For our 34th instalment of Music Industry Mondays, we were delighted to welcome one of the UK's top music managers, Kwame Kwaten, for an exclusive playback and listening session.
Kwame is the owner of Ferocious Talent, an artist management and consultancy company, and has worked with extraordinary artists such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Shola Ama and Laura Mvula.
After describing how he discovered and signed various artists, including discovering Shola Ama through an audition on a London tube station platform, we got stuck into our students’ music tracks and let Kwame dish out the real talk.
Here are some of the top suggestions Kwame gave our students after our playback session that may help you fine-tune your sound.
Don’t be afraid of vocals
One of the main issues new artists struggle with is that they want to do it all. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but trying to do too much all at once can feel a little overwhelming to the listener. Whoever said “less is more” wasn’t joking around.
If you’re looking to add that extra something to your track or trying to make room for a vocalist, you’ve got to make sure they’ll be noticed. In order for the track to come together nicely, you’ll need to pay close attention to where the additional element can be added into your track without it becoming too busy. This may mean removing some things first or toning them down a touch.
Kwame recommends you give your vocalist demarcated lines so they have room to do their thing. So, if you have a track that’s purely instrumental and you’re looking to add a vocalist in, maybe move some things around or take some layers out, just make sure your vocalist will be heard.
As Kwame puts it, “allow space, it’s a good thing.”
And don’t be afraid to test out multiple vocalists!
Make your own luck
Being a commercial success can come with a few strings attached that don’t always allow for you to be completely free with your sound. In these cases, instead of either giving in to “The Man” or even giving up altogether, you can forge your own path. Isn’t originality the goal anyway?
The idea of your music being out there all on its own can be scary, but it can also be a really liberating space to be in.
Instead of trying to fit into a box and follow traditional means, you can make your own luck by finding your own people, your own marketplace, and your own fanbase so you can focus on the things that really matter to you without trying to please anyone else.
If you have the mentality that you’re not expecting a call from Capital FM any time soon, then you’re allowing yourself to make your own decisions and do what’s best for you and your music.
Collaboration is key
One thing you may have noticed when looking at the credits for any song is the long list of names of producers, writers and those taking part in the song’s creation.
As creators, we can get so caught up in our own work that we forget there are people right beside us that can give us a hand. As Kwame says, you’re up against people who have a whole team behind their music, so get out there and find your own!
You don’t have to look to the very top for help either. Most of the time, the best person for the job is sitting right next to you. Don’t be afraid to outsource and ask for help when you need it. Maybe mixing isn’t your strong point or maybe you’re not so great at putting a drum track together, but the person next to you might be an expert at those things. Ask them for a hand. You never know where it may lead!
Remember to give yourself and your laptop a little bit of space and check in with your immediate circles instead. There’s a whole lot of gold in there.