Deane OgdenTwice today, people have written me to ask what I think the best solo female vocal library out there is.

Twice today, I’ve answered the same thing: “Nothing.”

There is nothing out there, as good as some of them are, that will do what you **really** want it to.

You want it to sing.

And it’s not going to. It’s only going to hum, or ooh, or aah, or eh, or oh… but it will never **sing**.

It can’t. It doesn’t know how. Even with a “word builder”, you are not going to get the realism you want. Word builders are not human beings. They don’t have brains. They can’t make choices.

This is not “get off my lawn” rhetoric. This is years and years of producing vocal sessions whilst having to satisfy budgets and get the most mileage for the time allotted.

Most emerging composers and producers will fight for the idea that it’s more cost effective to use vocal libraries than it is to spend the money on a live vocalist. However, anyone who’s done this before can confidently explain that the return on investment, when you do the math, absolutely suggests otherwise. If you add up all the man-hours of searching, manipulating, editing, tweaking, EQing, cutting/pasting, pitch-correcting, automation drawing, time-shifting, velocity curving, etc. with a fabricated voice, versus two or three hours of instructed studio vocalist session takes, it’s clear which makes more sense.

A vocalist, if directed well, will knock out a complicated vocal part for a score or trailer track in a few hours or less. The average studio singer can give you several takes of a detailed pop or rock track in an hour or two, tops. That’s radio-ready final recordings, not demo-quality placeholder material. I’m talking finished printable tracks. Boom. Done.

Let’s say that you sit down one day and crunch the numbers on your career (which I recommend EVERYONE should do, by the way!). Let’s just say hypothetically you discover your time is worth $500 an hour as a producer. Let’s also say it takes you three hours to craft a vocal track from a sample library. Okay… not bad. Maybe not great, depending on where you are at… but it’s not terrible. Mileage will vary from composer to composer. You can use your own numbers… the equation is the same.

Now, what if a session singer cost you $1000 for three hours of live material?

Which is better?

Don’t forget that you have to purchase the vocal library in the first place, which will run you – conservatively – say, $99.

So, already you are into the “virtual” world to the tune of $1,600, when you could have saved over a third of your budget by simply going with a live voice to begin with.

Again, the numbers may be different for you depending on the level you are working at, but roughly, this translates to any solo instrument you might want to use. Drums, violin, trumpet, cello, voice, piano, guitars, keyboard programming, duduk, etc. Anything. Frickin’ handbells!

And, frankly, it’s how you build a “business” rather than simply “making tracks”. It’s how you go from your garage to owning a studio complex. You sell one track, but instead of spending all the profit (whether it’s $50 or $5,000), you reinvest 60-80% of that back into your business and then live off the remaining 40-20%. You shift your mindset from, “Wowzers!! I sold a track — now I can go buy more gear… OR … go on that trip … OR … go get that PS4!”. What you really should be doing, and what any economics professor would tell you, is reinvesting in yourself at the corporate level, not the personal one… putting 60-80% of your profits back into your company and finding a way, and surely sacrificing to do so, to maintain the standard of living you are accustomed to until you are financially able to expand sensibly down the line.

That’s not me talking……… that’s every successful entrepreneur who’s ever lived. That’s ECON101.

These days? Things have drastically changed. It’s a buyer’s market in the arts. You can lament that, or you can embrace it and see what I see — a very clear and incredible opportunity to do what you love and build something meaningful whilst doing it, in turn creating a scenario by which hundreds of thousands of other people around the globe, just like you, are also interested in the same sound/visuals/literature you are.

For the cost of your monthly Starbucks shell-out, plus maybe a couple subscription services like Netflix, Dropbox, or FreshBooks, you could be using live collaborators on almost everything you do. As a musician, I bet at the very least you could be using live players and singers on 80% of your recorded material. Seriously. If you have an excuse as to why you can’t, then you still don’t understand the economics of ROI. You’re not thinking it through from a financial perspective of abundance and opportunity creation… not for you, but for THEM! If you come at it from the vantage point of someone who has the power to create a job for someone, there are not many limitations on what is possible for you as a business owner. The side-benefit is that you get to be one-half of that spectacular moment when two creative minds collide to create something beautiful.

Contrary to popular belief, the business of “art” hasn’t changed… the mindset of the art proprietor has.

It actually costs less than you might think these days to get a top-flight cellist on your track. Or to have an A-list singer sing your song. Like it or hate it, we are living through an era of “sharing economy”. This reality compounds the opportunities for anyone who has a skill to share or a service to serve up.

But, but, but……… Deane! It still costs a lot to record a really great musician from LA/London/New York!

Of course, it does. The best people cost the most. Duh! News flash… you’ll find that to be true in the world of electricians, attorneys, doctors, auto mechanics, or restauranteurs, as well. You’ll rarely get away with employing the very best people, those at the top of their industry, for peanuts. Of course. But, if you work hard enough and turn enough “at bats” into singles, doubles, or maybe even a triple every once in awhile, you’ll eventually make enough money to afford those golden unicorn talents.

But for now? Find the up-and-comers who are just as hungry to work as you are to be signed or published or synched or heard, and pay those people what they are worth in the free market. This strategy will not only build your business into something more than just “a person in a bedroom”, but it will also make your product much more commercially viable, let alone interesting. And guess what… you’ll find after some time that those up-and-coming people are the right people for your personality, anyway. Take it from me: It’s a real treat to *work* on something with your heroes, but it’s a thrill to *build* something with your peers.

I want to challenge people to stop thinking “small”. Stop operating from a mindset of scarcity. Instead, think BIG and operate from a mindset of ABUNDANCE. What could you accomplish by adopting that kind of approach? Which do you think is the most attractive magnet for people? What could you change about this business of ours if you did?

Doesn’t that seem like way more fun anyway?


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