Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On a shoestring project part 5

Wow! I can't believe it's already week five. Time flies when you're having fun ;-). This project is taking a hold of me every day more and more. When I first had this idea it was like, this might be bit of fun. Five weeks in to it, and my mind is working twenty four seven (and the body only stops for food and sleep). I am constantly thinking about every single detail, what I want the CD package to look like, how I want to arrange a particular song, how to improve the website, how to get more people on board, how to get more traffic to my Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, rehearsal rooms, microphone positioning, next weeks video... The list goes on, and grows longer every day. The support I have got on personal level, and from the readers of this blog, and on all of the social media sites have been just over whelming. And when I check the statistics of this blog, the website, the plays on YouTube and Reverbnation player, I can only smile :-). I am a strong believer that there is time for everything, but still I have put off recording a CD of my own songs for years. I became really good at coming up with excuses and with out sounding like a contestant in American reality show, when I finally started this, there is no stopping me.
But hey, I'm not here to tell you that it’s all just a fun ride in the park. Recording a CD to professional standard even on a big record company budget is not easy, let alone on a non existent budget. So I still need to get very inventive, use every bit of an experience I have gained in my career as musician. And you do need to become a bit of a jack of all trades. I am very lucky having had the chance of working with some of the best sound engineers around. They have offered their knowledge to me with open arms, and I will try to pass some of this to you. Also I was never great at drawing, but I do have an eye for visual things, and again I had the pleasure of sharing flat years ago with a graphic designer, who thought me thing or two. Also my Mother is a brilliant artist, and my childhood home was always filled with paintings, so I am sure that helped the eye. But this is all things that I need to work on all the time, and you can learn it if you put your heart in it. But it takes the same determination as working on your music. Practise makes perfect, and you need to have hunger for information. I have read every book or magazine I could get my hands on about sound engineering, music promotion, band websites, you name it. How do I find time for this? Well if you have the desire, you will find the time. But if all else fails, you can always read my blog ;-)
So new week, new tricks. I wrote a new song last week, recorded it and posted it on the Reverbnation player on the side bar of this blog. Also I got little bit creative with this week’s video. It’s a song called “Alive” and you can see it at
I recorded the sound straight in to computer with the Line6 UX1 that I talked about last week and videoed it at the same time. Then just for a good measure I did it again. Now all I did after was to mach the video to the sound and then compile a nice mix of the two video recordings. I think it is pretty effective, and only took me four hours from start to finished product. It has given me loads of new ideas that I'm sure I'll put to good use in the near future.
There was one thing I forgot to mention about the Line6 UX1 last week, it does not have phantom power, which you need to use condenser microphones. So far all the recordings I've done on it has been with my trusted Sure Beta 57. This is very versatile and cabable microphone, and if you only have one microphone, this would not be a bad choice. Also my trusted Acoustic guitar has a Takamine Tri-AX sound hole pick up (Basically same as L.R. Baggs M1) and this actually sounds ok recorded. What I did on the two tracks on the Reverbnation player, “Glory to the world” and “I wouldn't have it any other way” was to position the sure beta 57 around the 16th fret of the guitar and record the line from the pick up. I would pan these on opposite sides. Bit of compression and reverb to your own taste, and you get pretty nice results. But in the final recordings I will go for condenser microphones.
This week I will spend recording demos of the rest of the songs, tweaking my website and rehearsing. I am also hoping to finish a proper mix of the song “Glory to the world”. And if I get a version I am happy with, we will submit this to iTunes, and release it before Christmas as a Download. The idea is to finance some CD with the profits. But for now, have a great week :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On a shoestring project part 4

 It's been a week of technical struggles, but all worth it. I feel like kid on a Christmas morning. My web site is up! Now it is still a work in progress, but I think I'll never stop tweaking it anyway :-) The address is and please let me know what you think. The shop is not open yet, as I still don't have anything to sale. But we'll get there.

  So I got a loan of a Line6 UX1 recording interface, and had loads of fun... and even more frustrating moments, to get to know this little power house. I am impressed :-) But I must say this: I am only recording Demos at the moment with this machine. My computer is an Acer laptop and it can be bit noisy. You can hardly hear the fan noise, until you start recording and there it is. But I could work around it by isolating the computer... we'll see. I am hoping to get some money together to purchase some of my own recording equipment that would be hand picked to suit my needs. I'll get back to  this subject when we get that far. For now there is a song up on all the usual places, including the side bar of this blog. The song is my alternative Christmas song “Glory to the world”. If all goes well, I might release a proper version of it as a download before the Christmas. But for now, you will get an idea of the quality the UX1 is capable. 
  Oh yeah and currently in the spirit of the project, my recording software is Kristal audio engine which is a free software for personal use If you haven't seen it, check it out. First it might seem bit simple, especially if you are used to one of the bigger players in the recording business, but this is seriously powerful software. It has loads more stuff under the initial skin. And if your project ends up being worth releasing, the licence for the program is only €24.90. I have worked extensively with Cubase, Protools and Nuendo in the past, and if we lived in some sort of parallel universe, where money was irrelevant, and monkeys could fly, I'd go for Nuendo, with out any hesitation, Cubase strong second In my humble opinion Protools is over rated. Every thing I have recorded on Nuendo or Cubase just seem to sound better, and If you spend endless hours editing tracks, I can tell you Cubase and Nuendo are much easier on the eye. OK enough of this computer mumbo-jumbo. If you want more info or just want to continue the above subject, just email me or leave a post below.
   So I have posted the new song to lastfm as well, a useful promotional tool for any musician Most of these sites are pretty user friendly, you just register, upload a track and some info and you're good to go. But I am still scratching my head how to link lastfm to my site. I posted the web address on the bio page, but would be nice to make it bit more accessible. So if anybody has any idea, let me know. At this early stage, and actually any stage, it is important to get your name out in as many places as possible. How otherwise would people find you? I set a target for my Emailing list, a modest one, where i would like it to be at the end of this year. At the rate it is going I'll get there in 2027... So make my day, sign up for it at the bottom of this blog or at the first page of my website. But this all comes down to the same thing, the more links there are on the net, in music magazines, in the notice board of your local music store, hand scribbled graffiti on the toilet wall of your local bar... you got the point, the bigger chance there is that people will visit your site, listen to your music (which I hope you have on your front page!) and possibly sign up to your Emailing list.
The next bit is little off the subject, but at the same time, relevant as well. As you know by now, I have been posting few videos on my YouTube page. I have been recording them on iPhone, and even though I was positively surprised on the quality, I have been hoping for something better. I had all along an older Canon MD101 mini DV camcorder, with those small tapes. But when my old computer resided to call it a day without letting me know about it in advance, the choice of new laptops with a fire-wire port was limited and more on the expensive side... It came to as total surprise to me, that you can not convert from Fire-wire to USB2. I know if you Google, you'll find some adapters, but take my word, these don't work... At least not with Canon Dvs. But out of the blue our loved German supermarket chain (whose name I will not mention, until they sponsor me with endless supply of Brie and Espresso) came to help. They had a special on USB video grabber for €24.90 :-) And my old Canon is back in business. The only problem with this camera is the noise level; you can kind of hear the mechanical tape machine... But it has an input for an external microphone. So now all I would need would be a small mixing desk to boost and connect my good old workhorse Shure beta 57. But I'll get there, one step at a time. Now I just need to wait for the massive 1GB files to upload in to YouTube. But hey, it'll give me more time to write my blog. Talk to you shortly.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On a shoestring project part 3

Part 3

Things are rolling on nicely :-) We had a first rehearsal last week, with me and the bass player. We are still looking to fill the rest of the line-up, and we'll keep you posted. There is one rough track up on MySpace, Reverbnation, and Facebook and on the side bar of this blog (and I will keep on posting more tracks all the way through the project). It was recorded on iPhone just on the coffee table of my living room. I am trying to keep the rehearsals as long as possible in my flat, before I start spending money on rehearsal room fees; it's all about keeping the costs down.
Other progresses; I registered my domain for my website, the address will be and I hope it will be up and running soon. I used This domain cost me $11.64, les than €10. And it is for a year, and they will automatically re-register it for me next year, unless I decide against it. There is a debate about the domains, .com and so forth, you can get free domains from with ending if this sounds too steep for you, but this might scare some people away from your site... Also I don't really know if there are any security aspects here to take in consideration, but a friend of mine works for an internet security company and on his recommendation I went for the GoDaddy and got an .com. All I can say here is that if this mater is a big deal for you, and then do some more research in the subject.
As to web space, well here is where I scored my second freebie :-) And unless you have huge budget, which I assume you don't as you are reading this, you need to score few freebies on the way. As I mentioned, friend of mine works for an internet security company... well he owns it. And he offered me some free web space on their server. So big thanks to Greg and SC2labs (! Now I know you all don't have friends with their own servers and all, but ask around, you might be surprised. Nevertheless, there are loads of companies that offer space for next to nothing, and some even for free. So go and Google and do your research, before settling for one that suits you the best.
Oh yeah I mentioned the Reverbnation, I would recommend registering with them If you open an artist account, you can upload songs and get a handy player for your web site, like the one on the side bar of this block. They have loads of customizing options, and in my honest opinion the sound quality is much better than on MySpace. They also offer bags full of services, some for free and some for small fee. Hold on to your money for time being, we'll go through these on later date. You can find me
Now here is a bit of an advice that I am sure most of you won't take, but it is worth a lot of money on the long run and gives you more freedom: Learn some basic HTML! It is not as scary as you think, and the net is filled with free recourses. I won't have the fanciest web site in the world, but it is mine, and if I need to change something, I can do it myself.
Now if this seems like too much of work, you are left with two choices, find a friend who can do this, get them drunk and make them promise to help you;-), or your last option is to pay someone to do your website for you. There are few quick points I'd like to make here; web design is time consuming job no mater how experienced the designer is, it just takes time, but the days of paying fortune for a web site are gone. So shop around, ask for references and when you settle for one, follow the progress, as it is easier to change things during the building process. Make sure you are happy with the final product before you part with your hard earned money.
Today’s and last week blog had lots to do with setting up the basic Internet presence and social media. But setting up all this is just a start; you need to keep adding new material regularly. You can see on my Facebook page and profile that I am pretty active. But at the same time keep it relevant. It is nice to share what goes on in your career, and even sometimes personal life, but don't over do it either. This just leads to people blocking you out. Also I am also trying to post at least one new video every week on my youtube channel, and I would love to know what you think of them :-)

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On a shoestring project part 2

My brain has been working on an overdrive for the past week. Trying to work out all the details of this project is turning out to be a massive challenge. And as always with everything I do, one idea leads to ten new ones. So week one of the project has been lots of research, and I can not emphasise enough how important this is. And for once, I am determined to do this right. So as we all know, the music business is... well... fell on its backside, climbed up again and ready fight in forms we have never seen before. It is scary time to be an executive of a big record company, but probably the most interesting time to be an independent artist in the business of music. So where will we start? Well let’s try this.
First things first. I assume you have some music you want to record. And I assume it is of a high standard. You have worked on it days and nights, you have tried it out in front of live audience and you know what works and what doesn’t. You have poured your heart and soul in to it. If the music is not good, this will not work! Do I hear bit doubt in your voice? Don't worry; it is hard to be your own critic sometimes. So invite some friends over to your house, play them the songs, and ask their opinions and observe their reactions. Then go out and play the stuff live. If it does not work live, I don't think it will work on record. “But I have no gigs...” Well that is a lame excuse. Go to your local open mic night, or singer songwriter night. As long as you get to play on front of a live audience, and again observe their reactions during the song. Talk to other musicians and ask their opinions, heck send me your rough demo that you recorded on your mobile phone, and I'll give my honest and humble opinion. But anyway, you get the point? Have your songs ready.
My second step after writing the first “On a shoestring” blog, was to start working on an image for the project. Very early, you might think, but wait and see. It is very important for me to get the social network thing going from the start; otherwise I have no hope in hell to succeed in this. So I needed some photos. And good friend of mine is a photography enthusiast and he was very happy to help. We sat down (in a pub) and made some plans, then spent good four hours taking photos. Good thing about digital, film is free. So he is still going through the photos and adjusting the ones he likes. But already he has sent me few, which I know will end up on the CD package. So the next step was to set up all the social network sites. I already had Facebook and MySpace, but they needed some tender loving care, especially the MySpace. So I selected an simple background image, that I would use as a background on all my social media sites that let you personalise your profile page, I like consistency. Uploaded some of the fresh new photos. I opened a twitter page and a YouTube page. There are lot more, but these ones I think at the moment are essential. The YouTube channel needed some content. It would have been easy to say, I'll worry about it later, but instead I set up my iPhone leaning on a book, pressed record, grabbed my acoustic guitar and just went for it. Fifteen minutes later I had three songs. Yeah the sound quality is not the best, but it is real genuine snippet of the songs in their rawest form, and I will keep posting the songs all through out the recording process to share them with all the people who are interested in hearing the organic growth progress of music. And already at the moment of writing this, I’ve had 57 channel views and 111 plays. You might say, that’s nothing, but that’s 111 people who heard my songs while I was a sleep, having dinner, watching TV (I wish! It has been a busy week...) and so on. You can hear the songs at
This is where the winners of the new music business format are. The manufactured pop has become so distant to people, that if they can have that personal contact with the artist, it becomes so much more special and meaningful. Read that a gain, it might just be today’s most important lesson.
So where do we go from here? We have our social media sites up, few nice photos, which we uploaded to Facebook and MySpace. We have some video. Should we start poaching fans from other bands sites? Well... by all means, if you have that much time on your hands... but I don't personally think that will get you very far. I have tried it in the past with another project, and I can tell you, waste of time! Other people might have different experience on this, and if you do, I would like to hear about it. But my simple breakdown was after two weeks of clicking, and about 8000 fans richer, I sold two Cd’s... You have bigger chance selling double that at your local singer songwriter night after twenty minute set. And that’s where you should collect your fans. Live shows your best bet. Collect peoples Emails; tell them to add you on all the social media sites. Oh yeah, and do add all your friends, you already have that personal contact, and their friends might see your contact with them. I do believe that one dedicated fan who believes in you and is willing to do anything for you, or at least come to see you play, even if the new episode of Family Guy is on TV, is worth lot more than couple hundred more friends on MySpace.
Also I set up my own emailing list, this is probably the most powerful list of friends you can have, when you manage to build it up to hundreds or even thousands. I can recommend They have basic free service. I have used them in the past and have been very happy with them. You can sign up to my list and see my profile at
If you still are hoping to live the dream, and look for that mystical recording deal (where you might get 10% from a CD sold, after the expenses, that probably you will have paid by year 2027), the Email list is what the record company is interested in, not how many friends you have on MySpace. And the nature of the social media is that it changes. So if in few years time Facebook goes out of fashion, you still have their Emails.
Oh yeah, and while I am at it. You will get from time to time “Proposals” from companies offering to get you 10000000000..... dedicated fans on your MySpace, for a very attractive price. For the love of all that is good in the world, do not waste your money on this! It will not make you famous over night. There are no short cuts! Expect the one I am selling for very competitive price of... Only joking! But seriously. There are things in this business that you just must pay to get, but this is not one of them. And nine out of ten times it is a scam. The “friends” you get are profiles they have created, and will disappear in the next six months. Also they use software to do this, and if MySpace gets a sniff of it, it is you who lose your account...
So what’s next? I have started writing a business plan, and I will talk more about this next week. Also I will start rehearsing this week, even though I don't have the exact line up completed yet. But we can still get going. So more on that next week, and possibly some video as well :-) There will be updates on my Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all through out the week, so keep an eye on those. Any comments and thoughts are very welcome.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On a shoestring project

I am about to bark on a new adventure. Sliotar is taking it reasonably easy in Sliotar terms for the next few months. And I have some time to get working on this project. So here is the basic plan:
I have been planning to record a CD of my own songs for a long while. But always something got on the way. Now it is time to make a plan and put it in to action. I will record a full length album, professional quality, professional packaging, launch the CD and promote it to the best of my ability. I will use what ever resources available to me and what ever I can pick along the way. I will set my self guidelines that I must stick by, and I will set these down in the next few weeks and will take suggestions as well.
I am sure all my musician friends have been there before, especially Independent artists. Where everywhere you turn some one is promising you the moon and the stars for a reasonable price. You know them, Sonicbid and a like, where you need to pay money to submit to festivals, events and so forth. I must point out here that they have introduced some new free services, but still all the real stuff you must pay for. All those people on Myspace who promise you 10000000 dedicated friends... There are rehearsal room fees, studio time, or home recording equipment, musicians fees... unless you have real good and talented friends:-) photos, website, art work, CD mastering, CD replication... And when the CD is finally out, there is the over whelming job of promoting it. Here many artists and record companies spend often even more than the entire above put together. I remember an interview of a well known manager of an Irish boy band, where he told of an concert where the band were starting to let the fame to get in their heads, the manager dragged them out, opened the boot of his car, which was filled with their CD's that he had bought from the shops to boost the sales figures. And I have personal experience where a company over ten years a go offered this service for me, for a fee of course. This is obviously out of reach of my budgets, neither do I have any interest to conduct my business in this way, but it is just an example of how the business works. Now would it not be cool to do all of this in inventive way that would cost as little as possible? And base the success in real CD sale and download figures, concert turn outs and so forth. What do you think?
I will try to do just this, with the help of hopefully some real good friends, some innovative companies and some fresh thinking. And I will keep a record of all the details of this project and share it with the readers of this blog. I will be looking for your opinions and ideas on music and business. Hopefully I will learn a lot on this journey, and share as much of this knowledge as possible with all of you. To keep up to date on this blog, and the release of my CD and any live dates, new videos and stuff please sign up for my mailing list below. Thanks and I will talk to you all soon:-)
J.P. Kallio