‘Unpaid Professional’ – Music with no Budget

by Miley K.

'Unpaid Professional' - Music with no Budget by Miley K.
Last year, I wrote, recorded, mixed, marketed and released a full length album with no team, no money, and far too much time on my hands. Impressed? Don’t be, I don’t have a life,,,

Listen to the album while reading the text.

I’ve been asked a lot about how I did it, and where I found the time. I think that’s just it, finding the time. Music isn’t some impossible form of media that takes an infinite amount of money to create – it’s art. Like any other form of art. You don’t need a tonne of money to draw an impressive sketch; you just need time and a whole lot of effort. Maybe that’s a cop out answer, but it’s the reality of the situation from my perspective.

What do you need to release an album?

An album.

As in, written music. Chords, melodies, words or leads in my case.

I had multiple albums worth of material written long before I sat behind a mixing desk. Sit down with your instrument, learn your music theory and draw from your inspirations. If you’re sad, write something sad, and think about what you were sad about after the fact.

Writing music is the ultimate form of art therapy for me; self reflection. I wrote most of this album shortly after I came out to my parents. I was lucky. Emotions were high and I was down and trying to vent my mood into music, and I haven’t stopped since.

Anyone’s capable of this. Just, write. More practical advice I suppose comes down to knowing your stuff and learning your scales.

Non-stop recording

I was fortunate enough to have complete free access to a recording studio during my second year at college. That’s around the time I decided that this Starlet sized task might be feasible.

I’d been studying recording for around a year, and decided I’d dedicate (on top of my other studies) the remainder of my time at college to just non-stop recording, and that’s what I did.

It started with the main single, “Starlet”, a track that was recorded, scrapped and rerecorded about five times before it even made it to the mixing stage. It’s one of the oldest songs I’ve written, and had a special place in my heart. It’s about connections, being there for people who are there for you even when they’re a long way away.

If I’m being honest, the meaning of this song has changed for me over the years, and I think that’s why it needed so much work, because in my mind it’s so rich. That was a pretentious off-topic rant about a song I wrote. Gee, anyone would think I wasn’t a writer.

A hive of musical knowledge and experience

If you’re looking to study music at college, I recommend going into recording. It’s a wonderful means to get your music out there if you already have some tunes written. If you don’t want to go to college or you’re past that point in your life, that’s fine!

My most recent EP was completely recorded at home using free plugins and a free DAW. If you want to know more about recording at home, just search for “recording a song using only free software” on YouTube. Trust me, YouTube is a hive of musical knowledge and experience.

After Starlet had laid down the foundations for how I was gonna record the album, I blasted out the rest of the songs in a couple of months after, some took a day and some took weeks.

The mixing process was long and tedious, as I was still learning the ropes. I think it’s easy to get obsessive with your music, wanting every frequency to be perfect, but I’ve found leaving certain flaws in my music has left it sounding more human, and people resonate with that.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

No, really. It’s art, it’s fun. Have fun with it and make some ridiculous mixing choices.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this whole ordeal was marketing and releasing the album. There was a lot riding on this for me, as there would be after dedicating nearly a whole year to the creation of one singular project.

I had to beg my artist friend to create an album cover for me, which they did a phenomenal job of. You’ll find most unemployed artists will jump at something like this, having an album cover under your name can really help get your name out there in the art world. They did a great job and I couldn’t have released this without them.

It’s important having people around you who are willing to help. I’m not a drummer, and just having one around for input made a huge difference on the quality of the whole album.

After a social media campaign, the release of the album took a couple of days. I used Distrokid to put it on all major streaming services, and also created a Bandcamp where I’d dump my less noteworthy projects, like the short EP’s I did this year. From there it was a matter of waiting.

Wow, I’ve done this!

Releasing the album was a mixed back for me. There was this piece of art that I’d put my heart and soul into for a year, and it was met with a totally positive reception, but one that was a little lackluster. The real “wow, I’ve done this” moment came a month or so later, when I started playing some shows to support the album.

I made some cheap looking CDs on a whim, that sold out on the first gig! It was the most money I’d ever made from music, and it was a great feeling. Then just a day later, I was featured in a showcase event, and played in front of one of the biggest crowds of my life. To pay me, the promoter created 50 high quality copies and sleeves of my album, which sold halfway at that event, and then across the rest of the shows at the summer.

I feel like in a lot of this, I’m ticking off a musical bucket list. Recorded an album? Check. Mixed? Check. Created physical CDs? Check.

So, you want to create an album, what will you need?

  • Time
  • Facilities (free or otherwise)
  • Collaborators
  • A musical education
  • A tonne of luck and pieces falling into the right place.

This is my full time job that I get paid nothing for, and I love it

Since this album came out, I’ve been reviewed on music channels, recorded a live video and released two other vastly different EPs. This is my full time job that I get paid nothing for, and I love it.

I don’t think the stereotypical rock star exists anymore. It’s no longer the music industry, we exist in the audio industry. Don’t just learn chords, learn how to record them, mix them, create a beat around them, market and release them and then build your own shows from that. Be a one-person record label.

Good luck.

Miley K.

Miley K., Category: Artist, Albums: Starlet, Singles: Sunrise City, Starlet, Top Tracks: Starlet, Sunrise City, Starlet, For the Gardener, Non-Binary Groove, Biography: Solo artist local to Yorkshire.

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Artist’s Note
Instrumental, Rock, Ambient
Producer, Music Advice, Composer, Mixing, Marketing

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