DIY Rockstar, a guide for professional home recording and publishing

Hi all, Andrew here and I wanted to take a break from JRT news to have a little fun. For those that don't know I am the designer here at JRT, but by night I am a musician & artist. I've played in multiple bands and love music to my core! This is for the DIY Rockstar, a guide for professional home recording and publishing.

I wrote this to empower individuals and eliminate the same recycled garbage come over my speakers when I listen to the radio. If you have visited Austin, you’ll know great music is out there. With the emergence of new technology, the market is primed for the emergence of indie artists. The balance of power is shifting from publishers to producers. You don't have to hope to get noticed through a contest or a record company inundated with submissions from indie artists. This post will walk you through how to record, publish, and promote music on Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, iTunes, Beats, Rdio, Deezer, and more. This way, the next time I turn on the radio, I hear something new!

Now I can’t promise fortune and fame, but I can promise you will record and publish your music and you’ll sound like a pro.

Part One, Recording - Software & Hardware

Software DAW First things first, you need a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. This is where you will record, edit, mix and master your audio files. I have used a few DAW’s but my favorite is Logic Pro X. I like Logic Pro, because it has intuitive and powerful features. It also comes packed with software instruments including drums, keyboards, and synthesizers.

Other great options are Audacity (free), Ableton, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Reason, Garageband and Cubase. I’ve heard great sound come from all of these tools. The best advice I can give is check your budget, read reviews, and download demos. The software varies greatly in price, so I would start with something lower cost, until you are comfortable with what you are doing. Logic Pro currently sits at $200, while Audacity and Garageband are free.

Hardware Audio Interface Now, that we have our software figured out, we need to connect guitars or microphones to the computer. Audio interfaces are designed for just that. There are many options out there, I currently use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, total cost $150. The Scarlett 2i2 has minimal latency, 2 inputs and connects via USB.

Guitars I am a minimalist when it comes to set up. I live in an apartment so I don’t have a ton of space for large amps, drums, and equipment - not to mention.. I have neighbors. You can record with an instrument mic, which I do with acoustic guitar, but when it comes to electric guitar I think the best solution out there is Pod Farm. Pod Farm by Line 6 puts all the power and sound of hundreds of amps in a plug-in. They have a free demo as well as a $99 option or a $299 option. There are some awesome videos on YouTube that demo the pod farm sounds.

Drums Again, coming from a minimalist, drums take up a ton of space, are expensive, are a pain to record and take a lot of time cleaning up sounds when you record them live. Solution? Toontrack’s Superior Drummer and EZ Drummer. Superior drummer comes with 20GB of studio quality drum samples. The cool thing for guitarists is that Superior Drummer also comes with grooves, or beats, that you can drag and drop to your tracks! When you mix pod farm with superior drummer, you get a studio quality sound with very little work and you’ll have a ton of extra space in your apartment!

Microphone & Vocals Vocals are one of the most difficult instruments to record. Everyone prefers different microphones, and I admittedly am not an expert on microphones. I have watched many YouTube video reviews and tried out different microphones. After buying (and returning) a couple of mics to Guitar Center, the mic I am currently using is an AKG c 214. I absolutely love it, it has a really great warm sound to it.

Now that you have all your Software & Hardware set up, it is time to record your music! You should be able to create just about anything with the tools outlined. Lets not forget, the most important thing is your imagination. Hardware and Software are just tools to get your creation out. Creativity in the sound and self-promoting will be what set you apart.

Part Two, Self-Publishing THIS is where I want to share a gem I found, and what I wish I would have known when I was 16. I use a service called Distrokid. Here is a quick highlight pulled straight from their website:
“We'll get your music into iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Tidal, Beats, Deezer, Rdio, YouTube Music Key and 150+ other stores & streaming services.
Keep 100% of your royalties, get paid monthly.
In stores 10-20x faster than any other distributor, at a fraction of the price.
Pay only $19.99 to upload unlimited albums & songs for a year (competitors charge at least 2x that just to upload one album).
Bonus features! DistroKid can help you distribute cover songs legally, and get you paid when other people use your music in YouTube”

Pretty awesome right? I have been using them for about 7 months and I can tell you they have been absolutely great so far. It is incredibly easy to upload new songs and release them. So far I have paid $20 for unlimited uploading of songs, and made about $30. While I may not be buying anything with rims anytime soon, it is extremely rewarding to publish your own music. Heck you can publish your music, download it and use Ringtone Maker to make Ringtones out of your own music! How cool is that?!

Part Three, Self-Promoting All the tools are there for you to create and publish, how ‘successful’ you are will depend on how crafty you are at promoting. I would suggest using all the social media sites you can and play shows all around. No one will know about you if you don’t tell them. It is hard to have self confidence in your creations and open up to the possibility of failure or success. Sometimes the fear of failure keeps us from doing things where we can be successful.

Let me leave you with this quote:
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt

So go on, put yourself out there, make some music and have some fun doing it!

Recap: Recommendations and set up

DAW for recording and mixing | Logic Pro X or Audacity (free) cost | free - $200
Scarlett 2i2 cost | $149
Guitars | Pod Farm 2.5 cost | $99 - 299
Drums | Superior Drummer (Toontrack) or EZ Drummer cost | $179-249
Vocals | AKG c 214 Microphone cost | $250, ~100 for lower end mics
instrument and guitar cable, headphones - varies
Total cost | $527 and up. You may be able to scour craigslist for used equipment and save some cash! Also, a lot of the Software providers have deals for Cyber Monday.
Thanks for reading. Questions, comments, equipment recommendations??? Email me at [email protected] I'd love to hear from you! Cheers!


Music Lock Screens in Android 5.0 and later

Default Android lock screens that control Rocket Player and other music applications are no longer able to be used in Lollipop and later. We now have only two options for lockscreen in Rocket Player, Rocket Player's lockscreen & off. The Off option is enabled by default meaning that your lockscreen will be determined by your notification settings, see Configuring Marshmallow Notifications for new info on lockscreen features.

By default, now, if you adjust no settings and have a lock screen enabled on your device, your experience should look like the image below.

Many customers were disappointed about this change. We determined that what most of our customers missed was the option to hide album art but also control their music. This option remains available in KitKat and earlier Android OS's with the Default Lock screen (No Art). However, since lock screens are no longer available in Lollipop we need to use the notification on a lockscreen to control playback.

We have the option to control music while hiding background album art with our new feature available in Rocket Player 3.4.1. This option was created mainly for use with Android Wear, but it will work for us as well here too!

Turning off Rocket Player's Operation - Android Wear, then rebooting your device will allow you to display notifications but without album art listed in the background.

Configuring Marshmallow Notifications

To turn off notifications on your device go to Settings - Notifications. From these settings, we can disable all notifications, set notifications to display sliently, adjust lockscreen notification and more. This will display all the applications that you have. Scroll to Rocket Player and you'll see the layout below.

If we want to remove the lockscreen notification from Rocket Player, go to Lockscreen - Don't Show Notifications

Need Help? Contact us!

Rocket Player "Randomly Stopping" Issues

Rocket Player 'Randomly Stops'

Recently, Rocket Player has been battling several different issues causing it to "Randomly Stop". Chris and I answer several emails a day where this is the case, and at this point, I'd like to cover this a little more in-depth. Before the deep dive, let me give you the quick summary.

  1. Update Rocket Player
      Many issues are solved by updating to Rocket Player or higher. We hope to have this version fully rolled out be mid-August 2015. Join our beta program to get this version now.

  2. Pause
      Rocket Player has an issue with the "Duck" focus option. Please use the "Pause" focus option, which is the default, until your version is higher than

  3. Android 5.0
      Android 5.0 seems to have some underlying issues that cannot always be solved. We've reproduced this issue in other music players. Samsung's own player isn't affected by this.

  4. Android 5.1
      So far, Android 5.1 with Rocket Player or higher seems to perform much better than Android 5.0

  5. Device Memory
      Rocket Player can always be killed by the system when running in the background. How much free memory is always a factor. If you have a device such as a Moto G with 1GB of RAM and browse the web with 15 Chrome tabs, the system will eventually kill Rocket Player. Android makes no guarantees if you are not actively looking at an app.

  6. Battery Savers
      Rocket Player can be killed when a battery saver is used. Many device manufacturers have added this feature on Android 5.0 and later. Often times, your device will "switch to battery-saving mode" at a certain battery percentage. If you have a battery saving feature enabled, it can kill Rocket Player.

Rocket Player Randomly Stops

Gory Details

Rocket Player

Not much to say here. I made some mistakes and had bugs that shouldn't exist. For Rocket Player, I re-wrote a bunch of code to ensure that if Rocket Player randomly stops, it is because the Android system kills us, or an audio engine crash occurs. For the most part, I think this new code works. I've only found one new issue, which is with the alternative ducking focus.


Nothing to add either.

Android 5.0

OK. Android 5.0. Galaxy S6. I'm looking at you. Why are you constantly out of memory? Using a USB cable and Android Debug Bridge (adb), I was constantly gathering data on my Galaxy S6 to figure out why after about 45 mins of playing, a notification would kill Rocket Player. Here is the command that I used "adb shell dumpsys activity processes > tmp.txt". This command generates a tmp.txt file with the system's priority for killing processes. From that information I could see two things. The first is that the system was always stressed. Most processes had a "trim level" of 15, which means the system has warned all processes that it is low on memory and heads will roll if memory usage isn't dropped. The second thing I noticed is that Rocket Player's priority was dropped below ten or fifteen processes. Despite being a foreground process actively playing music, the system decided that Rocket Player wasn't more important than Google Quick Search, Notification Reading Services, Google Play Services and much more. So after thirty plus minutes of playing music, a text message would come in a create memory pressure, then the system would say "hey, that Rocket Player app isn't important, let's kill it so that the text messaging app can load." I have concluded that this issue isn't my fault. I started other music players, and they were all ordered in the list with the same priority and they, like Rocket Player, would be killed once the system just ran out of RAM. The worst part of all this is that the S6 has tons of memory. Rebooting the phone is the only temporary work around I have for this issue.

Android 5.1

Luckily, Android 5.1 seems to be doing much better, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the whole OS is just taking less RAM in Android 5.1. When I view the "adb shell dumpsys activity processes > tmp.txt" command with Android 5.1, Rocket Player is still lower in the priority list than I'd expect, BUT the system isn't under any stress, with all the same apps installed. Perhaps this will change when I don't reboot for a couple of weeks, but it is a good start.

Device Memory

Now for the sad, true part. No matter your version of Android, some Android apps (i.e. Chrome) set flags that give them access to tons and tons of RAM. If you run enough programs that take up enough RAM, Rocket Player can eventually be killed. That is just a fact of life. Now, to be perfectly clear, we want to hear from you. Email [email protected] if you are seeing Rocket Player randomly stop, don't assume that this is your issue. With a log file, we can usually diagnose what is happening, and if it isn't a low memory situation, we can see if I've just made another coding error. So let us know if you are still seeing Rocket Player randomly die while you are listening to music.


Amazon Updates Seem Delayed

For those of you who do not know, we're excited to be releasing Rocket Player 3.3 shortly. Over the past five years our customers have supported us on both the Amazon Appstore and Google Play; we're thrilled to continue to offer Rocket Player updates on both app stores, as well as to our PayPal customers. To all of you, we say "Thank you!" and hope that you'll continue rocking with Rocket Player.

Through our continuous contact with our customers, we understand that sometimes our Amazon subscribers feel a little left out. Customers have expressed their displeasure with our seemingly "slow" updates of Rocket Player to the Amazon Appstore. Amazon does not allow us to update applications as quickly as Google Play, or our internal server (PayPal); so this takes a little more time in the process. Amazon, (for the good and protection of its customers) forces applications through a timely review process before updates are released.

It's for this reason that the Amazon Appstore will continue to receive Rocket Player updates, but these updates will be when Rocket Player is fully stable. This version will represent the best of the many iterations Rocket Player sees. As we iterate on Rocket Player, we utilize Google Play's rollouts feature. For instance, Rocket Player may only be rolled out to 1% of Google Play users when you see something that makes you think that Rocket Player on the Play Store is far ahead of Amazon.


Google Play has an updated but not the Amazon Appstore?
We're a three person team, the time it takes us to update and be approved by the Amazon Appstore does not allow us to be effective with our limited time. It is not always the case that everyone on Google Play is receiving the update.

Why should I download from the Amazon Appstore instead of another store?
The Amazon Appstore is a great store! If you happen to catch us in the short time where is appears behind, don't worry! We are committed to updating the Amazon Appstore to the same version as Android.

Norton Anti-Virus And iSyncr Desktop

iSyncr Desktop has no known virus' at this time. However, Norton products are falsely identifying it as having a virus. This should be resolved with the next Norton virus definition update. For some customers, Norton Anti-virus 360 flagged iSyncr as a threat to their PC when trying to download iSyncr Desktop. Immediately we took action by contacting Norton. If anyone continues to receive this threat after updating to the latest version of Norton, or any other anti-virus warning please contact us.
Special thanks to Ben Davies who reported this.

Update 7/28/15:

iSyncr Desktop continues to receive false-positives from anti-virus software inaccurately warning customers not to download iSyncr Desktop. iSyncr Desktop has no known virus' or issues with malware. If you receive one of these messages, please contact us immediately so that we may speak with your anti-virus company.

Rocket Player Crashes On Startup

Is Rocket Player crashing on startup for you? Do you use a theme? If so, We're terribly sorry. This is our fault. We released a bad update to themes that crashes Rocket Player to crash on phones. The theme version that crashes is 1.9.1. Version 1.9.2 is now available as an update in the Play Store.

Please update all your themes to 1.9.2 and the crash on startup should go away.

Again, apologies if you are seeing this issue. If this doesn't fix the issue you are seeing, please email us at [email protected]

Rocket Player Is Back!

I'm excited to let you know that Rocket Player is back in the Google Play Store! Our eleven-day hiatus from Google Play store is over. We can't wait to get back to business as usual and continue our quest to make the best music player we can. All of the free features you've come to love, like an equalizer, bass booster, tag editing, ratings support and themes are back.

For now, there are two Rocket Player apps in the Play Store, which is confusing. We put in the new version as a stopgap until Google reinstated the original version.

If you do not have Rocket Player installed, install this version

If you do have Rocket Player installed, just keep using it! Rocket Player will help you migrate to the correct version if/when the time comes. Just keep auto-updates turned on for Rocket Player and you'll be just fine.

Thanks again for all of the supporting emails, tweets & posts! We truly appreciate it.


New Release Of Rocket Player In The Play Store

JRT Studio is excited to announce a new version of Rocket Player in the Google Play Store. Rocket Player will continue to have all of our great features, like free Chromecast support, free themes, tag editing and batch operations for mass deleting and adding to playlists. We hope you continue to enjoy using Rocket Player.

To answer some common questions,
  • It is preferred that you do not have both versions of Rocket Player installed. If you already have Rocket Player, do not install the new one at this time.
  • The new version will not be able to migrate your settings
  • The Play Store Rocket Player Premium Unlocker works well with both versions of Rocket Player

We are still hoping to hear from Google about our previous music app, Rocket Music Player. We hope to return Rocket Music Player to the Play Store soon.

Rocket Player Pulled From The Google Play Store

On August 11th, 2014, Google pulled Rocket Player from the Play Store. We have contacted Google and are hopeful that they will restore our app. Feel free to send additional questions to [email protected].


Update #1 (8/12/14):

You can now download Rocket Player from the landing page.

Update #2 (8/13/14):

You can restore Rocket Player Premium Unlocker from the Play Store this tutorial.

Google IO 2014 First Thoughts

Before I get on a plane back to Austin, I wanted to give you all some of my thoughts on Google I/O 2014.

  • Android Wear: I really do like the LG G watch that I got at the conference. Rocket Player works with the watch, but isn't good looking yet. We will provide better support than is already provided.
  • Android Auto: This is still months away, but it won't be hard at all for Rocket Player to support Android Auto. That being said, I don't like that you need to plug in your device for this to work. Unless I'm going on a long trip, I just don't think Android Auto would be something I'd use.
  • KitKat SD Card Issues: I caught up with some of the Android team, and it looks like KitKat is going to be an aberration. Starting with the "L" release, JRT Studio apps will be able to ask our customers where they'd like to sync to, and the system will allow it. This is great news for users.

In conclusion, Google I/O 2014 was a blast and I certainly feel more confident about the direction of Android than I did last week.