As musicians or artists, we’ve all felt a feeling of longing to be able to fulfil our wish-list of equipment, productivity tools and furniture to create our ideal home studio at whatever the cost. More than ever we are looking through the window into other peoples homes, lifestyles and practices, and making impairing reference to our own lives.
There’s an intimidating amount of articles online detailing Home Studio Essentials, The Top 10 Hardware Synthesisers You Need Right Now!!, 14 Ways To Increase Productivity At Home, but I really believe there’s a more important elementary holistic process to go through before the practical advice in these becomes easy to separate, and potentially ignore. In this article I want to challenge the perception that somebody else is going to be able to tell you how to approach creativity at home and influence the mechanics of the space in which you do so. It’s likely you’ve already got everything you need.
Let’s look at the terminology. Almost all definitions of a studio suggest that it’s a separate room designed for work and creative practice. For many of us, I’m certain a dedicated environment is an opulent and unachievable goal, and through time various spaces in our homes have had to sustain multi-disciplinary activities; to this day my kitchen table functions as the production suite.
During your studies, you’re likely to come across or have encountered already the structure of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which details a five tier model of human needs, from physiological up to self-actualised. Some of the basic and physiological needs (including food, water, warmth, security, resources etc.) may seem self-evident to talk about, but I think it’s important to reinforce their place when it comes to supporting and sustaining creativity. They strengthen the importance of home in the term ‘home studio’, that it’s an adaptable space and that your creative endeavours are going to be built on solid foundations.
Firstly, I think it’s fundamental we become comfortable with both the present and future function of a home studio. Try and transport yourself to where you might be in a few years times based on the opportunities you see opening up for you, or where you’d hope to be. If you see the bulk of your work being realised in recording and rehearsal facilities, then you may want to consider the focus of your space to be a source of inspiration and a place to explore new ideas, of which you’ll then continue in external environments. Is there anything you can change about your current set up to support changes in the future? Unused equipment…unused space?
For me, the primary function of my creative space is to be able to very quickly explore ideas. Minimal waiting, loading, patching….whether that’s to satisfy capturing ideas with immediacy, or squeezing creative time around other demands of home life.
This is a very personal list you’re going to make, and not one I’m looking to influence and the items within it. The purpose of asking yourself this is just to distinguish between wants and needs. If I spend enough time looking at Instagram of a day, I guarantee I can convince myself I need a certain pair of monitors, or a valve pre-amp…but honestly, for me…the bulk of my work has never deviated outside of laptop, interface and speakers….and I really intend to keep it that way. It promotes flexibility and mobility in my set-up which is what I need in my adaptable creative space. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what is essential, and that it’s not dictated by others.
Further from the basic and physiological needs I referenced earlier, there’s some important factors to consider to help us sustain creativity at home.
Firstly, separating your environments is worth considering. If you’re able to make space to be creative and work outside of your bedroom, I hugely recommend it. In my experience, associating my bedroom with work and productivity only served to effect my quality of sleep and sleeping patterns, and when you start to go down this road this will start to effect the quality of your work, which further reinforces meeting those basic needs.
Secondly, take a moment to consider the visual stimulus in your creative environment, these being items from which you draw inspiration or motivation. How does your current environment make you feel? Is there anything you could change that would empower you to feel more creative? For me, it’s just natural light and sitting close to a window that aids that process. In the past I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a Brighton sea view in my home creative space while writing music, but at the moment the view from my space is north facing, and watching the incoming weather roll off the South Downs and over the city is a really exciting a new source of inspiration.
It’s a minefield out there. Stay focused on your personal journey through it. Try and make purchasing decisions objectively, not subjectively. Sitting with these thoughts an ideas, you’ll likely build a heightened appreciation for your current set-up, and explore the different applications it can offer.
As a final thought, I see many artists becoming increasingly more aware of the environmental impact of their work. If you’re looking to further the conversation in this article, maybe ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to meet the requirements of the environmentally conscious artist we should all be aiming to be. Some very simple first steps could be considering how to save energy, buying second hand equipment and furniture, and sharing equipment for recording purposes in
For more advice in setting up your own home studio get in touch.
UCAS is a vital part of the university application process in the UK. And it's something you'd have to do if you wanted to apply for our BA course at WaterBear, the college of music. Your UCAS application is what communicates to universities your reasons for studying at Higher Education. Although it seems intuitive, it is often a confusing and intimidating process for students.
We want all WaterBear applicants to thrive and reach their full potential, so we have put together some of the best ways to nail your UCAS application.
We know you have what it takes, but if you don’t tell us, we’ll never know! The personal statement is the perfect place for you to tell us about who you are. Make sure to include any and all musical experiences that have formed your career goals and aspirations. When it comes to qualifications, tell us your most recent qualifications to date and what you are currently studying for. And finally, references. Make sure your referees know you musically. Include everything UCAS asks of you, and you are on to a winner!
We receive a huge amount of applications so the more direct you can be the better. Alongside selling yourself and your experience we want to know why a music degree is right for you. Also, why this course specifically? What will having this degree help you achieve? Will this be a vehicle to your greater goals? Remember, this course is for you, so we want you to get the most out of it and steer you in the right direction.
As you’re preparing your application you should become well acquainted with the UCAS track. This is where any and all updates to your application will appear. Often people will check once or twice and leave thinking they were either unsuccessful or their application did not go through. This is almost never the case, check regularly as this is where you will find out any decisions.
The advantage of WaterBear being a boutique university is that we review every UCAS application on a case-by-case basis. So even if your results aren’t what you expected don’t be put off. We assess everyone with a mixture of academic results but also musical skill / experience. If you show you have the passion and skill then we will make sure we support you.
If you would like to book a consultation then get in touch via [email protected]
You can see details of all of our courses and departments here.
Similarly to our BA courses you will be required to have a consultation ahead of your application. What makes this different however is the application goes directly to us. All the same advice applies, make sure you’re thorough and provide evidence along with everything.The link to the direct application for the course will be sent to you on completion of your consultation and once WaterBear have confirmed their recommendation of an offer to you.
If you feel you have covered the content of a module/ modules via your work/ life experience but have no official qualification, APEL is a way to provide the evidence to show this and to gain credit for it. This is basically using your CV as evidence to join the course. Contrary to many rumours there is no charge for this!
APEL applications must be completed within two weeks and must be an accurate statement of your experience. This is different to your personal statement which reflects why you think the course is right for you. You must provide three pieces of evidence of experience alongside this. These can be live footage, recordings, posters, articles, etc.
If you have any questions regarding your UCAS application please don’t hesitate to get in touch via [email protected]
You can find details on all of our degree courses and departments here.
As someone that's creative and whose life involves time spent in music business (whether you're a musician or working behind the scenes), there will be at least one person in your life trying to drag you across the coals for it.
There’s no way to live a meaningful life without critics, naysayers, and sometimes haters getting in the way. They’re part of the human experience. However, it’s your job to not allow them to stop you from living your life, enjoying music and thriving in your work and personal life.
If you're finding negativity is holding you back due to the actions of others, try following these tips to avoid allowing the critics in your life to influence and halt you:
In conclusion, avoid allowing the “haters” in your life to derail your plans. Toxicity feeds toxicity just like positivity grows positivity. Live your life without the need for the approval of others.
If you’re spending your time on activities that truly matter to you, the criticism you receive will have far less impact on you. Just remember, you’re probably doing well if critics are barking in your ear.
Catch up with the latest insights from WaterBear here.
If you’re writing unique music or songs, at some point in your music career you may be presented with a publishing deal opportunity. The chances are that if you are currently an independent artist, you own all the rights to your music and are acting as your own publisher, but at some point you may be presented with additional options.
Here are the basics of what you need to know before signing on the dotted line…
There are certain rights that apply to different parts of music creation. The rights for the song are in publishing, whereas recorded music rights are separate. Recorded music rights can belong to labels if you have a record deal and some record labels may include publishing, but a publishing deal is different from a record deal and should be thought of separately. The reason for this is that sheet music pre-dates recorded music, so royalties can be recouped on either or both. Furthermore, you don’t have to be an artist to cash in on publishing rights. Songwriters and co-writers can benefit from a publishing deal without being the face of the project.
In an administration agreement, the creator retains ownership for the composition and the publisher takes a fee for providing registration for your songs with collection societies, while collecting royalties on your behalf. That fee is typically around the 10-15% mark. Royalties are collected from worldwide territories, making this a logistically good route for artists who release music in a multitude of places, while remaining in full control of their compositions.
If you are working with a label, an administration licensing agreement may be a publishing deal you come across. This type of deal allows the creator to provide the label with a license to market and distribute for a percentage of the sale.
This is the most common deal for the modern-day artist. Unlike the administration agreement, in a co-publishing agreement the creator splits ownership with the publishing company. Therefore the artist gives up an amount of control over their composition, but the return can be greater as the publishing company has a vested interest.
In this kind of deal, a publisher typically takes a cut of 25% of the total revenue from songs and will usually gives an advance to the writer. This monetary advance is like a loan and the publishing company will recoup this amount before paying out to the artist. This gives them more motivation to make money from your songs. A good publisher will aim to get your songs in adverts, films, games etc. and can even facilitate co-writes to boost your earnings.
Although not very common, a full publishing deal signs over the publishing share to a publishing company so that the publishers essentially own the songs. Advances can be larger, but after it is recouped the artist would only receive 50% of the total revenue of songs.
Similarly to the full publishing deal, work for hire means giving up all ownership for a flat rate for the life of the copyright. This is particularly seen in film and advertising.
If you are not signed up to a publishing deal, you are currently your own publisher. This makes you responsible for collecting your own royalties. Look into PRS for Music for easy royalty collection worldwide, without the need for a publishing deal.
For many artists, publishing deals only come into play when they have a number of things in place, including a sizeable audience, radio play and management. This is because a publishing company will want to see that it will be worth their time and effort to collect on your behalf and earn through their percentage take. If your band is doing really well before getting a publisher on board, the writers have more leverage to negotiate a better split and terms of the deal.
When it comes down to getting a good deal and not getting tied into something that is less than ideal, it comes down to a few simple things.
What kind of deal are they offering and what does this mean for your split? Is the publishing company reputable? What other deals could be available to you?
Are the terms and conditions reasonable? Do you understand the small print?
If you have any questions or queries, make sure you get independent advice before signing on the dotted line.
The topic of management comes with a lot of implications and considerations, and there are different circumstances that dictate whether or not your band is ready for management yet. There are some key questions on this topic that I will respond to below so that bands can have a better insight as to whether or not they’re in a position to benefit from having management, and also which type of manager suits what you are trying to achieve long term. It’s important to maintain an objective stance on this topic as some bands can easily become disillusioned or disheartened with their expectations. As much as having management can be glorified and assist with your band’s profile and credibility, it’s important to consider the reality of what stage in your career you are at, and what a manager brings to the table.
The role of a band manager has evolved a lot in recent years. Managers today have a much broader spectrum of responsibility than they once did, and it is a constant hustle to get artists heard in such an oversaturated industry where there is a lot of competition. Your manager must have relevant connections, experience and knowledge of how the music business operates to put you in a better position for success. Ostensibly, it is a manager’s job to oversee the careers of their artists, to proactively search for opportunities, and to maximise all revenue streams.
Managers are normally inclined to build a team for a band, so may seek out recording or publishing deals for you, hook you up with a booking agent, a publicist or find you relevant endorsements. Once the team is formed, the manager may delegate tasks, oversee the team and manage the overall project, as well as developing the artist. This ensures that when a band has a release, it is pushed from all angles and has maximum reach.
Managers also oversee day to day logistical tasks such as the organisation of photo and video shoots, merchandise production, branding and image consultancy, social media promotion, marketing and more. Sometimes, when bands are particularly high profile, they may have a main manager and a day to day manager so that the tasks can be split and carried out thoroughly. However, most managers who work with bands take on an all-encompassing role, which means that their job doesn’t fit a precise description, and they end up just doing whatever needs to be done. You may already know this having self-managed your band.
With the age of the internet and social media, the definition of what ‘stage’ a band is at in their career can vary. Some bands have huge online success, others translate better in live situations. Others have never played a live show before. It all depends on the artist, the demographic of your audience and also the style of music you play.
Some managers are attracted to high social media engagement and the amount of Spotify monthly listeners you have, others are more concerned with how many live tickets and how much merchandise you sell, but normally, it’s a mix of the aforementioned factors combined. If a band is particularly promising live and connects with an audience, the online statistics can always be developed if a manager wishes to invest time and marketing efforts to bring everything up to their expectations. Live is a huge part of an artist’s income and typically, managers, labels, PR folk would want to see strength in this area, particularly if you operate in the rock spectrum. Try to get feedback as well so you have an indication of the quality of your live performance. Bands typically use their online presence to effectively promote tours and encourage ticket sales and grow their live income.
However, If you’ve never played a show and if you have no active engagement on social media, then chances are, you probably don’t need a manager.
Some managers (and agents) are open to development deals but they may request a payment model that isn’t reliant upon commission. I will talk about the different types of management deals in my next blog.
Once a band starts picking up momentum and you make the decision that you are no longer capable or willing to self-manage or seek out appropriate opportunities to take you to the next level, then is the time to look to bring someone on to the team. I speak about how to effectively self-manage your band in my first blog ‘Top Tips on how to self-manage your band’. Bands both proactively seek managers and also there can be instances whereby a manager will approach the band.
To summarise, there’s no right or wrong time but there are some components that increase your chances of attracting management and future deals.
If a band lacks skills, connections and time to manage themselves, then looking to hire a manager may be a consideration. However, if a band has not been very proactive and doesn’t have the financial stability to support future activities, then the likelihood of attracting a manager is not likely.
A band may need a manager if they have managed to grow a successful online following, are selling out venues locally and nationally, and have done everything they can to get to a certain level. Some bands may be great at juggling all of the various tasks involved but do not feel they can negotiate the best record/publishing/licensing deal for them and may need some assistance here if they know that the labels are interested. Some labels prefer working with bands who have managers before they sign them, others just want to know they are dealing with someone capable, professional and efficient.
Bands can prematurely feel the want to bring a manager on board, but they also need to take into consideration the financial implications here and if they have enough revenue to compensate a manager for their efforts. Hence why I mention financial stability above - where a lot of the time cash flow comes from day jobs that initially support the band’s activities until they are self-sufficient and monetising.
Back in the day, managers were compensated upfront for their efforts by way of huge advances from recording and publishing deals, deposits from show fees and more. Nowadays the models are very different and managers will be mindful of existing and potential revenue streams that they can help maximise.
Look good, sound good, be professional. How are you perceived by potential managers?
There are many things a band may do to attract the attention of management, and that can include making a buzz online, performing at showcase festivals, having impressive sales and streaming statistics and attracting a live audience. Again, most of these things are mentioned above but I want to emphasise the importance of all of these contributing factors.
Having a unique look, personality and message in conjunction with having high-quality music is a great package for any manager. If you have spent a couple of years developing yourselves and have a good CV to bring to the table complete with media coverage, Spotify playlists, notable support slots, festivals and any other achievements, then put this all in an EPK (Electronic Press Kit). Make managers aware of what you’re doing. Stay in touch with them and provide updates on your progress. A manager may express initial interest, but feel more needs to be done before they commit to a long term working relationship with you. Keep this in mind and just maintain communication with potential managers so that they can keep track of how you are developing as an artist.
Do your research, don’t send blanket BCC emails and be realistic. I regularly receive submissions from bands out of my genre remit, proving they have not done their research. Ultimately, they’re just wasting their own time and energy by firing emails in all different directions without any specific vision of what they need.
Personalise your emails, show you have a knowledge and interest of what this manager has achieved for their artists and acknowledge that you feel they could bring to the table what you’re looking for. There is nothing worse than when a band sends a blanket copy and paste email with no information, a few links and just a line saying they’re looking for management. Emails like that will go in the trash.
Try to be formal with your correspondence when initially approaching managers, this is a business after all. Reaching out and pretending they’re your best friend before you’ve built a rapport isn’t going to bode well for a professional relationship.
I’ll be expanding on the different types of management deals in a future blog so stay tuned. But for now, good luck in your search for a manager and I hope some of the considerations above may allow you to think about why you may have not been successful yet in your search.
Merry Christmas, my name is Georgie and I previously worked as a radio plugger. My job was to get bands/artists songs played on the radio. In the radio industry, this time of year comes with its own set of challenges as a plugger. One Christmas, I represented Shakin’ Stevens who had recut his Christmas classic ‘Merry Christmas Everyone”. My job was to get this track as much radio exposure as possible. Now, due to the fact it was to raise money it did well in some respects, this was bolstered by it being a familiar song. However, one piece of feedback I kept getting was that people just wanted to hear the original. Despite being lower quality in terms of production (having been released originally in 1985), the original had one thing on its side – nostalgia. That’s the version many grew up listening to and love.
Mariah Carey, Slade, Shakin’ Stevens and The Muppets all have one thing in common - a Christmas hit. The hits are massive income-generating tracks for artists and the industry surrounding them. Mariah Carey has made over $60 million to date, and earns $500,000 every Xmas. Considering this, you are forgiven for thinking that a Christmas hit will pave your road to financial success.
The first question is to ask - is a Christmas song stylistically appropriate in your genre? If you are a punk act, then releasing a Christmas song could be considered intensely commercial and uncool. However, if you are a Bublé-esque then a Christmas track could well have radio potential.
There is a simple answer, Christmas tracks evoke a sense of nostalgia. It is not so much about the track itself, it’s more about the way it makes you feel. Unless you have a time machine handy and can make a historic Christmas track, writing a successful Christmas tune will be a tall order. You may find more success in covering an existing song.
It may seem to be a great time to release in December, as all the major label artists do. However, consider that they are releasing albums to be given as Christmas gifts to friends and family, it may be that your death metal album is not an appropriate gift.
The industry is generally oversaturated in December, and if you are an artist with a moderate to small reach you could get lost in the noise of Christmas. Instead, use this month to reflect and get your plan together for January (this is covered in next week’s blog).
I’ll let you in on a secret… the large majority radio is planned on the day. It needs to be topical, and it needs to be relevant. There is no point in planning it the day before as it will be old news by the time the show is live. This means you, and a band/artist need to be as flexible and available as possible to get that slot on a show on the day.
Let me tell you a story about how this has really paid off. When I was a plugger, the producer of the Robert Elms Show on BBC Radio London called me at 10am saying "we have a slot today for an interview in 3 hours". She needed me to sort it out and get any artist or band in. As a plugger, I said ‘sure, no problem’, then put the phone down, had a mild panic, and rang a few people.
Unfortunately, no one was free that day… until I tried someone I was plugging who lived on the Isle of Wight. It was a long shot, but I gave it a go. To my surprise, he said yes, and he managed to get from his armchair in the Isle of Wight to the studio in London in 3 hours. He did a great interview and brought his guitar along, which I actually didn’t ask him to do. He thought ahead and played a track live.
Not only that, the artist was promoting a Christmas themed album. He had created stories based on old photographs he’d found from Christmases gone by. Robert Elms loved it and asked him back. That just shows that if you are available and committed, then you absolutely have a shot at getting on the radio.
If you work hard and you’re consistently reliable, you'll be on the tip of the tongue of the person who puts acts on the radio. I knew this artist had worked hard. I knew he would show up, he would do a good interview and also be able to do a track live if needs be. You need to gig, get your name out there and network. This helps whoever gets asked to find a band or artist know your name. You need to be the act that a plugger thinks of when they have a slot to fill in a couple of hours.
So, this Christmas, don’t get caught up in the festive noise. Use December to reflect and get ready to work hard in January. Next year may just be your year to get on the radio. Keep pushing and Happy Christmas!
I want to help you with your songwriting. My aim is not to help you write an average song but a career-defining hit!
I’m lucky enough to of had a lifetime career in music. My career goes back to the early '90s and due to this, I have written music with some of the most talented names in the field. I have studied with the masters and picked up a few of their tips. This is the stuff that no one told me about, I just saw them do it and took notes. In this blog, I want to share with you all of the unspoken nuances of professional songwriting.
In the early nineties, I had the privilege of writing and working with the legendary Jim Vallance. Vallance wrote hits for Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and most notably he was a co-writer for the Reckless album, which was a collaboration between himself and Bryan Adams. Vallance has evidently written with an enviable list of artists.
When I was 21 years old, I turned up to Jim’s studio and got a complete shock. Vallance wrote songs in a way that I was yet to experience and that was between office hours. Every day we worked from nine to five with an hour off for lunch and aimed to write four to five songs a day. We did this methodically, we never placed a value judgment on a song whilst it was being written, it was carefully catalogued and reviewed a week later.
Vallance felt that you couldn’t be objective about a song at the point of its conception. We reviewed the tracks a week later and we were always much more objective. The astute ethos of Jim’s was well placed, the songs I thought were the strongest turned out to be weakest and the weakest became the strongest. The moral here is to write methodically, allow inspiration to be realised and let the process keep you writing all throughout the day. Catalogue all those songs and come back to them a week later.
This is an extreme production line process of writing songs but what about the other side of the coin. I think the reality for most artists, myself included, is that the Jim Vallance model is too constraining to fully access the creative process. The actuality is that most artists write fairly average songs and get a little boxed in. Habit leads us to always start from the same point. So it is always a strummed acoustic guitar pattern in either a major or minor key, it's a bit “droney" as it’s started from the verse and this leads to the technical problem of the artist trying to stitch on a chorus that never quite works as intended.
So, what do the pro’s do about it? Simple answer, they start varying their songwriting methodology and start songs from different angles. I’m going to give you a few suggestions. The key question is how can we look at writing differently and come up with something a little wild?
(1) Create an inspiring place to work
At WaterBear we have a resident artist, Jim Sanders. He provides all the wall hangings, stencils that complement our visual aesthetic. This sends the message that this is a creative place. I implore you to do the same.
(2) Start with the chorus
Don’t box yourself in by starting with the verse and having to glue something on the end of it that may or may not fit. Start with the HOOK.
(3) Think about tempo and feel
Now its generally accepted that writing up-tempo tunes are technically harder than writing downtempo ones. If you have a lot of slow material then its time to think about the BPM and shifting it up a little bit.
(4) Use classic feels
Whilst we are on the subject of tempo and groove, think about starting with classic feels. This could be a “4 in a bar” Motown feel, a shuffle or a marching snare. Use this as a starting point for a song and see what lyrics emerge.
(5) Dream Diary
Start cataloguing your dreams, analyse them and see what you can pick out for subject matter. Work with the unexpected.
(6) Keep it unexpected
Try the Dadaist or Bowie approach where you cut up random words and stick them in a hat, pull them out in any order and see what lyrics emerge. So you get the idea, vary the approach try different starting points and you will be amazed by the results!
I want to leave you with a final thought about songwriting. There is something that used to happen in the past but doesn't so much happen anymore, and that is the A&R process. What tends to happen these days is that the arbiter of what makes a song good is the artist. We decide if a song is good enough to go on an album and this means we are not accountable to anybody.
We need to apply that extra layer of accountability stipulated by A&R, and ask ourselves the difficult questions such as “is this song as good as it could possibly be?”, “can we take it any further?”. We have to apply the answers to our work and recognise that this is the process needed to take our songs to the next level. We all know there are thousands and thousands of bands out there, how do we step up, compete and have the hit songs?
These days A&R personnel are literally like unicorns, I’ll admit I don’t really know any that operate in the music business I recognise. We have to A&R ourselves however that role has largely been taken by the producer. This means it integral to understand the differences between our engineers and the producer.
An engineer is someone who will make your band sound good sonically, however, we need more than that. We need someone who is going to second guess every single note we play, every aspect of the arrangement, every aspect of the top line and contribute to the songwriting. In an ideal world its the extra member of the band that has an objective view and takes the song to the highest level it can be.
Here are the links to some producers based in the UK we recommend that will be able to do that job for you;
Jag Jago (The Maccabees, Ten Tonnes, Jessie Ware, The Magic Gang)
Ben Thackeray (My Bloody Valentine, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Nylo, Gruff Rhys)
George Donoghue (The Rocket Dolls, River becomes Ocean, Codename Colin)
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- ‘Water bear’ is the common name for a Tardigrade.
- Tardigrades are micro creatures, found everywhere on earth.
- They are the most resilient creatures known.
- They can survive and adapt to their surroundings, even in outer space.
- Their resilience and ability to adapt and survive inspires us in everything we do. We love them.