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Local producer says being a self-starter is essential in music biz

By Greg Murphy [4]

Trenton resident and music producer Todd Barriage says there’s more to success in the music industry than just talent.

Now 25, Barriage pays his bills, funds a car and is well on his way to buying a house thanks to full-time work recording music at the Borland Studio [5] in his parent’s basement.

Having regular work with recording artists from Ottawa to Toronto, Barriage says he sees a common trait in successful artists and unsuccessful ones.

“You really have to give yourself a 150 per cent. For the first little while you need to forget everything and really focus on your craft to put together the most marketable representation of yourself,” he said, sitting at his desk mixing [6] one of the latest hardcore metal tracks from a Pickering band, Constellations, he’d just worked with.

He says it can be really easy to fall into a path bound for ruin, even if an artist is blessed with musical talent.

“What I see in failing artists are the those that care too much about external factors. So things like expecting to make fans you haven’t truly made yet or trying to get on a label [7] that will never sign you. Expecting anything really is one of the worst things and artist can do. Expecting people to listen to you just because you recorded a song is how to make yourself a failure.”

Barriage says entrepreneurialism and marketing is how he got where he is, something successful artists simply need to have. Being self-employed, innovative and motivated is the key.

Having dropped out of two college programs at George Brown College [8] in Toronto, Barriage started recording music in June 2012.

“I realized the suit and tie slash desk job business world wasn’t for me so I went with the t-shirt and jeans desk job. I intended just on doing it for the summer until I figured out what I was going to do and it just never stopped,” Barriage said.

Working 12 to 18 hour days, Barriage quickly found his free time diminishing. He initially charged $150 to record a song in a studio using bare bones equipment. He said for the amount of work he was doing he was making around $2.00 an hour.

Despite such a low cost of doing business, Barriage said he put everything into each song, making each album as if it was the last one (he) ever did.

“I still wanted each song to sound $500. I knew eventually I want to charge $500 a song but I knew I had to prove that I could do it first,” he said.

He expected to make small returns or none at all when he got started like any business venture. He said he lost money, but that was the cost of doing business in the music industry.

“I treated it like college, I didn’t expect to make very much money. I didn’t expect to do anything for free; I think the worst thing you can ever do is offer it for free because then everyone expects it for free,” he said.

Barriage made YouTube videos of cover songs made in his studio to promote and market his business. Having a full schedule booked, with artists constantly streaming into his parent’s Trenton house, his business began marketing itself through word of mouth.

Averaging between 10 to 15 albums a year, Barriage now charges $650 a song. It makes for a comfortable living, but the question remains on his mind about job security.

“I’m lucky that I’m booked usually four to six months in advance. It’s nice to know that I have a job in six months, but I don’t know that I’ll have a job in a year from now,” he said.

For those interested in working in the music industry, Barriage said it takes patience, hard work, a solid marketing plan and the expectation that business – whether you are recording artist or a recording producer – will definitely bounce up and down.

This is a corrected version of an earlier version of this story, which said that Barriage charges $500 a song. Also, the earlier version incorrectly called the Trenton house of his parents, where he has his studio, a townhouse.