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Questions and Answers [Number 2]Make Hits

These questions are REAL, from REAL people with REAL writing problems. They ask about making and producing Hit Records, Hit Songwriting, Record deals, Publishing deals and Performing... this WILL help you! DEC helps all who ask!


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Quick Reference: check the questions, could answer a major worry in your mind.....why not ask your own question?

(1) "What do you think of my first Demo?"

(2) "Do you know of any venues I could contact for gigs? Go on, just a couple names..please!"

(3) "Recording vocals & guitars on P.C.?"

(4) "Do you have to have a Potential Hit song before having good contacts?"

(5) "Midi leads - worth soldering your own?"

(6) "R & B, Hip Hop - what is it?"

(7) "Producers - what do they really earn?"



Hi Dec

I've posted a CD to you today with one ditty on it - I would not have written something like this prior to joining 'The Serious Writers Guild' the material is sinking in I'm behaving differently in alot of ways.

The particular song is by FRISCO which is Helen and I. This is the demo version it needs editing and producing and I intend to do two further remixes. I'm going back next Thursday to continue work on it if you would be kind enough to give me your views before then I would be grateful.


Answer from Dec

Hi Frisco....

Pleasantly surprised!

Yep, you've got a lot going for you..... 'The Serious Writers Guild' is working for you.

A couple of points to IMPROVE and get the most out of your talent:

* You have to remember a *toon* is a hit in the first ten seconds......this has a great first five seconds (good sounds but a very boring, heard a million times before 808 kik).....

* You have to decide whether you are creating a chart *toon* hit or a dance hall hit...a chart hit MUST NOT be more than 3.30 [and there is not even an argument there!].

There is no time to *develop* ideas, the track has to grab you by the throat in ten seconds and keep grabbing you for the 3.30 with not a split second of anything mundane, usual, or boring. This track is neither one thing nor the other. YOU CANNOT MIX THE TWO GENRES.

On the other hand the *sounds* are too *all heard before* (except the very start) for a dance hall hit. It's not *hard* enough, the sounds have got to be *evil* in the extreme, they have to cut your ears off with *hardness*. When you do a filter sweep (as you have on this track) it has to be EXTREME, not apologetic. Affect on a voice has got to be totally *over the top* to gain attention. The track has got to be *outragious* to be a Hit. *Nice* and *pretty* doesn't make it anymore.

The sounds have got to be more *bare* [no rhythm at times] for dance and also the lead vocal should be much more *affected*. I would take that vocal and sample it at say 3,000 hz so it sounds like a crappy sample from an old 45rpm record. You need to make the vocal much more agressive. It all just sounds too nice to be a dance hit. More *balls*...more *screaming*, more *aggression*. Much more *movement* in the voice.

* For a *toon* hit you just have to have a huge vocal arrangement. There is ZERO on this track. First sign of an *amateur*, *self produced* track.


* There isn't a great vocal hook important for a dance hit..."What she gonna look like with a chimbly on her?" "King of my Castle" sort of line. The sort of line you can repeat and repeat...check out any dance hit....there are two, three differing lines maximum....yours sounds like poetry put to music with not one memorable line! (sorry to be blunt!)

The *pro* way of ensuring there is a hook is to play the track to anyone for thirty seconds and ask them the title. If they can't answer, or give the wrong answer, then you haven't got a hook line....simple?

****** You MUST HAVE more hooks than a pirate convention *******


For a dance hit you have to have memorable instrumental melody lines....lines that are simple, repetitive and when heard, are instant floor fillers. Best recent example to explain this easily is : "The Launch" (DJ Dean) an instantly memorable sound (now so copied) with a great huge melodic hook.


You have a great talent.....but you have to *learn* and then *observe* the rules that make Hits. Dance Hits are not just rhythm and a bit of a vocal.....they are carefully constructed, artistic, commercial, Million sellers....just as Beethoven was the dance guy of his day, so you have got to think that way today. Be a Tchaikovsky, a Dvorak, an Aaron Copeland.

On the other hand if it's a top Three Chart *toon* Hit you are aiming at, you must *study* the Top three in great detail, and again *observe* the rules. The rule book is repeated every Sunday at 4pm on almost every radio station in the world.

"Why create mediocrity when you can copy genius?"

What a great start.....

Just watch the spending! Also, next time you send a CD to ANYONE please put all your contact details on...just like the cassettes of old, they get chucked on a table, a chair, a car seat....get mixed up with all the other unlabeled stuff, then when the guy wants to play his latest *find* to his head of A & R he can't find the CD.....make sense?

However, don't go down the road of: Sung by ME, played by ME, written by ME, produced by ME, copyright held by ME, published by ME, floor swept by ME, coffee made by ME, studio painted by ME....get what I mean? Simple is best...and you will get mighty, professional, successful ideas on labeling from 'The Serious Writers Guild' releases).



"where the 'lil guy gets the same chance as the big guy"




Thanks for your advice. I'll get on it. Do you know of any venues I could contact for gigs? Or is this another part of the challenge?

Go on, just a couple names..please!


Answer from Dec

HI Nick

The sort of Gigs I deal with are main stream big venues. Theatres, auditoriums, stadiums.

To start your career I always advise using the 'free sample' technique....if you are good live, and well rehearsed, it works with a vengeance (it's all in my releases). But first you need 'an act', something that is going to get you rebooked and rebooked.

Do a tour of your 'local' vicinity, meaning the area you can cover with your 'band' with the transport available. And by that I mean reliable transport [no booker likes bands who break down and don't turn up].

Check out the wine bars, pubs, discos, small venues that can handle your band at this stage of your delelopment. Chose a quiet time. I.E. a time when the boss is there, when he can spare you five minutes to talk.

Prepare your 'sales pitch'. It will be nerve wracking the first time you do it, but like s*x it gets better every time you do it!

The basic thing you are selling is this: "Let me bring in my band, we will do half hour for free. If you like it then we can negotiate and we can do say another hour. Usually we can do three half hours/two 45 minutes/ two hours with a break....we can also have diso stuff with our own DJ as an extra for FREE. It's a great night's entertainment...completely self contained, cost effective because everywhere we play we build up a following. Within three weeks you won't be able to move in this place. You will have queues down the street every night we play here".


You then have to have 'the goods'...the killer act (which you will learn from 'The Serious Writers Guild' releases).

You get a CD together as fast as you can for merchandising (NOT TO SEND TO RECORD COMPANIES). Then posters, 10'*8' pictures, brochures. Again all the tricks for merchandising you learn from the releases and talking to me much did I take at our two concerts last night and night before? (it would frighten you!)

The merchandise gives the opportunity for your band guys and yourself to sign autographs, have a good rapport with your audience and get their addresses....don't even bother to get them to write to an address you give 'em...they won't do it. You have to be proactive. Get their addresses, enter them on a computer database (I use Word Data Base).

The merchandising will make a ton of dosh to upgrade equipment, transport, enlarge lighting rig, smoke, lasers. NOT TO WASTE IN STUDIOS.

Build fanbase. 'Toploader' had 38,000 database when they went to Sony for a deal. A guy I know currently has 47,000 and hasn't a deal yet (his material is ill advised and un sellable!).

Record Companies LOVE database.

Every new CD you make will automatically sell to your fan base...Get it?

So the first venue builds and builds...other venues come on line...pretty soon you are selling and selling, database coming out of your ears, queues down the street...the buzz in your immediate district is posting for the bigger are huge county wide...then you get an agent (I will advise on this) then maybe a manager (a minefield if you don't follow what I say).

The demos are better and more tuned to what an audience wants.....cos' you can test them on the audience ['Artful Dodger' have this technique worked to a fine art].

NOW IT'S PIG EASY TO GET A RECORD COMPANY INTERESTED....record deal? They would be mad not to!

Bigger venues, bigger gigs, festivals, Radio One roadshow as newcomers.....HUGE fanbase, venues have to have security....record deal...Top of the Pops....FORTUNES! You learn all the 'business' side from 'The Serious Writers Guild' so you make serious money you don't get screwed!

Easy isn't it?


This is all the stuff I teach and is not theory...this is how the Industry works....the way no one will tell you, except me! 'The Serious Writers Guild' releases tell you all this in great detail.....but you have to do it...every bit of it. songwriting? Record contract? Writing a hit record? Is it easy!

There is no easy way! But there is a SURE way.



"where the 'lil guy gets the same chance as the big guy"


(3) I've been attempting to record music using a $7 PC microphone and various music software packages. Listening to most people's contributions on this group, using 4 or 8 tracks and guitars, midis, etc., everything seems to have a much better sound.

Without a lot of money to spend, what would be the best way to record an electric guitar through my PC. Would a pre amp be sufficient, or is there something else. Thanks for your help. Rick

Answer from Dec

Hi Rick...

Most of my members report having nightmares with the sort of set up you seem to have. Cubase VST?

I have two guys who get reasonable results but can't get around the fact that all comes out as a two part left / right image. One however has started to only put the 'live' stuff i.e. guitars, vocals etc. on the computer and then runs all the other stuff, synths and all midi driven music through his desk.

He doesn't use any sounds at all from cards etc. driven by the computer. He also tries to limit his use of 'onboard' effects for the live stuff. Prefers to use effects available from his effects modules abvailable on the desk.

It boils down to this:

If you record everything on the VST and mix everything on the VST then it will always sound 'small'. You get the 'size' from using the most number of separate sound modules and most importanly the most number of effects.

For instance, I would use on back vocals three tracks of each in a four part vocal arrangement I woul use twelve tracks of vocals....I would then use Roland RSS (Roland Surround sound) to give me that extreme LEFT/RIGHT and also a double of the vocal sound...can you feel how HUGE this sound is getting already?.

I would then use a Lexicon tailored to give maximum 'life' without losing that 'in yer face' and 'up to your nose' six feet in front of the speakers sound which is so exciting. Now a repetive echo which just, sort of sits there, and you only hear in a break...this is thickening the vocal arrangement even more.

The final two effects are a 'vocal enhancement' which you just have to use and use and use over and over to really get to know what can be achieved with it. Hard to describe but what I am looking for is for the vocals to sound 'unaffected' but be so exciting (Destiny's Child, Honeyz). Of course before all the effects I will use a bog standard compressor/limiter (maybe a behringer composer on automatic). I will look to get the whole vocal so aggresive in sound and so hard and 'CLOSE'.

Gosh I'm getting carried away here....

Back to the question...a $7 PC mic.....NAAAAAH! Depending on what suits the ambient sound of your studio (it's that that makes or breaks any live sound) use a bog standard Shure can pick em up in discount music stores for maybe $50. Don't even bother to buy a second hand one...and always service the grill and the pop foam on a monthly basis (nobody ever makes a h*ck of a difference). Just wash the foam carefully and dry it. Clean the grill with a dry toothbrush.

Use a module for your guitar (electric?) If you want to record acoustic join my 'The Serious Writers Guild' ...I record the best acoustic sounds in the world based on tricks learned from 30 years of the best players in my studio.

Best current module is the Marshall JMP 1, still the best around...don't even try to get that b*ll breaking sound from your Fender Twin Reverb...It'll break your heart! Yep, Jim Marshall's JMP 1 through an excellent effects unit or two or three (as the vocals) will give you that 'killer' sound you have dreamed WILL get that sticky feeling in your jockeys!

So, lecture over...can you tell I like imparting knowledge?

"Clever people learn from their own mistakes
Brilliant people learn from other people's mistakes"


Get in touch direct if you want any more on this!

DEC "where the lil' guy gets the same chance as the big guy"


(4) Dec,

how about a few contacts? I will leave it totally up to you.

Hope all is well - we have just signed 3 songs for albums in Canada and and to USA - so things are moving slowly but surely in the right direction.

Speak to you soon

Chrissy Sykes

Answer from Dec


If you do come up with 'the goods' then I will be more than pleased to bring it to my 'contacts'.. I have some very heavy duty guys who are pals of problem in life is that I forget who I am sometimes and then wonder how these guys want my company! Make sense? For instance, Judith Chalmers wouldn't leave me alone the other night at a birthday party of a mutual friend....I don't know the woman! I do now, however! (not that way!!!!!!)

The problem I always have is that I am actually a PRODUCER of Hit material. So it is extremely hard to impress me with a demo...just like it is extremely hard to impress a head of A&R of a major...exactly the same...we went to the same school....we can spot talent, attitude, flair, ability....and provided the youth and the looks are there, we can certainly make stars....

But then when a Hit song comes along...WOW! It smacks you between the eyes! I get thirty/forty demos a week...all tired 15 years too late stuff that is really nothing to do with the charts today! I am steeped in the charts....because I have to be and also I love it.... I have just been commissioned to produce a new two boy the first demo ....WOW! Now that's what I call a potential Hit demo.

So I repeat Chrissy, if you feel you have got one that slots straight in between the Number one this week and the Number three let me have it...I'll certainly get action on it! The Industry NEEDS Hit songs and Hit recordings...or didn't you notice?

Much kisses....(oh no, not Judith Chalmers again!!!!)



(5) Subject: Re: Midi DIY guy?

Okay, My first question is, I wanted to take a male midi cable cut-off the plug from one end, add 2 female midi plugs to the cut side then, solder the green to green, red to red etc., should this make a midi merge?

Also I've noticed the female midi jacks don't have the easy red, green,etc. coloring, how will I know what point to solder to on the female midi jack?



Answer from Dec


Forget about soldering...

Midi merge is like black magic and it's not even worth while bothering to understand it...better use your time to write a Hit song! Soldering like that will only make your whole system unreliable. The last thing you want when you are 'flying' with ideas is a solder joint to let you down.

There is a Company here in the UK called Philip Reece who make every conceivable combination of plug in midi in, two out...... two in eight out, and every combination is switchable....another handy box is the Nexus Plus midi merger...I'm looking at one now!

Basically, I will mount a midi splitter in the back of each rack box so that all the modules get the best midi no failures (I daren't have failures on a huge Hit mix!) Also, I have a spare midi merge box connected in line for a visiting session musician or then is pig easy to just plug in and away we go....

So Marcus, not worth the effort soldering and worrying....write a hit song and you won't have to worry about the expense....they're dirt cheap anyway.....'one in three outs' are sometimes given away free with UK Music Magazines! That's how cheap they are.




(6) Subject: RE: hardcore hip hop

Sorry you must be sick of me...

When you say R&B do mean the sort of Craig David / Artful Dodger stuff that fuses it with dance or garage, I mean that I could do, and hip hop beats I can do in my sleep I was hip hop mad when I was kid.

I just wanna get started so you can eat your hat.


Answer from Dec

R & B covers a multitude today, the edges have become totally blurred...for instance the last Mel C track became R & B just because Lisa Left Eye was on it....the last R Kelly became R & B just because it was R Kelly (it was really an 'Unchained Melody' type ballad) the DJ's got round that by calling it retro R & B. So yes Artful Dodger could be...although it didn't figure in the R & B charts....who knows anymore? It's a flavour more than a genre now....Jay Kay gets on that chart just because he's not totally I have said I put Beggy (my black rapper) on everything I do now just for that flavour....and it works!



(7) Do you mind me asking how a producer earns his wedge is it just a fee or do you get a royalty on the tune as well? Are you employed by a label i.e EMI or someone? If you are able to help me an I write a hit song how does it work? I mean I'd rather just sell the song to an artsist or publisher. I always hear the figure 30k? do you get royalties for broadcast as well or do I lose my rights to it if I sell it? I know a mate of a mate's mate who does that he sells stuff alot to Germany it's dancey sort of stuff. My mate said he get's 30k a track an I've seen the Porsche to prove it. James

Answer from Dec


Gosh, a lot of question at once...I’ll try to get through them...I would suggest for a more in depth go to the Q & A’s of this site where I talk about the relationship of a producer to making hit records, writing hit records, record deals, performing and making money from music.

First off a reputable producer may just charge a ‘one off’ fee. Particularly if he does not know the product or more to the point has no faith in the product. Get me? In other words he is earning a fee for an amount of work done.

If he is excited by the act then will want a fee up front and a percentage, in other words 'advance against royalties'.

“Are you employed by a label i.e EMI or someone?”

I am freelance, thus can be contracted to any Record Company, Production Company, Artiste. The Record Companies do have ‘in house’ producers, but I would much rather have an outside freelance Producer who is genuinely interested in the Project and excited with the prospects. An ‘in house’ guy is doing it ‘cos he ‘has to’.

“If you are able to help me and I write a hit song how does it work? I mean I'd rather just sell the song to an artist or publisher.”

I hear that from every new writer when they join my ‘Serious Writers Guild’ first. If that was the real way it works we could all swan off to The Carribean, laze on the beach while some dude sells our songs and we just pick up the mail with the checks in! Nice world eh?

Think about it....almost every band/artiste in the Record Business writes. So why should they want your songs? And don’t even mention the acts that don’t would be 367th in the queue behind all the great writers who are tried and tested and deliver the Hit Songs every time!

“I always hear the figure 30k? Do I get royalties for broadcast as well or do I lose my rights to it if I sell it?”

30K for what? If that is a ‘buy out’, in other words, a Publishing Company will buy your title lock stock and barrel. Then that is a mighty amount of money! I don’t know any Publisher that would risk paying that money to an you? If you do let us all know the name...we’ll all rush around there tomorrow. It is normal nowadays for a TV Company to buy outright the rights to a theme tune written for a show or series. They were bitten very badly years ago by somne of the big theme tunes (Coronation Street in the UK, ‘Only fools and Horse’ etc.)

“getting royalties if you sell:”

Depends completely on the deal you do...I have heard stories of bands getting a £30,000 advance against royalties (advances ALWAYS are recouped by the Company before they pay out anothe cent...a point totally misunderstood by writers).

In an extreme case of a stunning new band coming along and a ‘bidding war’ starting between Publishing Companies, then there could be a straight ‘signing fee’. This can also happen when a current Star writer comes to the end of a contract period then he/she may go to another company at a heck of a signing fee. However most writers in this position would start their own company. So:

1. Sell it outright - no more royalties 2. Advance against royalties, you still eventually pick up royalties when the advance is recouped by the Company 3. Signing get the fee plus all the royalties.

“I know a mate of a mate's mate who does that. He sells stuff a lot to Germany, it's dancey sort of stuff. My mate said he get's 30k a track an I've seen the Porsche to prove it.”

Oh Yeah?

Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? Again I say: can you find out who is paying this £30,000 a track...we’ll all form a queue at his door!

And the you know how many drug dealers have Porches?

A more realistic ‘purchase’ of a track would be in a ‘non-exclusive’ deal, in other words, the maker of the track still retains the right to sell it elsewhere according to the limitations of the contract. The usual price at time of writing is around £1,000. If you are lucky, you might get 5% as well, although my advice would be to not depend on seeing the royalties!. This price is completely dependent on the reputaion of the writer and performer of the track...obvious really.

Most of these tracks end up on obscure rave/dance/trance/hip hop compilations. The guys who put them together want the best product at the cheapest price...and there are thousands of bedroom produced dance tracks around....£1,000? You’d be extremely lucky to get that.

I hope this all helps...


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