updated 06:15 am EDT, Thu September 20, 2012
You're a budding muso, how do you get heard?
Up until about two weeks ago, I had no idea about how to get a song up on iTunes. As of today, my song “The Fallout” has gone live on iTunes under the band name Neodymium Project. It all began on my iMac using Apple’s brilliant Garageband with my iPad, Tunecore, Pro Tools, iWeb, Dropbox, Paypal, Bigcartel, Snapseed, Pixelmator, Yousendit, Jango, MySpace and Facebook all playing a part in making it happen. But it was through social media, that I was able to have my guitar hero Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) play the lead solo on the track. The one common thread – technology.
“The Fallout” began life in my study, when I plugged my guitar into a Zoom G2.1u USB guitar interface. I launched Garageband and used some purchased drum loops in the Apple Loops format featuring a well-known session drummer, which helped to give it a great ‘live’ feel. Once I had selected my beat, I got the guitar cranked up and started riffing. As with many Apple products, Garageband may be simple to use, but that does not make it any less powerful. I could teach anyone how to do the recording fundamentals of what I did on “The Fallout” in 20 mins.
Most of the song was completed in two days in a total of no more than 10 hours - 80 percent of what I had done on my own Mac using Garageband is what you hear in the final version. Some might not consider Garageband a studio-quality application, but it certainly has more power than anything The Beatles ever used to record an album! I certainly recommend it, whether it is the Mac version or the mobile version, it is just incredibly intuitive and has helped to unleash the creative potential of innumerable people around the globe.
I knew that I had created something worthwhile with the tune, and this is where what I did deviated from simply doing it all at home. Over the past few years, I cultivated a connection with legendary guitarist Steve Stevens, first through his MySpace page, and later through Facebook. An opportunity presented itself and I asked if he would be prepared to lay down a solo on the track for me. To my absolute excitement, he listened to the track and said that he would. I will remain eternally grateful to Steve for his incredible generosity – his solo is also nothing short of amazing.
Steve asked me to bounce my tracks out of Garageband as WAV files, which I was able to do after a quick Google search, and I sent them through to his L.A. home studio The Purple Room using Yousendit, upon receiving it, Steve worked his magic. Using Yousendit, Steve returned the solo as a WAV file where upon I was able to drop it back into Garageband. Figuring that I might be on to something, I contacted my brother Ramesh who happens to be a top tier composer for TV ads and is a gifted audio engineer at SongZu.
My brother imported the WAV files from my Mac using Pro Tools on his Mac Pro. He completed a mix, but also came up with some cool little tweaks to the drums and other parts of the song. My brother also recorded the singer, a session musician from Sydney by the name of Spencer Jones, who sang the lyrics I’d written as I imagined myself singing them – I can hold a note, but I don’t have the ‘pipes’ as they say in the biz. The vocals could have been recorded at home to a decent level using Garageband, but I was lucky enough to have access to a professional studio.
So I had a good song on my hands, but I didn’t really know what to do with it next. It was then that I stumbled on article that mentioned Tunecore as an avenue for getting “The Fallout” out there – that was just two weeks ago. Tunecore’s rates are very reasonable, and they can get your music on to iTunes, Amazon, Rdio, Spotify etc while you retain full rights to your music and any profit that your music might generate. But I also needed some cover art.
Enter Snapseed on the iPad. I had taken a photo of my Gibson Les Paul Standard using my Sony NEX-5 camera some time ago and I thought that this could be turned into some artwork. I had never done anything remotely like graphic design in the past. Snapseed gave me the great look I was going for quickly, but I needed to get in the right proportions for a CD. Pixelmater is an extremely popular Mac alternative to Photoshop. I have both apps, but Pixelmater made the job much easier.
I was able to upload both my music and artwork through Tunecore without any trouble and within half an hour, the song was being sent off to digital music storefronts around the globe. I decided that I also needed to get some CD singles printed, for the diehard fans of Steve Stevens who want to own a physical copy of the song. Tunecore offers such a service, and for a few hundred dollars, I was able to upload my cover art and use the online template to order 300 copies of the song as a single.
This is where online sales portal Bigcartel came in handy. It gave me an online storefront, for no charge, and allowed me to link it to my Paypal account to accept payments. I did not have to go through any of the trauma of trying to set up my own webstore from scratch and was, in fact, able to set it all up in around another 30 to 45 minutes. I was also able to use Apple’s sadly neglected iWeb app to quickly create a web portal for the Neodymium Project and, in lieu of publishing it to the now defunct MobileMe service, I was able to set up a redirect from my web domain to Dropbox, where I am hosting my band page free of charge.
To help get the tune out there, I have also paid Internet radio site Jango to have the song played by people who share similar musical tastes. Again, their vary by the number of times you want to get guaranteed plays, but you will find something that suits most budgets. The site has over 7 million users who have organized their music by their preferences, so it is much easier to target your potential listening audience using this service than traditional radio.
So there you have it – a pathway to recording your music and getting it out there – all without a record company in sight, and not too big a dent in one’s wallet. Although I could have spent more money on the whole process, I could also have spent even less. If you’re a budding musician, there has never been a better time to get your music listened to by potentially millions of people around the world. And it’s all thanks to technology, but technolgy that is also user-friendly and easy to learn and master. It’s ability for technology to shape our lives, to unleash our potential, is truly unlimited.
Footnote: I am very indebted to my father, the late Dr. Kula Sathiah, who passed away just over a year ago. When I was still in elementary school, back in the late 70s, he bought my brother and me our first computer, an Apple ][, kickstarting our life-long love of technology. He knew all the way back then, that it was important that we grow up using technology and if it were not for his vision, it is unlikely that I would have been in a position to write this story. He also inspired our great love of music and would have loved to have heard my new song.
By Sanjiv Sathiah