Beat Making Equipment Guide

This is an equipment guide for beginners looking to get into beat making and trying to figure out how to get started. With technology where it’s at today its very simple and takes very little investment. With some key pieces of gear you can easily become a music producer making your own beats. The great thing is you can start making beats right away, regardless of how much investment you’re willing to put into your hobby.

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Rundown of Beat Making Equipment

  • The DAW or Digital Audio Workstation: A computer software program where you build your musical compositions
  • Practice: Learning how to properly make beats with your equipment is one of the most important parts.
  • Computer or Laptop: You’re on one right now, just make sure it meets minimum software requirements for your DAW
  • MIDI Keyboard: With a MIDI keyboard your able to record note patterns for your DAW

DAW Digital Audio Workstation Software

The DAW is your main hub. All your beat making will be done in this software.  Sequencing, mixing, recording and mastering your composition; it’s all done with this program. There are a lot of free DAWs available to get your feet wet, so I’m going to suggest a free version and a paid version.

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MU Lab

MU Lab is probably my best suggested Free DAW. The software allows you to record, mix and play around with multiple tracks. It also has a lot of secrets hidden inside its menus for functionality. MU has MIDI and audio recording which is by far the most important feature needed for producing music. You’d be surprised how many programs don’t have this basic feature. You’ll also find it has a good assortment of effects and filters. You won’t feel too restrained with this program, especially as a beginner. If I had to give up my paid DAW I’d have to go with MU Lab which you can download here.

FL Studio Producer Edition

If I had to go with a paid program I would hands down suggest my ultimate favorite FL Studio Producer Edition. There’s a reason it’s the most used DAW software in the music production industry. It has the most features, most support, most third party add-on effects and sound engineers create samples solely for the program allowing for easy integration and finding the perfect sounds. On top of that I found one of the most comprehensive courses ever to bring you from beginner to master in music production with FL Studio (next section).

Now FL Studio can be found if you know where to look. I want to say, if something brings you so much value and enjoyment, you should definitely support it as a thank you as soon as you can. FL Studio Producer Edition can be purchased here.

Be careful there’s a cheaper “Fruity Edition” of the software that does not allow you to record it is not worth the money, go with MU Lab for free instead.

Practicing, Experimenting and Consistently Growing

Everything that’s worth having takes effort to get and becoming a skilled music producer is no different. I know practice isn’t technically equipment but it’s one of the most important aspects of becoming a good composer. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an amazing piece of music in your head but not enough technical skill to make it reality.

There’s nothing worse than feeling so lost and never finding your way to your dream. The DAW will be daunting when you first get started. It comes with so many sub menus and things that could be done. It can make you feel insanely overwhelmed.

I know I felt that way.

I wished I had a full on road map of what to focus on when, a guide to what the most important things in production were and how to design an build a song from the ground up. What I wanted more than anything was to learn how to go from absolute zero to making my sound, my piece.

Then I found an amazing online course that solved all these issues. With 750 hours of tutorial videos organized to show you where to go next and an on demand community where you could ask questions if you get confused.  This course will get you on par with most mainstream producers, and it’s just up to you to refine your sound to be your sound.

That’s why I say practice is mandatory, without guidance and practice you’ll never get where you want to be. Investing in a great course will allow you to quickly reach your goals and become the producer you want to become. Click this link to check out this amazing course.

MIDI Keyboard

Now technically you can start producing music without one. But it’s basically going to be you dragging and dropping notes one by one in a program. I can’t think of anything more disconnected from music. With a MIDI keyboard you’re able to record patterns in real time, play chords out with proper timing, and easily record song patterns.

You don’t need a massive MIDI keyboard either. If you’re extremely enthusiastic and want to invest a lot into your set up you can get a full keyboard. But most of the time all you really need is a 25key 2 octave keyboard. The most popular one on the market and most widely used is definitely the Akai MPK Mini MKII.

The Akai MPK Mini MKII is small, lightweight, and will fit on any desk. For size it’s about the same size as a computer keyboard. On top of that it allows for full MIDI mapping to not only keys, but velocity launch pads. These are insane for drumming beats as the harder you tap the louder it will be in the DAW pattern. It has some assignable knobs to adjust effects as well. However, I just use the mouse and change them in FL Studio myself so I don’t use them that much. The best thing is it’s pretty cheap for how far it will take you. You can check out the keyboard here.

CD Baby Review and Information

CD Baby Review

When you’re starting out trying to make a name for yourself in the music production world, you’ll need to spend a lot of effort, time and resources to get your sound out into the world. The internet is a great tool for sharing and communicating but it comes with it’s own challenges. CD Baby is one web service designed to solve these issues. I’ll talk about the pros and cons I found with using with this service in this quick CD Baby review.

What is CD Baby?

CD Baby is a content distribution service designed to give musicians and music producers the reach they deserve. The service itself is a popular place for people to look for new music and find new sounds and artists. The site also attempts to help users find your sound through staff recommendations. So if your sound is good enough you can expect some work to be done for you. Some being the focus of that statement.



Essentially CD Baby is an opt in Record label, and manages distribution, sales and royalties of your music so you don’t have to worry about chasing down scouts and running demo pitches. CD Baby will indiscriminately distribute to its large collection of well known and used digital partners; like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, Pandora, and many more. It puts you on way more markets and sites and has 30 partners.

I will point out an additional partner, a sleeper network deep in the list, iHeartRadio. As a sound engineer I’ve seen a major move in the industry. Large media companies across the world are starting to use iHeart as their distribution for online radio streaming services. It’s starting to become a service they have to be a part of or they’ll be left behind. Stations across the world are starting to advertise iHeart to their listeners as part of a promotional agreement they have to satisfy. So being on iHeart is a good place to be as people listening in their cars start to get the message and check it out.

Members Fees and Earnings

It’s pricing structure is geared towards smaller underground artists due to it’s percent of sales setup. The bigger you are and the more you make, the more you have to pay CD Baby. When you’re small this percentage beats out other competitor sites like Tunecore which charge large recurring fees. If you start making more than $1250 in a year off a single track or album I’d start to look at putting that high earning work on a different distribution service



CD Baby Distribution

In exchange for a percentage of sales CD Baby gives you the reach a record label usually would. With anyone able to opt in, it’s definitely an easy route to get your tracks and albums out to the world. It’s a go to option for upstart artists or first releases. CD Baby gives potential fans access to you. They give a free addon called Sync licensing which allows you to license your songs as well, allowing content creators to use your songs in their commercials, tv shows, games, movies and youtube channels, all of which properly pay you for your work.

CD Baby is a bit of a lame duck when it comes to promoting music and artists. Where a regular record label will do the work and spend the money to promote in order to get a return on investment CD Baby doesn’t care, they only earn if you earn. Your music will end up in new release lists, sounds like categories, and suggestion algorithms, but that’s the extent of CD Baby’s promotion. Meaning all the work falls squarely on you. Which could be really good for you or really bad for you. But this all depends on how well you can guide new fans to find your work.

How to Become Better at Promoting Yourself on CD Baby

If you’re really serious about wanting to start selling your tracks, beats and albums, I highly suggest you take a look at this course. It runs down all of the things you need to know to navigate the industry. On top of that it has rock solid tips on how to make your sound stand out and be exactly what content creators are looking for. Letting you really flourish on sites like CD Baby and Tunecore, especially with their sync licensing content creator access.

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CD Baby’s hands off promotion does come with perks for new artists though. It comes as a strong alternative to regular record labels. With the ease of joining, the ease of distribution and an extremely fair percentage cost to use their service. If you work smart and hard you can definitely build a life off your passion.

Tunecore Review and Information

Review of Tunecore

What is Tunecore?

Tunecore is a platform for conglomerating the distribution of digital music. The main reason to use this service is it allows for musicians to get their mixes and songs on multiple online distribution platforms.

The main appeal of Tunecore is the sheer amount of implied reach that the site promises. In exchange for distribution of your music to these services they ask for flat yearly fees for putting the tracks and albums in their system. With a smaller year one stocking fee, and a larger recurring annual fee.

The service allows artists to feature their work on a total of 150+ platforms, with the biggest networks being:

  • Apple
  • Spotify
  • Amazon Music
  • Google Play
  • Youtube

How much does Tunecore Cost and What’s It’s Pricing Strategy?

Tunecore has a subscription pricing strategy that’s separate for every album and single released on the service. If you stop paying, your music is removed from the service. For an album it costs $35.99 ($3/mo) for the first year and $59.99 ($5/mo) for every following year. A single has a flat rate of $11.99 ($1/mo).

Is Tunecore Even Worth the Price?

Whether or not Tunecore is worth it is entirely dependent on where you are in your artistic career. Essentially the bigger your following is, the better Tunecore is for you. If you are only expecting to sell 5 tracks a month you’re probably better off going with a different distribution network, but if you’re frequently getting questions about where to find your tracks during outreach and shows it’s definitely worth looking into.

If you’re not quite at that point, and you are having trouble selling merch and inspiring your fans to take action, I can’t suggest the book Six-Figure Musician enough. Tunecore really shines when you start to get established and this book is probably the best thing written to get you to that stage. It’s really eye opening, and you can really maximize the benefits of self publishing distribution services.

What is Needed To Release on Tunecore?

The requirements for distributing a song to Tunecore are pretty straight forward. You only need to bring a few things to the table. Here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need:

  • A Tunecore account
  • Funds to pay for the service
  • A kickass track or album
  • An ISRC Number (Tunecore will provide you with one if you don’t have one)
  • Amazing album art for the track/album
  • Artist information (You and any collaborators)
  • A list of what digital stores you want Tunecore to release to

What Does A Successful Tunecore Release Need?

This is a slightly different question. Here’s what you need in order for your release to be as successful as possible. After releasing a bunch of indie music over the years I’ve determined three things that really up the success of music being sent to a distribution platform.

Fans

First, you’ll need an existing fan base and a way to communicate your new releases to them. Most of the store’s suggestion algorithms look at how popular tracks are, and will suggest tracks with more traction more often. It’s unfortunate but you need to have some form of off platform buzz.

You’re probably doing it already, but if you aren’t; Post in your social groups, tell your fans, advertise during shows, and if you got an email list from merch sales, send it to them too. Make them aware.

Sexy Album Art

Second, album art needs to look professional. This is pretty much the first contact fans and potential new listeners come into contact with in the music stores. It needs to look on point because subconsciously the quality will be attached to your music. I found a direct correlation between art quality and  shares/new listener discovery.

You’ll need a really good graphics designer, illustrator, or photographer. If that’s you, put in extra time to make it look amazing. Reach out to buddies if you know any. I didn’t know any, but I found a few freelancers online. Ironically I found them on Fiverr and learned that inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap.  I’ve come to use freelancers a lot more in my work. Click the button to see for yourself:

Priming The Algorithm

Finally, and this is a huge game changing secret… You need to set a future release date of at least 2 weeks after you send it to Tunecore. Here’s a guide on how to do it. This is a real pro strategy I just gave you. Let me break it down.

All the main music platforms have new release suggestion engines in place. When a new track is released, they find their way to new fans through these playlists. However, all of these platforms require time to get to your track, analyze it and decide what kind of listeners would enjoy it. This usually takes around 10 days.

If it doesn’t get that analysis, it won’t make it on to the suggestion playlists, because by the time it does get analyzed, the track will be too old for a “New song suggestion” playlist.

Adding in this future release date lets Spotify, Apple, Google Play, etc figure out what your music is all about, and connect potential new fans that will enjoy it.

Tunecore VS CDBaby VS Distrokid for Releases

Which service you go with generally amounts to how much traction you have on your own. Tunecore’s main benefit is the of the reach of the company’s distribution. Tunecore has some other advantages compared to competitors like CDBaby. The reason that Tunecore gets more appealing the bigger you are is because it charges a flat fee, and that fee only really becomes worth it if you sell around $950 worth of music a year in comparison to CDBaby’s pricing strategies.

My suggested distribution platforms are ordered by how big you actually are, and how many fans you have. Distrokid if you’re just starting out, CDBaby if you plan on doing an album launch and expect $1k – $4k from it, and Tunecore if you’re above that.

Going back to their main benefit, Tunecore does bring a a lot to the table through their synchronization licensing. Which allows you to make your music available to music supervisors for use in film and television. Essentially this licensing lets you put your tracks into a database for content creators to use it in their own media. Things like television shows, commercials and large music events.

If you do manage to get a placement like these, you’ll get some massive benefits. Upfront there’s licensing fees and getting paid for the placement. But these really snowball because once your song gets played in a commercial everyone’s going to be googling the title and picking up your track. Depending on how tight your musical business plan is, this could make you an overnight success.

Placement’s a pretty rare though. Usually you need a bit of a following for that marketing director to green light your track. If you do have enough fans and notoriety that the director is aware of you, Tunecore will let this partnership be possible. You need to be just the right amount of underground indie.

If you’re part of the sync licensing Tunecore also does some legwork for you by trying to find potential placements for you. But for it to be worth it your tracks have to stand head and shoulders above everyone else’s and be specifically designed for use in different types of media.

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Is Tunecore a Scam For New Artists?

It’s definitely not a scam, but it’s definitely not for the naive or new mixmasters. Just because you can put your music into the system doesn’t mean they’ll ever get purchased. A large portion of music (around 94%) on the platform sells fewer than 100 copies. 64% of the tracks manage sell more than one copy. 1 in 3 tracks don’t sell at all. You definitely have to be in the top 5% of music composers for this platform to really pay off.

The main problem with the above paragraph is the annual fee, the first year for an album is cheap at $35.99 but the following years it costs $50 to keep your album on the platform’s roster. If you’re not making the sales you’re just going to be losing money.

As mentioned above Distrokid is the best alternative if you’re expecting lower sales. With only a small recurring fee, Distrokid will be much better for you if you’re at the stage where you are apprehensive of distribution services worth.

Both services provide a nice way to reach potential audiences and are a great way to bring in some extra money that can be used to improve your setup or free up some time to continue to create. But if you’re looking at a distribution service be sure to pick the one that’s right for where you’re at professionally.

How to Become A Professional Music Producer and Sell Your Beats

Why You Should Work Towards Trying To Sell Beats

I remember the first time I sold some of my music. I sold a backing track to my buddy for his live DJ shows down at a college bar. Initially I was going to give it to him for free, all I asked was for him to promote me. But he refused, said he’d pay and passed me $40. He told me, “Producing music takes a lot of time. If you’re just giving it away for free you’re essentially forced to only do once in a while. You won’t be able to dedicate as much time to your craft. You won’t be able to give what the track deserves. Quality will suffer and you’ll be stagnating as an artist. Less time leads to less practice. That’ll stunt your growth. “You can’t not sell”.

I had to follow his advice and I have to say it’s one of the most satisfying ways to make money. You’re creating something you put your soul into that was forged out of passion. Then it lets you buy fancy dinners. It sure as hell beats a nine to five. Since then I’ve sold different compilations in online marketplaces and to video advertisement agencies for YouTube and television marketing.

Creating a beat worth selling

One of the most important things a music producer needs to learn (or any artist really). It’s that when you’re creating something with the intent to sell, you’re creating value for the right person. I’ve ran into so many “VISIONARY” DJs and producers who create weird ass shit that they love; but it sounds like noise to the average listener. They’re creating music for themselves, it’s purely selfish in nature. Call it selling out if you want, but if you’re creating music for others, create it for others first and your own ego later.

So when you’re creating a beat to put on a marketing database or online you have to start with the end in mind. Who’s this beat for? Is it for an upbeat fizzy drink ad? DJs looking to add some Metalcore to their transitions? Is there a demand for what you want to make? Work backwards and create something people can’t help but need because it was made for them.

Where do you sell your beats?

There are two different ways to sell your musical productions and beats. You can either join a free marketplace where other members are trying to sell. Or you can get yourself on paid distribution databases like Tunecore or CD Baby. These sites put your music on Google play/iTunes. These databases also have sync licensing which is intended for non-musicians and content producers to find tracks for use in their media. Think commercials, media, movies, television, etc.

Now I’ve had some experiences with online marketplaces. I put my tracks up, and didn’t get a single sale, because literally everyone on these sites were there for one reason. They all wanted to sell beats like me. They weren’t there to buy them.

Any sale I did make was through self driven promotion. I had to do it myself and could have just sold to them directly for my own price. But this is absolutely amazing if you’re starting out and don’t really have an infrastructure foundation. It’s extremely simple to do. You just make an account, put your beat up, and hope someone willing to pay finds it once in a while.

The money goes straight to your Paypal and you can build your portfolio. Sales are rare, and you’re definitely not going to build a reputation on these sites. Not without hitting the pavement hard with self promotion.

Numark Mixtrack Platinum Review

So I decided to take some time and write a Numark Mixtrack Platinum review. The controller is one of the latest additions to the Numark family. Numark intends that the controller for the skilled amateur. As such there’s a lot of features added for ease of use and monitoring for the user. While at the same time some top range features are left out. All said and done the controller is very good value for its price.

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Multiple Decks

Usually a feature like this is only found in higher priced controllers, but the Mixtrack Platinum comes with 4 channels split between 2 decks. Allowing you to load up to four songs/clips to play at any time. The deck select allows for mixing in samples and clips easily. Most controllers at this price only allow for 2 channels.

Displays

The main selling feature of the Mixtrack Platinum is its Hi-resolution jogwheel displays. These are very nice as they’re easily seen and monitorable by the DJ. They show all kinds of useful information, like the BPM, platter position, remaining time in the song, a key lock and the pitch. However, one issue that I ran into was the display easily got a scratch from transport so you need to be careful not to throw it into a backpack with a bunch of loss objects.

Another piece of information they show is a great indicator of which channel is currently running on the deck. Each deck can swap between two different channels. This display was unexpectedly very useful, and much better than the traditional indicating LED in the heat of a performance.MixtrackPlat

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Comes with Serato (Or Not)

The controller does not come with the full Serato, instead it comes with a lite version called Serato DJ Intro. It’s definitely enough to get you to start mixing but if you want to get real fancy you’re going to have to buy the full version of the program. The Intro program will not allow you to record tracks within the program and limits quite a lot of aspects. To get full Serato you need to pay an additional $10 a month or a flat fee of 100USD

Limited Track Effects

One issue I found was there was a very limited amount of track effects. At the most there were 2 settings for each effect. Essentially making you feel limited on what you can do with the effects themselves. At least you can stack 2 effects allowing for tons combinations so it’s not like there’s not a lot to do. But it definitely feels like begginer controller. As for using the effect settings themselves, they have an intuitive dynamic touch strips where you slide your finger along, similar to a straight fader, but fancier. I didn’t have any issues with it, but I do worry it may misbehave if your fingertips are wet or cold.

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The Hardware itself

When it comes to the design and construction of the controller. I’m impressed, it’s pretty sturdy constructed with hard plastic. It’s durable and lightweight allowing for travel, I wouldn’t feel bad putting it in the hands of kids. Something that always impresses me and is actually one of the things I look for in a controller that this one has is the 100mm faders. Long faders allow for you to very precisely adjust your settings manually. It doesn’t seem like much but that extra physical space is really nice.

This Mixtrack comes with its own soundcard, it’s a decent 24bit card that allows for great sound. Anything more would just be a placebo to human ears. The only issue is that it’s RCA out only which is unbalanced and can lead to crossover in large club setups. It has two monitor feeds, allowing for both 1/8 and 1/4 headphones.

Another hardware consideration is the power. If you opt to use an external soundcard, or have a complex set up you may need to also look at getting a powered USB hub. The Numark Mixtrack Platinum only comes with the option of being powered by USB. This means you need to plug it into your computer, and if you bring a laptop your USB slots may be limited (see an example in the pic below) and if you have too many devices running it may start to misbehave while running on low power. Another issue I found is it didn’t come with a power off. I have my computer in my bedroom and have to fully disconnect the controller from my computer otherwise it stays on. A slightly distracting personal issue but one all the same.

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The Rundown

Overall after carrying out the Numark Mixtrack Platinum review I’ve seen that it’s quite good for it’s price. It does have some weaknesses moving into the professional sphere but it will carry you well as a midrange DJ controller. It has some nice standards of living, like it’s original Jogwheel displays, yet at the same time has some issues with the more creative aspects of DJing.