Creating a quintessential compilation album
A case study with Berlin’s ‘Alphaville’ project
Compilation albums are made up of tracks from previously released or unreleased music that may be from one or more artists. Usually these tracks are linked together through a theme, topic, or genre such as a ‘best of’ or ‘greatest hits’ album, a promotional campaign from a specific label or composer, holiday songs, the top songs in the charts etc. But with the ease of digital distribution and all the possibilities to record music these days the concepts behind releasing a compilation album are losing their boundaries.
Mix-tapes – the fun of it
Some will remember how much fun it was to make mixed tapes for their friends with certain moods and with a certain kind of thread of subject matter running through each side. Over a couple of years the mix-tape became the mixed CD and from there it quickly transformed into the digital playlist. Now the compilation album is much more about crafting a work of art. The web is full of music blogs that regularly release digital ‘mix-tape’ compilations in every possible genre keeping their audience up to date on the most compelling recordings of the times. And since anyone can make a compilation album nowadays, ask yourself what effect would you really want to create with your own? What would make it especially unique and how could it help you with your occupation as an independent musician?
What’s in it for everyone?
Creating and officially releasing your own style of compilation is a terrific way to network and to share your skills, improve your abilities and develop your relationships with your musician friends, community and fans. With any compilation you contribute to, you will be introduced to a new group of artists. The more musically diverse the artists on the compilation are, the more potential there is to reach a new and broader audience. You may even end up working with other musicians on the album to form new projects and discover new playing opportunities. You can throw a compilation record release party and mingle with new fans, musicians, labels, booking agents, producers etc. Compilation projects that are in some way community oriented will usually bring positive opportunities for collaboration.
Alphaville – A compilation of collaboration
As an example of creating your own compilation album take for instance the Alphaville project. Alphaville is the apartment building (who’s owner named it after the 80’s German band) where producer Matteo Tambussi lives in Berlin. It is also the name of his home recording studio and the title of a new and fascinating compilation album. The collaborative concept behind this Alphaville album is one aspect that makes it unique and exciting. Each artist involved went to Alphaville while either living in or passing through Berlin and recorded one of their songs with Matteo who engineered the session. After recording the barebones of the song Matteo then created all the production including instrumentation, percussion, beats, electronics, harmonies, arrangements and backing vocals etc. The Alphaville studio environment and Matteo’s stripped down song recording approach brings the distinctly varied styles and performances on this compilation album smoothly together. Usually compilation albums are made up of tracks that have previously been recorded in various times and locations. This one is different in the sense that it was recorded all in one studio, with one producer, which gives it its own distinct and consistent sonic color.
What motivates you?
Making a compilation can seem like a monumental task. To be able to survive the process, it helps to know what motivates you. How did the concept get started and what motivated Matteo to work and invest his time into such a challenging project? He had gotten to a point in his career as a musician where he began to become skeptical of his own path as a songwriter/musician/producer and needed to do something else within the scene that wasn’t focused on his own songs and performances. One night at an open-stage he heard a friend playing a song and began imagining all the possible arrangements that could go with it and so he decided to invite his friend over and they made a straightforward recording with a simple arrangement. Matteo then realized how much he enjoyed working on someone else’s music and also that working with a playful attitude and light atmosphere seemed to bring his creativity back to life. Working on other people’s music opened him back up. After this realization he sought out musicians throughout the scene who’s music he felt would challenge his production abilities and be a nice fit for the project.
The final steps
The Alphaville compilation now has 18 tracks from 18 different artists. In other words, it’s a double album! One of the hardest last steps in making a compilation album with different artists is to get the mastering perfect. Matteo for instance had been listening to 7 different masters of all 18 tracks over and over again attempting to find the right final master before uploading the songs to iMusician Digital who is assisting and supporting the release of Alphaville. As many musicians know, choosing your final master, after having spent so much time recording and mixing can drive you mad. Lucky for us, he went mad and finally chose one! The record is slated to be available on December 10th, 2016 with a special release show at the Ofen Bar in Berlin featuring live performances by the artists. In the meantime visit the Alphaville website alphavillehomestudio.com to find out more about the project, the featured songs, the different artists involved and how to get the album.