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Hot Tips: Sound Your Best

Team Play MPE

September 11, 2023

In a world where 100,000 new songs are released every day – let that sink in – the job of every musician who wants to be heard is to first capture attention, and second, hold that attention. 

How can I make my music stand out?

There are lots of ways that an artist can achieve this objective. Most creators have a pretty good concept of how to capture attention. Much ink has been spilled and (virtual film cut) over how to interrupt a pattern and ‘stop the scroll’, as it were. 

But we’re here to talk to you about what comes next. After I have built up an interest and anticipation for my project with my audience, how do I keep them coming back? And perhaps, larger questions arise for some artists, such as – how do I take it to the next level? How can I be taken seriously within the music industry and create big opportunities for my songs? 

An overly simplistic response would be to make sure your music is great. From the writing to the singing, musicianship, arrangements, engineering and production, all the way through to the final stages of mastering, metadata and building a release – are you presenting the best, most polished and professional version of your music? 

Play MPE exists to facilitate connections between artists who have created great music and the tastemakers who need to hear that music. We see some common missteps with artists who want to be played on the radio, or get songs placed in film/tv or retail etc. Many of those artists do have great songs, but they may be missing other important elements for a successful release. So, here is a checklist for artists to keep in mind as they are writing and recording their next single.

Editors note: If you’re in the process of creating a release in Caster, check out this handy guide, ‘How to Get the Most Out of Caster’.

Mixing

The first question to ask yourself here is – am I the best person to mix this song? There are many reasons to have someone else mix your song. Have you spent dozens of hours writing, tracking all the instruments, and creating a complete song arrangement? You may no longer be objective about what your mix needs. 

Think about it like this – have you ever moved into a new home, and at first you wanted to make a million improvements? Your wanted to paint the walls, fix a wonky door frame, update the window coverings, etc. But – perhaps you don’t immediately have the time or money to make those improvements. You become used to those things as they are, and you stop noticing them. You might only be reminded of those upgrades you had wanted to make once you have visitors over. Or you might forget about it altogether! It works the same way in the sonic realm. At the very least, you will want to let someone with fresh ears listen to your mix and give critical feedback. But in many cases, handing the song over to someone with mixing expertise is the right move. 

Mastering

Get your song professionally mastered if you can. This is especially important if you spent the cash to record a live band with top-tier musicianship and acoustic instruments in a live sounding room. Find an experienced mastering engineer working out of a sound-treated room with high quality mastering equipment. They will be able to hone your mixes for the best possible listener experience across different systems. They can anticipate the ideal balance for a recording that will be heard in a variety of ways. This includes listening on a car stereo, on laptop speakers, headphones, earbuds, bluetooth, HiFi systems, satellite streaming, and yes, over broadcast radio. (This is also true of a pro mixing engineer.)

Automated online mastering applications (such as with Landr, BandLab, eMastering etc) have come a long way in the last few years, and these are also a viable option for artists, especially if the music is created ‘in the box’ using loops and samples. This is because those pre-recorded sounds come EQ’d and processed at the highest possible quality, and leave less room for the complications and sonic degradation that arise with less-than-optimal tracking practices.

If you’re unsure of whether you need to get your song mastered professionally or via software, we suggest biting the bullet and doing both for one song. Do a blind listening test between a variety of different masters. Listen to the recordings of some of your favourite artists and compare, then make your decision from there. 

And if you do hear your song played on broadcast radio, pay special attention to whether or not your mix came across as you intended, and whether it measured up to the tracks played before and after it. That will inform your decision the next time around.

Formats

Provide high quality lossless format WAV or AIF (AIFF) files. First impressions count more than ever, and MP3s simply aren’t acceptable for many radio programmers or other broadcast placements. You might not be able to hear a big difference when you listen to the song in your headphones for the millionth time. However, file compression can crush your chances of radio play, just like it crushes certain audio frequencies. 

Pixel-perfect

In the same vein, when you provide visual accompaniment for your high res music files, make sure that the artwork, promo photos or graphics that you upload to your release are high quality. Pixelated photos look amateur, and people listen with their eyes. They want to see a clear picture, in the same way that they want to hear transparent audio. 

Metadata

It’s not very sexy, we know. But input your dang ISRCs. It’s how you get paid.

Proof-read

This should be a given, but we see it over and over again. We know you stayed up late perfecting your release and you feel huge anticipation about how many tastemakers will be seeing your release in their feed, and how much they’re going to love your tune. But please – let your Mom or roommate or bandmate or co-worker look over your release before you hit submit. They’ll notice where you forgot to add a period, or that the formatting got garbled, or that you misspelt misspelling. Or whatever. You catch our drift.

We want you to be successful with your release – it’s good for us if you keep creating and releasing great music and finding success with your songs! So reach out to us if you have any questions via support. 

Happy Musicking! 

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