Everyone already knows about pros and cons of outsourcing, but that’s not what I am here to discuss today. I did something a little strange and unusual, so bear with me while I explain.
In previous blog postings, I have written about how I have never met most of my employees or even talked to them over the phone, how I bought 2 flower stores 3000 miles away from me without ever visiting them or knowing anything about flowers or running a store, and how I try to keep everything in my business as virtual as possible. I have had very good experiences outsourcing work (programming, web design, etc.) through freelance sites such as oDesk.com and Guru.com, and I also outsource as much other work as possible like accounting and customer service.
I have never really done much with outsourcing things online for my personal life though. There are sites that specialize in this, like TaskRabbit.com where local people will do household errands and things on your to-do list for you, and Fiverr.com where you can outsource small virtual tasks for as little as $5. But, it is just something I never tried before. Then one day I happened to be reading an article about these sites and it motivated me to try to solve a non-business problem I was having. In the past 7 years I have written over 100 songs (mostly pop and hip-hop, see my site at MCEricB.com) as a hobby. The problem is that although I write good lyrics, I don’t play any instruments and I am a bad singer, so it is frustrating not to be able turn my lyrics into nice sounding songs. I recorded most of my songs by playing around with the instrumentals/beats that come built into my Casio keyboard and editing them into a backing track. This method of using prerecorded music was limiting, since it did not allow me to customize the songs at all.
For the most recent batch of songs that I wrote, I have melodies in my head to go with the lyrics, but did not record anything. Fiverr.com is filled with postings from musicians offering to create songs for you or to make your poems into songs, so I decided to have them turn some of my lyrics into songs. Ideally I would have had them try to make the songs like I heard them in my head, but there was no easy way to do that without spending a lot more time and money on it, so I decided to see what music they would come up with on their own using my lyrics. For prices ranging from $5 to $55 per song, I hired several of these musicians, and this is what they created (I posted their versions on my site):
I liked most of the songs they made, and thought I got great results for the small amount of money I spent, but I still wanted to hear what one of my songs would sound like if I could translate exactly what I hear in my head to actual music. On TV shows like Nashville, songwriters and singers are always making demos of their songs, so I decided to take things to the next level and make a real demo. After doing a little Googling, I was able to find some recording studios that make demos remotely, so you don’t have to physically be in their studio. You just email them your lyrics and a rough demo (I just sang the melody into my iPhone), and they have their studio musicians record it.
I ended up going with hoohahsongdemos mainly because they offered a low price (around $365) and their songs sounded professional. The cost would actually of only been $100 less if I was able to give them a rough demo version of my song on keyboard or guitar, but since I could not do that they told me I had to pay them extra for song writing assistance (co-writing).
Ten days later they sent me the finished song. I was somewhat surprised, because I was not aware they even had started working on it. The result was a mixture of good and bad. The good thing was that the song they created sounded like a real song on the radio. Very catchy, and not amateur like a homemade demo. The problem was that it did not sound that much like the vocal demo I gave them. They used my melody, but did the song at a much faster tempo, and by doing that they changed it from a sappy/emotional power ballad to a country rock/Americana song. I told them ahead of time what I was looking for, but I think because I was using their co-writing service (even though I didn’t want to), they made it sound how they thought was best. And, they did their job, because their version is much more likely to be a radio hit.
The problem is that is not really what I was looking for. The whole point was for me to showcase my songwriting, and translate what I heard in my head to a real song, so when they change significantly, it really does not help me any, even if their version is better. If I am not going to sing on it or play any of the instruments, I need it to at least sound how I envisioned it. Otherwise it is not really my song anymore.
All that being said, if I had just written the lyrics, but had no idea what music to use for the song, I would have been extremely pleased with what they gave me. Here’s what they came up with (click the link to listen to the song):
Since at this point I still did not have exactly what I wanted, which was to translate a song I wrote in my head into a real song that you might hear on the radio, I decided to regroup and do things a little differently moving forward. I did more research and found another recording studio that seems like a much better fit for what I need. They specialize in making songs just from lyrics and amateur homemade demos, and they will make the song exactly how I want it. But this time, to reduce the possibility of confusion, I am first paying one of the low-priced Fiverr.com musicians to make a rough demo that I can give to the recording studio. I am going back and forth with him about each aspect of the song while he is creating it for me, instead of wasting time doing this with costly studio musicians.
I will write what happens next in an upcoming blog posting, as my adventures in the music business continue.