told me, that I realized that I was enjoying a Justin Bieber song. I only listen to Mainstream radio because my car is old; why would anybody listen to radio, when there is Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, etc.? Unless you got the most charismatic, funny, personable DJ on planet earth most people aren’t going to listen to Online Radio shows. And even if they do, how sure are you that they’ll remember your name? Or have a reliable link to your music? Just questions I ask…

SPAMMING

Just don’t. If you approach me, with no context, and start telling me to listen to your music; I won’t. Why? It’s like going up to somebody who is lifting weights–then midway through their set–you take their weights and start asking them to check you out. Why would I listen to your music, when you didn’t even listen to mine? I’ve literally gotten hundreds of people who’ve spammed their music to me, without any context, and I’ve ignored each one. If you are somebody who spams music without listening to the other person’s music or trying to start a dialogue with another musician, then you’re just a douchebag. So let’s go back to the gym analogy: say someone is lifting weights has bad form and you offer them advice, they get stuck on the bench press and you offer to spot them, or you even asked them to spot you. It’s a much better experience. Why? Because it’s two people working towards a similar goal. Likewise when interacting with people online to promote your music, it should be to help each other, not to shamelessly self-promote yourself.

PROFESSIONAL VIDEOS/PHOTOSHOOTS

This one is controversial, but I have my reasons for it. As an amateur musician you are in the underground, whether you like it or not. Paying money for a music video, or a photoshoot, is like putting the cart before the horse. Most people who are willing to shoot music videos for money are professional enough to know how to make something “look polished” but not creative enough to make it into art. The simple reason is, if they were able to make really great music videos then they wouldn’t be filming you. Sorry, but it’s true.

Paying for photoshoots on the other hand is just retarded. Why? Because if you have a soundcloud you probably have a camera. “But I want my music to seem professional!” Are you a professional? Are you getting paid? If not, then you’re not a professional. You’re an amateur, and until you start making that bread then you better not waste money on somebody to do a photoshoot with you.

But if you really want to make a music video, or really want to do a photoshoot, then NETWORK! Do you know how many photographers there are that are dying to build up their portfolio? Do you know how many film school graduates would love the chance to make a music video? Yeah, it requires you to make friends. But trust me, working with other people to a common goal is always better, than paying someone to do it for you. Plus not only are you promoting your music, but they’re promoting their directing ability on a music video, how well they can edit, how adept they are at photoshop, how well they can do lighting, their visual style etc. It’s a win-win. Plus who hasn’t fantasized about being Stanley Kubrick? Shit is just too enjoyable to pass up.

Final thoughts

So really all it boils down to is networking or more specifically working towards a common goal. If you and a bunch of other group of people are passionate about art, then you won’t need to pay each other. Plus it’s more fun, and if you don’t find the hustle fun, then make music for yourself. There’s a reason why the starving artist stereotype is a thing, but with this advice hopefully you can save money instead of wasting it on pipe dreams. Plus who knows? Maybe one hustle will turn into a passion, you never know…

Basic Genre Introductions (Part one): Vaporwave

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Most of the time any serious music fan discussing their favorite genre, usually ends up looking like a crazy person. So here at recclective we’re going to give you the smooth sailing, easy to understand, breakdown of each genre. To accomplish this we’re going to be bringing in documentaries, albums, articles, and interviews to highlight each genre.

First up is vaporwave. Even though it seems to be a dying genre that’s being quickly overtaken by lofi hip hop, it’s still worth looking up. If you’ve ever heard this song then you’ve heard vaporwave. If that particular song isn’t your cup of tea then I’d recommend Vaporwave: A Brief History by Wolfenstein OS X, and Vaporwave: Genre Redifined by Mr. Amazing.

Vaporwave: A Brief history is more of a documentary goes over it’s beginnings, main genre troupes, aesthetics, and notable artists in the vaporwave community. While Vaporwave: A Brief History is more of a love letter to a genre Mr. Amazing had previously dismissed.

 

 

Wolfenstein OS X, and Mr. Amazing briefly touches on the origin of the name, and the original article posted Dummy Mag provides good insight into the artistic statements that vaporwave began with. If the message of Vaporwave¬† touched on by Wolfenstein OS X and Mr. Amazing interests you, then I’d highly recommend you read it.

So now you’ve listened to some artists, watched the documentary, and read the article–and now you want to start making your own style of vaporwave, or even just incorporate some of it’s aesthetics into your own music. Then I’d suggest watching Adam Neely’s breakdown of the music theory of vaporwave. Adam Neely, generally speaking, is an excellent source of music knowledge and watching any of his videos, makes music theory a lot easier to digest and understand.

 

So there you have it an introductory course to vaporwave.