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Zero To Hero: The Ursus Project

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Future Garage in the charts. All your friends, all their friends, and all their flatmates going to festivals, every summer. Every houseparty backed by at least two laptop DJs.  EDM. Electronic music has made it into popular culture to such an extent even calling it electronic music is starting to feel old fashioned.

There is one flipside to the vast popularity of this genre however. Call it naivety, jealousy or just 3-pints-in nonsense, but high-end producers and DJs now get the same flak has high end sport stars and actors. We’ve all heard, perhaps all said, that phrase at least once in the smoking area having just come from the main room:

“Yeah, but anyone can make it big nowadays.” 

It’s more than a statement. It’s a polarised debate. On the one hand, ease of access to production software, low equipment costs, and the vast, billion-page forum that is the internet means that in theory, any one individual can ‘make it’. Big gigs. Big tunes. Recognition. Artists such as Zedd, Hardwell and Zane Lowe have regularly talked about a kind of musical revolution as nowadays money, location or formal training has no bearing on the scope for mega success as a producer.

But, is it easy? Everyone’s favourite sociopath, Deadmau5, regularly says so. However, ask the hundreds of thousands of aspiring producers DJing the graveyard shift at their local on a Friday night, fielding requests for Nicki Minaj before going home to toil over a remix they pray will get a few hits on Soundcloud, and suddenly the game seems more complex.

So. We’ve thrown down the gauntlet.

Data Transmission have decided to see for themselves, how hard it is to ‘make it’ as a recognised producer.

‘Making it’ of course could mean anything. So we’re going to start with the first hurdle of any aspiring producer: Getting signed to a label.

To do this, we’ve enlisted two elements. We’ve spoken to the UKs most prestigous online music school Point Blank who offer online courses in every aspect of music production.

Next, we’ve found an average, Joe-Normal, DJ. Many of our readers will DJ as a hobby, playing out occasionally, so we’ve picked our man with this in mind.

– Like many of you, he played a lot at Uni, and now he plays sporadic gigs around London.

– Like many of you, full of optimism he bought Ableton years ago, knows his way around it, but he’s never produced anything of note.

– Like many of you, he’d love to make it big. He just hasn’t ever moved beyond the occasional-bar circuit.

So a few free pints, a couple of slightly-misleading compliments and the deciding of a vaguely silly name Ursus  (We informed him ‘Data Transmitter’ and “Data Transmission’s Naivety Admission” were too close to home”) later, he was enlisted on the Point Blank course. The fun part? He has three months to get signed to a label

Our man now has 12 weeks to attempt to become ‘The Real Deal’, to see if, with determination and some help from a top online school, it is possible to ‘make it’. He’ll need to build a social media frenzy machine, a following, have regular gigs and, of course, be signed to a label

Follow his weekly progress through his course and his diary, here at Data Transmission the first edition of which can be found below.

The First Few Days.

When Data Transmission told me they were offering me a free production course, I was amazed. When they told me I had three months to get signed to a label, I was terrified. Am terrified. But also intrigued. Is this possible?

Like, I’m guessing, a lot of DT readers, I’ve always loved DJing, and I’ve always day dreamed about being a ‘real’ producer. But somehow life gets in the way: bills, relationships, a day job so grim that on the weekend all you want to do is hit it, pretty soon that midi keyboard you bought off Ebay as part of a New Year’s resolution looks pretty dusty. 

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It’s covered in stickers. It’s also covered in dust. Interestingly, It’s not covered in fingerprints.

So the opportunity to start afresh was both amazing and daunting. Well, here goes. The guys at DT have told me to keep a step by step record of my progress.

I’ve been signed up to Point Blank’s Electronic Music Composition course. It assumes some knowledge of Ableton, and focuses on the magic of making the music come alive. I’ll be posting updates on exciting stuff I learn along the way!

For the overall project. to start with, I wanted to start clean. Start afresh. I’ve played bars, clubs, sometimes weekly, more recently every couple of months, on off, for years. I had a SoundCloud, but, like my own production efforts, it had become sadly neglected. So I figured rather than re-launching, rather than announcing yet again to friends that “I’m going to really step this up”, I’d try starting over from scratch.

Why Ursus? Honestly I don’t fully know, other than it’s latin for Bear and I’ve got more fur than most family pets. Now I’ve got a SoundCloud, I guess I’m going to start sticking production up there. To do that, I searched around via various mutual friends on Facebook and found Grove Studio based near Oval, that being brand new are offering mates rates.  

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I’m also old friends with this guy:

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Finally I spoke to a couple of mates who run a little outfit called SaltShaker which threw a party on the weekend at Pacha with Sister Bliss headlining the main room, and they’ve got me down for the warm up set.

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Hence my wee mix:

Reassuringly nervous for this as it’s on a bigger scale than I’m used to, but it’s a good start! 

Next time, I’ll talk through my studio adventure and what I’ve learned so far on Point Blank. I guess the point to all this from DT’s perspective is to show it is possible for mere mortals to progress in music. Fingers crossed!

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