FEATURE: Six Of The Best – Massa Confusa’s Guide To Being A Band On A Budget In The North East | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Massa Confusa are quite simply one of the hardest working bands the North East music scene has to offer. We caught up with Ally Morton from the fuzzy, alt punk duo to share some pearls of wisdom on how to be a band on a budget and get by in the North East music scene. He had so much to tell us, we had to break this particular Six Of The Best into two parts, so here’s the first three bits of advice, so part two follows on Thursday 6th October. Should you wish to see what Massa Confusa are all about, they have another Massa Confusa presents show at Northumberland Arms on Saturday 15th October (more info here) and an album launch at NEMIX on Saturday 19th November (find out more here). Over to you Ally…

So you’ve found a place to practice; a garage, practice room, your bedroom, whatever; but now you need some recordings. Do them yourself! You don’t need to be a music production whizz, you just need to be able to record some workable stems which you can ask someone more experienced to mix and master later if needs be. If you want to pay for production software, then I’d recommend Ableton Live because of its versatility for both recording and live performances. If you’re after something basic, then GarageBand is enough for what you need. Simply buy an audio interface (USB or fireware if you have that capability), I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2 in 4 out; a condenser mic, I use an AKG Perception 110; a mic stand; a pop shield; and an instrument mic, depending on what instruments you are using (I use an Audio-technica AT031 for recording acoustic guitar). Now you can record vocals, anything with a jack output and most instruments to a fairly high standard. To record drums you can use 2 x SM58s, although SM57s are better. Follow this link here. You could also try a couple of condenser mics for overheads like NT1As.

Use Adobe Photoshop or free imaging software like GIMP and free font websites like Dafont.com to create a logo. Make this hi-res and adaptable for headers and profile images for pages such as FacebookBandcampSoundcloudYouTube and Twitter. Ask a friend with a camera to make a press shot you can adapt too. If you’d like to pay for someone, there are loads of excellent photographers in the North East. Ask other bands whose imagery you liked for recommendations, and you can always find photographers on Facebook too (NARC.’s Contributors section is a good place to start!). Also think about what imagery you want to represent your band for merch and releases, including digital releases.
If you have access to a video camera, then music videos are a great tool for exposure. The concept doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated either, just visually interesting in some way. Bands like MarthaPale Kids and T-Shirt Weather do this really well. If you would rather pay someone to do this for you then you could try asking Nemix Rehearsal Studios or Blank Slate Creative for options on video packages.
If possible, it is a good idea to make a website that collates your links in one place. You can find cheap hosting with a company such as TSO Host and cheap domain names with a place like Heart Internet. If you want your website to have content, then host everything elsewhere e.g. videos on YouTube and recordings on Soundcloud, and embed them to the page. This way you can get a smaller data allowance which means you can get cheaper hosting (I pay around £22 hosting for the year and £12.99 for the domain name. Note that .com is slightly more expensive than .co.uk). If you want to use code, then create a page using a free text editor like Scite or a text/WYSIWYG editor like Notepad++ remembering that you want your site to be ‘responsive’ across a range of devices. If you’re happy to use a template, then make a free one on a site like Weebly. You can still buy a domain name like ‘www.example.com’ and link it to ‘www.example.weebly.com’ to make it seem more professional. You could also do this with another page you want as your first point of contact like Facebook, or Bandcamp for example so that ‘www.example.bandcamp.com’ becomes ‘www.example.com’. Wix.com is another alternative.

Upload your music to and create profiles with BandcampSoundcloudMusic GlueAmazingtunesBBC IntroducingTwitterFacebookInstagramGigitiSongkick and any blog sites you wish to use like Blogger or Tumblr. Also upload your music to Routenote. They will take a cut, but your music will be added to ItunesAmazon and Spotify. If you’d prefer to pay upfront and be cut-free then use a site like Distrokid.
Create a Sentric account. Yes they also take a cut, but you can claim for PRS which many artists don’t even realise they are entitled to. You can get royalties for performing your songs live, as well as payment from the promoter on the night. Similarly, you can claim royalties for radio plays. Keep a log of the tweet, link or Facebook post from radio stations that say you have been played on. Paste this link into your Sentric page as evidence for your claim. There are also opportunities like festivals you can apply for via your Sentric account.
You could also create a DIY label to promote 1 – 3 artists. Multiple pseudonyms are great for linking your projects together and reaching new audiences. Begin by setting up a label Bandcamp shop for free, but they’ll take a cut, or use a site like Big Cartel or Limited Run where you can pay a subscription fee instead.

Come back Thursday 6th October for part two and a few more pearls of wisdom.

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