May 11, 2011  |   Tips & Tricks

The 5 best ways to spend your money making music, and the 5 quickest ways to waste it

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some kind of alert system in our brains that advises when something is a musical bargain?

How about a plugin that starts bleeping when you’re about to waste a ton of your hard earned cash? One day there’ll surely be an ‘app for that’, but today we have to rely on pure common sense. And a dash of good luck.

And now, because we like to help, Point Blank’s guide to what you should and shouldn’t waste your money on! We’ve learned from hard, bitter experience exactly how to throw away money, and how to make the most of it too. So let us take you by the hand and show you exactly how to spend your cash, and what to avoid:

Five good things to spend money on:

1. More RAM for your computer

RAM is cheap and time is precious. The more you have in your computer the faster you can work; you’ll have more instruments, faster access to programs, everything feels zippier when you’ve maxed out your RAM. This only works up to a point though; certain versions of Windows (such as XP) can only address up to 4GB of RAM. This limit also applies to 32bit programs (such as Logic, although running it in 64bit mode will avoid this issue). Check that your software and hardware can actually access extra RAM before you buy. Crucial.com offer an excellent service that does just that:

http://www.crucial.com/

2. An SSD hard drive
CPUs are very fast these days, so fast that the biggest (or should that be smallest?) bottle neck in your computer is not likely to be your processor, but your hard drive. If you find that your laptop is struggling to cope with everything you’re throwing at it, then try replacing your regular hard drive with an SSD drive. These have no moving parts, are silent, require less power to run and are vastly faster than regular drives. The downside? They’re expensive: a typical 128 GB drive will cost £170, but they’re worth every penny.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0039SM0AS/ref=asc_df_B0039SM0AS2814641?smid=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&tag=googlecouk06-21&linkCode=asn&creative=22206&creativeASIN=B0039SM0AS

If you can’t afford an SSD drive, consider a hybrid drive such as Momentus XT from Seagate. They’re a combination of 4GB of SSD space and 500GB of regular hard drive space in one drive. This gives you a speed boost at a great price.

http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/laptops/laptop-hdd/

3. The best monitors you can afford

Ask a dozen engineers which are the best monitors and you’ll get a dozen different recommendations. And that’s fine, there are very few genuinely bad monitoring systems around today. The old maxim is still true though: you get what you pay for. A decent pair of monitors will cost you around £600, check out the KRK and Dynaudio ranges:

http://www.krksys.com/

http://www.dynaudio.com/relaunch1/professional_studio_monitors/index.php

4. Spotify

£10 a month gives you access to the biggest music library in the world and it’s growing by the day. This full subscription enables you to use Spotify on your phone, and as an added bonus you’ll find that you completely stop buying music, so you’re saving money too!

5. One genuinely excellent synthesizer, sample library or musical instrument

Just one? Surely the more the better? Well, it’s better to learn and use one instrument back to front and inside out than to buy a dozen software synthesizers and simply rely on presets. Why? Because when you truly know an instrument, you can explore hundreds of possibilities that you’ll never find in a bank of presets. Here are some of our favourites:

- Native Instrument’s Massive http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/producer/massive/
- Rob Papen’s Predator http://www.robpapen.com/predator.html
- Nostalgia http://www.zero-g.co.uk/index.cfm?articleid=916

Five terrific ways to waste your money. Don’t bother with any of these:

1. Registering your songs online.

‘Pay us to include your songs on our database and ward off plagiarism, songwriting disputes and copyright theft! Only $50 a song!’. This scam works by ripping you off before any one else has a chance to. In most countries in the world you control the copyright in your work without having to register it anywhere. Anywhere at all! You certainly don’t need to pay anyone to add it to a database on the internet. So don’t. If you are seriously concerned about protecting your copyright, consult a music business lawyer instead. They’ll tell you to calm down.

2. Any scheme where you have to pay someone to send your music out to their extensive list of A&R contacts.

Again, this scam works by appearing to offer you exclusive access to record companies, publishers and the like. All you have to do is pay some money upfront and they’ll guarantee your music will be listened to. But what reputable executive will ever listen to a piece simply because someone else has been paid to play it to them? Can you name any artist who has been ‘discovered’ in this way? We can’t either.

3. Blank Audio CDs.

They’re exactly the same as any other CDr except they’re more expensive because a levy is paid to the music industry as a charge for putting audio on them. Don’t bother, use regular CDrs instead. But don’t buy ultra cheap disks; they fail far more often than branded CDs.

4. Leaving your desktop computers in sleep mode/standby

Modern computers shut down and start up so quickly there’s little benefit to leaving them in sleep mode (my 2009 Macbook Pro goes from cold to desktop in 8 secs). However, if you leave them in sleep mode they will be drawing electricity and thus costing you money. Shut them down. This tip also applies to musical instruments, mixing desks, televisions, in fact any appliance that you habitually leave on overnight. According to moneycentral at MSN.com… ‘Of the total energy used to run home electronics, 40% is consumed when the appliances are turned off’.

5. Equipment carry bags

Nothing wastes money like a false economy. You play gigs, you carry your equipment around in vans, taxi, subways, all manners of environments that are harmful to your precious instruments. We know we should protect our equipment, but how much protection does a plastic or PVC bag actually give you? Not much. In fact, the use of these bags might even cause you to damage your instruments if you carelessly throw them around thinking they’re protected. Don’t bother with them, and instead spend just a little bit more on flight cases.

http://www.flightcasewarehouse.co.uk/music/index.asp?groupID=2399

Steve Hillier teaches Music Business in London and Logic Music Production Online