Monday, July 28, 2008

So You Wanna Be A DJ? Part 9

Ever heard that saying "where there's a hit there's a writ?"

It's true. So when I say to you "get your paperwork in order" I do not jest. I have lost thousands and thousands in potential revenue because I didn't know how to do this. Granted in 1988 record deals were signed on the front hood of banged up motors (honestly!). At least in the "GOOD 'OLE RAVE DAYS" we were all so new and naive and happy that someone actually wanted to put our music out that we would have sold our siblings for the (sorry bro, just kidding)

Point is, I rarely had paperwork, it was never offered, and when it was I was so broke I couldn't afford a lawyer. So I ended up screwed over without lube. Not pleasant. I always tell my artistes to get their contracts looked at. I recently had an artiste who didn't do this and wanted to give his music to someone else though the track was signed to me. Any other label would have said "tough luck" and really there is little he could do about it. The track wasn't so great and because of his attitude I decided to drop him from the label so we all ended up with what we needed. However he now has no record deal so a contract can also prevent you from losing your deal. Because he didn't bother to research, he lost out in many ways. By the way, if you do need a lawyer, make sure its an entertainment lawyer... a personal injury lawyer or your brother's-cousin-the-public-defender is not gonna know the ins and outs to accurately represent you.

When I was signed to Sony my contract also proved invaluable when I got dropped. Hey, happens to the best of us man, I'm telling you. Look at all the greats, Madonna, The Beatles, Lenny Kravitz, The Rolling Stones, Sting, to name a few, and they would tell you the same. Very few of us sign a record deal, have it go perfectly, and live a long happy life in the studio. I wish it worked that way but with the industry in such a state of flux right now. Look at the labels: EMI, Sony, Epic, RCA, Interscope; so many labels, they were gods, but where will they be in five years? Could we be looking at a mass extinction just like the dinosaurs? And if you're signed to them, will you go down too? Your contract will ensure you are protected financially, should the shit hit the fan. No one wants to buy music when you can steal it for free. Sad but true. Until there is a fair solution I don't see a happy ending for the big labels.... but on the brighter side, that's good news for us, the indie pioneers.

When working with vocalists or writing songs with one or more partners, you also need to protect yourself. Whenever I collaborate there is always a signed piece of paper by both parties splitting the song 50/50 if there were two writers, 33/33/33 for three, and so on. Back in the day we used to mail the track to ourselves and leave it unopened, this was proof of the creation of that track. Old school, but it'll probably stand up in court. There is a great article in this month's Sound On Sound on this matter so read up because you don't know how many hits you have in you, and you never know when someone will cover one of your songs, could be when you're old and gray. How nice to make cash years down the line because you were smart enough to get the legal jargon done today.

As my mum always says...regret can't feed you when your hungry. Ok, I made that up but you get my drift...till the next time.

luv and bass, DJRAP

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Monday, July 14, 2008

So You Wanna Be A DJ? Part 8

I really hope that the info I have shared with you has helped if even a little, it's kinda hard to talk about how to actually DJ as this is a personal thing and different for everybody. A very long time ago (1986) I heard a Jamaican DJ called Marvelous Marvin. This was before I even began my career. What blew me away with this guy was the fact that he was creating art as I watched him blend 2 records effortlessly together creating in fact, a remix before my eyes. Not only that, but all his mixes were in tune with each other! I even remember the tracks; the Soul 2 Soul acapella mixed in Din Da Da. It was simply beautiful.

To this day I never seen another DJ do that...EVER. I made a promise to myself that my mixes would be beautiful... (well I would certainly try) and that is why I simply spend hours and hours putting my sets together. The main reason being that, it really helps to know your tunes, where the breaks occur, where the track goes etc......... for the DJ's like myself who can play 6 hour sets, this is important as there is alot of music to get through and you want your set to flow, to use a cliche, as a journey. This is a different case in drum and bass however, mainly because we play for only one hour and your mission should you choose to accept it, is to destroy the dance floor.

Another reason to practice is because I spend endless hours editing other peoples music. I do this so I have something that is special, that is mine alone. It could also be that I need a simpler ending to a track and the person who made it was not a DJ, so they put a bass line in it all the way to the end... thus making it tricky for me to get the next track mixed in tune.... again this is a personal thing, some DJ's that I know use eq's to fade bottom end out... again, it is up to you, but I like my tracks to start with beats and end only with beats, this makes my job much easier, so it makes sense for me to spend the time doing this to all my music so I never have to worry about anything not flowing or coming in out of tune.

Of course, I am at a point now where the majority of what I play is from my labels and my own production, but practice makes perfect in my case too. Try to stay away from a formatted set list. You are always better when you use your heart  and eyes to tell you what track to drop next; the crowd will tell you, you'll just feel it. Sometimes its cool to have your music arranged in a specific way (in your box/bag whatever... personally I love
UDG). For example, prog house in one set, minimal in one set and so forth. I arrange my bag according to time; beginning of show, middle, peak time and end. As I said, it's all up to you. 

Well my dears, thats all for mixing. Just take the time in your bedroom before you go out there, nothing worse that a newbie sledging mixes, it's so awful to watch, so become great before you expose yourself to the masses because it only takes one person who thinks you suck to tell a hundred people, especially with Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and the Internet being what it is...word gets around. If I see someone who sucks I would never make an effort to see them again, but that's just me. There is so much great music out there that I can't justify "sucking", if you don't want to be the best you can possibly be, then why even try?

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--- --- OH last thing! If there's ANYTHING AT ALL about DJ'ing that you'd like me to discuss feel free to make a request in a comment to this post. Love to know what YOU wanna know.

Friday, July 4, 2008

So You Wanna Be A DJ: Part 7

We have talked alot about the tecnichal aspect of music, how to present yourself, and how to produce... One thing very few people talk about is the actual business and how it can one minute elavate you till you're floating on cloud nine, then drop you, and crush your soul till you wanna die. Dramatic? Maybe... Still it has been all these things and more for me. It always helps me when I read about other artistes going through the same thing, somehow giving me the strength to go on when things are bad, it shows we are not alone. The truth is, apart from acting, you have chosen the hardest profession in the world where you'll live the life of a starving artiste. The slot is filled for DJ superstars. To join the ranks you'll need to produce 20 hits in a row and sell more tickets than Paul Van Dyk... yes i'm DJ RAP but if you think its all rosy for me, you couldn't be more wrong.

This blog is about mental toughness. I believe that victory is for believers and for those who believe long enough. The question will always be how long can we hold out before we win, before we starve, before we have to get a day job at McDonalds or Burger King, or even better Fry's!!!!
Yep, I make light, however, what else can I do as this is all I have done my whole life?
So, lesson one is have a backup plan. When you learn to produce this will be a valuable skill and you will always find work in the editing/production world of music and film as well as any studio be it RecordPlant, Conway, or the like... When times are tough, and they will be, you'll be glad you have that skill, believe me.

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't question my sanity for choosing this path, as it's so damn stressful. I have given everything up for this and yet, my dream eludes me and remains only half answered... though many think fulfilled. The struggle to make a great living doing what you love is truly only for the hardcore, that's what make the great great. Look at Oprah, Mohammed Ali, Ghandi, the Dali Lama, the father on the street, our mothers and grandmothers. All people who taught us life is hard but also can be glorius.
I will let you know when I get there. lol..........

luv and bass DJ RAP

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