Students with their own song on Spotify: ‘That's when I felt like a real musician’
Miquel Romeo. Photo: Miquel Claase
When sociology student Miquel Claase (23) closes his study books, his alter ego Miquel Romeo takes over. Instead of dealing with complicated social issues, Romeo prefers to produce music. In his student room in Utrecht, he records and mixes his own songs. Since 2018, he has been posting new singles regularly on his artist page on Spotify.
Claase describes the music he makes as “R&B, mixed with funk and jazz influences”. He has been writing songs since he was twelve years old, but three years ago he decided to take the hobby a little more seriously, and that's how he started uploading his music to Spotify. “Basically, I wanted to make it easier for myself to listen to my songs. I make music that I really like. I enjoy the recognition that comes when other people discover it, of course, but that's not what motivates me to make music”.
His latest single, Through, came out on August 14, 2020. He started working on this song a long time ago, but never found the time to finish it. The lockdown gave him just that. However, although the pandemic gives him more time to work on his music, Claase thinks the corona crisis has more negative aspects than positive ones. “I really enjoy making music, but it's different in these times when you can't perform anymore. I've noticed that being 'covid-tired' does limit my creativity”.
Miquel Romeo – Through (14 augustus 2020)
But this is by no means the end of his music career. Miquel Romeo will surely continue to release singles. Can we expect an album one day? “I don't think I'm happy enough with what I have now to release a full album. Besides, I would need a marketing plan and I don't know if I want to put the time into it. Creating singles is a lot of fun, it's very enjoyable, but that's because it's easier to combine it with my lifestyle as a student and board member of the Sociology study association, Usocia”.
'It feels cool to be able to say: you can listen to me on Spotify'
Jasmijne. Photo: Jasmijn van Andel
Jasmijn van Andel (19), alias Jasmijne, also has an artist page on Spotify. Apart from studying Biology at Utrecht University, she has been writing her own songs for about three years. The idea to upload her music on Spotify came pretty quickly. “I had been thinking about it for a year and a half, but I never really worked on it. At one point, I went into the studio with some people and we recorded five songs. Then I suddenly wrote another song as well, and I thought: 'I have to release this now. If it comes out in six months’ time, it doesn't make sense anymore'. So, I released it as soon as possible. It's the only one I have on Spotify so far”.
The song, Ik hoop dat je het weet (I hope you know) describes life in a pandemic. Jasmijne sings about how low she feels sometimes. “It's pretty hard for me to study online. I did not pass every class I've done in the past year, because that takes a lot of energy. The non-fun part of studying remains and all the fun stuff kind of fades away, all the while you have to keep delivering”.
Yet, the song's message is more positive in tone: love takes centre stage. “I have realised that everything can change just like that. I'd rather tell people I love them too often than say it too little. I'm not very good at saying that, but in a song I can”.
Jasmijne – Ik hoop dat je dat weet (8 januari 2021)
Jasmijne's music career has definitely just begun: we can expect to find more of her music on Spotify in April. She'll keep on going because she loves writing songs. “It's nice that people can listen to my tracks. I'm also a bit proud that I write songs. It feels cool to be able to say: you can listen to me on Spotify”.
'When Kink FM played our single, I felt like a real musician'.
Lumen (Luke is the 2nd from the left). Photo: Alexander Bouwland
Luke de Bruijn (25) puts a lot of time into his band Lumen, which he founded with three friends a few years ago. He also pursues a Master's degree in Applied Musicology at UU. Lumen had just started building a future as a band when the pandemic broke out and threw a spanner in the works. “We had just played a showcase at Eurosonic Noorderslag and won the Battle of Stukafest in Utrecht. Things were going really well for us, but then everything closed down”.
The band decided to take the opportunity to dive into new releases. “We had previously put some demos online on SoundCloud, but those files were intended for the venues, not for people to listen to. We'd been considering uploading our music on Spotify for quite some time. We felt like we were really ‘out there’ then. The pandemic has allowed us to do that more professionally".
Remarkably, for the UU student, most of the work lies not in the uploading itself, but in plugging the song: collecting contact details and sending the music to the right people. The strategy worked: their single Stop Pulling My Strings was chosen as Single of the Week by radio station Kink FM. That was a special moment for Luke. “I've always been very involved with music and saw myself as a musician. But, compared to someone who studies at a music conservatory, you are of course just a hobbyist”. That changed when he heard his single on Kink FM. “That's when I felt like a real musician. This is something I have aspired to for years. I might play music next to my studies, but they are on an equal level of importance”.
Lumen – Don’t You Know (2 oktober 2020)
These are hard times for those starting a band with ambitions. Although Lumen was able to perform a number of live concerts during the lockdown period, no new releases were planned during the second wave. But this relatively quiet period enabled Luke to find out why he wants to keep making music. “We have a lot of fun writing songs and playing together in the rehearsal room. That gives us a lot of satisfaction. That's the essence of being a musician: if you don't enjoy making music anymore, you'd better do something else”.
1. Write a song
Everything starts with creating a track of your own. Some people can write a song in a single afternoon, while others start with a sample or line and take it from there. Although you can do it using actual musical instruments, there is software that allows you to create music digitally or through a MIDI keyboard.
2. Record it
To record your song with the required quality, you need a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Programmes that come to mind are Pro Tools, Ableton Live or FL Studio. If you're looking for something cheaper, free software such as Audacity, Garageband (Apple) or Tracktion Waveform Free can come in handy. Pro Tools and Ableton Live also have a Lite version with a free trial.
Once your song has been recorded, you can usually use the same program to start mixing it: putting the sound tracks together and making them sound good. Tools you can use include the compressor, the equaliser, and reverb and delay effects.
Satisfied with the mix? It's time to make sure your track falls within the noise limits, so there are no weird overtones that could cause hearing damage - a process called mastering. It ensures a consistent overall sound. The quickest way to master you song is let AI technology do it for you online.
5. Find a distributor
You can't just go and upload songs to Spotify yourself. Unless you have a deal with a record label, you will have to do it through a distributor, a company that makes sure your single appears on your artist page. Examples are DistroKid or CD Baby. It costs just a few bucks, but bear in mind it will probably take a while before you'll earn back your investment: Spotify pays an average of 0.004 euros per stream.
Voilà, your music is on Spotify! Of course you want as many people as possible to listen to it. One of the best ways to be discovered by Spotify users is to have your song added to one of the platform's playlists. You can either pitch a song to Spotify curators with a little promo talk or make sure it is listened to by many people, so it will get noticed by the algorithm. It's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. The important thing is that you've joined the ranks of One Direction, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars: you have your own space on Spotify.