The music industry has changed dramatically in the past twenty years, and it’s now possible for independent musicians to earn a living through iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. Podcasting and designing music tracks can be a wonderful way to get your voice or your tunes out into the world, but nothing makes it onto iTunes until it’s been mixed and mastered correctly.
Use the Right Software
For podcasting or other voice recordings, you can probably get away with using a free program like Audacity or a low-cost program like Garage Band. For some genres of music like acoustic or folk music, a program like Garage Band might work fine. But for most types of music, you’ll need to shell out some cash for a professional quality program like Avid Pro. The higher-level music mixing programs have a steep learning curve, so you may want to consider apprenticing with an experienced producer or taking a class at a local community college to help you master the programs.
Use a Good Recording
You can get a great recording in a home audio studio, especially if you’re doing a podcast or voice recording. For best results, the area you record in should be relatively sound-proofed so that the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking doesn’t wind up in the track. A professional recording studio can be a sound investment, especially for high-end professional music tracks; many studios rent studio space by the hour in most major cities.
When recording, make sure to record the sound in a lossless format like FLAC rather than a compressed format like MP3. This may seem like a minor difference in most cases, but FLAC files are necessary for things like radio broadcasting, where the sound degrades a bit during transmission.
Be Cautious with Sampling
Sampling is a musical process where a musician will use a sample of someone else’s music in their own work. One of the best-known examples of this is when Vanilla Ice used a sample of Queen’s “Under Pressure” in his hit song “Ice Ice Baby”. It’s a valid musical styling, but it can sometimes create problems with fans or legal implications if you’re not careful. In the case of Vanilla Ice, he settled out of court with Queen and David Bowie for copyright infringement.
Parodying is a fun musical form, but as it generally involves some type of music sampling, it can be wading into dangerous legal grey area. It is generally protected under Fair Use doctrine in the United States, although there have been cases when a parodist was found guilty of violating copyright law in creating a parody. Other nations have different laws about copyright law, so check with an attorney before creating any parody or other derivative work.
Get the Right Mix
The biggest problem with small studios or home-based production studios is having too much bass or too much treble. This is often a direct result of poor placement of monitors and speakers during playback. Having a good studio setup can help to dramatically improve the balance of the music.
Final Mastering for Production
When the project is mixed correctly, it will need to be mastered for the type of production you’re planning. Any online or digital format will generally be in MP3, but as mentioned above, if you’re sharing your song with a radio station or a DJ, you’ll want to send them a FLAC file. MP3s can be okay for burning to a CD, but if your CD can hold the extra data, a FLAC format will give more consistent sound quality on a variety of systems.