Working as a Freelance Sound Designer – Tips from MMS Graduate Myles Mercer

Since graduating at MMS, Myles has been working as a freelance sound designer, composer and producer. Here’s his sound advice.

 Hey Myles! Can you talk us through your website ‘Sketch my sound’?

Sketch My Sound is my portfolio essentially – anything that’s been released, films that I’ve been involved in and so on. Since studying at Midi School I’ve been working on quite a few projects which are running in parallel – I have more independent projects, then there are the more commercial projects, and then further projects for creating music for show reels.

Can you tell us more about your different music projects?

So, to give you an example, I recently created a soundtrack for a short tribute to Studio Ghibli. The soundtrack is nice and soppy with a little bit of fantasy. I’ve been working on some horror soundtracks but I’ve not put all of them up yet. They’re all short films so they are all under 10 minutes long.

Do you prefer writing for horror films?

I don’t know whether I prefer them, but I find them easy to write to and I like the sound design involved, you can really build the tension. I have a Planktone, which is just like a guitar string you can plugin, pluck and bow.. put rosin on a bow so it really grips the string, and it creates a really cool sound. Or you can just scratch it and apply a lot of effects and other producers get blown away by it like ‘Ugh that’s horrible!’

Can you give any advice to people looking to get into freelance sound design?

The best thing you can do is to start making friends in the industry. I really think the worst thing you can do is to start showing off to them and acting cocky because they won’t want to work with you. Then after a while you’ll start to find common interests and you’ll find the people that you want to work with. Then you may start off doing some projects for free and you’ll start building up a portfolio and then you’ll get to a point when you think ‘I want to start charging now’. That’s tricky. You have to have that awkward conversation with everyone. But most professionals get that.

‘Project one I’ll do for free, Project 2 I’ll do for a discounted rate, Project 3 – We’ve built up a good relationship, and I’m charging you.

Do you find that charging clients changes things at that point?

Yeah, as soon as you start charging people you’ll lose a lot of work in the beginning. I suppose it separates who you actually want to work with moving forward, and those that you did work with for free, that has still supported your portfolio. So it’s never a total loss.

Are there ever issues like a client may promise a payment for the work and then when the work is finished they may just not pay you?

You’ll have to start thinking about contracts, because you will get this occasionally. You can sign up to the musicians union and look at their standard contracts and adapt them to your own profession.

It’s good to have a word with the client to find out what level the project is at, for example if it’s something corporate for an advert or show reel, you need to know how much to charge because they could come back to you and say ‘3 minutes of music for £200’ and then you could end up seeing it on TV and it turns out it’s being used on a Coca-Cola advert.

It’s good you did the Music Business module with us then, eh! So you’ve spoken about your short films, talk us through your corporate angle.

So I’ve got show reels and adverts but I’ve not got many up online because most of them are not out yet. It can be fun but it can vary because it depends on whom you’re working with. Take for example this South Korean restaurant that I worked with.

This was through a media company that eat there all the time. The media company were just getting off the ground and wanted to create a portfolio for their company, and also to help the restaurant. So we did the project and they loved it and they ended up paying us! It turned out differently than I thought – I really liked the idea of researching some South Korean music and trying to create some myself. But it didn’t turn out like that.

Why didn’t the project didn’t go the way you expected?

It didn’t end up being South Korean themed because we found out that the head chef is a cellist, and I wanted to get him involved. He sent me a recording of the cello and an electric piano in the background. Then I got on my MPC and created a hip-hop infused beat over the top and chopped up the audio. This was great because it meant I got the chance to create some music for a restaurant, which is a great experience – and I also got a new contact for the head chef. Working for that media company has led to more opportunities with them too.

How do you deal with people being picky about the music you’ve written?

One thing that you really have to learn for being a composer for media and other companies is that you can’t get upset about the decisions being made, remember it’s not a music video, and the director will make the decision on whether the music piece is right for what they want. They might say ‘it sounds good pal, but I wanted to go with this’. Rather than getting upset, you should take up the challenge and be more like ‘ok cool, how can get to what you want?’

If you’re working with good people then the criticism is normally constructive which his fine. Sometimes you will have to work with certain people who are very picky about every little detail like ‘I don’t like that reverb’, and sometimes you just have to do what they say.

So say I am a company, and you are working with me to promote my company. We are meeting for the first time. What would you want from me?

If it’s our first meeting, I would want to know what it’s about and be given a brief, as it might be a subject you just don’t want to touch. Some companies might give you a script, but usually they just like talking through the idea with you. Then we would discuss about what music we both think would suit the project.

I’ve gotten to a point now where people who I’ve worked with before know what type music I like to write because I write quite quirky stuff. For example for one of the projects I’m working on at the moment I’ve sent out 3 different themes and within these themes I’ve sent 4 different versions with different instruments. Just to see what they like, so instead of saying no I don’t like that, they may say oh yes I like the melody in this one and I like the drums in this one. Then after this they may come back to you and say ‘I’ve got the first scene ready’ and then I can write some music for it and see what they think.

It can be hard because you won’t always have the final product to write to. So you could have some odd noises that are triggered by cues on screen and then if they change the scene or they say ‘Oh I just added in half a minute there’, then you will have to re-arrange everything or start from scratch.

Roughly how long would it take you to produce a minute long piece of music?

The thing is if you’ve got a deadline then you will just have to do it in whatever timeframe they say.

Deadlines do sometimes mean getting 4 hours sleep a night and things like drinking a lot of water and eating well become very important. Tea and coffee can help if you need to stay up and work throughout the night, but you’ve got be careful as your health comes first. If you’re not well, it affects your work even more. 

Another important thing to do when you don’t have much work coming through is to set up templates – make keyboard shortcuts and research how to do processes faster because it will save you a lot of time. For example I’ve got a template with Battery and Kontakt’s Abbey Road drums that is mixed with some of the Waves plugins, which can be EQed and tweaked later on. Having this template just means I can compose and not have to mess around creating a whole new drum patch.

Can you give us a run-down of your go to plugins and plugins that you would recommend for producers that want to get into this field?

You’ve got to get Native Instruments Kontakt. It’s a no-brainer. For more scoring based projects, LA Scoring Strings and Symphobia are amazing but they’re rather expensive at £600+. But East West have a collection called Hollywood Strings and they us a subscription service at around £20 a month and you can download a lot of their software. You need to make sure you have good strings as an industry requirement really.

It’s very hard to synthesize good strings and brass as well, they are the two things that can sound terrible if they are not done well.

Yes exactly, so when you’re not working have a look online and tips for humanising your sound because it’s not just velocity – it’s about the volume too. Also get to know different terms used for scoring like glissando and legato.

Myles Mercer producing music in 2A

Are there any tutorials you’d recommend that people watch?

For scoring strings there’s a guy on Youtube called Daniel James and he does music for trailers and he’s recently done some music for a Burger King advert. Podcasts are great, you can find some really helpful ones for example SCOREcast, where two Hollywood film composers discuss the state of the media music business and discuss topics relevant to all audio to picture work. They’re great because you find out about all the different roles needed in the creation of these big Hollywood scores. Then if you ever become friends with a big director and they’re like ‘yeah come and write for my film’ then you’re not completely lost.

As a final point, what advice would you give for a producer looking to get into the freelance sound design business?

Don’t forget who’s project it is – remember you are producing for them. And eat well and sleep well, your health is important.

You can check out more of Myles’ work at Sketch my Sound. If you fancy taking the course Myles did, check out our 18 month Music Production, Audio Engineering and Music Business Diploma and the Electronic Music Composition Course.

Easily Generate Melody Lines and Bass Lines with Ableton Live

Not everyone can afford one of the new breed of controllers which allow you to play in a key of your choosing without hitting a bum note. This video tutorial looks at how to come up with melody lines and bass lines with Ableton Live, even if you’re not musically minded..

For those who haven’t already had a look at Ableton’s Push Controller, it is a control surface which allows for comprehensive control of pretty much every aspect of music production – from the loading of instruments and effects, to creation and ultimately sequencing of ideas in Live’s Arrangement view. One killer function is the ease of which one can play the unconventional keyboard layout to create very usable musical ideas using the devices ‘in key’ mode. In this mode, the user can select a key/scale from a huge long list of both common and esoteric scales, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never hit a wrong note, because each of the 64 pads will play a note from that scale. This means that you don’t need to be a keyboard wizard to create interesting melodic content – but what can you do if you don’t have one of these excellent controllers?

Ableton's Push controller


Load yourself a Scale Device preset 

Scale device is a hidden weapon which allows any incoming MIDI note to be snapped to a key of your choosing. It comprises of 2 main parameters: a note matrix which allows incoming notes to be snapped to a different pitch, and a base control which essentially sets the tonic or root of your tweaked incoming notes. You can customise your own scale by editing the note matrix, but you also have a range of preset scales available to you in the browser.

Most (but by no means all) Western music is generally written in a major or minor key, so if you’re new to music theory, I’d recommend sticking to one of those initially to give you a familiar feel to your music. Next up, you just need to adjust the base parameter to select the key of your choosing – i.e. “G minor”.

Voilà! Any MIDI controller keyboard will now play in ‘in key’ mode!

Watch this video tutorial which explains how to set this up, and also further methodologies for creating melodic loops:


If you’d like to know more about practical music theory, and how to apply it to your production, why don’t you check out our 12 week Electronic Music Composition course? If you’re a complete beginner and would like to know more about Ableton Live, why don’t you take a look at our 4-day Ableton Live weekend course?

MMS Sessions Ben Pearce Ableton Live Masterclass – We Are Live!

Released today: watch our brand new MMS Sessions Ben Pearce Ableton Live Masterclass video series right now!

Ben Pearce Visits school of electronic music

The school of electronic music’s MMS Sessions series recently teamed up with Ben Pearce (Purp & Soul Records) to bring an you an extra special Ben Pearce Ableton Live MMS Sessions. Joined by a live audience at school of electronic music, Ben de-constructed one of his remixes and showed us the techniques that go into producing a track on Ableton Live. He also took questions from the audience, answering a huge number of topics from the role an artist manager plays in your career to question’s on Ben’s October 2012 breakthrough track “What I might Do.”
This brand new MMS Sessions Ben Pearce Ableton Live Masterclass video series really is perfect for anyone who’s producing music or DJing, or looking to get into it. Ben’s rise to fame from the success of just one tune is a fascinating and inspiring story and one definitely worth hearing for those who are trying to make their mark in the industry.

Watch The Video Series Right Now!

There’s a grand total of 22 videos in this series and we’ve hand picked a few of our favourites here:

Top tips on getting your music signed!

Do you feel pressure after hit ‘What I Might Do?

The importance of social media

Producing different genres?

Did you have goals at 18 Do you have one now?


About Ben Pearce

The Creative Director of Purp and Soul Records, Ben Pearce has sported some great remixes on Lost My Dog and Southern Fried Records. Not only this, he’s been enjoying the recent success his deep house music piercing through into the public domain.

Back in October 2012, Ben’s breakthrough track What I Might Do caught the attention, ears and hearts of many. The EP, signed by Chase and Statuses’ label MTA Records reached dizzying heights, cruising in at #1 on Beatport Deep House Chart, #3 Beatport Chart and #5 iTunes Electronic Chart, with strong support from Seth Troxler, Solomun, Lee Foss, Maya Jane Coles, Pete Tong (his essential track), Annie Mac, Eats Everything,Tiefschwarz, and Crazy P to name but a few.

After a re-release on Mercury Records this October with a slew of remixes from Adam Shelton, Bonar Bradberry, Harry Wolfman and PBR Streetgang, What I Might Do has now hit #7 in the UK singles chart, along with major rumblings in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands nearly a whole year on from conception.

Want to get into producing music yourself? Jump on our next Music Production and Audio Engineering Diploma or come down and visit us to find out more. Book a tour here

On Demand: Watch MMS Sessions #005 With Bonar Bradberry Online!

On Monday 8th June we had a fantastic MMS Sessions #005 with Bonar Bradberry from PBR Streetgang! Miss the live stream? No problem, information on how to watch the whole session again is below…

About Bonar Bradberry

Bonar Bradberry, whether solo or as one half of PBR Streetgang, has had a fruitful relationship with electronic music over the course of the last decade and more. As a producer, he has released on Needwant, 2020 Vision, Gomma and Future Classic, most recently collaborating with LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang for a remake of the classic “Working The Midnight Shift”.

Bonar Bradberry

We were extremely lucky to have him at the school of electronic music to deconstruct a track on Ableton Live and take questions from both the studio audience and those watching online.

Remix Deconstruction on Ableton Live

Here is the original track released on Needwant that Bonar remixed. “Forest” by Ejeca.


Bonar took the audience through the fundamentals of remixing from how he comes up with ideas, to his own workflow and his plugins of choice. Take a listen to his finished remix!

Catch The Whole Session Again!

Couldn’t get involved this time but want to learn Bonar’s trade secrets? You can now Watch MMS Sessions #005 with Bonar Bradberry online on our YouTube channel. It’s really worth a watch if you are thinking of embarking on a remix project of your own. Don’t forget to get involved online or in person on the next session!

Looking for professional training in Music Production? Check out our 18 month Music Production and Audio Engineering Diploma and kick start your music career!

5 Things To Do Today That Will Help Your Music Workflow Tomorrow

Stuck in a rut? Feel as though you have hit the wall with your music? Procrastinating like crazy? Read on!

Do A Digital De-Clutter

Perhaps you are already one of those organised types that keeps your desktop and downloads folder clutter-free but if you’re not (like many of us!) it’s a good place to start. Not only will freeing up space on your computer make it run a million times smoother, it will also allow you to go through old demos, mixes and samples you forgot you even had. You never know, there could be something in a folder that might spark something; whether it be reworking an old demo or getting inspired to create something completely different.

Plan Today What You Are Going To Do Tomorrow And Stick To It

What do you and someone who you would consider more successful than you have in common? Time. Use it wisely and plan what you are going to do with your time tomorrow. Write down everything you want to have completed tomorrow. Whether it’s finally finishing that mix down and putting it to bed, scheduling your social media content for the week, getting your Soundcloud artwork updated or updating your live dates on your website. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get through the list if you have it laid out in front of you. You’ll also probably find that you are more productive and have extra time to do other things that you might have had to leave for another day.


MMS Music Workflow

Block Social Media While You Are Working On Your Music

Social media creates nothing but a black hole into your day. “Just checking Facebook quickly” always results in 30 minutes of your time gone that you’re not going to get back. Even with the browser closed, it’s easy to just jump on it again if you are having a moment of procrastination. Installing website blocking software is much more effective. You’ll need either Google Chrome or Firefox as your web browser. If you are using Chrome, install StayFocusd. With Firefox, use LeechBlock. These add-ons allow you to specify time-wasting sites, set a maximum counter (if any), and block the sites once you’ve used them for too long. Apps for blocking distracting stuff on your phone have also been developed such as FocusON for Android or Curbi for iPhone.

Set Yourself A Deadline

If you are signed to a label you are likely to have a deadline laid out for you in the form of a release date for your track(s). This doesn’t apply to all artists / producers though. Those of you DIY-ing out there could meander along for eternity putting your release date further and further back until people get bored of waiting for your music and move on. Plus you’ll end up only releasing one new track a year if you drag your feet. MAKE A DEADLINE AND STICK TO IT. Get the track finished, released and move onto the next. Your sanity will thank you for it.

Set Up An Auto-responder And Only Check Your Email Twice A Day

Playing email tennis with someone all day can cut into to your day massively while you are writing or producing music. Set up an auto-responder explaining that you will only be checking your emails at 11.30am and 4pm, anything urgent then the sender should call you. You’ll be surprised just how much time you save doing this. You’ll also see the number needless emails vanish from your inbox.

Learn everything from workflow to composition on our Music Production Diploma. Book in for a tour to see the facilities for yourself!

String Quartet Tracking – SSL XL Desk

Recently I have undertaken several recording workshops and sessions in the flagship studio at school of electronic music, using the Solid State Logic XL Desk and the array of 500 series rack pre amps. The first session was a continuation of a collaboration that I had started with a local band, fronted by Dom Major. […]

Why Should You Take An Audio Engineering Course?

Why should you take an audio engineering course? Or any other music related course for that matter? We take a look at the options and give you an insight of what to expect if you were to enroll on a course.

Hands-on learning vs YouTube Tutorials

YouTube is littered with tutorials that make the subject much more interesting to learn than reading a manual or dedicated document, something that is all too often a latter option, in favor of an element of human contact.

An internet tutorial is a great way of seeing somebody else’s understanding of the subject or technique, in a way that you can grasp. Although some areas or steps can be overlooked and prior knowledge assumed or disregarded, because of the technical level or ability of the instructor. The best thing that can be achieved from a one off tutorial is awareness of a subject.

In contrast a professional hands-on audio engineering course will be structured and designed, refined and continuously updated to ensure it is delivering the finest quality training available. A course will quite often start at the very basics, assuming that no knowledge is shared by any of the students. This is important to make sure that all members of the group understand the lessons and are able to move forward to the more complex of techniques and more capable equipment, which in turn increases the level of project being worked on.

As knowledge is gained on the course, guidance is provided to ensure techniques and processes are being understood. Students will then develop more confidence when understanding how and why to use what they have learned and a level understanding of exactly what is happening. However, by just watching a YouTube video you do not get that level of support and encouragement.

Audio Engineering Course

Learn alongside like-minded people

Aside from the structure and delivery of the course, you will be learning alongside a group of people, all of which have a common interest in music, music production and audio engineering. One of the most important aspects of the industry is creating connections and subsequent collaborations. Chances are that everybody enrolled on the course will have a different preferred genre or style that they wish to make music in or with. A perfect opportunity to blend different styles and experiment. Friendships are formed, acts, production teams or bands are created, future business partners and collaborative interaction is initiated.

Learn on professional-standard equipment

A certified or authorised training centre will have all the equipment that you will need, with variations across the studios, in which to learn and practice with guidance and help. That’s not to say that the skills and experience gained by using a smaller setup are inferior, but the thrill and sense of achievement of learning to record “that take” with all channels perfectly routed, time after time, is certainly more rewarding and confidence is gained much quicker.

Either way, an audio engineering course is not about being told what to do, but a practical based, purposely designed stepping stone system through many processes and equipment variations. A dedicated set of staff that is not only experienced, but also supportive of students taking the course.


Learn more about the benefits of completing an audio engineering course at MMS or book in for a tour to see the facilities for yourself!

Which Music Production Software Should I Buy?

I must admit that that the question posed by the title of this blog is a bit misleading – designed to get those looking for the answer to read on. In fact, there will be no definitive lists, top 5 bestest mega things etc. The short answer to this question is: it doesn’t matter.

I felt compelled to write this blog post after reading an article on music theory, which was littered left, right, and centre with adverts for throwaway controllers, esoteric synth modules and plugins that claim to sound bigger, fatter, wider than anything preceding it. The fact is that these are all distractions designed to get you to part with your money, and to occupy your mind with excitement rather than creativity. The technology doesn’t matter one jot, music creation is about ideas and the realisation of those ideas, regardless of the platform or equipment used.

I too am guilty of daydreaming about how buying a modular synth setup, drum machine, vintage Arp, will make the music I write 10 fold better, but this simply isn’t the case. Music is about rhythm, syncopation, groove/swing, dynamics, melody, harmony, tension and release, the invoking of emotion – it all adds up to create a visceral human response. Nowhere in that last sentence was any technology mentioned, because all of the above can be achieved on an acoustic guitar, within a string quartet, on a synthesiser – anything!

It’s important to remember that great music was written before Dave Smith announced the Prophet 6, before Maschine Studio was released, before Sylenth was the mainstay of EDM production. I’ll give you 2 examples of where creativity came first – probably for the main part due to a lack of financial means, but nevertheless necessity breeds invention!

Example 1: The Eurythmics – the recording of their “Sweet Dreams” album

Extract taken from “Musician” magazine 1983:

Their “studio” was a dingy, v-shaped warehouse attic. No acoustical tiles, no drum booth, no double-sealed glass window; they played and sang in the same room with their tape deck and mixing board, which were a TEAC half-inch 8-track and a cheap, used Soundcraft, respectively. For microphones, they had two Beyers, which they used to record everything – Annie’s voice, trumpets, percussion, the piano – and for outboard processing gear they had a handful of old effects boxes, a space echo, and one (count it, one) spring reverb. They made the Sweet Dreams album with that. Go and listen to it. It sounds like it was recorded in the finest of two-hundred-dollar-an-hour rooms, instead of a place most people would barely credit with demo capability. Raw talent and no pressure from the time clock are two reasonable explanations for that disparity, but at the heart of the record’s sonic success is a different attitude about recording. No more “fix it in the mix.” Instead it was get the sound right, no matter how long it took, and then record it flat. And if it didn’t sound right later, scrub it and do it again. Having fun counted, too. That’s something Annie and Dave learned from Conny Plank, back when they’d been working on In The Garden.
This is how Dave remembers it: “Conny and his partner Holger took me aside one day to show me what they were doing-all these weird, obscure experiments. They’d make rhythm tracks out of tape loops of pinball machine counters, and add a bass drum even though they couldn’t play drums, and then they’d play some kind of scratchy violin part all the way through and I’d say, ‘what the hell, that sounds terrible.’ But they’d never use it like that. They’d kind of switch it in and out, and then run it through a space echo, and phase it. ..and it would sound really great. Compared to that, everything I’d ever done in a band seemed boring.

(On the recording of the album) There’s lots of stuff you’d guess was synthesizer that isn’t. That string sound in “The Walk”? A Farfisa Combo. Compact through the spring reverb. The clinking counterpoint in the chorus of “Sweet Dreams”? Milk bottles pitched to the right notes by filling them with different levels of water. And the weird, rattling feedback along with the train noise in “The City Never Sleeps” is just that: feedback, To get the environment they wanted, Dave and Annie bought subway tickets and stood on the platform, recording the trains going by with a little Walkman-Iike tape machine. When they got back they found they didn’t have any open tracks left on the Teac, so to get the trains into the song, they added them directly into the 2-track master during mixdown. The clicking of the wheels caught Dave’s ear. To him it sounded a little like guitar feedback. So he grabbed his Gretch Country Gentleman, plugged it in, held it in front of the monitor speakers so it would pick up on the clicking and start feeding back for real… and he submixed that in, too.


Example 2: DJ Shadow – the creation of “Endtroducing”

Widely regarded as the first album to be comprised entirely of samples – no crazy expensive synthesiser hardware to be found here. The main piece of kit used by Shadow during the making of this was an Akai MPC60 mk2. The off-the-shelf specs of this unit boasted a 750kb sampling memory (enough for 13 seconds of audio) – songs created had to be stored to floppy disk (720kb storage at the time) before the machine was powered down, otherwise all work would be lost. Compare that with today’s alternative: Native Instruments’ Maschine. Sample memory size depends on your computer’s hard disk size, but most likely will run into gigabytes (1.5 hours of CD quality sound per GB), nice big easy to navigate interface, and most importantly, a wealth of sounds and samples provided as standard.

Have a look at this snippet from the 2000 hip hop documentary, “Scratch” which shows where Shadow sourced all the sounds used on the Endtroducing record:

And here’s some footage from his home studio where his groundbreaking album was created:


Both these example show that the artists in question made use of whatever they could get their hands on. Both display a DIY approach – no massive studios involved, no big mixing consoles.

Fast forward to the present day, and we have unprecedented power at our fingertips for a tiny fraction of the price of what used to constitute a bare-minimum recording setup. For less than £200 (providing you already have some sort of computer hardware) you can buy yourself a DAW. Whether that is Logic, Reason, Ableton Live, or one of the other myriad of options available, you will have at your disposal as part of the software package: a sequencer, a mixer, effect devices and processors, samplers, instruments and a wealth of audio content to get you started. In short, a complete recording studio allowing you to imagine, create, edit and mix down a professional sounding piece of music from start to finish. For less that £200.

“Which music production software should I buy?’ is a question I’m asked time and time again. The analogy I always use is the one of buying a new car: would you get a BMW, Audi, VW, or Merc? They all do the same thing, but ultimately one just ‘feels’ right for you. Generally software manufacturers provide a demo version of their products – take each for a test drive and see which one fits best.

I’ll admit that music production can be a sterile process without some hands on, tactile element. If this is the case for you then some sort of MIDI controller/control surface would be a good investment. Don’t be drawn in by the latest and greatest all-singing all-dancing number. They all work on the same protocol – MIDI! MIDI has been around since 1983, and doesn’t look to be going anywhere just yet. The only thing I would say is that in recent years controller keyboard manufacturers have kindly included a USB connection facility which allows the transfer of MIDI data to the computer, and often will power the unit straight from the USB bus, negating the need for a separate MIDI interface and mains power unit. I’d go out on a limb and say that any controller keyboard made after around 2005 will have USB connectivity, so this would be the only stipulation for me when buying a controller – make sure it’s newer than 2005! Other than that, think about what it is you’d like to achieve with your controller. Just playing notes? Controlling parameters? Triggering ideas? There’s a key/button/encoder combination to suit all needs, you just need to decide what you’re going to be doing with them.

“Which music production software should I buy?” – a valid question. In today’s DAW world with almost limitless possibility, why would you need hardware? Well, those limitless possibilities can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Where do you start when anything is possible? This is why I like using hardware – it has a specific function, and is by definition limiting. Sometimes being limited allows for inspiration because you’re not always second guessing yourself: “well maybe I could do X/Y/Z and make it better”. A synthesiser is a synthesiser and all it does is synthesise sound. Investing in a hardware sound source is relatively expensive compared with purchasing software (or if you’re that way inclined downloading hacked versions for free, something we wouldn’t recommend one jot), but what it will force you to do, is to make sure you get the most out of the device: you’ve invested good money in it after all. It gives you a reliable start point for inspiration. Rather than sifting through 1001 software instruments looking for ‘the sound’, you have a physical device to sit and tweak, you don’t have to have your computer on for it to produce a sound. You are limited to the capabilities of that device, so it will encourage you to experiment and push the device to it’s limits. Finally, buying yourself an esoteric bit of kit will sonically set you apart from every man and his dog in possession of a copy of “Massive”.

Take for example Daniel Avery’s album, “Drone Logic”. The majority of sounds you hear on that album are created using just a Korg Mono/Poly synth. The Mono/Poly had no 5-pin MIDI implementation and no patch storage – once the knobs are turned, the sound is gone. Sounds from the synth were recorded in to the computer and manipulated in his chosen DAW to build the tracks. This makes it very difficult to fundamentally edit the timbre of a sound once it’s been recorded in, and therefore promotes a different workflow where you are less inclined to revisit source sounds because they’re a pain in the neck to recreate! This could potentially allow you to finished a track quicker, again, because you’re not always second guessing: once it’s down, it’s down.

To summarise, drum beats can be made from samples provided, from drum machines, from sampled records, from a recording you’ve made of other unrelated sound objects. Synth lines can be played in from your hardware synth, can be sampled from records, can be triggered in your DAW. Vocals can be recorded on a £20 microphone in your bedroom or in Abbey Road studios. It really doesn’t matter if you have the latest, greatest hardware, or are doing everything on an old PC laptop, as long as the ideas and vibe are there.

MMS Sessions #004: Artifact

Following the success of our previous MMS Sessions with Ben Pearce, Denis Jones and Zed Bias, last week brought another successful event when we welcomed DJ / Producer Artifact as our special guest to MMS Sessions #004! Read on to find out what went on…

MMS Sessions Welcomes Producer Artifact

About Artifact

One of the most promising talented producers currently emerging, Artifact’s music brings together elements of bass, swing techno and analogue house. He’s had a successful 2013 /14 with releases on Purp & Soul, Somethinksounds & Kerri Chandler’s label MadTech Records. 2015 looks all set to be very bright for this young music producer.


Live Set Deconstruction & Production Know-How

The event saw this self-taught, quintessentially British bass & house music producer gave a detailed deconstruction of his lead track “How Did You Change?” Ft. Gates off his latest EP live on Ableton. From plugins to instruments to vocals, every base was covered.

Artifact also answered questions about his production techniques from the audience. When asked how long it took him on average to finish a track he answered: “About 9 or 10 hours to actually write a track, then another 20 hours or so of tweaking until it feels right.” The relentless tweaking of a track is a pain that we’re sure anyone who is producing their own music will understand!


Choosing the Right Agent and Working with Management

The young producer also offered a very honest and upfront insight into the music industry and spoke about his experiences of working with agencies and management. Moving on from his original agency, he highlighted that it was important to find an agency that “is the right fit for you” – whether that’s an agent that books you gigs that you are genuinely interested in doing or one that has the relevant experience within your genre.


Watch Again Online

As well as having a live audience at school of electronic music, MMS Sessions #004 was also live streamed online. You can watch the session again on our YouTube Channel.


Want to find out more about MMS Sessions or fancy coming along to the next one? Visit our dedicated page here. Looking to hone your own skills in music production? Take a look at the courses we have available!

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How to Successfully Submit Music to Record Labels

“You as an artist are a brand. You need a strong image, to know who you are, what you wish to achieve and to keep pushing for that no matter what.”  

Gemma Roberts label owner & artist manager offers music producers some advice on sending music out to prospective record labels and how to promote and represent yourself correctly online.

So, you have finished a track, maybe a few tracks that you are happy with and you feel it’s time as a producer to submit music to record labels for opinions, feedback and the possibility of it being signed. This can be a daunting process for any budding new music producer and experienced ones alike. Getting your music noticed is unfortunately not an easy and simple process, with the cliques and politics surrounding the electronic music industry it is becoming ever more difficult for your tracks to be picked up. As a record label owner and A&R who frequently deals with demo e-mails from up and coming artists here are a few professional rules to follow and things you can do in order to speed up and ease the process..


email back lots of email

Be selective with which record label you send your music to

Do not just send your music to just any record label, you need to research each particular labels musical ethos and direction. If you submit music to record labels just because you recognise the name not only wastes the A&R’s time but your own. Before you start sending tracks out really consider what you think your sound is, compare it to other producers and see which labels they fit. Label’s are increasingly becoming more crew orientated, compare yourself to their other artists and check out their tastes and direction and see if this is a family you think you could slot into. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner and make sure your correspondences are polite and well written, being courteous doesn’t cost anything.

Don’t make fundamental errors

Never submit your music to multiple people in the same e-mail, for example posting the link to the track in an e-mail and CCing in all other record labels. As a label owner nothing disappoints us more than when a producer isn’t motivated enough to send individual personalised emails. I have seen a few producers receive a dressing down from lots of A&R’s for making this mistake. You should always enjoy and compliment the label you are sending to, explain why you would like the be a part of their journey, which previous releases you enjoyed and make an effort!


When is comes to sampling…BE CAREFUL!! There was once a time that using a well known R&B sample in say a deep house record for example was extremely common practice and record labels would release these tracks via Beatport etc without a second thought. Although acceptable for a while, the major record labels began to catch onto this particular growing trend in electronic music and decided to take back what is rightfully theirs in terms of publishing and in other areas.  There are many record labels that take a chance and will release obviously sampled music, my advice to you would be to be careful, avoid very obvious vocals and lyrics, and wherever possible try and obtain some original vocals.

Be Soundcloud Savvy

Make sure your Soundcloud is neat and tidy and if you can afford to pay for the premium option do so. With the paid option you can order your tracks how you would like them to be seen when people click on your profile, your own work will be boosted to the top of the page rather than other popular things you have liked and shared. Make sure that your Biography isn’t too wordy, you should let your music speak for itself. Insure your correct contact details are provided and the links to your other social media platforms work. Pop your demos into a playlist and send the private link to the label, I would suggest that you have the whole track available to listen to, downloadable if you are sending to a major but at a lower quality, not 320. If sending to a small record label do not give the downloadable option, let them take a listen first, if they are really interested they will get back to you and ask for a downloadable link. You can never be too careful in this industry with your work.


Never underestimate the power of social media

The above pointers all tie in nicely with some music business advice on the great importance of using social media to promote yourself successfully as a producer and DJ. Make sure that you have your Facebook band page separate to your personal, with a press shot or logo. Keep your bio to the point and honest as mentioned above, and make sure it is a reflection of your musical integrity.

Be present online everyday!! Be it posting something you have produced or created yourself e.g. podcast, or other peoples work you particularly enjoy, even something you find amusing. Take a look at the people who influence you social media accounts, and view how they conduct themselves online, there is a lot to be learned from your idols. You as an artist are a brand, you need a strong image, to know who you are, what you wish to achieve, and to keep pushing for that no matter what.

If you’d like to know more about the music industry and how to navigate, check out out Music Business Course, and our Rob Gretton Scholarship.