This March we talk with Oha Cade, the composer behind worldwide symphonic metal collective Valcata. He gives some great advice about playing to your strengths and outsourcing the rest! Read on...
Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
Valcata started out as a live band in Dublin, Ireland around 2009. After we went our separate ways the project has turned into an online collaboration, mainly composed and run by myself, featuring musicians from all over the world. I'd describe our music as symphonic progressive metal, also with influences of power metal and avant-garde.
What are your goals for your band?
The long-term goal is to get enough of a following and support to make Valcata a self-sustaining vehicle. For now, we are having fun being creative and putting good stuff out there.
What do you do for a living?
I can only speak for myself, but I work in user experience, branding, marketing and design. I'm also able to apply these skills to the art direction and marketing for Valcata, so I feel lucky to have a little bit of an edge in that regard.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
I work on Valcata in very small increments during weekdays and in longer bursts during weekends. Often, intense workloads will be dropped on me without notice, leaving little time to work on Valcata. In the small bursts of energy during the week, the small windows of opportunity, I will refine a part of a song I'm composing, or I'll post something on social media, or I'll reach out to a new connection. Tiny steps toward the bigger picture. On my days off I'll have more time to bring a composition to completion, or review some recordings in detail. My personal life is the part that suffers the most, because my design work and my music are both very demanding aspects and they always require me to be home. Therefore it's important to organize time with friends, or have getaways planned to look forward to.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
First of all, the best investment has been in the quality of our music itself — the great musicians who perform it and the engineers who craft wonderful mixes. It's important to not cut corners there. Second to that would be advertising. Google, Facebook and Instagram have great interfaces for creating targeted ads, and I attribute the ads as the main source of our following. I set aside a certain amount of money a month to go towards ads. Whenever we get valuable support, either on Bandcamp, or merch sales, or newsletter sign-ups etc. it's usually while an ad campaign is running.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician?
The worst thing I've ever spent money on is paying for Spotify streams. The assumption is that the streams will convert to followers, but this is not the case, so you are basically spending money on air. I would also be wary about paying for reviews or news coverage. I've been burned badly a couple of times from magazines or content creators that I thought I could trust, who just took my money and ran.
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
Our best selling item has been our face mask, which is pretty cool. Second to that would be our t-shirts, a pretty reliable item for metal bands, and the go-to item for myself when I want to support a band.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
Bandcamp is a godsend because it's the main platform where people like to buy our music. For promotion, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook have all been pretty good. Instagram is the best place for networking in particular.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2023?
Making Valcata a self-sustaining project is the dream to me, when I can get enough support to funnel it all back into new music and make all the ends meet. Realistically this is still far off, but I'm confident in Valcata's prospects simply because it's not a traditional band, and it can continue to evolve, with new names coming and going all the time. The future of the project doesn't rely on 5-6 specific people sticking together. Valcata is a limitless outlet for my passion for music — so as the main creative force, I don't see an end in sight.
That leads me to the second part of your question. A band needs determination and an unwillingness to give up, first and foremost, because these things take time. You also need to learn the important skills that help you work smart. There are too many to list — but a big one is networking. Supporting other artists will lead to them helping you and vouching for you, making life a little less stressful and creating more opportunities for everyone involved. I'd also encourage artists to identify opportunities in their budget where they can hire talent. It will save a lot of headaches. If you don't have time to learn how to edit video, you should hire a video editor. If you can't draw, hire someone to do your artwork. You'll be a patron of the arts and you'll also be networking.
Basically my point is to forgive yourself for not having time to do everything. Reach out for help. You can spend your time on what you're best at, and the work will be all the better for it.
Interview and band photo courtesy of C Squared Music.
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