The 2-minute Soundcloud preview method

The 2-minute Soundcloud preview method, as I call it, is about creating tracks previews that are 2 minutes long. Why that length?

If you look at most track previews labels and artists are sharing online, they’re about 2 minutes in length. This unofficial standard got popular during the early days of Soundcloud when a little problem was discovered involving people being able to download full tracks from the website; not the full resolution file, but the streaming version, which is very low quality. Many tracks leaked this way and it’s crazy to think some people used those versions to play in podcasts or even in clubs!

So then, why post 2-minute tracks?

Many labels look for artists by browsing their Soundcloud page and it doesn’t look good if the page is empty. As a result, some artists started creating “fake” songs, as 2-minute tracks, often with artwork created by an online app. The crazy outcome of this behaviour was that some people/labels started asking artists to release some of those two-minute tracks, which forced the artists to finish them.

The pros of uploading 2-minute mini-tracks is that if someone connects with you about one, you’ll know what’s working best from all the tracks you have online. This particularly useful if you have a large number of sketches and wonder which ones have the most potential. The cons of this approach, if done poorly, is that it can really backfire at you, and make you look (very) unprofessional.

That said, if your goal is to get some traction online, this method can really be effective. Some people also need motivation and direction to get things done so this approach might be good for you if you’re one of those artists. Here are some tips on how to approach this effectively, to get most out of it:

Use tracks that are in progress to avoid getting caught with unexpected requests. The more advanced you are in the arrangements, the better. You can actually use a complex 2-minute base as a way to find the final ideas of your track. Uploading a very simple loop is not a good idea as it might sound completely empty.

Make sure it is mixed properly. This might be the most difficult part of it, but make sure the mixdown is solid. Use some compression and have a limiter on the master to glue it together.

Make sure the main idea of the track is exposed in the preview. What I mean here is, be sure that if someone listens to your preview, they will have an idea of what the song is about. If you need a better idea, go to and listen to previews of records to see what I mean.

Have something strong to say. Make sure your loop is exciting, has something special in it and has a memorable element that might make people want to hear more. This is the most critical aspect of your 2-minute track.

Try to have very different song ideas from one to another. If you have too many previews that all sound exactly the same, it’s sort of like having a colour palette with a multitude of beige variations; have different colors but keep an aesthetic that is in tune with your style.

Make sure the mixdown is solid, then normalize. If you don’t use a limiter, export it normalized, this will create a louder version.

Limit the total number of tracks on your Soundcloud page. Try to pick a number between 10 and 15 then never have more. Why? Because you don’t want to be that artist that has zillions of unsigned tracks either. Remove older ones and remove ones that have no comments or likes. This is not good for momentum (see my previous post).

Indicate if the track is unsigned. Let people know the track isn’t signed or mastered; this helps clarify to people who listen to it.

So then, when do you finally finish one of these 2-minute tracks? You should decide to finish it when it generates some sort of buzz. If you get a DJ asking for a copy of a track for a podcast, this can be as important as if a label would like to sign it. If someone interested in your track, don’t sleep on it; let me know of your results!


SEE ALSOIntuition for decisions in music production   

Not getting booked for shows? Try this.

If there’s one thing that haunts all artists, it’s entering a phase where you’re not getting booked for shows, or not getting any attention in general. Perhaps you were enjoying a phase of being booked frequently that’s now coming to an end, or perhaps the music ecosystem is changing and you might be out of tune with what’s currently demand.

Not getting booked can actually be a good thing.

When I come into a period where bookings start slowing down (or requests to work with me), I think of this new phase as a sort of “hibernation”; it’s a time to focus on other things that are important for the next time I start getting booked again to re-create upward momentum. Getting booked regularly is sort of like a wave you can surf for a while, but it can end, and you should take a moment to question why the ecosystem isn’t supporting you anymore. Perhaps it needs to be re-energized, or perhaps it’s time to change waves.

Even if your wave fades out, you can still rebuild your momentum.

“Momentum is when you manage to get a certain amount of people to talk about something you created enough to generate a certain level of enthusiasm that reaches other people out of your circle of contacts, organically.”

For instance, you might publish a song on Soundcloud and have a certain number of people who comment, like, repost but you didn’t ask for it. You can view this as the beginning of a wave. The number one mistake people make that hurts their momentum is release a track out of the blue and expect people to listen to and engage with it without any additional preparation or planning; doing this will make you bitter and frustrated.

To remain humble and grounded, let me offer you a few rules I’ve applied throughout my musical life:

  1. You are in no way entitled to have people listening to and liking your music.
  2. It’s not because a track is published online that it will sell, get success, or get attention.
  3. You are work in progress. Your next one will be better.

Through the experience of running my label Archipel for years, as well as other projects, I noticed that what created momentum was the usually initiated through a few diverse actions. The more imaginative you are, the better the results will be. Some of these actions include:

  • Having a really cool picture of yourself online. Artwork is also cool.
  • Uploading a video to Youtube.
  • Sharing positive news regarding something that is not related to yourself.
  • Contributing to someone else’s success.
  • Hanging out with friends and sharing it on social media. Bonus points if you did something fun that people do want to hear about.

Some basic marketing rules also apply here. Apparently, if people see three things you’ve done, it will imprint an impression on their memory. Sharing something positive will leave a better impression. Another general rule is that people enjoy useful information. Helping others or being part of something always strikes a chord in people. Being selfless in most of your online posts vs self-promotion is a critical tone you want to hit on. If you’re constantly posting things that are egotistically and promoting “your brand”, no one will pay attention.

Let’s create a plan that uses all these points in a hypothetical scenario to promote a song you’re releasing. In this hypothetical situation, we will try to create momentum online to have people come and listen to the track. Our goal for this is to get more online followers, widen up your network, and hopefully get a bit of attention from labels and some DJs who might play it out.

Scenario: Release a track on Soundcloud; we’ll take two weeks to build up momentum but the more time you take, the better.

First, try to visualize a number of plays you’d like based on a model track you like. Find a producer you like who produces music similar to you and have roughly equal or a bit more followers than you do. The main mistake people make is to try to replicate plays of far more popular musicians. Let’s say your track has 140 plays, 3 reposts and 14 likes.

A relatively successful track is identified by the number of likes vs the number of plays. I would say that 10% ratio is very good already, but if you make it up to 15 pr 20%, then I’d say the track was a success. The trick to get your ratio in the right zone is to have interested people to listen. If you’re marketing to too many random people that aren’t your target listeners, you’ll end up with many plays, but few likes; this is why reposts are important.

Do not pay for followers and plays. It will make you look really, really unprofessional.

Now that you know all these details, let’s try to create momentum for the self-release:

  • Spend an hour a day on Soundcloud building up your network. People won’t follow out of nowhere. The need a reason to and usually they’re in the same boat as you: they want to connect with people who make music and also need attention. Find music you love, follow as many artists who share the same tastes as you and leave positive comments on their music if you like it. Repost music you really like, reply to comments people address to you. The more you’re present, engaged, active and cultivate good tastes, the more people you’ll attract online. People often feel staying on top of social media like this demanding, but remember that you only reap what you sow.
  • Clean up your social media accounts. For many artists, this is a chore they hate but it’s a necessary evil if you aspire to create momentum online. You need a specific look and feel; i.e having a solid picture of yourself, no posts that make you look unprofessional, etc. Keep it simple and solid, look at the profiles of other artists to get ideas or ask for help from a friend who’s good with social media.
  • Link your Twitter with Soundcloud using IFTT. This will make sure that when you post a new track or like one, a Tweet will be sent. This is a good way to make sure people are aware you are active.
  • Connect with groups on Facebook and connect with others. Contacting someone doesn’t mean sending a none sense message out of the blue saying “bro, check my Soundcloud”, but trying to befriend them. The best promotion is when others promote your music for you but to do that, you need their collaboration and support. That comes over time with social investment.
  • As the release date arrives, be socially active and focus on helping others. The more you focus on others, the better it will be when you need their support. No one has to help you, but it’s more likely they will feel like it if you show interest in what they do, too. This is what I was saying earlier, share other people’s music, or any related news to show interest and that you truly like in them.
  • Prepare a video on Youtube. There’s are multiple free resources out there to do this. Just make one. It can be a full version of the track or not. You can contact Youtubers that share a lot of music to see if they want to premiere it.
  • Have good artwork for your release done. You can check on Fiverr for some help or maybe ask a friend who’s willing.
  • Get the track mastered or checked.
  • Share it with DJs so they can play it in podcasts. Best case scenario, a podcast goes online premiering your track the day before or day it’s released. Perhaps you can delay the date if necessary to work with a podcast creator. If you feel like you can do a podcast yourself with a good series, that can help.

As the release date approaches, have some online presence about 3-4 times a day on different channels. You can post in groups (but not shamelessly about yourself!), share things, comment. Be active. When you want to release the track, you need to get it out in a huge blast.

It’s your time to shine, make it right! Cover all your channels and talk about your release, but stay as humble as possible. When you post it, don’t have a tone that gives the impression that you expect something from someone, but instead that you’re simply happy you finished the track and want to share it.

Releasing music during the beginning of the week at a moment when people can actually listen is a good strategy.

Post-mortem comes usually a week after. Look at your stats and see what worked and didn’t work.

I hope this helps!


SEE ALSO :    Make Your Music Bucket List Happen 

The creative burnout no one is talking about

Around 2008, as I was coming back from the doctor’s office, I felt completely lost. He told me that I had to change what I was doing because I was heading straight for creative burnout. At that time, in my career, I felt like it was in its peak: I was touring, releasing music, making remixes, was invited to great festivals, and had an occasional part time job as a teacher. I had nothing to complain about; I felt I was pretty much living my dream.

So what was going on exactly?

Before I explain, I want say that this post is about sharing what I’ve learned the hard way. I’m talking about an important thing no one will tell you:

It’s not because you do what you love that you’re shielded from your limitations. It’s mostly because by doing what you love, you may overlook that it remains a form of work.

When you do what you love, you feel invincible. This might be related to the feeling of flow, explained by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, which is a state you get into when you create or become really focused. The thing about music is, it’s about inspiration, and inspiration doesn’t come about “when you need it”, it just happens.

How do you recognize the signs that could announce you’re on the verge of crashing?

  • Negative output in discussions. Do you observe yourself talking negatively to your friends or on social medias? It’s interesting to look at a week of posting on Facebook and see if you’ve been more positive or negative.
  • Lost of interest for music or anything you used to love.
  • Desire to announce you’re “retiring” (from DJing or anything), selling all your gear, deleting projects, quitting.
  • Cynicism towards the music world, what you do, others who make music.
  • Jealousy, envy, feeling discouraged when being around other artists who are doing OK.

Keep track if any of these are persistent.

These obstacles may lead to burnout:


Going from a “normal” full time job to transforming a hobby you love into a job involves a pretty steep learning curve. There are multiple things to take in consideration . Money in the artist’s life is the source of a huge amount of stress. Not only can you not predict when things will work, but when they do, you don’t know how long the ride will last Since there’s no obvious relationship between the creative work you do and what you harvest, it becomes very easy to overwork. Pair that with the pleasure of making music, and at first you’ll feel you have too much time on your hands to know what to do with. As I described in a previous post about how spending a long time in the studio is counter-productive; you can easily ruin a lot of your own music. During the early years when I was making music full time, I felt I didn’t create music that was as meaningful as when I was working and doing music on the side; this realization has changed my way of making music for the better.

In my case, with my label (Archipel), mastering, touring, and everything else, I really was working up to 60 hours per week. I forgot to take care of my health. No wonder I couldn’t keep up the pace after a few years went by. When you do what you love, it never feels like work, but it is.


Managing your expectations is extremely tricky in the arts domain. The ultimate goal is to get recognition, because many things unfold after that. Or do do they?

It’s very difficult to tell, and it messes up your zen. For instance, if you believe that this release on a specific label will give you certain opportunities, or you think that playing in a gig will lead you to get better gigs, or working with an agent will give you more visibility, etc, all these things – in theory – could be true. You admire specific role models who’ve made it to a level you want to reach, but you might never seem to get there even by doing the same things.

Why isn’t there a recipe that you can follow that will guarantee results?

The arts are a big gamble; a lottery where the turn out is not determined by anything rational other than – most probably – timing and networking. And even if you have those right, it might not lead to anything at all.

The only thing you can control is your patience and resilience. That’s about it.

Some people will tell you that hustling hard might make a difference, but you might get to the opposite of what you want; people don’t like artist who are constantly “pushing their brand”. Knowing when and when not to have expectations is certainly incredibly healthy, especially if you can reduce them to be realistic.

In conclusion, what I’d recommend based on my experiences with creative burnout:

  • If you can live a healthy life of work/music making, try to keep doing it as long as possible. It’s not only good for you, but you will have money to invest in your craft. Balance is everything.
  • If you are brave enough to try to live off music making, treat it as a job. Give yourself time to not work – that’s equally valuable.
  • Find a new hobby. Since music used to be yours and now it fills your whole time, try doing other things.
  • Sleep long nights and nap. Avoid partying on a regular basis.
  • Collaborate, delegate, ask for help. Connecting with other humans is always amazing for recovery!


SEE ALSO : Mindfulness for Creatives

Playing Electronic Music Live – How to Prepare Your Live Set (Part 3)

After the first two parts on this series of posts about playing electronic music live, we arrive at our final topic: clip arrangements, song organization and sound preparation.

Clip Preparation

I hope you did your homework from part two where I asked you to take your arrangements and turn them into an Ableton Live session. If you’ve done this, you’ll see that this task is pretty demanding and can be confusing, because you might feel your song(s) aren’t the same anymore, or perhaps they don’t make any sense. But trust me, even if you feel like you have failed in arranging your sessions, it will start to make more sense as we continue. What really matters is that you now have material loaded into the session view.

What if my track is so simple that I have only a few clips in the session view?

That’s not a problem, the idea is to have something. Part of the beauty of a live set is that once you have all your tracks in the session, you’ll shape them into a longer set. A live set isn’t like a DJ set, where you focus on transitions and track selections; it’s way more flexible and involves constant shaping to create a bigger picture.

1st To Do: Import all Your tracks into one big project

For the sake of this exercise, please start by creating a blank new live set that you’ll name “My Live Set” where you’ll have 12 channels to start with.

Next we will import all songs into that project. There are two ways to do this and it’s up to you to decide what is the best for you. I personally like to open a track, grab all clips in the session, copy (cmd+c), then open your “My Live Set” project and paste. You can also copy through the browser and should you be more comfortable using that method, do it that way.

One of the great new features of Ableton 10 is that groups now appear in the browser; which could be a good way to organize your work to re-import later on.

You should also consider copying audio leftovers over from each track. These unused pieces are more precious than you think, in a live context. A leftover is anything in your track that was created but didn’t make the final cut. It could be a variation, some weird FX, vocals, whatever – basically, anything will do. The idea behind leftovers is to create material for your live version to make it differ from the original song; it will add an edge.

Once you have all your tracks imported, you have a better idea of your whole session.

“How many tracks do I need for a 1h set?”

The answer here is hard to figure out until you’ve rehearse and determine your natural flow. After years of playing and recording my sets, I’ve figure that each of my tracks average a rough 6 to 8 minutes in a live context. This also includes the transitions (i.e two songs overlapping for 1-2  minutes, to make things smooth enough like a DJ would).

The total time of the tracks is not necessarily important to figure out. If you’re creative, you might even play the tracks in a random order.

2nd To Do: Name and color all clips appropriately

People often overlook this part but trust me, the better the organization, the less stress you’ll have in a live context. Never believe yourself when your mind says “oh I’ll remember what this clip is.” This is why names are important, but also, the clip color. All kicks should be the same color, basses and so on. My personal coding colors have been:

Kicks: red (grabs my attention)

Low end, bass: brown

Percussions: yellow

Claps/snare: Orange

Hihats: grey

Melodic elements: Blue, in various tons as some are different.

One thing about colors that helps is if you’re playing a track while in transition to another one, you can see the color of the other clip that you can’t see on screen.

Please note that I don’t necessarily recommend putting all of the same sounds in the same channels. You might want to mix, for instance, hihats of track A with the ones of track B. If both track’s hihats are in the same channel, you won’t be able to mix them and one will play after the other (only one clip can be played in a channel at a time).

Scene organization

Organizing your scenes is time-consuming, and it will also be what you’ll be reworking the most. It will also get your songs to have more of a live feel. For this section, I’ll use an example of one of my latest live sets to explain what I did, and why.

This song starts at the second row (scene).

Channel headers: As you can see, header colors aren’t important to me so much but there is a section all in white. This is because I use two MIDI controllers for controlling the volumes and the second section is for the second controller. This is also why they’re numbered so I know which slider they refer to on the actual controller.

3rd To Do: Map your channels to the appropriate elements of your controllers

Think of how you want to control your set on a base level, which is the channels in most cases. This is the most important part to pin down, because as you prepare your set, you’ll need to control volume sliders. Map your channels to the appropriate elements of your controllers. If your controller has buttons, I’d also map them to the mute buttons. Mutes are very important.

Buffer rows: As you can see, alternating rows before and after each busy row have scene of empty clips. You can also see that they have the “stop” square in them. I create “buffer rows” for two reasons: the buffers help know where the song starts and begins, but they also serve as a quick way to toggle a clip to stop playing if necessary.

4th To Do: Add 1-3 buffer rows between each song

The first scene/row of each track: The first row, to me, is the most important one. Over years of playing, I’ve settled on a super minimalist version of my live set where I play mostly loopy music with variations which really enforced the importance of the first row of the set.

The first row has various various roles:

  • It is the introduction of your song: It will be used in the transition from the previous track.
  • It is the core idea of your song: All sounds that are playing from beginning to end of your song should be placed here and remove everything below. In my case, the kick will be the same from beginning to end. The length of the kick will be 4 bars long and include variations. Some people like to add multiple clips underneath as variations to trigger, so that is always another option, but think that whatever remains the same throughout should be there.
  • Tension relief: If you noodle around, create an improvised breakdown or start removing sounds. You can use the right side play to then trigger all sounds at once to come back to the song’s full intensity and main idea. This point is very important if you think you’ll be exploring and improvising as you’ll need an anchor.

5th To Do: Make a solid core

Supplementary/following scenes: There are multiple ways to use the scenes that follow your initial introduction. To “play it safe” you could simply have each scene play as the track evolves. The good thing about this approach is that by having all scenes on hand, you can deconstruct the timeline of your song by playing them in different orders. My favourite way of doing this is to have variations of a scene, such as one line with hihats, one with none, one with two playing and a clap, etc, same for melodies. This way I can play variations but I can also trigger one entire line and have a “ready-to-go” new take. If you look at my live set screenshot above, you’ll also see that under one sample “Tommydrum”, I have the same clip three times using variations in timing or tweaks in the versions. I can toggle between them as I need them.

Last To Do: Plan your follow-up lines/scenes and decide what you use.

In the next post, we’ll discuss rehearsing, sound calibration and advanced clip settings!