5 things not to waste an A&R’s time with

Embarking upon a career as a musician is an incredibly exciting thing for anyone to do. When looking to attain the next level of success you might seek the attention of an A&R. Many see these A&R’s as the gatekeepers of a their potential triumph. But before you send a muffin basket to their home or try to tell them that their 3rd cousin is your milkman’s poker buddy, bare in mind, they are just people. Here are 5 ways to avoid common mistakes when seeking an A&R’s attention.

1. You don’t need more than a 4 track demo.
At the very most send through 4 tracks, although 2 will be absolutely sufficient. All you are trying to do is get there attention. Go through all your songs and think very carefully about which tracks you should send. You will want something that captures your identity and that could be a potential single. Basically if you’re Sigur Rós, send ‘Hoppípolla’ not one of the 13 minute tracks.

2. You do need to send full songs at a good quality.
Make sure you are sending full songs. If you only send a snippet of a song you’ll just frustrate the A&R listening, they want to be able to make an informed decision based on the length of a piece of music. Send your recording via YouSendIt (or another file sharing website) on MP3 format and at a quality of 128kb/s or above. Don’t make them endure files that sound like a 90’s ringtone.

3. Don’t send them links to your Soundcloud. 
A&R’s are a lot more likely to listen to something if they have to download it. It creates a more personal relationship between them and the song and should they want to play it again it is in their computer. FOREVER. Until they delete it. We’re sure they won’t.

4. You don’t need fancy packaging or artwork. 
Put your easel away, close photo shop, call up and cancel the graphic designer you are paying 98,000 euro to do your logo. An A&R isn’t interested in how incredible you’ve made a potential album cover look or that your name is written in fancy writing. All they care about is whether or not they like your song and would other people like your song, essentially, is it good? So save your money and your time and just send them some great music.

5. You don’t need to send them an essay on the artistic merits of your music. 
It’s difficult to send an email to someone you’ve never met when what you’re saying to them is ‘please like what I’ve spent ages putting my heart and soul into’, but it is important not to say too much. The temptation could exist for you to explain why you are so very good, or maybe to play it down. You obviously like your own music otherwise you wouldn’t have written it. Keep your opinions to yourself. All you need to do is introduce yourself, include a short bio, the download links, your contact info and inform them of future gigs you have.

So now you know how to get A&R’s not to hate you. But what is a record deal? Record Deals – Decoded.

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Scout Martin Eriksson: How to improve your music production, Part II

You are very happy with your new song and you should be, it’s very good. You’ve even started on the production, building around the track with increased knowledge of the tools available to you. But something is still missing! Here are a few things to remember when recording gets tough.

Keeping it interesting

Once you’ve got a good handle on all the most common types of effects, what they do and how they change the sound of the instrument you are processing, the next step is to take it from a ‘technical level’ to an ‘artistic level’. Use your sense of music to add sounds and movements that will compliment the feeling of your song. Always have a purpose, don’t just slap a certain effect on there because other songs sound that way or you read it in a textbook. What does the song ask for? Try to picture it in your mind. Sometimes this means some drastic processing and/or editing. It may take a clever use of automation or combination of effects that might sound really out of place in another song. If it sounds good it doesn’t matter if you have to bend the knobs backwards to achieve it. I will dedicate a future blog series to this topic and give some hands-on tips and examples about how to apply this way of thinking when working!

Getting the most out of your home studio environment
The concept of a home studio was basically unheard of 20 or so years ago. Nowadays with the advance of digital recording and better studio gear becoming available for prices that won’t break the bank, it has become very common for upcoming musicians and producers to run their own home studios. These can be as simple as a laptop, an interface for recording and a pair of headphones. More complex setups will have a dedicated room for recording, mixing and producing, possessing gear more commonly found in professional studios.

Home studios that haven’t been extremely well thought through from the initial construction phase share two common problems.

  1. The acoustics of the rooms used are not properly treated.
  2. There’s a lack of gear to choose from, to be able to capture the ‘correct’ sound from the instrument/vocal you’re recording.


Taking into consideration what I mentioned earlier in part I, the gear is not the biggest problem here, it’s definitely the acoustics. Non-treated acoustics make it impossible to record without poor ambient room noise spoiling the sound quality and make it very hard to process properly. This also carries over to the producing and mixing phase and is equally important for styles that do not necessarily involve live recording (dance or electronic music). If your mixing room isn’t acoustically balanced, you’ll often end up with mixes that sound great in that particular room, but sound totally different when played back on different systems in other rooms. This is due to the fact that the uneven frequency response of the room colors the monitor sound in an unwanted way.

So what can you do about it? Going into too much detail would make for a very long blogpost but it’s very often an undesired amount of early reflections (the onset of the reverb tail of a room) and an imbalance in the lower frequency range 20-500 Hz that cause the most problems. I recommend reading up on DIY acoustic treatment, the acoustics forum over at Gearslutz is a great resource. With some relatively cheap home made absorption panels and bass traps, you’ll improve your sound with a much, much greater price efficiency than any piece of new gear or software.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for part III and don’t hesitate to contact me if you want any clarification on anything I write in these blogposts!


Martin, songwriter, producer and studio engineer.

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5 artists whose careers only got going once they hit 30

Someone once said that youth is wasted on the young. Well whichever bitter old thing said that, they did not account for all the young spending youth in the wilderness, preparing for greatness. Like these five.

1. Jarvis Cocker & Pulp

When Jarvis Cocker got a demo tape to legendary BBC radio DJ John Peel in 1981 things were looking up for the then 18-year-old and his band. As it was it took another 10 years before the Cocker-fronted Pulp finally burst into primetime in 1994 with their album ‘His ‘n’ Hers’. Cocker was 31 at the time of its release and within two years Pulp had become a household name and won the Mercury Music Prize. Cocker temporarily ‘guested’ during Michael Jackson’s Brit Awards performance and became, according to one music paper, “The Fifth Most Famous Man In Britain”.

2. Huey Lewis

He was known as Hughie Louis in 1971 when he joined the band Clover as lead singer, aged 21. Clover recorded a couple of albums but things didn’t take off and their frontman was still unsure as to how he wanted to be known – Huey Louis came and went, even Huey Harp took a turn – before he finally settled on Huey Lewis. The 1980 debut from Huey Lewis and the News wasn’t a hit either but finally in 1982 the stars aligned and a 32-year-old Huey led his band to global success including an Oscar nomination.

3. Leonard Cohen

As a child and teenager in Quebec the young Leonard Cohen was interested in both music and poetry. It was as a poet that he was first introduced to the world after he had his first collection was published in his early 20s. He continued to write poetry and novels throughout his 20s, only deciding to turn his attention to singing and songwriting in his 30s. His debut album, ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’, was released a few months after his 33rd birthday.

4. James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy didn’t even start up hipster-beloved New York electro band LCD Soundsystem until he was an older and wiser 31-years-old. Success didn’t come until 2005 with the then 35-year-old Murphy’s eight minute masterpiece ‘Losing My Edge’. A song about getting older and worrying about keeping up with the kids. Six years later they were selling out Madison Square Garden.

5. Seasick Steve

It’s a familiar story – young musician leaves home, works through a number of casual jobs until he becomes more successful with his music, scores a record contract and goes on to win awards and play all over the world. Which is basically the career path of Steve Wold, better known as blues musician Seasick Steve, but in his particular case all that took almost 50 years! Yes Seasick Steve played music all his life but didn’t release his debut album until 2003 when he was 63 years young. Four years later he won the Mojo Award for Best Breakthrough and this youthful newcomer hasn’t stopped since. And neither should you.

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What Is A Publishing Deal?

The most famous and attractive part of signing a publishing deal is getting an advance then buying cake, shoes and a new house for your Mum. However, a publishing deal means far more than just the advance. Allow us to explain.

Your songs legally become yours the moment you record them to any device or write them down, essentially the moment there is proof that the song came out of your brain (or brains) first. This is how easy it is to copyright your songs. And if more than one person wrote the song then the copyright is split between everyone who was involved in the writing, and it’s up to those involved to agree what the split should be.

There are two different copyrights when recording songs – writing and recording. If you are lucky enough to sign a publishing deal this will look after the writing copyright, with record deals not surprisingly looking after the recording copyright.

Publishing agreements vary but the essential characteristic is that the publisher represents the songwriter and their songs. In return the publishing company takes a percentage of the income earned from the songs, 25% for example, although the amount is generally negotiable. If you receive an advance this will be recouped by the publishing company through your share of the income. So, the advance is like a loan but you only pay it back if you are generating income from the songs you have written.

What the publisher does for that money is gather royalties on your behalf from what are known as ‘Collecting Societies’. There are two main types of royalties – ‘Mechanical Royalties’ which are earned every time a song you have written is sold, for example on CD, downloaded digitally or listened to on a streaming website such as Spotify; and ‘Performance Royalties’ which are due basically every time a song you’ve written is publicly performed. This could be in the background at a bar, on the radio or at a gig you are doing. The more people that hear your songs, the more royalties you earn.

Publishers will also try and get your songs picked up for other commercial uses  – for example TV and film productions, marketing and advertising campaigns, computer games, toys, you name it. This is called ‘Synchronisation’ and you should always make sure you agree with the publisher representing your songs what the ground rules are so you don’t have to worry about your song appearing on the advert for ‘The Evil Cat Haters Extra Painful Kitten Traps’. Approval rights over what your songs are synchronised with are common but negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

A publisher may also have people whose job it is to pitch music to producers and agencies who need music and may also be able to hook you up with other songwriters and introduce you to recording artists looking for people to write with, contacts which you may never have made without a publisher. If you are lucky enough to have an offer from a publisher, asks question about each of these areas to get a feel for how they will work with you and how effective they will be.

A publishing deal isn’t compulsory. You could decide to self-publish – in other words register with the collecting societies yourself and pitch your songs to advertising agencies, record labels and other people who may want to use your music. There are a lot of collecting societies, more than one in pretty much every country in the world, and a good publishing company will have a network for receiving money due from all of them. You may be able to rely on your chosen collection society having reciprocal agreements with other societies so that royalties from other countries still find their way to you, but you should check this point with the society before becoming a member.

Ultimately it’s up to every songwriter to decide what works best for them. A publishing deal is a great step in any artist’s career, but they do take a fee. In any event, always always consider your options carefully before making any decisions. A publishing deal is a legally binding contract that may assign rights in your music to a publisher for your lifetime and beyond. With that in mind, make sure you seek independent legal advice before signing anything.

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Niklas Torsell: Katy Perry’s album PRISM

Niklas Torsell – Online Promotion Manager at Universal Music Group – meets the artists, goes behind the scenes of video shoots, spends time in the studio and more! Read about his visit to Berlin where Katy Perry’s “PRISM” was presented:

Last Tuesday I flew to Berlin with a selection of journalists attending a listening of Katy Perry’s upcoming album. In a brief talk before we heard the album Katy spoke highly of Sweden many times and praised Swedish pop star Robyn, also mentioning how much she enjoyed working with Bloodshy and Klas Åhlund on this project.

Here are my thoughts on the album . . .

1. “Roar”
A more mature Katy Perry showcased here. This throbbing opening track is already topping the Spotify charts, 19 days before the album’s release. I believe this could become Katy’s biggest hit yet.

2. “Legendary Lovers” 
Katy describes this song as spicy. It’s inspired by her travels to India and has a strong and rather suggestive chorus.

3. “Birthday”
Katy wanted this to be reminiscent of Mariah Carey’s first album. A 90’s girl-pop number with hints of Prince in there. There is bass kick, falsetto voice and great Max Martin production.

4. “Walking on Air”  
My absolute favorite song on the album. Katy said she wanted to make a 90’s style song inspired by CeCe Peniston’s “Finally”. The song was recorded in Stockholm and features a large gospel choir. It was made an early iTunes release on September 30, as part of a preview campaign of PRISM.

5. “Unconditionally”
A universal love song and one of Katy’s favourite tracks on the album.

6. “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J)
This song epitomizes the album’s diversity. In many ways the stand out track.

7. “This Is How We Do”
This classic Katy Perry “California Girl” sound thumped as the lady herself went to fetch her first class of champagne. Well how do you get over jet-lag?

8. “International Smile”
This is a song about language barriers and is inspired by Katy’s friend Mia who is a world touring DJ. It’s another of my favorites and I have to admit the “We’re Going To Ibiza” inspired chat in the middle made me laugh.

9. “Ghost”
Whilst not my favourite on the album this song quickly caught the attention of those around me as a stand out track. So obviously it’s good. Who am I to argue?

10. “Love Me”
The writing of this song was a collaborative effort between Bloodshy (the writer of Miss Perry’s favourite Britney hit “Toxic”) and Klas Åhlund (who has previously worked with Robyn). Personally I would’ve expected a bit more from this song although unarguably there is a strong chorus and interesting production.

11. “This Moment”
This song is inspired by the book “The Power Of Now” written by Eckhart Tolle and has quite a sweet romantic twist at the end. It’s reminiscent of Robyn, with a similar beat to “Dancing On My Own’.

12. “Double Rainbow”
A sweet song filled with clichés and metaphors, written together with Sia.

13. “By the Grace of God”
The last song on the album was the written all the way back in November 2012, during one of Katy’s darkest moments. “By the Grace of God” begins as a nice piano ballad before it introduces bass and beats. It’s a wonderful ending to the album.


The evening ended with Katy Perry receiving a Golden record for her single “Roar”. “PRISM” is out on October 23rd.

Follow me on popdrömmen – a blog that takes you backstage of the music industry!

– Niklas Torsell, Online Promotion Manager at Universal Music Group

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Valskrik – Fredrik Bergstrand

Introducing; Valskrik the name of the Fredrik Bergstrand’s electronic indie pop project.

Bergstrand has been in music for six years developing his already immense skill as a producer and songwriter. His new project Valskrik is little over a year old in which time it has already seen the release of “Jag Gömmer Mig Aldrig” and has been picked up by one of our SpinnUp scouts Annie Turesson.

A fondness for variety and use of real instruments is key for Bergstrand and he does not limit himself to electronic instrumentation. However, he says of synth production that it’s like ‘having an entire orchestra in your hands’. You can hear his wide ranging influences in his music, he cites MGMT, M83, Håkan Hellström, David Bowie, Radiohead and Kent as people who have colored his original sound.

With the desire to improve driving him on, he recently started a music production degree in Växjö. There he will learn new skills to develop him as carries on writing, recording and performing music. Whilst keeping this busy schedule he’ll be responding with an affirmative ‘yes’ to the gig offers that are sure to come his way.

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Scout Martin Eriksson: How To Improve Your Music Production, Part I

You just finished writing that new killer song and you’re ready to let it loose upon the world. What’s the next step? Recording and production!

This blog series will contain a number of steps that serve as guidelines to improve your music production.

Arrangement and songwriting is everything

Many writers and aspiring producers start working too heavily on songs that simply aren’t finished. The writing and structure of a song is crucial when you are building your production around it. A timeless hit song with a lot of production will still work really well when performed only with vocals and acoustic guitar. The songwriting is enough to carry it, the production simply wraps it in a nice package, brings out the best of the song and transforms it from a good song to a finished record. Record your song in a very simple way, the built in mic on a laptop will work just fine, and listen back to it with an open mind. Are the melodies catchy? What about the lyrics? Is the tempo all-right? Are the chord progressions supporting the melodies in the  best possible way? Is the length of the song okay? Do you have a fluent transition between the different parts of the song? Do the lyrics and melody complement each other? Will it make the listener connect with you and the song itself? If you are planning to have big production on it, this is also a good time to try adding new elements and to listen critically. Are they serving their intended purpose? Do they clash with the melodies or the instrumentation of the song?

Educate yourself

Learning the tools available to you when you start working at production is a crucial step to improving. The DAW, plugins and software instruments you use do not matter as much as the skill to use each tool to its fullest extent. Many beginners are tempted to use presets for EQ and compression and other effects. The problem is not wether you’re using presets, they’re often a great starting point for people with less experience. The most important thing is to learn exactly what each parameter on any given effect does, listen to how it affects the sound and character on different instruments. This can seem like a very daunting task at first. Limit your focus to a few effects at one time and you’ll soon improve. This will give you the experience and knowledge you need to make productions that have punch, depth and a good balance of frequencies.


Stay tuned for part II, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

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5 things you need to think about before going into the studio

You can’t be a successful recording artist without making recordings, but if you haven’t done it before you don’t want to get it wrong. A bit of thinking in advance can often save a lot of time, effort and money later on.

Fortunately here at Spinnup we are friends with top studio Metropolis and so we asked them what they would recommend thinking about before using a professional studio. These are their top tips:

1. What is the final recording for?

When it comes to getting your music properly recorded you need a good idea of where you want it to be heard. Many musicians would love to be playing stadiums but before you get to that level, be realistic. Think whether the recording more likely to be downloaded, sold as CD at gigs, be used for some local or evening radio play or used in some other way.

2.  What do you want the recording to sound like?

Is your vision for a modern sound? Do you want it to be representative of another time? Should it sound grand and filmic? Or is it more personal? Collect examples of other music if that helps. Being able to tell the studio and engineer what you’re looking for will mean they can use all their skills to get exactly the results you want.

3. What sort of studio do you require?

Studios come in lots of different shapes and sizes, from small booths for vocals and acoustic overdubs to large orchestral rooms capable of holding hundreds of players, with lots of acoustic spaces designed and suited to different recordings in between. Think about how many people you want to record at once and whether the studio you are thinking of has the space and the acoustic space for multiple instrument recording.

4. Do you need an engineer?

An engineer will help you get the sound you want, and all engineers have a different range of expertise. Most studios will have engineers available that know the recording spaces and equipment in that studio and you will need this knowledge to complete your recording. Alternatively you may prefer a freelance engineer who works in many studios in which case who specialises in your music or style.

5. Are you ready?

One of the biggest mistakes made when going to record, especially with new bands or musicians, is that they are simply not ready. A studio is a very expensive place to practise or finish writing lyrics. You can make very efficient recordings if everyone knows what they are doing and have practised their parts. If you cannot play your parts then there is a certain amount that an engineer can ‘fix’ but nearly all experienced professionals will be able to tell so it’s not worth it. If you practise it and get it right then the recording will feel better, sound better and cost less to complete.




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