A Musical Journey

Greetings fellow musicianados!

An Introduction from the Heart:

Welcome to BESTMUSICSPOT.COM, your one-stop shop for all things music!

My name’s Amritha and I am a singer. I started this site because like many of you out there, I loved to sing and make music, but I knew very little about how to do this professionally and affordably.

My music journey began when I was very young – around 4-5 years old. I grew up in a very musically-oriented family of sweet, loving people and our home was always full of beautiful Indian classical tracks, Bollywood and South Indian songs – along with the occasional sound of 70s and 80s English rock and pop songs.

I first started to sing when my Mother sat me down and started teaching me Indian classical music from the South – the ‘Carnatic’ school of music. I learnt with her quite mechanically. At that point I was too young to know what I was doing, so I imitated what my Mother would do and then toddled off without thinking about it much.

I learnt music from my Mother and from 1-2 other teachers on and off for the next 5 years of my life, after which I got bored of the formal teaching style, and started teaching myself different styles. Interestingly, I never once sat down and realised that I was singing – I was just subconsciously imitating what other singers were doing. I had no opinions on how I sounded, nor did I care. It was a calming process that soothed my mind, and in many ways, I could not hear my own voice or how it sounded – it just felt good to imitate the voices I heard on tapes and CDs.

Soon enough, I was spending almost every moment at home humming or singing loudly to myself, hitting all sorts of high notes and low notes and just enjoying the process of cracking those sounds.

It was not until I turned 15 years old that I realised I actually sounded ‘good’ while I sang. My Father pointed it out to me – I remember I had been singing loudly again – subconsciously – and I bumped into my Dad and he said: “you know, you could probably do this on stage. You sound very very good.” I stopped in my tracks and wondered – did I really?

So the next few days as I sang, I actually tuned in and listened to myself – and I was surprised. I liked how I sounded. I had a beautiful voice and I had never quite listened to it properly before.

My relationship with music changed after that. Very soon, I starting pouring my soul into my voice – I sang when I was sad, or happy or even just bemused at life. And I could feel the emotion in my voice as I sang – it was a very pure and cathartic experience.

Music has since been a dear and close companion to me throughout my life. I have since moved through several countries, been through many a difficult time, achieved many goals, failed, succeeded, had my trust broken, had my trust rebuilt – in other words, life has happened in all its up and down glory. But music has always been my constant.

It was not until earlier this year that I decided to give to music the same love it has given me – I decided to share my voice with those who wanted to hear it. It was a scary experience – sharing any art is a scary experience. Music is an art that comes right from your gut, from your soul. When you put that out there, you are making yourself vulnerable to the world. To harsh words and harsh criticisms. It’s scary and it could crush you.

But this year I finally went ahead and did it. And I’m glad I did.

Starting a proper Youtube channel has allowed me to share a very special part of me and my personality with a larger audience. I get positive comments from listeners. And sometimes I hear (hurtful) negativity. But the fact is – my voice is out there now. It comes from a very pure place in my Heart and it is beautiful. And at some point, somewhere, it has made someone pause and smile, or pause and reflect. My voice connected me to a stranger at some point, and for one moment, we were one. For one moment, we shared an experience without even knowing each other. And that makes all of this worth it.

For me, this is what music is all about. It’s about my Soul, connecting with a greater world and bringing people together.

Once you have clarity on why you want to take your music to the world, everything else becomes a matter of planning, commitment, and execution.

And of course, knowledge and efficiency.

So this is where this website comes in.

One of the first things that I found intimidating about starting music professionally, was that there was limited guidance out there all in one spot – sure, there were separate sites on instruments, sites on mixing and mastering, sites on studio setup – but no one place where you could find all the information you were looking for.

My intention is for this site to be that one-stop-shop for you.

So welcome to the BESTMUSICSPOT family. I hope I can help you achieve your musical Dreams, and I’m so excited to get to know you!!

Amritha. x

 

THE 5-STAGE PROCESS

Starting something new is pretty scary right?

I remember a few months ago when I had just made the decision to ‘go public’ with my music, I felt really overwhelmed. I knew how to sing, and that was it. How do you from point A (knowing how to sing) to point B (producing high quality tracks and marketing these online)?

Here’s one thing you don’t to – don’t compare.

If you’re just starting to get your music out there, then realise that you’re a but late to the Youtube party. The golden age to launch something on Youtube was 2008-2010. Now the market is saturated. So realise that:

1) This is going to be hard

2) You need to get creative and innovative

3) You will never ever give up, until you reach your personal goal

Being a bit late to the party does not mean you cannot make it. It does mean that you need to be strategic about how to approach your goals however.

More on that later.

For newbies to the music scene, here is my 5-step-process that summarises the music production and marketing process end-to-end. You need to start getting across all of these bit by bit. I will go into detail on each of these stages later, but for now here’s a summary:

1) Soul searching – understand your why, your identity as a musician, the types of songs that you want to put out there and what your end-goal is. Spend time soul-searching. Write down your goal and your WHY so that you can come back to it when things get tough.

2) Branding – base your brand on what your goal is and who you are. Now get started on creating all your key social media platforms, keeping this branding style in mind throughout. Create a rough logo, and some key phrases that are going to be yours. Get some photos done and create your own # too!

3) Equipment setup – that annoying but at times fun step in the process that cannot be avoided – or short-cutted. This includes your entier audio recording setup at home and your video/filming setup.

4) Content creation – plan out your next 5 tracks, and DO NOT LAUNCH PUBLICLY until they are complete. That way you have 5 tracks ready to go the moment you launch, giving you plenty of leeway as you start learning the ropes in the background. Plan the tracks you want in advance, and for each of these, invest time upfront in planning out the arrangement and instrumentals – and the visuals as well, if relevant. Another key process here is to find the right people to work with – this can be time-consuming and expensive. But you’ll get there.

5) Marketing – your work has just begun. Don’t assume that good content wins. Good content that reaches the right people, wins. You need to become an ACE marketer to ensure your name is out there and heard.

 

So those are your 5 key stages. Let’s master them one by one!

While I will be going into detail on each of these later, here are some quick thoughts:

Here’s a quick summary of the first few steps you need to take as you start out sharing your music with the world:

  • Make your end-goal measureable and give it a deadline. For me, I wanted to hit 1000 followers in the first couple of weeks (an audacious goal that ended up taking much longer – but that’s okay! Aim high. Don’t be afraid to fail in order to succeed).
  • Create a plan that aligns to the goal – write out how YOU think you want to get there. So if your aim is to build a Youtube following, brainstorm all the different actions you could take to get there.
  • Do some (restricted) research – give yourself exactly 30 minutes a day, and go and study how other Youtubers have done it. Watch their videos and figure out the ‘secret formula’ – is it the content? Is it a gimmick that makes the video shareable? Is it the video quality? it’s probably a mix of these. But jot down the trends you’re seeing. Study about 10 channels you personally like and admire and stop there.
  • Figure out your brand – once you’ve seen how others have done it, you’ll probably realise that brand is a HUGE thing. Find a niche or an angle and write it down – something that is unique to you. And stick to it throughout.
  • Create your brand – starting out as a professional musician is pretty similar to starting up a company. Start drafting up some materials that will remain constant throughout your social media channels – logos, mottos, photos etc. Make sure everything is consistent throughout.

Again, I’ll stop there for now and go into each of these in more detail in further posts. I made a lot of mistakes along my journey, so I’m keen to share them with you to save you time and enhance your success!

 

SOUL-SEARCHING AND BRANDING

COMING SOON

AUDIO EQUIPMENT SETUP

You don’t hear this much in this ‘marketing crazy’ age, but really, the foundation of everything you do will be your instrument, your substance – whether it’s your voice or your guitar. And making sure you have the best set-up possible within your given constraints is critical to giving your gift the best change out there. Putting your best foot forward through high quality equipment and a neat and professional home setup can make your life a lot smoother as well.

For me, there was a LOT of trial and error in this process. Reflecting back on it, there are 3-4 key components here that you need to get across:

1) Find your permanent space: Find a space in your house to set up your home studio, and stick to it. The first few weeks of moving equipment up and down stairs and through the hall drove me crazy. Invest 1-2 hours upfront in scouting out your house and finding somewhere that will:

  • Let you set up a background/use the existing wall as a background to film against
  • Provide space for lighting, laptops, wires, microphone and stands
  • Be expandable – i.e., built upon further later with sound-proof padding etc.

 

2) Find your microphone ‘superman/woman’ – the first thing you must invest in is a microphone – a solid one. I’ll dedicate several articles to this because it is so important. Understand the tone of your voice – or get your friend to give you their view on it – and find a microphone that will boost your best voice assets. For me, I have a killer husky lower range that my RODE NT1A doesn’t do justice to – at the same time, it makes my highs sound amazing. What makes your voice special? What matters to you? Find a microphone that will elevate your voice and flatter your strengths – and serve the purpose you are trying to fulfil.

3) Find your microphone’s sidekicks – microphones work best when they have a solid line up of supporting acts. So the key things you’ll want to look out for here are:

  1. A) Pop filter – make sure you order your pop filter with your microphone (you can also make your own, I’ll show you how later). The purpose of this is to reduce the ‘p’ and ‘f’ sounds that can get very jarring while recording vocals
  2. B) Microphone stand – well you need something to hold your microphone up, right?
  3. C) Phantom power – most professional condenser microphones require phantom power to work – so invest in a good one. I made the mistake of buying a cheap little phantom power box from ebay, and it buzzed loudly throughout all my recordings – worst! So don’t hesitate – invest in a solid phantom power appliance and your happiness will be assured. Kind of.
  4. D) Preamp. This goes hand in hand with your microphone brand as well. All you need to know for now is that a preamp acts to feed the sound from your microphone into your laptop or computer.

 

4) Deck out your audio hood – Now for all the fun paraphernalia –  quality XLR cables, sound padding, bass traps. I’ll go into these in more detail later. Of these, you can get away with not investing in sound padding yet, but you will definitely need  XLR cables – here’s what a basic set up of XLR cables and equipment might look like:

So there you have an overview of the audio equipment you need. I’ll go into more detail on the actual setup and share a video with you in later posts.

VIDEO EQUIPMENT SETUP

If you’re a closet-introvert like me, you’ll initially find the concept of being on camera pretty intimidating – and just a litttle bit awkward.

Here is my first video that I ever filmed:

It’s not too bad right? But you can see that I’m pretty awkward.

Now here’s one of my latest videos:

A LOT better right?

The reason I’m sharing these links is so that you know that things will become a lot easier and smoother the more you do it – as is the case with many things in life.

If you want to make it in music, or even just give your talent the best chance out there, you need to get yourself out there – not just your voice, but all of you. You  need to share your personality and your brand with the world. No matter whether you think you’re different or not – you are. Ain’t nobody got the spark that you do!

Anyway. More inspirational posts later.

What do you need at a basic level, to start filming your songs for Youtube?

1) A device that films video – I still use my iPad for this. If you have a quality smartphone – this will do for now. Don’t start investing in expensive equipment yet. You would be surprised at the results that are possible with something as simple as your own phone.

2) A proper angle/shot – this is again, easier than it appears. Find a wall that has a light colour. Stand in front of the wall and test out how you appear in front of the camera. Your perfect angle is something like this:

 

Your face is clearly visible, and the background is light and does not distract from you as a focus. You’re looking right into the camera and the camera shows your torso and above. Perfect.

3) A stand to hold your camera – you can order a good and affordable one of these on ebay. Don’t try to improvise on this – invest in a good stand and you’ll save a lot of time later.

4) Lighting – did you know that almost 70% of what makes an awesome video is lighting? I made that number up, but you get the point. Lighting is very important! It can make or break how professional your video looks. So invest in a basic pair of soft lighting gear – again off ebay or Amazon – I’ll do a review of a few good ones. Learn to set up the lighting so it looks like the shot above – no shadows, face illuminate, nice and even spread of light.

5) Editing and post-production – I found someone online to do this for all of my videos. He’s very good, and honestly I’d rather spend more time singing than learning video editing. But if you want to try this for yourself, then there are a few options online that are pretty easy to use and allow you to very easily edit video online.

I have a lot of tips on what to put in your music videos as well – excited to share these tips with you in later articles!

CONTENT CREATION

I want to reiterate here that I was – and in many ways still am – a total newbie at all things music production. I am a singer, and will always be a singer at the core. So that’s where my focus was the last couple of decades.

But this did not justify my not having any idea about what it takes to create a music track.

So first piece of advice here is – know what your CORE STRENGTH is. And then learn the bare minimum of what you need to know about everthing else to BRING YOUR CORE STRENGTH to to the fore.

So for example – before I stared, as a singer all I could really do was to record my raw vocals on a my phone recorder and listen back to it. That was the level of my skillset when I started out.

Then I realised that my voice deserved better – and I had to learn a bit more about other ‘stuff’ in order to be able to share my voice in a way that did justice to it.

So I downloaded ‘Audacity’ on my laptop and quickly googled some cheap microphones that would plug in directly into my laptop. I bought a SAMSON Meteor USB mic.

For a month or so I played around on Audacity with my vocal recordings until I created my first ever public track:

Yep, pretty basic. No real backing track, no video. And yet up it went on Youtube.

3 years later, I decided to take it all a lot more seriously. I knew I needed a proper customized backing track and a proper video this time.

Long story short, I dropped my ‘but I am a singer’ ego, and delved into the details of the other ‘stuff’ that would enable me to take my singing out into the public domain and stand a chance. Here are all the things I’ve learnt  and am still learning – that are important for you to familiarise yourself with as well as you’re starting out:

1) Music arrangement – the structure of your track, instruments, tempo, pitch and vibe

2) Video filming and editing – super important if you’re launching a presence on Youtube

3) Mixing and mastering – a critical final stage that will make or break your track, this is the glue that will bring your vocals and instrumental components together in a way that is smooth and ‘finished’. (I am still working on finding the right people and processes for this).

I will be dedicating a couple of articles to each of these points.

So you’ve creating a gorgeous audio track, a perfect visual to go with it, and you’re feeling pretty fantastic. You’ve uploaded it onto Youtube and you’re sitting there with your coffee waiting for the views to come pouring in.

And you wait.

And wait.

That’s right – your journey has just begun my friend.

Content creation is only the beginning of your music journey. The biggest clincher will be marketing. How will you ensure that your content reaches the right people at the right time and in the right way?

So here’s the part where you need to step away from your identity as ‘just a singer’. Start delving into digital marketing – because that’s where you’re going to play. This is what will separate you from the millions of other aspiring singers out there. Learn to market yourself.

Here are the key digital marketing components/processes you need to get across:

  1. CHOOSE YOUR CHANNELS OF FOCUS: Choose 2-3 core social media channels other than Youtube – for me it is Instagram and Facebook. And soon, Snapchat.
  2. CURATE YOUR CONTENT TO MATCH YOUR BRAND: Brainstorm the types and frequency of content to be shared on each platform. Set up your presence with photos, text and videos. Hire a professional copywriter if you must. Invest in a logo. Invest in your branding. More on this to come.
  3. CENTRALISE YOUR MANAGEMENT: Set up a social media management platform – such as HootSuite – and set aside 1-2 hours every day on the weekend to pre-plan all your content. On top of this you will also post live updates throughout the week. The key will be experiment and engage with everyone on your social media platforms.
  4. UPSKILL ON DIGITAL MARKETING: Learn how to run Facebook ads. Learn about the Youtube algorithm. LEARN the nature of how videos become viral through internet marketing and beyond their content. This is critical.
  5. LOCATE MARKETING PLATFORMS: Create a list of music sharing pages – websites, Facebook pages and Insta pages. You will later be contacting each and every one of them to share your music.

There’s a lot to swallow here, so I’m going to pause here – we’ll go into a LOT of  detail on all of these later.