Category Archives: Production

Production Evaluation

During the process of developing and creating this E.P. project, I have learned a lot about what exactly is involved in independently releasing music. There have been ideas that worked well, and some that failed and I have found certain promotion techniques successful and others less so.

Composition and Production

I am really happy with the overall sound of my E.P. My compositions were designed to almost flow into eachother, as if it was one long piece in four movements. I made use of repeating certain motifs in several of the pieces to give a sense of development and continuity along with utilising the same dark mood and dense electronic textures for all four pieces. The outcome of the compositions remain true to my initial ideas.

On the production side of things, I think I manage to capture the feel I aimed for with my influences. I feel my producing and mixing did my compositions justice. I did a lot of research and development on mastering techniques in order to really bring the music to life and raise the quality. I spent a really long time in the post production phase, trying out many different plug ins and effects before I was happy and think all of the time and effort was worth it as I am pleased with the results.

Promotion and Marketing

The promotion techniques I outlined in earlier plans were successful to a degree. As this project is a seperate entity from my normal solo music, I aimed to keep the release small scale. I’m happy with the visual teaser materials I created, and they were well recieved. I had a lot of engagement from them and they have proved to be an incredibly useful promotional tool for future referance. Social media platform Instagram was the most succesful platform for visual marketing, as the website is purely based on the sharing of photos and video and the people who use it will naturally be drawn to aesthetically pleasing materials.

Design and Packaging

The design process for the packaging of the E.P was a really enjoyable phase of this project. I intended to have a really strong branding aesthetic for this E.P. that was both distinguishable and appealing to fans of the experimental/witchhouse genre. These genres typically involve a lot of dark and esoteric symbolism often relating to religion, secret societys and the occult and so I took influence from this sort of imagery when designing my artwork.

I settled on a cover design that was simple but still conveyed a strong sense of aesthetic that related to the music itself. The final design consisted of a triangle logo with a forest silhouette at the bottom. For the physical copies, I had an initial idea to have the disc be presented in a luxury box in place of a standard jewel case, but when creating a mock up for this it didn’t quite meet my expectations. This along with the fact that the real boxes would be expensive to have made lead to me try out some different ideas.

I also played with the idea of having a really simple card sleeve for the disc also. I made further mock ups with a range of different cards of varying textures and thicknesses.Once again none of these were quite what I wanted as some were to thick, some were too textured and distorted the design etc. I finally decided to try printing my packaging onto tracing paper, and I really loved the results. The transparency of the paper made my design look rather ghostly, which suited my branding perfectly and was a unique and interesting effect. For the disc itself I chose a black CD to burn the music onto, once again to make an interesting visual look to it, and I used my home printer to print my triangle logo onto the top of the disc.

Conclusion

This project I felt overall went really well, it helped me gain some valuable skills I can apply and take forward to future projects. It has given me a valuable insight as to what is required to carry out a successful music project. By creating the entire project from scratch, including the ideas, compositions, marketing, and design, it showed me just how much time and work needs to be set aside for creating an album. Every phase of the creation required lots of planning, experimentation, prototyping and attention to detail, and it was very difficult at times being responsible for so much at once.

My strengths throughout the project I feel were by design work and my production. I think I was successful in creating a strong visual brand, with a well designed logo and packaging that was also unique. Im really happy with the physical copy I made as I think it visually reflects the music very well and I was able to create the strong aesthetic that I first set out to achieve which also appeals to my target audience.

With my production I am really happy with the quality I achieved, and feel it really brought my compositions to life and added depth and character to my sound. I am pleased that all four pieces have a continuity to them that gives a distinctive style to the E.P. I look forward to continuing to develop my mastering technique in order to make even better sound quality in the future.

My biggest weakness I think was time management. I feel I spent a lot trying to settle upon an idea and used a lot of time researching and developing the initial idea I had which I ultimately ended up scrapping, This was detrimental later on in the process and I feel that time could have been better spent. Despite this I feel happy that I gathered enough information whilst researching my initial idea to be able to make the executive choice to adapt and change my idea to make the content more palatable for audiences. I feel if I had settled upon and idea sooner, I might have been able to keep the “visual album” aspect to my intial idea which would have offered a much deeper exploration on the E.P.’s themes.

If I were to continue working on this project or to do it again I would have managed my time better and created video to go along with the album. I feel if the E.P would reach its full potential as a multimedia piece and creating music videos for all four tracks would be a very interesting and fulfilling experience.

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Marketing & Release Plan

Marketing & Release Plan

My project will mainly be a digital download release, although I also intend to create a limited run of made-to-order physical copies. The platform I am going to use to release the E.P. is Bandcamp, and I chose this in order to make use of their “name your price” function which allows people to set their own purchase price based on what they can afford. I think this feature is a great ideas, as I have a hard time deciding how much my music is worth and I like that it allows people from all backgrounds to support a project within their means. I would consider any payments to be more like donations, even the smallest amount would still help cover the production costs. Given the current state of the music industry where music piracy and free torrenting services have meant less and less people actually pay for music I think it is important for artists to adapt around this. The physical copies of the E.P. will have a minimum price of £5 to simply cover material costs, but there will be an option for people to pay more if they want to.

Bandcamp

During the promotion phase of the release I will utilise all social media platforms such as, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram to spread the word. I will utilise hash-tagging on these services in order to find potential listeners by searching for terms that relate to the E.P. and for fans of other artists who make music in the same genre as me. I also plan to gradually release images and little promo clips, simply to build a sense of intrigue and anticipation for the release. Visual content is extremely important, especially within genres like witch-house, and I feel you can say far more using visual aids than you can in words so, I plan to create a strong visual “brand” and aesthetic for my work. My stylistic choices are really going to need to reflect the music as I feel it’s what’s going to really sell the E.P. and to reach it’s correct audience.

From research I carried out I found that most artists that release this kind of experimental electronic music try and keep it “underground”, as it is very niche and has a small audience not intended for mass appeal. Especially in genres like witch-house it is normal for artists to keep their releases small and limited, often throwing some symbols, numbers or punctuation marks in the middle of titles for people to find it harder to come across. This is done with the intention of keeping their audience/fanbase small but dedicated. I intend to go along the same sort of lines, keeping the release small. On the more important social media posts, I plan to “sponsor” them, which entails paying money to further the reach of a post to targeted individuals with similar interests based on their profiles. This will allow me to reach a slightly larger audience.


Design Development

Case Research

Design and Packaging Research

Having decided to create a small run of physical copies for my E.P, I had to decide upon what format the packaging would be. I felt the most appropriate choice for my project was a simple card wallet sleeve as they are cheap and simple to produce and are best for the environment as they do not use any plastic. I also feel something hand made and DIY would compliment my aesthetic nicely.

Case Examples

Artwork Inspiration

Above are a few images that I compiled into a vision board for inspiration for the overall aesthetic of my packaging. I intended to draw upon dark and mysterious imagery and symbolism surrounding occult themes, but to keep the overall design simple but unnerving. I opted for a large triangle to act as my logo and focal point of the artwork, as I found it interesting how often the triangle symbol is used within ideologies such as alchemy and secret societies and felt it matched my projects themes. The colour palette for the artwork is very subdued, consisting mostly of neutral colours like grey, black and white as they are simplistic, contrast well and look sophisticated.

I intended to use this design on both the sleeve case and onto the disc itself.

Case InspirationCD Disk Design

I wanted to put a lot of attention to detail into the packaging, and included the disk itself. Rather than get the CDs manufactured professionally, I opted to create them myself as this was a more cost effective choice and gave me free reign to experiement with different ideas. I purchased black coloured discs to print on rather than standard ones because I felt it offered a nice unique touch to the packaging. I also purchased a home printer that could print directly onto CDs.

Printing my own CD’s from home required a lot of trial and error. When printing my first CD, the image was slightly too big, and so some of the text on the disc was cut off. To remedy this I had to go back onto Photoshop and edit the dimensions before trying again. With the second attempt I didn’t leave enough time for the ink to dry onto the disk before picking it up, and so I ended up smudging the design by mistake but the overall design fit onto the disc perfectly and the third attempt was ultimately successful.

CDs

I looked online for a software for burning the tracks onto the disc. Whilst I could have just used Windows Media Player, I wanted to source a software designed especially for the task to ensure quality. I did a quick search on the internet to find the best softwares you can download for completely free. I came across a very helpful list of top rated CD burners that had been reviewed and are currently free. https://www.lifewire.com/best-free-burning-software-2438473 After reading through and finding the best software with all the features I needed, I download the top rated one called CD Burner XP. I found the software perfect and used it to burn the tracks onto my printed disc.

Case Design

Now that I had the artwork itself designed and finished, the biggest challenge I found with creating the sleeve case was finding the right paper to print upon. I tried out various kinds of card with different thicknesses and textures as prototypes before settling on the one that worked the best.

Cases

My first attempt was on a thick, standard card material. I printed my design onto it and and simply cut and folded it into a pocket shaped sleeve for the disc to slide into. I wasn’t pleased with the final result as the card was too thick and it ended up looking a little cheap.

I also tried out a deluxe box packaging that the disc would be presented in. I made a prototype for this by printing my artwork design out onto card and gluing it to the lid of the box. I wasn’t very happy with the outcome of this and so I tried burning the edges of the card a bit to make the box look a bit more stylised, as if it were a found artifact. I was still not happy with it however, and decided to go back to my original idea of having a sleeve instead.

I went back to the drawing board and tried out more kinds of paper, including a thinner card that was more textured but which ultimately distorted the design. I then decided to try out printing onto tracing paper, as I felt it could be interesting.

PaperDifferent Paper

The tracing paper turned out to work really well for my design. The transparency gave it a sort of ghostly feel which matched the aesthetic of the design itself, and it gave a really unique touch to the packaging.


Production Development

Production

For this project I knew I wanted to set out to produce an experimental electronic EP, drawing influence from genres such as witch-house and industrial. I also looked into electronic music used in films, such as Blade, Neon Demon and the Matrix. For examples:

The Neon Demon – The Devil’s Dance

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZYmgZSf6KY

Matrix – Clubbed To Death

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APgQ1lNAzdg

Blade – Bloodbath

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNS22xGezSY

I approached composing the tracks for this EP very differently than I usually would, by mainly focusing on the atmosphere and the overall tone of each of the individual tracks more than anything else. For each track I composed, I sampled a different environment and pitch shifted it throughout the composition. All the tones and textures you hear in the tracks were all found sound, that I had distorted and manipulated within Reason 4.0. The only sounds in the tracks that are digital are the bass and percussion. I composed 9 tracks in total, out of those I chose the best four to be put on to the EP.

I used Reason 4.0 DAW to produce each track, as I felt the overall analogue sounds of the synth’s had a certain sound to them that just worked and blended really well with the samples I was using. I created each track by creating and layout a structure with the drums and bass, then I molded and shaped my samples around them. When I had finished each composition and was happy with the mix, I’d export them ready for mastering.DAW

Post Production

At first I was unsure of the mastering process, I tried out several attempts at it, in the same DAW Reason 4.0 but I found it to be overly complicated compared to other software. So, I tried it out again on other software such as Cubase and Ableton, I watched a lot of different tutorials of mastering online, but was still unsure of the best way to approach the process.

Once I went to the workshops held at the university, I got given a helpful sheet on the process and purpose of mastering. Following this great step my step guide to mastering, it really cleared things up and I realised just how important the mastering process is to production.

I mastered my final exported tracks in Ableton and following the the step by step guide given in the workshop I began my mastering process. Once I set up the mastering template in a ableton I saved the session to be able to use it in the future. When I had the template all set up I started to import the first track. By following the step by step guide carefully I began to tweak and apply all the setting to my tracks. I also made sure I was turning on and off the plug-ins I was using when ever I tweaked any settings to hear the difference I was making. Once I was happy with the result I exported the track, ready to import the next.


Idea Development

Initial Ideas

My initial idea for this project was to create a visual concept album where each track of the album would represent a chapter in a narrative exploring themes such as oppression, sexuality and freedom throughout history contrasting with how these themes manifest today. I was drawn to this idea because it is very relevant to today’s politics, and it is a very current issue that affects many people around me.

The piece didn’t have any kind of strict plot-line, but the narrative was to be in three parts. Part one was to focus on the objectification of women. I intended to have this section be themes around the politics and visual aesthetics of the 1920’s up until the 1950’s. A female character based upon stereotypical pin up models from this era would be filmed from various angles behaving in a hyper sexualised way. The footage was intended to be filmed in an invasive and almost voyeuristic way, highlighting the objectification and creating a feeling of unease about it.

I chose this because the pin up aesthetic is basically the quintessential troupe for a woman who is sexualised for the consumption and titillation of men. Whilst in the 21st century western women are able to freely express their sexuality in ways that are empowering, I found it interesting how the idea of pin up style has been reclaimed even though it was created to objectify women.

The second section would focus on the same female character having a crisis surrounding her homosexuality. Due to the rampant homophobia prevalent during this time period, many gay and bisexual people struggled with feelings of fear and denial of their identity and so ultimately the character would channel that fear into anger directed at her love interest. What would follow is a sequence wherein the camera would cut between various pieces of footage of her behaving affectionately towards another woman, and then behaving violently towards her, in the desperate hope that it would make her free of her “sinful” urges.

The final section would be based around the modern day, and how not an awful lot has changed since then. I wanted primarily clips and samples from TV and news broadcasts surrounding modern day sexism and homophobia, such as quotes from Donald Trump about women, misogynistic jokes and such.

I carried out extensive research about these themes, which included talking the idea through with several of my friends within the LGBT community. This was a very valuable experience for me because many of these people pointed out that unless one has first-hand experience in the issues they are addressing, it will be very hard to truly do it justice.

Because of this, I decided to not pursue this idea. Although I have strong opinions and feel extremely passionate about politics and social justice, I ultimately felt it wasn’t my place to tell this story – as it was not “mine” to tell.

I worried that utilising these themes without having ever experienced them and being in a position where I never will would make me unable to truly do it justice. Due to the juxtaposition of hyper sexualised imagery contrasting against a strong political message opposing objectification, it would be too easy for viewers to take it at face value and the message of the piece be misconstrued.

I didn’t want to run the risk of potentially causing offence, and so for this reason I opted to instead make the themes and narrative a bit looser but to keep the general concept around history versus modern day social politics. Moving the idea forward I want to create a EP without video, that takes influence from the previous idea.

Developed Idea

As well as changing the idea of the narrative content for my piece, I also decided due to time constraints to drop the idea of creating a visual album too. I instead chose to release four tracks as an EP. I still wanted a “dark” theme and subject matter to the material but I opted to keep it more open to interpretation. I looked to genres such as darkwave and witchhouse for inspiration on the sonic themes, as well as soundtracks for films such as the score from “The Neon Demon” (2016) as well as science fiction films such as “Blade” (1998).

I tried to look at a range of material for inspiration as I wanted a cinematic sound, but also wanted to utilise elements of electronic music. I intended to make heavy use of distortion and dissonance, and to sometimes create a sense of unease. Now that I was no longer confined by a narrative or storyline to follow I was able to experiment more and let the compositions go wherever they wanted to. I also wanted the pieces to flow into each other, as if it was one long piece in four movements. I desired a sense of continuity to the tracks.


Storyboard & Visual Mood-board

Chapter One: Objectification

Fade in from black, opening title “Chapter one: Objectification” White font 0-4secs.

Out of focus shot of a distant silhouette/shadow of a woman getting closer 0-14secs,

Quick distorted cuts of up close shot of the mouth to the eyes and back again 14-24secs.

Cross fade back to silhouette moving creepily 24-33secs.

Cut away to weird old clip 33-38secs.

Close up of body parts, provocatively dancing 38-57secs.

Close up of pulling down straps one at a time, unzipping the back of dress, tease-fully smiling/laughing then biting lip 57-1.16secs.

Cut away another creepy old clip of men. 1.16-1.21secs.

Camera moving upwards, cross fading body parts from legs, to body to mouth 1.21-1.36secs.

Fast cuts of change of emotions from happy, to sad to angry to screaming 1.36-1.45secs

Cut back to creepy old clip of men. 1.45-1.50secs.

Close up of mouth smiling then biting lip. 1.50-1.55secs.

Provocative dancing 1.55-2.04secs.

Fast cut backs to sliding off dress 2.04-2.14secs.

Fast cuts between old clips of women and woman screaming, clawing at her face and body use of fake blood. 2.14-2.33secs.

Cut to woman on her knees head down very slow zoom out 2.33-2.52secs

Cut away to another old happier clip 2.52-3.13secs.

Distorted fade out 3.12-3.21secs.

Visual Moodboard

 


Music Research

Musical Inspirations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKhvUfFhqPk – Magnetic Man – The Bug

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWFb5z3kUSQ – Fever Ray – Keep The Streets Empty For Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_wKMSGBpZI – Zanias – To The Core

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJtBXW4abRI – Video Game OST – Always On My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZYmgZSf6KY&t=54s – The Neon Demon – The Demons Dance

Above are some of the biggest influences I used to create my work. There is quite a range, as all of these pieces are very different but I feel there is a continuity in to them in terms of the heavy electronic elements, dark themes and the dense textures. All these pieces also use massive reverb and a lot of metallic tones and textures. I also made sure to use soundtrack music as well as just pop as inspiration for a more cinematic vibe.