Social Networking gets your act noticed

There’s been an awful lot of stuff written about Social Networking recently.

Most entertainers already know about Social Networking websites, especially MySpace, but very few entertainers fully understand exactly how to leverage the power of these types of websites to push their act and promote it using Social Networking.

My article on Social Networking gives valuable tips on what you can do to get your act noticed…and get more work:

http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/article53.htm

An inappropriate track?

One of my favourite songs of last year (and a really BIG seller for us here at MP3 Backing Trax) was the Alexandra Burke song “Hallelujah.”

You may remember, Alexandra was the X Factor winner who took the song to the top of the charts in December of last year.

In the last few weeks though, I’ve noticed that our backing track of “Hallelujah” has been achieving record sales again.

At first I thought nothing of it.

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s no real surprise or unusual that lots of singers out there want to include a song called “Hallelujah” in their set-list during the up-coming festive period.

BUT…

Not everyone who is buying this backing track is a professional singer.

It seems that much of the upsurge we’ve seen in sales of this backing track have come from school teachers who are buying the track to use in school plays and productions.

So if you are a school teacher, I suggest you quickly check out the lyrics of the song first to make sure they’re appropriate for your kids to sing.

Despite it being a great song and a great backing track, the lyrics to “Hallelujah” are not quite as wholesome and innocent as the song title would suggest.

It may not be appropriate for kids, especially younger kids, to sing.

A couple of lines which could be interpreted as being rather risque are:

“You saw her bathing on the roof”

“She tied you to her kitchen chair”

Also there are a couple of lines which could be interpreted as being negative towards love and religion. They are:

“All I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who’d out drew ya”

“It’s not someone who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah”

The lyrics are absolutely fine for adults like you and I.

But the last thing you need is an upset parent with a keen ear complaining because you gave their little bundle of innocence some rather risque and inappropriate lyrics to sing!

Shool teachers be warned!

Backing tracks and vocals through the same PA system

Here’s a question I was asked about whether you should put your vocals through the same PA as your backing tracks…

Kenny,
Just recently purchased NUMARK Ipod Mixer. its awsome. I do have A QUESTION REGARDING VOCALS AND PA SYSTEM. Should I be singing out of the same speaker that the music (The backing Track) is coming out of, or do i have to spend more money, get another amp and another set of speakers and seperate the vocals from the music for live shows? I would prefer to sing out of the 2 main speakers and also use those main speakers for the backing trax as well. Your help is appreciated.
Thanks.

Hi

Yes, the Numark iPod mixer has been getting some great reviews.
 
If your PA system is big enough and powerful enough to handle both your vocals and the music for the size of venue your playing, then there is no need to have seperate vocal PA and a seperate music PA.
 
I recommend you put everything through the one system. Just make sure it’s a big enough system to handle all the music and vocals and make sure it’s full range (ie your PA contains bass speakers as well as mid-range, horns or tweeters).

The idea of seperating vocals and instruments has its roots in the old “band” days when a band would be made up of, say, a couple of guitarists, a drummer, and maybe keyboard player. Each individual musician would have his own individual amp/speaker combo beside him on stage so a couple of extra speakers would be pushed to the front of the stage for the singer. The singers two speakers were referred to as “the PA”. Any members of the band who could sing would have their microphones plugged in to “the PA” too but the sound of their instrument would remain only coming out of their combo speaker/amp beside them.

However with a “band” style of set up (which is still just as popular today by the way!), there is an obvious problem when the band are called on to play in a really large venue where their individual instrument amp/speaker combos are not loud enough to fill the venue.
 
So they solve this problem by using an exceptionally large PA system out front and “pipe” some of the sound of their instruments through the PA system (i.e. the musicians will “mic up” their combos). You’ll often see guitarists with their little combo amps beside them on stage and a microphone sitting in front of the speaker part. That microphone is picking up the sound from his combo amp and sending it to the PA to give extra volume. The drummer will usually “mic up” his drum kit and put it through the main PA too.
 
A sound engineer will normally sit on the PA systems mixing desk and he controls the volumes and balances of all the instruments and vocals that are coming out the big front-of-house PA.

Monitor speakers (sometimes called foldback) are normally be provided for the singer although the musicians can usually monitor (hear) what they are playing from their combo amps on the stage beside them.
 
This is still the way many bands play today when playing large venues.
 
Sound systems have come a long way and unless you are working in a band consisting of more than 2 or 3 musicians, then you’ll usually achieve a much nicer, rounded, balanced sound by putting your backing tracks and your vocals all through the one full-range PA system (with perhaps a little monitor on the stage beside you for venues where your PA is out in front of you).
 
For solo acts playing in small to medium venues, seperating everything through different PA’s or speaker systems rarely works to your advantage.
 
I remember one musician many years ago who used an old Tascam Portastudio for his backing tracks. He had bass on one track, drums on another, guitar on another, and he played piano and sang live on top. He routed the bass to a Marshall bass amp and speaker , the drums to a full-range Peavy combo and the guitar to a Fender twin-reverb combo. His idea was that his backing tracks would sound ike a real band because all the instruments were coming from the areas on the stage you would expect them to come from if you were listening to a real live band…
 
Sadly it just sounded like an almighty mess and a mush of sound!
 
It just goes to show that when it comes to music, what sounds as if it should work in theory, and what really works in practice, are often two different things.
 
I hope I’ve helped somewhat and not clouded the issue even more!
 
Best Regards
 
Kenny

Why are some backing tracks NOT in their original keys?

A young lady called Clair emailed me with a good question about keys…

Hi
Myself and my sister have been purchasing mini-discs from your company for a while now. We are more than happy with the discs and the service is second to none. Although we are very happy with alot of our purchases so far, i have a query. We recently purchased a Queen track (I want to break free) and we were really disappointed when we heard it. It wasn’t the quality or indeed the actual music…it was the key! This has also happened with 2 other tracks that we purchased (Bon Jovi-Living on a prayer and Phil Collins-Easy Lover). I completely understand that as a customer it is my responsibility to check what key the backing track is in BEFORE i purchase it, but i think we made the mistake in thinking that they would be in the original key! I also understand that for some tracks, male performers may need a lower key on certain songs. But why is the original key not always an option? Please dont think this is a complaint because, as i said, i have nothing but praise for your company (in fact, we regularly get asked where we get our backing tracks from)! I hope you can shed some light on this question for me.
Thank you!
Clair

Hi Claire

Thanks for your email and I’m glad you’re enjoying singing with our tracks!

Yes, hopefully I can answer that question for you…

If a song in our catalogue is NOT available in the original key, then it is because there is no demand for that song in its original key.

You mention the song “I want to break free” and this is actually a typical example of this.

“I want to break free” was recorded by Queen (sung by Freddie Mercury of course) about 25 years ago, and in those 25 years that I have been working as a professional musician I have never yet accompanied a male singer out there who sings this song in the original key. The original key is way too high for a male singer with a standard male vocal range. That’s why in our catalogue we have it in the key of Bb (which is the most comfortable key for a male singer to sing this song in).

We have “male key” listed after the song title to show that it is in a male key so there shouldn’t have been any confusion.

The Bon Jovi song and Phil Collins song are exactly the same – no male singer with a standard male vocal range can reach those songs in their original keys, so that’s why they are in lower keys (and marked accordingly as “male key”).

As you can imagine, our studio is always busy and we constantly produce a large number of tracks so we don’t record songs in keys that we know won’t sell. That’s why there are many songs in our catalogue which are NOT in the original key (and that’s why we sell so many backing tracks – all our tracks are in good keys that all male and female singers with standard vocal ranges can sing, not original keys that are too high for them etc).

There shouldn’t be any confusion either because we list the key of absolutely every song in our catalogue AND we give a guide to what type of singer that key will suit (ie a male singer or a female singer etc) AND we give a 30 second sample of the song so you can singalong to it as an added guide.

Where it says (orig key) next to a song, the song is in its original key.

Where it says (male key) then its in a key to suit a male singer with a standard male vocal range.

Where it says (female key) then its in a key to suit a female singer with a standard female vocal range.

Sometimes you’ll see (high female key) or (low female key) or (low male key) or (high male key) next to a song title. This indicates that although the key is for a male or female singer, it is suited to a male or female with a particularly high voice or low voice.

The little purple speaker icon next to each song title in the catalogue is the audio clip.

Unfortunately there’s not much more we can do than we’re already doing regarding giving information about the keys of the songs in our catalogue. We give more information about the key and guides to the key than any other company out there.

For those singers who know their keys they can see the exact key listed. For those singers who don’t know their key a guide is given (ie male key, female key, original key). And for those singers who are still unsure, they can singalong to the sound clip to further help them.

Quite a lot of backing track companies out there only produce tracks in the original keys so they end up with thousands of songs in their catalogue that are of no use to anyone and no-one buys. As it happens I’ve never quite understood why they waste their time doing this!

Even the original artists themselves will often sing their own songs in a lower key when they perform live at a concert.

This is because when an artist originally recorded his song, he will have recorded it at a time when his voice was at it’s very, very best (artists often spend months in the studio recording an album so they can sing a song hundreds of times till they get the best “take” and that’s what ends up on the final recording).

But when the artists goes on tour he has to sing that song every night, so the original key is very often too high for him. He will often drop it down a semi-tone or two for the live concerts.

If many original artists can’t even sing their own songs in the original keys, then you can easily see why no-one else is likely to be able to do it either! That’s why we sell so many backing tracks in male and female keys and that’s why there’s very often no demand for a song to be in its original key.

As a general rule of thumb, if for any reason you need a backing track to be in the original key then don’t buy it if you see it listed in our catalogue with “male key” or “female key” next to its title.

If you know the key you want (even if it is the original and you don’t see it in the catalogue) then contact us and let us know because we have a backing track editing service and can change the key and supply songs in any key you want…

I also wrote an article a while back about finding your key which you may find interesting:

http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/article13.htm

Hope this helps!

Regards

Kenny

Protect your backing tracks

Thanks to James from Australia who contacted me to tell me a horror story about almost losing all his backing tracks.

It seems his son uses his computer as well and likes to download music from the internet. His son decided to free up a bit of hard disk space by deleting a whole bunch of songs he doesn’t listen to.

Yes, you’ve guessed…James’ son deleted his backing tracks instead of the music files he meant to delete.

He just looked at the song titles and assumed that they were standard music files – he didn’t know that they were backing tracks of those song titles!

Luckily the story has a happy ending because James is on our email list so uses the free backup program we sent him a while back. He was able to load all his backing tracks back in…phew!

However, all the trouble could have been easily avoided by simply setting up a guest account which still allows others to use your computer as normal, but restricts the access and therefore the damage they can do.

My article on how to activate the guest account on your PC or Mac shows how you can easily do this:

http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/article52.htm

It only takes a few seconds to set up and can save you a mountain of headaches…

How to have a long career

I’ve had a few emails recently from singers who are just starting out in the music business. It’s great to see new talent coming in to our business.

Two emails in particular stood out to me.

The first “newbie” entertainer felt a little intimidated about starting out and wasn’t sure if she could really hold her own against all those seasoned professionals out there. She bought a bunch of backing tracks hoping to start putting an act together, but after talking to another entertainer who had been in “the business” for a while, was now having second thoughts. The other entertainer made her feel a bit inferior and she felt she’d never be as good as her, so was considering giving up before she’d even started! I sent her a lengthy reply re-assuring her that all would be well, not to worry, not to be put off by what the other entertainer said, and if she had talent and a good attitude she’ll be a success.

The other “newbie” sent me an email telling me how fantastic he was. All his friends have been telling him for ages how he is a better singer than all the other singers out there and really should become professional. He told me he was going to go out in to the entertainment world and show everyone how it really should be done. I just sent him a very short reply wishing him good luck. There was no point in wasting my time massaging his ego any further – it sounded like he was doing a good job of doing that himself already. He’s in for a surprise when his bubble bursts!

Ego can kill a career. Whether it’s YOUR ego or the ego’s of the idiots around you discouraging you from getting started.

If you’re new to singing or entertaining, my article about the pitfalls of having a big ego or hanging around with people with big egos is worth a read:

http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/article51.htm