If you want to get into music production in South Africa, there are certain fundamentals that you need to have in place.
Producing music might tickle your fancy but there is so much involved. If you are about to embark on this journey, the following checklist will guide you so you can avoid industry pitfalls.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Music Production Equipment
“The right tools for the job” you know this expression right? Of course you do. You will need the basic music production equipment to get you started. Let’s go over the essentials required.
Computer/Laptop: A personal computer or laptop is a must because everything will be done and stored on your machine’s hard drive. But that doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy an expensive computer or laptop, No. Just ensure that your PC has enough memory and storage to run effectively.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): A digital audio workstation is another word for music production software. That’s the term people are familiar with.
It’s hard to single out the best software on the market, because the most important thing here is to acquire software that works for you.
FL Studio (formerly known as fruity loops) is a popular choice, there’s also Cubase by Steinberg, Reason, Pro Tools, Garageband – the list endless.
Electronic Keyboard/Midi Controller: Without a keyboard, your studio set-up is incomplete. If you have an electronic keyboard great but if not you need to purchase a 49-key midi controller.
A midi-controller is a hardware device except that it doesn’t produce any sound on its own. You have to connect this device directly to your PC or laptop in order to hear sounds.
On the other hand an electronic keyboard comes with built-in speakers. But if you in intend to use it to program your music, ensure that it is midi-compatible. Check behind the keyboard and look for “midi in and midi out” slot.
Monitors: Monitor speakers are required for playback and mixing (I will explain this just now). I know, monitor speakers can be pricey. But they are extremely important.
Monitors are not like your normal hi-fi speakers, they are built for a recording studio environment.
Accessories: Depending on your budget, you can do without certain accessories. But you will need the following for instance:
- Speaker cables to connect your monitors to the soundcard and PC
- Canon cables to connect your recording microphone
- A microphone stand
- Headphones for vocal recordings
- A shield if you don’t have a recording booth
Skills & Training
Before you can get the hang of something you need basic training – whether you go the formal or informal route is irrelevant. But music production requires constant practice and learning how to put things together.
Audio Engineering: Music production in South Africa is usually synonymous with sound engineering. It’s not the same thing but the two are related.
You need to learn important terms such as Equalization, Compression, Reverb, et cetera and you will come across them when you start learning how to mix your music. Mixing is basically the process of creating a synergy between all your recorded tracks – drums, percussion, Baseline, vocals into one.
The final step before a song is released to the public domain is referred to as mastering. You should also have an idea of how this works, but don’t master your own music. Instead send your work to a specialised mastering engineer.
If you are considering formal training, you can read the post on Music Production Schools in South Africa.
Music Theory/ Instrumentation: I’ll be honest, you don’t have to know how to play instruments in order to be a producer but it helps.
For example music theory is built around the piano or keyboard. When you have this basic knowledge it will give you an unfair advantage compared to a producer that is completely blank.
If you know the theory behind the music such as the different scales, chords, modes, you can work much quicker and make changes if you need to. Even if you hire a session musician to play, you can give proper direction based on what you know.
If you are planning to produce music professionally for artists in South Africa, you have to ensure that your paperwork is order. Below is a list of music organizations that you should affiliate with.
CAPASSO: An agency that administers and collects mechanical royalties for composers/songwriters. For example if a song you produced is manufactured, downloaded, streamed you will receive a royalty.
SAMRO: A music collection society responsible for collecting performance rights’ royalties for composers, authors and music publishers. Performance royalties are derived from live performances such as concerts and shows, radio and so forth.
SAMPRA: They collect needletime royalties for recording artists and labels.
RISA: RISA is the main body which represents the South African music industry.
If you don’t network and market yourself as a music producer you won’t go very far. But that’s just stating the obvious. The music industry in South Africa is quite small and sometimes aggressive marketing is required in order for others (artists and music practitioners) to take notice.
Social Media: Social media has made it easier to building a following much quicker. For example take the young Amapiano sensation Vigro Deep; he built his name on the internet (by posting audio files on soundcloud). He has since gained a large following – and he’s only 18 years of age (the last time I checked).
It’s not about opening accounts on different platforms (But you should) and relying on a hope and wait strategy – you should create a social media marketing plan.
You can do this by working on a content strategy like tutorials, free beats, information guides; it’s completely up to you.
Your own website: Having a personal music website has several advantages. One you own the platform especially if you are using your own domain (www.yourname.com) and two it’s a good marketing tool that you can synchronize with your social media accounts.