We are almost done with my Deadmau5 MasterClass journey! I took a break for a while to work on my remix of his song (you can see my progress on it here). I also wanted to take a break last week because I wrote a post about the music industry and record labels (see that here) before I took this class, so I wanted to post that before I posted this review. That way my original thoughts wouldn’t be influenced by this class, and we can see how they match up.
Today’s lesson wasn’t about creating music, it was about music business and the music industry. Let’s review!
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Making it Big in the Music Business
“No one’s out to help you. No fucking body,” we begin the class with this disheartening (but completely real) news.
Deadmau5 says he does scout for new talent, and what he looks for is “the whole package.” Branding, looks, etc. He also wants talent to deliver a fully finished album, or at least an EP. He talks about an artist name Rezz and he signed her because she didn’t leave a lot for Deadmau5 to do on his end. What he really wants in an artist is self-sufficiency.
Don’t Send Demos Constantly
He says everyone hates when artists send demos. If you’re good, they’ll hear about you. Deadmau5 says he’s not a charity, and he doesn’t give handouts. You need to go out and make a name for yourself by yourself.
He uses Skrillex as an example. I had no idea Deadmau5 signed Skrillex? That’s news to me. But Skrillex approached him with a USB and it was full of great ideas so he chose to sign him.
Make Music Business Investments
I go over investments session musicians should make here, but if you’re trying to be an artist, Deadmau5 says you need to invest in your image. He says that if he hadn’t made the investments that he made (in gear, stage presence, etc) he wouldn’t have evolved much in his career.
Going Full Time
Deadmau5 worked at a record store, at an IT business, and worked several other jobs to support himself. He kept music as a hobby for at least a decade. When a song of his was played on the radio, he finally got a confidence boost. He doesn’t say HOW he got it played on the radio, and it bothers me when artists skip over those details. But that gave him some encouragement to keep going.
Define Your Brand
Deadmau5 clearly has a brand. The mouse head, the name, even the personality and tattoos. He says that before you do the social media and all of that, you need to know WHAT you’re promoting. I think so many artists don’t do it this way; I know I sure didn’t. He says he wanted a symbol that would make him memorable, like the McDonald’s “M,” He references KISS as a band and how they branded themselves, right down to their band font.
He says it doesn’t have to be a logo. It could be a word, or phrase, or a place, that you can roll into a theme and print on a coffee cup. An example of this in my opinion would be Colbie Caillat. She’s from Hawaii, and that was a huge part of her branding. She wrote beachy, sunny, happy songs and always looked like she just came right off the beach.
Don’t “Sell” Yourself
Deadmau5 doesn’t check Soundcloud links. He goes by recommendations from friends, and he himself was discovered by a friend of a friend of a friend. He gave his music to a friend who handed it off to several people. I know this is easier said than done, but you can start networking online right this minute. Make genuine, actual connections with people. Follow people and comment on their stuff (GENUINE comments, not “cool story bro, check out my hot track!”)
Deadmau5’s Screw-Ups in Music Business
He says he signed with someone early on in his career and “got fucked,” and said the person double-dipped and worked him over. That inspired him to learn more about the industry and actually understand WHAT he was signing.
If you don’t want to learn that part of it, I just highly recommend hiring a lawyer to look over any contract before you sign it. He also says the last 360 Deal was signed five years ago, which is news to me but interesting nonetheless.
The only way labels are currently making money is through “the Rihannas and the Jay-Zs” but every label is seeking someone who is hot right now and gone the next week. I don’t understand this mentality then. If they make more money off of the iconic and lasting artists, shouldn’t they try to develop artists toward that type of career?
What Major Labels are Looking For
Like Deadmau5, labels are solely looking for someone they don’t need to put a lot of work into. They don’t anticipate making a ton of money, so they don’t want to spend time on you. You need to spend the time making yourself a packageable deal. He says no one in a major label will ever be looking out for you exclusively. I learned this from my own brief time in a label and can confirm it’s true.
However, Deadmau5 does agree with me and says that “you do need a label. You gotta have a team.” Accounting, legal, and management are usually your big three, but you can create your team as you go. Find out what you’re not good at and then bring in people to help.
Where to Sell Your Music
Deadmau5 discusses a few music aggregators that went bankrupt and/or were scams, and then talks about SoundCloud as a place to promote music, but admits that you can’t sell it there. I don’t believe he’s heard of places like TuneCore or CDBaby which will handle all of that for you.
I’m just now noticing this, but Deadmau5 has a very similar vocal cadence and speaking style to Kevin Costner. If I close my eyes and listen, I could totally imagine one of them speaking for the other. However, Deadmau5 is from Canada so there is a slight difference. Anyway, just something I’ve noticed.
What to Name Your Work
I wondered what the inspiration was for “Snowcone,” but Deadmau5 says he doesn’t think of names at all, either for songs or albums. He talks about his song “Right This Second,” named that specifically because his label told him they needed a name for it “right this second” because it was about to be printed.
Coincidentally, that’s also where “Random Album Title” came from.
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