Self Production- The Feminine Voice (Women Who Rock in Music Series)

We detour this week for a break from the series ‘I Am Woman Watch Me Roar’ interviews, by looking at a reflective retrospective self-production process from the feminine point of view. I refer to my journey over 4 albums and various singles, sharing what I have learnt along the way. I am just like you, trying to figure stuff out, learning, evolving and far from perfect. I am an expert in human creative self-expression/ creative process. I have appointed myself Creative Director of the Windcatcher.

Self-production can be daunting for someone starting out. The number of conferences I went to and methods and courses I have signed up for and got partway through a too many to mention. I have managed to distil it all down to an efficient but lengthy process. An album cycle can take a year if you have the funds or 2 if like me you have limited resources. I have done everything myself except mastering and of recent years some filming. My first album however was mixed my friend Megan. So here is what I have learnt and what to do in a nutshell, with commentary from the feminine voice. I also offer my services as a creativity coach for other artists in this capacity, who are seeking to walk a similar path of self-expression, actualisation and completion of creative vision.

  1. 1. You have to wear lots of hats or be able to pay for services you cannot do yourself
  2. 2. You must hatch your eggs, if you sit on them too long it can stifle the creative flow and process and lead to frustration.
  3. it does not matter how long it takes just begin and stay at it
  4. Your work does not have to be perfect; it is an evolution over time, you learn from everything you manage to complete or not to complete, one must allow the emergence, growth and maturation process.

For example at present I am in multiple phases of old work going back as far as 10 years, new work and collaborations with a new band venture called Symbols in Sounds (look and listen up for more on us closer to release, as we will again detour whilst a focus on promoting our first release).

  1. Work has many cycles and evolutions. In feminine terms it can be expressed as
  2. a) creation and conception
  3. b) gestation or trimesters of project development
  4. c) birth and release
  5. d) promotion

CREATIVITY COACHING INFO- GO HERE https://www.catherinemeeson.com/coaching/

THE ARTISTIC SELF AND THE WORLD YOU ARE BIRTHING INTO.

My first album was Revolution Complete a mostly electronic work with some vocals and sampling. When I wrote this, I had just purchased Reason software, in 2008- 2009. I wrote a heap of work delighted that I could get it all out of my head at last, arrange it and sequence everything via midi. I had help from Megan who I met at Victory University, who was studying Audio Engineering (I was doing performance). She helped to take the work beyond midi. Back then I knew nothing of levels, automation, EQ, spatial placement, compression et cetera. I did not have the tools to record pure audio either. We did the audio recording in Pro Tools of the old V.U Sunbury asylum. Meg mixed it and mastered it, so I learnt about the process in a studio and the things that I couldn’t do. We went to music conferences together, looked into what you need to do to release work and I set my course. None of my teachers knew how to release anything because none of them had done it. I find it ironic that people teaching things such as song writing have not released any work! Employ me!

FOUNDATIONS TO RELEASE

Register as an independent artist with ARIA and get ISRC codes (metadata codes for audio masters which help track and ID your work on the World Wide Web during distribution to distributors and aggregators). It is essential for streaming services and any royalties getting back to you.

Register all songs with APRA/AMCOS to receive performance royalties if you play the material live or receive airplay.

Record your demos, learn to arrange and play other instruments, go through the audio production and post production cycle. Investigate the gear you need to fulfill your vision. Record and refine your mixes (it all takes time, you just have to do it to get better and understand stuff).

Set up a basic home studio, you really do not need much now days, it is totally affordable, even for the budget consious starving artists archetype, just begin. The basic essentials are: a computer, DAW (software), audio interface, studio flat response headphones and studio flat response monitors, cabling, midi keys and instruments. If you sing obviously a microphone and mic stand.

Get critical feedback from independent years. Pay for private mentorship from those in the industry if you can if you are struggling with specific things. Work with those who will support your vision, build you up, not tear you down as you are learning.

Set websites up and all socials (back then I only had Bandcamp and distributed through CD baby. I had no website. I had Facebook and MySpace, circa 2009 2010).

Set a release strategy and dates and create a promo list. Research radio stations, take advantage of AMRAP (Australian music radio airplay project). consider what you need to do and write it all down. Consider any press you can get and organic reach. Use your networks (I am shit at that as a loner).

Do the best you can with what you have, whether it’s the music resources, equipment, funds or contacts. The indie road is hard, but one maintains full control of your body of work and you can exploit it later should you choose to.

Get your work mastered as songs and instrumentals, for this allows you to potentially exploit licensing opportunities should fate smile upon you, or you spend the time to reach out to music supervisors et cetera. There is also the option of remixing work later, so archive and label well and keep master files in multiple places, devices fail. Learn about mastering in the mastering process and get critical feedback to develop your skills during the production cycle.

Simultaneously work on any video content. When I did Revolution Complete, I only had Windows media and photos. I made a couple of videos with NASA creative Commons photos. Now I take advantage of stock libraries, edit video with Da Vinci Resolve, as well as do on-site filming with my smart phone (my OPPO, it can do 4K). I also do Green screen work.

You can conceive and represent your work yourself. This allows a different reach and appreciation, allowing one to dive further into the art of storytelling using characters, props, choreography, storyboarding and improvisation. I often find my video conceptions beyond my capacity, so I look stuff up on Youtube tutorials and keep reference playlists. I do what I can with what I’ve got and I’m told that I produce awesome work considering my means.

I learnt of Da Vinci Resolve at Film Summer School. I’ve learnt to use it solely off Youtube tutorials. I do PD’s when I can. Da Vinci is a complete video editing and colour grading platform by Black Magic design. You can download and use it for free, as they just want to see people making work and support independents, where the company makes their money is on the integrated hardware and through collaborative and integrated production company approaches with multiple users able to network their systems.

The more you do yourself the more you understand the process and the time involved should you be able to subcontract or pay others for work, or sign any sort of future deals. You can appreciate the roles of all creative industries personel, much better.

Write your press release on bio.  Get photos done, use a timer if need be or a friend. Make sure you evolve and edit your bio with every project, you need to update and try to include positive press quotes or reviews.

Develop relationships with any bloggers who review your work.

Develop relationships with radio especially those at the CBAA (Community Broadcasting Association of Australia) community radio network, and at AMRAP. AIRIT is fantastic, but has just been decommissioned and is functioning in unison as AMRAP (Australian Music Radio Airplay Project). You submit your work so it can be downloaded by local radio stations, program managers or DJs. They love you to contact them and follow-up on your reports and will often do feature interviews.

Don’t be limited by having no funds creativity is the mother of invention. Let the creative spirit be the driver of the ship, you might be surprised by the results, connect deeply to your inner voice and nurture it.

Revolution Complete and Atmospherica did not have any paid promotion. I sent off some CDs to community radio but I didn’t know if I received any airplay. I didn’t know what I was doing back then. It was purely about the music and process; business stuff is my weakness. I still feel I let myself down, but with Contemplating Buddha my 3rd album,  I Am (Song of the Earth), Mr Big Man, Come Back and The Call of Oma album, I got more efficient and set aside a tiny promotional budget which allowed me more reach. You can only launch once, but yet again, your work will always be new to someone. You can relaunch and repackage work as well at will.

Document your processes and share it it helps other artists and is inspirational to see the way others do stuff, we can learn from everyone in life. It also helps to establish a track record to be able to seek funding or grants (something I have not done as yet).

Lose perfectionist tendencies and learn to let go, because all art is a product of time (culture, tec, expression, capture). Imagine if The Beatles sat on their work forever, there be no Sgt Peppers, or if Pink Floyd had not been open to experimentation with sampling and evolving tec, we would not have Dark Side of the Moon.

So, each work single EP or album has a production cycle. Funds can limit creativity, but ‘creativity is the mother of invention’ as they say. Do not be limited by world conventions or norms, create new paths. Be you, forge your own path, your own way. Seek inspiration in everything and reflect, review, revise and refine constantly.

I highly recommend keeping a production journal or book, you will need it. It is good for the recording the mixing process, keeping notes during that. The planning and brainstorming for all your research into blogs and radio, for you to do lists and things to tick off. It is necessary to get stuff done. You could regard it as a portfolio.

So, by Atmospherica, I started experimenting with mixing. Propellerheads released the Record aspect of their DAW to go with Reason, and I could record bass, voice, guitar and basically whatever I wanted, as well as doing all my midi arrangements. I was in sonic bliss. I pride myself in musical storytelling and in creating sonic fantasy lands – other worlds to populate with the inspired imagination of others (the receivers).

Let’s go with ‘the receivers’ as an idea for a minute, (audience or whatever). We all need to be received or we risk being the lone tree falling  in a forest (see Zen philosophy). We create first and foremost because we have to and then because we must share. Authentic self-expression is not about creating for an audience like they tell you, unless it is commissioned work to a brief. All original work comes from within the Self, the well spring of all human creativity, call it god, spirit, the divine, whatever you like. We are all connected to it. Music is a relational artform. Whether a produced product or performed live, it has to be received. Although, one can play to the winds and to the aether and be received none the less into the collective fields of the Earth, a spirit voice on the winds.

I feel I fail with funds and promotion, so I finish the work and I release It, in the best way I can within my means and then it gets archived as legacy intellectual property. When I leave Earth, I leave a lot of art works behind me, music, words, pictures, plays, works, books. I see them all, as my babies and they need to be raised and clothes to live on independently of me. My goal is to give them a body and bless them, as I shuffle them out into the world. Be detached about results, expect nothing, stay humble. You do not know how your work will be received. As artists we get hung up on that and how it is received by others. Let it matter less and the work matter more and put your heart and soul into the job, the work, the promotion, but then let it go.

More in part b) next week, be sure to register for the free ZOOM workshop this Sunday 5th July at 7pm and learn about my 4 week Creativity Coaching for Musicians workshops.

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