Home Music Recording Success Stories to Learn From

From cabin to Heetseekers # 1:

How Justin Vernon Turned a Home Recording into a Top Charting Self Released Album


Action plan:

  1. Record an album at home that you are excited about. Consider taking it to a mastering house or letting a pro edit and master your album. Not everybody can do everything, don't be afraid to ask for help.
  2. Compile lists of anyone and everyone who can review and promote your album. Send it to all those blogs, all those review sites.
  3. Put it online for streaming down. Don't give away MP3s, rather, put a few songs on your My Space page. Justin did that, and also made the album available on a site called virb.com. What you want is to have a couple of tracks go viral, at the same time as building buzz in the blogosphere.
  4. Follow that up by contacting real record companies, and see what happens.

Does the name Bon Iver mean anything to you? It's one of the hottest debuts of the last two years, with the album, For Emma, Forever Ago, reaching first place on Billboard's Heat seekers index. It has been released by a proper label, and has scored very high on charts on both sides of the pond. Written and performed by Justin Vernon, this album is the dream come true of so many of us. Why?

Because it was recorded at home.

Not just at home, but with a four track and a few microphones. " That's all I had ... my computer, my four-track stuff, my microphones were probably in my car for two weeks before I brought it in.. It was mostly an old-model Macintosh and ProTools LE," for mixing, mastering, and finishing what was supposed to be a demo, Vernon told the online site, avclub.com. And on the Rhapsody blog, he says, " I had a very light set-up, a basic recording set-up: a SM57 and an old Silvertone guitar. I had my brother drop off his old drums... some other small things – things I would make or find lying around."

That sounds within reach of all of us.

Anyway, pleased with his demo, he gave copies to his friends. When he told a band member of The Rosebuds that this was his demo, the guy said to him no, it's your album. " At that point, I thought the songs were just demos. I was only trying to mix them really, really nice to send out to a few labels to see if they would give me money to record a " regular" album. But I handed my couple buddies a copy of the CD, and literally, after handing those out, it never slowed down. It started an avalanche and I had no choice but to put it out as a record." (http://www.treblezine.com/features/143.html)

More specifically, what he did was described briefly by avclub.com: After Vernon sent out copies of For Emma to blogs and websites and streamed the record free online, Bon Iver (a bastardized version of the French phrase for " good winter" ) became an underground hit, prompting indie label Jagjaguwar to pick up the record for a proper release in February. (http://www.avclub.com/articles/justin-vernon-of-bon-iver,14201)

And there you have it. That is how it is possible to make a recording at home, with the simplest equipment, and build a worldwide career. Needless to say, your music must be great and must really excite people. And even using home equipment, you've got to know how to use it well. A little secret is that fancy equipment, in the wrong hands, can do more harm than good. Gear with less options can provide amazing results for talented musicians.

Justin Vernon is living proof. Check out his music on eMusic or Amazon

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