Starting Out

From DJ To Producer

What You'll Need

If you’re a DJ or electronic artist you may want to venture into producing or create remixes of other artists’ songs. To begin to make this transition, you’re going to need to have the technical know-how and creative ideas to make the most of other people's music. You’ll also need the right software and the rights to any samples that you plan to use.

If you include a sample of someone’s music on one of your tracks, you’ll actually be infringing on two separate copyrights – the song copyright and the recording copyright. The rights to the song are normally owned by the writer of the song or their publisher. The recording will most likely be owned by the record company that first released the track. If you want to use any of these samples, you’re going to have to get all of these people on board – which is normally easier said than done. For advice on how to clear samples, check out our Your Money and Your Rights section.

If you’re looking for inspiration try thinking of iconic phrases in popular songs that you could sample. Often short lyrical phrases can have a new relevance when taken out of context from the original track. You could also look into sampling sound effects from computer games or films or cuts from the radio or podcasts, but clearing samples can be a time-consuming and expensive business.

Luckily, many bits of software available include a library of royalty-free samples, saving you the hassle of tracking down the owners of the copyright to ask their permission to use their work in your tracks. Apple’s Logic Studio Pro has an enormous bank of samples, which is partly why it’s quite pricey. You might find that GarageBand, bundled with many Mac machines, will do the job if you’re just starting out. You can also find royalty-free samples in the form of downloadable drum machine packs and plugins, or buy sample packs of breaks and beats created by other producers. Some of these bundles can be bought from websites like Samples For Music, Samplegate and Smart Loops - you can then use these samples in your normal editing package or a production package like Cubase.

If you’re going to sample something, make sure you let the artist or owner of the material know. Oh, and before you think of it – slowing down a sample or speeding it up so it sounds like a chipmunk won’t help you get around the copyright. For more info check our our section on Sampling

If you want to be a producer or remixer then you're going to need to find other artists to work with. Like anything, it's about starting small and building a name for yourself. You could ask a friend's band or a local band from your area if you could remix one of their tracks for them - if it turns out well they might even use it as a b-side or give it away online. Even signed bands are often keen to hear new mixes of their tracks, which might help them to reach a new audience. Toddla T helped make a name for himself by remixing tracks for artists like Little Boots, Ladyhawke, Hot Chip and Tricky.

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