Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Women of Influence: 10 Burning Questions with Annette Torres

When I initially thought of the series of Influencers I felt it was important to start with Women of Influence, especially in entertainment. Women in my opinion are not given their due for all the major contributions they make in society and I felt it was only fitting for us to begin with someone who embodies Influence. The person I selected for my first woman of Influence is Annette Torres. Annette is part of a band called Las Cafeteras, they are widely recognized as one of the most influential Latino bands and as noted by the latest Huffington Post article are 1 of 10 Latino musicians to keep an eye out for. There is no doubt I am a big fan of Annette and her band mates, Las Cafeteras.  Four years ago I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the band and they instantly captivated me with their unique sound, unbound energy and profound message of equality for all. 

The band combines the vibrant energy of Son Jarocho music with an edgy LA-alternative sound & political message. Their pounding Afro-Mexican rhythms, stomping zapateado dancing, & uplifting lyrics tell stories of everyday people searching for love & fighting for justice in the concrete jungle. This alt-son group re-mixes traditional sounds, adding Afro-Caribbean Marimbol, Native American Drum & Flute, Cajon, Hip Hop, English & Spanglish to Jarocho instruments like Jarana & Requinto Guitars, Donkey Jaw-Bone, & the Tarima (stomp box). 

I am pleased to introduce, Ms. Annette Torres.   

1.  Annette thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to sit with us. Tell us a little bit of who you are? What you do? Who you’ve worked with?
My name is Annette Torres, born in East Los Angeles, raised in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.  I am currently managing & booking for Las Cafeteras as well as play marimbol in the band.
I have worked with some great bands in Los Angeles and nationwide. To name a few we have worked with CafĂ© Tacuba’s Ruben Albarran (Hoppo!), Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Culture Clash, Lila Downs, Ozomatli, Aterciopelados, Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine), La Santa Cecilia, Fool’s Gold, Pilar Diaz, Ollin, Pachamama, He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, Adanowsky, Quetzal & many more.
2.  Those are some great bands, it’s obvious you and your band mates have put in the hard work. Keeping hard work in mind, what experience/advice has had the most impact on your career?
So many people have given me advice throughout my years, but I feel the best advice has been to follow my heart and intuition, and keep doing what I am doing.  If at the end of the day I am smiling, then I am on the right path.  

3. Great advice, Smiling is a great goal to strive for in any venture. Speaking of goals, did you set goals before reaching certain milestones?
Yes.  One of my goals was to obtain a college degree, which I did in Communications at Cal State Los Angeles. It was very important to me to obtain this degree, because I am a child of immigrant parents. My parents crossed the Mexican border for survival reasons. Unfortunately my parent’s dreams didn’t include higher education, only hard work and survival. I want to change this mentality in my family, and push education as being a viable and crucial opportunity for generations to come.  

I didn’t choose music, music chose me. Growing up I never considered becoming a musician, because we could not afford music classes due to lack of money.  I never dreamt I would be where I am now opening for Juanes and playing with the LA Philharmonic. These experiences have been gifts given to me by my higher power.  My goal with music is to be able to use it as a tool to empower communities all over the world. 
4. Education and empowering people through music, truly a Woman of Influence. Can you explain some of the misconceptions you hear from young artists/bands who are trying to break into the music industry?
I hear some musicians saying that they have to either change their music, or change their name to fit the mainstream public/media. I say be original, and never change to please other people. 

5. Be original and uncompromising in your art/music, not much more to add to that. Are there any specific book(s) or articles you would recommend to aspiring artists?
I read a lot of spiritual books. I feel that artists need to learn to stay grounded while going into this industry. There is a lot of rejection, compromises with band members, and competition from other artists. If one as an artist stays grounded, then none of this will be taken personally, and you will have more of a chance to stay mentally healthy. A book can only teach you so much.  Most of what I have learned has been by asking advice from others, or learning from my mistakes while attempting to do it on my way.  I have messed up a lot, and that has been a perfect lesson to doing it right the next time around. 

6. Overall, experience is the best teacher. Do you have a favorite quote(s) or mantra you live by?
“Thoughts Become Things.” I live by this quote because it is so true.  My life is a direct reflection on how I feel about myself.  Everything in my life, good or bad has been created by my thoughts.  I am the director in my own life, and so the only one that is held responsible for my decision is, me. 

7. There is no doubt your thoughts have become great things in your musical experiences. What advice would you give young women thinking about entering the music field as a profession?
Music to me is like medicine.  If music is what you want to pursue for the rest of your life, or at least for the moment, do it.  Never let anyone get in the way of your dreams, or inflict fear in your choice to become a musician.  Don’t compromise your self-worth to get ahead in this business.  You can get there on your own. Money will come slowly for some, but surely for most.  

8. Who would benefit from your services/talent?
My hope is that everyone benefits from what I am doing.  I am a single mother, so I am always rooting for single mother’s to follow their heart and keep doing what they love to do.  Women in general are my focus, because we have a voice, and our stories are very significant.  We don’t always get to tell or share our experiences, and it is something that we are missing in this world.  

Thank you for your honesty & insight, just two more questions on a lighter note…

9. If you could only use one cuss/curse word for the rest of your life, which would it be and why? Glad this question was asked now, and not a few years ago when I use to cuss quite a bit. Shit! This word to me is just to express a feeling like when I hit myself, or someone tells me something exciting.  It is non-offensive, and I can get away with it most of the time.

10. If you could have a superpower or be a superhero for a day; who/what would it be and why?  Having this much power is too much pressure. Not sure if I would want the responsibility.  Ok how about have the ability to travel through space and time of my choosing.

Annette, words cannot express our gratitude to you for taking the time to sit with us and answering some important questions for individuals looking to get into the entertainment business. You are the epitome of a Woman of Influence.

Thank you so much for your absolute honesty and for opening your heart completely as well as sharing your wisdom as an industry professional.

If you are interested in booking Annette and Las Cafeteras or want to hear more from the band please visit them at:

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do I Need A Record Deal?


You’ve calculated what it’s going to cost for recording studio time, mixing and mastering your song(s).
What studio you will be using, hopefully you’ve picked us :). You know if you’re going to hire a producer, buy beats online, use an up and coming producers, etc. Congrats! That’s part 1.

After you record your masterpiece how will you be selling it to your customer? There are a lot of avenues to do this. You can sell it on your website, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, etc. You have a plethora of options. In our example we’ll use iTunes since it dominates this space.

Let’s create a breakeven analysis. A break even analysis tells us how many songs and/or albums we’d need to sell to make our money back, our investment. We will use the numbers from our previous post.
We know that a 5 song recording project is going to cost us $625.

Of course this will vary a bit if you go off budget but it’s a pretty good estimate. Let’s say you decided to use iTunes as your means of distribution. iTunes albums range in price but let’s use the average. The average price a 5 song album sells for is $4.99 or $.99 a song. If you were to sell the album for $4.99 then you’d need to sell 126 albums to breakeven or, 632, $.99 Singles.

Single Price

Album Price


I’ve over simplified this example so that you can understand how to effectively choose your recording services and means of distribution to maximize your investment. Choosing which services to use is a moving target and they need to be analyzed on a per album basis. Keep in mind that going with the cheapest is not always the right choice either. The better the quality the more you can demand in the market place. The lower the quality the less of an attraction you’ll have. If you put yourself in the iTunes pool you’re competing with industry giants which means you need to sound as good as they do.

Best of luck.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Budget Busted! How To Avoid Budget Problems

Thoughts from a Seasoned Music Producer on how to properly plan your budget and finish your project on deadline.

 Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals throughout my career and have seen why they’ve always released on time and with satisfactory results. Two key items come into play.
  1. Objective
    1. How many songs on the album
    2. Live musicians/Producer/Beat Maker
    3. Engineers
    4. Hard copies or digital download
  2. Budget
    1. How much can I spend
    2. What is my break even point per single and/or album
These few points have helped me price a project and rarely go over budget.

For example, let’s use the typical mixtape promo release. What is a mixtape? The mixtape is a collection of songs that a hip hop artist would use to promote his songs. Usually the beats are leased or given to the artist by an upcoming producer for free to help promote the production as well. For my example I will assume you got the production from an up and coming producer and he didn’t charge you anything. This will be a 5 song EP.
Items Cost per Amount Total
Production/Beat $0.00 0 $0.00
Studio Time $50.00 1 $50.00
Mixing $50.00 1 $50.00
Mastering $25.00 1 $25.00

Per Song $125.00

5 Songs $625.00

An artist that is prepared can realistically record one song in one hour. We’re talking about two 16 bar verses and an 8 bar hook. In addition to the structure of the song, layer double, triple and ad lib vocals. Once these vocals are laid down to the 2 track instrumental then the engineer takes over the balancing act of mixing. The trick here is to make the vocals sit in the song and not like you’re rapping over a karaoke song.

An experienced mix engineer will get your vocal balance to the music in about an hour or two. This is dependent on the quality of the recording as well as mic choice used for the artist. That’s why it’s important to hire a professional recording engineer since he will be selecting the proper mic for your voice and room. Not all microphones work on all voices.

The last phase is the mastering of the song. The mastering engineer takes that mix and brings it to industry standard levels. The reason I would recommend mastering is because it makes your song competitive to the quality of a major recording artist.

To be competitive you have to think how your market is thinking. A major label is thinking in volumes and how they can monopolize on their target market. The music business is no different than any other business.
I know this seems very basic but you wouldn’t believe how many artists starting a project have no idea what their budget is. Having a road map to your destination keeps you focused and side tracks distractions. Writing it down saves you time and money.