Earlier this month, SAE Audio Production and Music Business students had a chance to learn from Techno DJ and Producer BEC, who gave them a comprehensive overview of how to make it in the music industry in an SAE Extra masterclass.
Beginning the presentation with an overview of her career to date, SAE alumna BEC talked about how she started out as a graphic designer, but she loved music so started DJing. Alongside this, she undertook a six-month Electronic Music Production short course in the evenings at SAE London because she wanted to learn production.
Eventually, she would move to Berlin to be close to Pan-Pot and their manager, with the label Second State. Whilst in Berlin, she supported herself financially with freelance design projects. To begin with, she was getting rejected; it took a year and a half before they said yes to her first release, which was aptly called ‘Relentless’. Following this first big break, BEC has signed on labels such as Intec, Drumcode and Voight.
She’s consequently had opportunities to tour North and South America, Africa and India. She went to Ibiza for six months last year, then moved back to England for six months. She said that Berlin and London are both good cities to be in because there are so many promoters and parties. While reflecting on her own journey, BEC spoke about the importance of a five-year plan, with structured goals and periodic re-analysis of these objectives.
SAE Oxford Audio student Camilo Luongo said: “The part that I enjoyed the most was where she talked about her experience and how she got there, and also when she went through the breakdown of the people working for artists and how she built the team. I also enjoyed the marketing part regarding the branding she explained at the beginning.”
BEC said although it’s easy to get caught up in the party lifestyle as a DJ you should exercise moderation, and surround yourself with creative, motivated people.
When developing a brand, have a clear sense of sound - find your favourite genre and don’t release music with different aliases (unless you’re Aphex Twin!). When people go to watch someone they want to know what they are signing up to and are going to be dancing to. Your artist name needs to be super memorable, really easy to use in different languages.
BEC also talked about the importance of a great press kit - you need to have a bio, high-quality press photos, and utilise social media to build a platform. When it comes to social media, BEC said let people into your authentic life, posting regularly on Instagram and share details about the music you’re listening to. Set aside time to do it every few days so that you have a regular stream of content. Make sure your image is consistent across different social media channels. Also, sometimes you need to invest money; if you have a really big gig or a cool release it’s worth budgeting for it and paying for some promotion.
BEC talked about label strategy, including how to go about submitting demos and expecting rejections. She also gave the attendees a list of pros and cons with regard to setting up your own label compared to releasing on a big label, which will bring big exposure.
SAE London Audio Production student Marcia Evans said: “BEC gave us a great insight on her music career, achievements and how she got there! In-depth information on the positive and negatives we may face as producers with tips on how to overcome it. Overall just giving awesome advice on how we can progress within the industry.”
BEC talked about the team involved in music production and release, outlining the different roles such as management, PR agents, publishing agents, and distribution agents. She said that in her view management is best when you are an established artist - when you are first starting out it doesn’t necessarily make much sense and means you lose a percentage of your income which may already be quite small.
SAE London Audio Production student Alina Ciobanu said: “BEC's masterclass was extremely motivational and inspirational. I'm thankful for all the valuable knowledge and personal ideas she shared with us.”
"BEC'S MASTERCLASS WAS EXTREMELY MOTIVATIONAL AND INSPIRATIONAL. I'M THANKFUL FOR ALL THE VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE AND PERSONAL IDEAS SHE SHARED WITH US."
- ALINA CIOBANU, SAE LONDON AUDIO STUDENT
When she was starting out, BEC didn’t understand ways to make money from music at the time but has since explored options such as sample pack design, music for film, sync, writing and collaboration. BEC recommends approaching a publishing agency with a bank of unreleased music - you don’t necessarily have to associate your DJ name with this music if you don’t want to, but it’s a good way of supporting yourself and letting you focus on what you are passionate about.
Attendees were then given an opportunity to ask questions. In her answers to some of the questions, BEC stressed the importance of reading a contract before signing. You can challenge clauses within the contract if you want to - it’s your chance to barter with the label and seek better terms.
She talked about self-releasing versus submitting to bigger labels, and recommended being patient and keep submitting to labels because this will help you have a platform which you may choose to self-release on in the future. Start your own party if you think you could create a really cool day or night that would stand out in a highly saturated market. When asked if age matters, BEC said it’s never too late to start. Look at Jeff Mills!
When asked whether you should pay for PR when releasing on a friend’s small label, BEC said she would wait until she has a release on a bigger label - you want to make noise around something that could take your career to the next level.
BEC said always send a master to labels, something that’s mixed won’t allow them to download and just play it so you won’t seem as professional.
She said it is important that you keep contacting labels even if they reject you at first, it shows commitment. Having a social presence is necessary before reaching out to labels. You do need everything up and running before a label is going to commit to releasing your work.
BEC recommended sending around 5-6 tracks as a demo because you want to aim for an EP, not just a compilation. Most EPs are 4 tracks because that’s what sells the best, so by sending 5-6 you’re sending enough for an EP plus one or two more options.
After the Q&A, BEC gave an overview of drum pattern wizardry. She said that her preferred DAW is Ableton. She used Logic in the beginning but found Ableton better because of the live view. Nowadays though, she uses the arrangement view - treating it like the live view by creating markers. BEC gave some tips and tricks for mixing including the belief that there is no right or wrong method. She said she uses a mix as she goes technique.
She spoke about stereo image, and said this depends on your genre of music. For her, when she is making a techno track the kick and bass are in mono and then the drums are high on the sides so that it has a wide stereo image. When it comes to snare and claps, use your discretion. She said: “Just have a go and see where the sounds sound good!”
BEC then opened the session up again for further questions from the attendees. One of the attendees asked how do you get a reference for club speakers without being there, and BEC recommended sub packs - which you can wear in the studio to get a feel for what the bass would feel like. Also, ask the venue you have a gig at if you can come down and test your music on their system - 9 times out of 10 they will say yes.
BEC was asked about how to start getting gigs at a club and recommended going - she said get chatting to people, stand next to the DJ, bring a USB with your music on just in case there’s a chance for you to play. Give them a mixtape - tell them you live locally.
When it comes to hardware, BEC said she has invested in a lot of stuff she doesn’t use. It’s nice to have, but not essential.
When it comes to making a complete track from start to finish, BEC said it takes her about two days if she is in the right creative flow - maybe even a day if it’s a simple concept.
To close the presentation, BEC talked about the art of finishing ideas - just do it! Don’t overthink it, arrange as you go, and finish the arrangement no matter what. Come back to it over time after the arrangement is finished.
When it comes to finding inspiration, BEC stressed the need to listen widely, especially outside your genre. Attend concerts, clubs and parties - especially ones you wouldn’t usually go to - read, see what other peoples’ experiences are. Go outside, explore the natural world. Have fun and experience emotions because that leads to inspiration in the studio. If you’re not happy, get in the studio and make music because even negative emotions can be productive.
SAE Liverpool Audio Production student Tom Muldoon said: “I enjoyed the masterclass with BEC, she went over a lot and I enjoyed how she went into so much detail about how to make sure a track has all the correct elements. It provided me with a checklist of things to look out for when making a track.”
Omar Lamont said: “BEC's masterclass was great, she was willing to go very in-depth about her experiences and some of her secret techniques, and tricks of the trade. The perfect blend of conversational and informational.”
We’re super grateful to BEC for giving up her time to provide such great insights into her journey to success, and we know that the attendees got a lot out of the talk.