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Think about realeasing your music? Want to get on Spotify, Apple Music and other major streaming sites but have no idea how? keep reading below!

Prior To Release


Prior to releasing music there are various factors you must take into consideration. If your song is ready? If you feel it is ready to be released, you must check your master and optimize it for what distribution sites you are going to use.


iTunes

iTunes downloads are now 256 kbps AAC. iTunes uploads require uncompressed, 24 bit .WAV or .AIFF files which are transcoded to 256 kbps AAC (identified with the .mp4 or .m4a extension) further down the line.

Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for iTunes:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to –1 dBFS. Apple recommends leaving 1 dB of headroom to prevent any clipping from occurring due to the noise added by the AAC encoder.

●  Forget about the Loudness War and go easy with any compression, limiting or dynamics processing. Compress a track for the purpose of improving the sound quality, not for increasing the volume. SoundCheck in iTunes uses an advanced algorithm to determine perceived loudness (not simply the peak/RMS values), level match each track to –16 LUFS, and then add this volume information to the metadata in the header of each audio file. A ‘competitive’ track with no dynamic range now sounds less good in iTunes when played next to a track with greater dynamic range.

Spotify

Spotify will accept audio at any sampling rate and word length so ideally you should aim to upload 96KHz, 24 Bit audio masters. Spotify will then transcode the uncompressed master to the correct streaming format for its various playback platforms and subscription options, as outlined in the following link: https://support.spotify.com/ie/article/high-quality-streaming/


Spotify Audio Settings

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to no higher than –1 dBFS.

●  Spotify normalises music to around -14 LUFS.

YouTube

YouTube transcodes all uploaded video (and the contained audio) in order to offer streaming qualities at 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p, 1440p (2K) and 2160p (4K). Youtube uses the H.264 video codec with the AAC audio codec. The quality of stereo audio playback depends on the user selected streaming quality setting as follows:

●  360p and 480p video will playback audio at 128 kbps

●  720p, 1080p, 1440p (2K), 2160p (4K) video will playback audio at 384 kbpsYouTube can only down-convert video, so it’s best to upload the highest quality level you can within the H.264 codec. Why not upload a .MOV with uncompressed audio? For best results, YouTube actually recommends uploading media that is already encoded, rather than uploading a .MOV that contains a full quality .WAV file.


Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for YouTube:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to no higher than –1 dBFS.

●  YouTube normalises music to around -14 LUFS.

●  Not all encoders are created equal. Render from the video editor in full, uncompressed quality for both video and audio, and then audition the audio visual qualities of different media encoders.


Soundcloud



SoundCloud transcodes uploaded audio to 128 kbps MP3. If an audio file on SoundCloud is made available for download, the downloaded version will be in the original format. Uploading an MP3 is redundant since SoundCloud will transcode it anyway, which could in turn introduce more artifacts to audio that’s already compressed. Therefore, the best practice is to upload an uncompressed, 24-bit .WAV file and allow SoundCloud to process it.


Here are some recommended settings when mastering audio for SoundCloud:

●  Use a True Peak limiter, to ensure that the margin is set to –0.3 dBFS. This is an acceptable threshold tomitigate most of the clipping that occurs during the encoding process. However, depending on the source material, you may find a margin of –0.5, –0.7, –1.0, or –1.5 dBFS sounds better, with less distortion.

●  SoundCloud does not have a feature like Apple’s SoundCheck, so an audio master destined for SoundCloud has more freedom to raise the overall RMS level for competitive loudness.

●  Using a stereo imaging tool, narrow the high end between 5–20%. A lot of side information is lost during encoding and an extremely wide mix is more susceptible to noticeable artifacts.


Artwork


Artwork is an important factor in releasing a single or album as it is the first thing a viewer sees. You need something thats eye catching and makes you want to click on the song and listen. Do your research, get some design samples and have a basic idea of you would like as your cover photo. A great website to aid you in this process and in all ways of design is Canva. A free platform with tons of templates & Designs.

https://www.canva.com


Distribution Site's


Distribution sites are how you are going to upload your songs to sites such as Spotify, apple music and much more. There are a vast amount of these websites and they make the process very easy and seamless. But in saying this it can come with a price. Most distribution sites come with a subscription package, or a pay to display type format. Meaning that you may pay a small fee to the site for allowing them to host your music plus paying a fee to upload to streaming sites. In saying this you are given a barcode that not only allows you the ability to sell your music in stores, but also the ability to track sales. Distribution websites also give in depth analytics on sales. Important for understanding your audience. When it comes to getting paid for your plays and sales, sites can vary in how they carry this out, depending on the package you sign up for, sites can take a cut of your sales or charge a more upfront fee for distribution while you keep all the royalties of your music. In My experience there are two tried and trusted Distribution websites.

https://cdbaby.com

https://www.recordunion.com


Promotion


It is advised to always set a future date for you release. Usually always on a Friday for new music. The reasoning for this you might ask? Time to promote, submit and plan your release. Promotion is an important aspect of reaching an audience. Without people knowing that you are releasing a songs/songs there won't be listeners. The best and free ways of doing this are through your own social media platforms. Share, promote, add previews to get people talking and excited. Facebook & Instagram adds can reach a wide audience but can be an expensive promotion technique. Use influencers on instagram, get your preview/song featured to reach a wide variety of real people. You can also apply to Spotify to be in their playlists while reaching out to owner playlists on spotify is a good way to drive sales. You can do this by searching big playlists on Spotify and finding an email and sending them your song that way.



Thinking about making music? Here are some of the most important tips and tricks that will help you in your Music Production.

1. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

A DAW is the tool that will allow you to create, edit, record and mix your music. Comprised of different Elements a DAW is your best friend. Choosing the right DAW can be difficult but check out my previous blog to help you choose what’s best for you. https://www.redjproductions.com/post/which-daw-is-the-right-for-you


2. Study Your DAW

YouTube, YouTube and more YouTube. There are a vast amount of tutorials out there on every DAW that will aid you in the learning process, I can’t stress this enough, the more you know you're DAW the easier the process will become.

3. Music Theory

Once you have a basic idea of how your DAW works and how to create new clips, instruments and basic mixing, this were your writing process begins. Having a basic idea of Music Theory such as Chords, Melody’s, Bar Structure and Keys Scales. Will allow your writing to harmonize in a way that even tho your groove and timing might be off the music will always have a balance between notes.


4. Groove

The Simplest way to apply groove to your song is Drums. Drums are what keeps the listener interested, keep it simple but allow for change ups. For example we will say you have written a nice 4 bar loop with chords, melody and bass. Its then time to add a grove to your song. Kick Drum, Snare, Claps, Hi Hats and Cymbals. Remember when first starting out don’t over complicate things, keep things simple, sometimes the best written songs are simplistic. Check out this link to help you apply groove to your song.


5. Arrangement/Song Structure

Arrangement for me was the hardest part of creating a song. You can have a brilliant 4/8/16 bar loop but it arranging it in such a way that creates a song, a vibe, a Feeling of an overall story can be tasking. Once you have a loop in place that you feel is groovy or banging. I recommend copy and pasting the whole loop from the beginning to the Desired length of your song. Then start to cut elements of the song out. What this does is give you a perspective of journey. What do you want as the beginning want to you want as the hook what elements keeps the song flowing. Bear in mind songs are usually structured in sections. For example Hip-Hop at 98BPM typically has an Intro of 8 Bars, then a verse of 16 Bars, Chrous/Hook of 8 Bars, then another verse of 16 Bars, Chrous/Hook again, maybe another verse of 16, then Chorus/hook as your Outro. Do you see a pattern? Sections of songs are typically divided up into 4,8, and 16 bar sections this allows for a sense of structure, expectation, repetition and change.


7. levelling and Panning

After you feel you have a good structure for your song in place. My recommendation would be to adjust the pan on the individual tracks in your song. By giving sounds their own space in a Song allows for a more enjoyable stereo sound. But bear in mind that some instruments do not need panning such as the kick, typically stays centre. Levels/volumes always comes after panning for me.

As by panning an individual track changes the overall level of the track. Finding a nice balance is key to an overall good sounding mix. An easy way to start would be to reduce every individual track to zero. Bring your lead sound up to a desired volume. My recommendation would be between -12dB and -8dB although this might sound quiet at first loudness can always be added in the final stage's i.e Mastering, it’s good practice to do this as you have to allow what we call headroom for a sound. After your lead sound is at the desired volume start adding other elements slowly such as bass, guitar, piano, etc I would leave the drums as the final elements to add, as if your drums are too loud, you will always tend to turn things other elements up in volume if the drums feel overpowering. Once you have a nice balance in your instruments you can move on. 6. Layers

Layering your instruments and elements in a song can be an important piece of the puzzle. By doing this it can add body to your sound, a sense of fullness, as there are some sounds that just sound thin. But be careful in your technique as you don’t want your sounds to overpower any other Elements and make the song muddy!

7. FX/Transitions

Adding FX or Transitions into your song helps blend the structure together, think about in terms of a movie when a big scene happens in a movie you will see a transition from that moment to next, it is the same in music. When for example as explained earlier going from an Intro to a verse adding FX such as a riser or a cymbal reversed adds a sense of change to the listener, by then adding FX such as a down-lifter or Cymbal on the bar that changes can add energy to the change that will appeal to the ears of the listener. Just a quick tip in doing this get the volumes correct for balance.

8. EQ (Equalizer)

Each individual sound you choose for your song wont be perfect, even though you may have everything blended and sounding good. Using EQ to cut and boost individual frequencies of a sound can be used in such a way to help balance the sounds together within the track. It is good practice to understand the different frequency ranges of different instruments which will help you greatly in this process.


9. Effects

By adding effects to your sounds can change the whole overall sound of your song. Effects such as reverb, delay, chorus and flanger can add something in which I call glamour to a sound. When sounds are dry in a song it tends to sound boring or static. But by adding effects to your sounds, really can bring them to life, the best example of this are on Vocals with and without reverb. Sometimes this can be added in a negative way also by just adding to much of an effect to a sound, so use with a pinch of salt to get your desired effect. Remember the more you know the better you will become so study your craft. 10. Final Bounce and Master

The final bounce or the mix down of the song is the final step to comprising the whole song together in one file. Once you have this done it’s then time to add the polish, master the track. My recommendation for anyone starting of is, don’t focus to much on the mastering as you can use tools such as Ozone that come with good presets or online sites such as LANDR that will do this for you. I’d focus more on the mixing of a song rather than the master because without a good mix the master can only do so much.

Updated: Jan 16

A DAW (digital audio workstation) is an application used for the recording, editing and production of audio files. Coming in many different shapes or sizes i.e price points, DAW's are the most powerful tool in the modern music industry. Replacing the early days of recording music on tape and cutting it to make a track, DAW's have simplified recording and editing so much that you can now have a running DAW from your mobile phone.


Either you're starting off fresh in the music industry or an experienced pro, it's hard to know which DAW is best for your needs. In my experience, you may only use one and stick to that one, or you may use more than one as each can bring something different to the table. Below are some of the best DAW's on the market that may help you decide what best fits your studio.


(Presonus Studio One)


Presonus Studio One (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €405.90,

https://shop.presonus.com/Studio-One

The first DAW I ever used to create, edit and record music was Studio One 3. What I liked about it was that it was simple to use, had a nice interface and it helped in the mixing of my tracks as it was easy to navigate. A mid range priced DAW Studio One is one of the most powerful DAW's you can buy to date. With a vast range of customizability to suit beginners and the most experienced producer, Studio One does it all. Studio One's interface is highly user friendly and easy to come to grips with. With the arranger, mixer and overall workstation all in one screen, this allows for easy control over your production. With a vast range of VST's (Virtual Studio Technologies) and Effects such as 'Presence XT Sampler and Melodyne', straight out of the box you know that it's packing a lot of power beneath its sleek beauty.


What truly separates Studio One from other DAW's is it's mastering section. A dedicated application within the DAW that gives you high in-depth control on mastering your completed track. It really has everything that a mastering engineer needs, right down to customizable metering systems such as 'LUFS & K-Metering'. If I had one grime against Studio One it would be that some of the stock sounds that come with the DAW are not up to the standard of some of the DAW's on the list.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lOhFWCK6sg&feature=emb_logo


(Avid Pro Tools)


Avid Pro Tools (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €598, https://www.thomann.de/ie/avid_pro_tools.html


Arguably the industry standard, Pro Tools is hands down the best DAW on the market for recording and editing audio. For the beginner, Pro Tools can be almost unfriendly to look at use and interact with, but once you get to grips with this software, WOW does it pack a punch. In my opinion the best audio output of any DAW, the built in converters are outstanding. On the other hand Pro Tools has its downfalls.


For me especially, I just can't seem to write in pro tools. Midi is just too complicated and not user friendly to write and edit in, compared to some of the other DAW's on this blog. Regardless of what Pro Tools lacks in the midi writing department, for me it makes up for it in audio mixing. The out of the box plugins such as Eq's, Compressors and many more are just almost audio perfection as they give you a warm rich sound in your output. With Pro Tools you can also rent the software, Avid have a subscription plan that allows you to pay monthly while availing for constant updates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPqdNygQB38


(Image Line, FL Studio)


Fl Studio (Windows and Compatible) - €189,

https://support.image-line.com/jshop/shop.php#id_320


FL Studio, one of the cheapest DAW's on the market and a go to for the beginner producer. FL has a user friendly interface and easy writing capabilities. What separates FL from the others is it's pattern list. Each sample dragged onto the pattern list can be highly modified to suit your needs while adding the ability to start writing immediately using its step sequencer. The diverse suitability for writing fast and accurate is portrayed in it's workflow. The ease of which you can have a number of different patterns and add them into the arranger allows for a quick work flow, while keeping a professional sound and standard throughout your track.


Built into FL are a range of VST's and plugins, with soundgoodizer not only being one of the best effects on the market but a running meme for producers as it does what it says on the tin. My downfall for FL is its mixer, for me its the routing and overall look of the mixer I just could never get the flow I needed for my tracks. That being said some of top producers in the world are using FL to produce all different genres of music, with Martin Garrix and Murda Beatz being at the top of the list.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuqqiuaLYJA


(Propellerhead Reason)


Propellerhead Reason (Windows & Mac Compatible) - €549

https://www.reasonstudios.com/en/reason/buy


One of the higher priced DAW's on the market, Reason gives the best studio portrayal of all of the DAW's throughout this blog. For my earliest years studying music production and technology reason was one of the first programmes we used. Why you might ask? Because of its capabilities to replicate the studio. Reasons VST's, Plugins and Effects make you feel like your working with a rack full of hardware in your studio. This is due to it's visual interface and the audio routing, with one click of a button it flicks the rack around and allows you to route audio as if you would in the studio. The negatives of this were that Reason for years did not support external VST's and Plugins. But in recent times they have adapted and updated to allow external VST's and Plugins. But i have yet ventured back to my roots to really delve deep into Reason and use it's full abilities. For anyone that is starting in the music industry? I would highly recommend Reason as you learn a lot from it in terms of hardware in a recording studio, how it can be routed and the functionalities of these. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMh3ZEFyEmo


(Ableton Live)


Ableton Live (Windows and Mac Compatible) - €599

https://www.ableton.com/en/shop/live/


The most expensive DAW in this blog. Ableton although not the most visually appealing really shines. With an amazing range of stock VST's, Effects and Sounds Ableton is in a sense, a very analog sounding DAW. Sampling made simple with some of the most in-depth customizable features to tweak any sound to how you like it with one of the best LFO features i have ever used. From my experience Ableton is very much so, a electronic producers heaven. From writing, recording, arranging and live performance. Yes thats right live performances. Ableton has a range of capabilities when it come to external hardware, the clips list allows you to create a clip of audio and control it from nearly any midi controller, as you can manually map a midi controller to Ableton with great ease. The benefits of this are that any midi controller can be used from a drum kit to being able to perform a whole track using created loops and clips.


Ableton live adds a dimension to the term DAW's as it comes with a application called Max For Live. Max allows you to create your own VST's and Effects. I had the pleasure of creating effects and a small VST during my years in University this really slingshots the whole idea of sound design forward for the studio producer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF9eY065XaY


(Logic Pro X)


Logic Pro X (Mac Only) - €229.99

https://apps.apple.com/app/logic-pro-x/id634148309?mt=12


Logic Pro, what can I say about this DAW? My relationship with Logic has been an up and down. When I first switched to this DAW i did not like it. I felt that things were awkward writing was hard, so I decided to switch back to FL at the time, but I was so wrong. One day I opened Logic and I decided I would try and create one song with it and just give it time. To this date i haven't looked back, Logic Pro X is now my go to DAW for writing and recording music. The ease of which you can write, record and edit music in Logic for my workflow, cuts hours of the process. All the while bus mixing and effects processing is just made to be effortless, packing some of the best stock sounds out of any DAW. At a price of under €250 euro, i was sold. The biggest negative of Logic are that it is solely for Mac and does not support Windows. But to any Mac owner Logic is for me the best on the market for writing and recording music. I say the best for these reasons as each DAW offers something different to every producer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY84sE0tdRI


Because each DAW gives something different my process is to write, record, arrange and process in Logic but my final mix after everything is bounced to audio always happens in Pro Tools. My recommendation? I would tell any producer that is just starting to learn to try out as many of these DAW's as you can as they are very similar but each add something different to your production and after that it is just a matter of which one best suits you and your workflow.


(Honourable Mentions)


Steinberg Cubase - €581.99

https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/?_sp=04742d62-841d-4568-aa0a-12c4a022e679.1578707088162&buy=47673&_ga=2.215317143.1054563325.1578707062-1344465240.1578707062


Although cubase is one of the leading DAW's in the industry and is highly rated in the producing world i am not in a position to give feedback on the DAW as i have never used Cubase enough to give an opinion on Cubase.


- J

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