6 tips on building a career in K-pop from Alina Smith of LYRE

LYRE is a unique girl group comprised of three K-pop songwriters and producers: Alina Smith, Elli Moore, and Giselle.

LYRE has worked on numerous hit songs such as “In the Morning” by ITZY, “Giddy” by Kep1er, and “Karma” by BLACKSWAN. The trio first gained recognition in 2022 when they started sharing their unreleased songs on social media, and since then, their YouTube channel has garnered over 60 million views and they’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on their collective social media accounts.

In celebration of the release of LYRE’s Perfect Pop: K-Pop Edition sample pack, Alina Smith sat down with us to share six tips around how she has built a sustainable career for herself as a K-pop producer and songwriter—read on for highlights.

1. Find your go-to tools

While the exact tools will vary greatly from producer to producer, over the course of her career, Alina Smith has identified various plugins and techniques that help her bring the sounds in her head to life. “I definitely stick with a lot of my tried-and-trues for the basics like compression and EQ,” she tells us. “I use a lot of Universal Audio plugins for that. But, I also really like playing with vocal layers and trying out different creative tools on them. A thing I’ve been doing a lot recently is throwing VocalSynth by iZotope on my vocal layers and having the mix at like 15%. So, it has just a touch of this robotic weirdness to it, but you still mostly hear a natural vocal. I’m also really enjoying Spaced Out by BabyAudio on verb throws.”

2. Prioritize authentic relationships

“Chase real friendships and collaborations, not just ‘networking,'” Alina says. “If you write with your friends, and those friendships are real, everyone will naturally uplift and help each other, and you’ll all grow as a collective a lot faster than you would have on your own.”

This authentic investment in her relationships with others has enabled Alina and the other members of LYRE to work on some truly exciting projects—she highlights two recent releases as examples of some of her favorite work yet. “There’s a song we did with the K-pop group PURPLE KISS called ‘Sweet Juice,’ she shares. “I’m very fond of it. It was supposed to be Elli’s artist release, and, I don’t know how else to describe it—production and writing-wise, it’s very, very LYRE.”

“I’m also pretty partial to our latest release as a group, ‘Two Moons,’ which is a dark mid-tempo track that’s really personal to me.”

3. Don’t rush into a deal

“Don’t sign with labels, managers, or publishers until you know what you’re doing business-wise,” Alina says. “I see so many younger people eager to sell their independence for a shot at success. Don’t do it. You have all the tools yourself already, or you can access them relatively easily; the industry will be way more helpful down the road vs. in the beginning.”

Building a team for your music has a time and a place, but being intentional with who you work with at what stage in your journey is key—see our in-depth guide below for more tips on this topic (and be sure to also watch out for these common red flags):

4. Take care of yourself

One topic that isn’t discussed nearly enough among musicians (and creatives at large, for that matter) is the importance of physical wellness. “I’ll be honest—writer’s block isn’t usually a big issue for me,” Alina tells us. “I find the only times things aren’t flowing are when I’m not that well overall. If I’m overworked, or if I don’t get enough sleep or exercise, that definitely shows up in my work. I notice myself getting frustrated more easily, wanting to be done early, etc. Writing takes a lot out of you, so you have to take care of yourself to make sure you have enough to give.”

5. Never stop experimenting

A willingness to continue experimenting with different sounds and processes has been a large part of Alina’s continuous growth as a producer and musician—even in creating LYRE’s new sample pack, she didn’t hesitate to explore new ideas.

“It was really fun to work on this pack,” she shares. “I usually don’t create every sample from scratch when I produce—especially not the drums. So, it was really cool to take a deep dive into the minute details of these samples, on a level I don’t normally go to. I even had this one ‘session’ where I just beat on pots, pans, and cups for like an hour to capture foley to layer into my percussion loops. It’s hard to believe it, but a plastic cup can sound like a snap, clap, or a stomp, depending on what you hit it with and where!”

“There were a few other fun moments I enjoyed, like crafting a bunch of vocal hooks with the girls. And my favorite—hiring a string player to record the orchestral elements I wrote with MIDI. I don’t get a chance to work with real recorded strings often, and I loved how full his performances made my arrangements sound.”

Alina highlights this vocal chant loop as another standout from the sample pack. “I really love a lot of the group vocal loops we did,” she says. “There are quite a few sounds like it in the pack; basically, each of them is made up of about 16 copies of Giselle, Elli, and myself singing as a group, captured on two different mics in different positions in the room. With the verbs and slight saturation, I think these sound massive, and I can’t wait to hear the hits Splice users create using these hooks!”

6. Don’t give up

Last but certainly not least, Alina urges up-and-coming producers to never give up. “Don’t give up unless you’re truly not inspired to make music anymore,” she tells us. “I didn’t start having any tangible success until I was already doing this for 15 years. It doesn’t usually take this long [laughs], but developing as a writer, artist, or producer does take time. If you know you’re good, be patient and invest in yourself. It’ll pay off, I promise.”

“If you’re looking to join a cool community of talented producers, writers, and artists, I’d love it if you checked out my Patreon,” she adds. “We do a lot of fun things there, like deep dives into my tracks, in-the-moment toplining videos, and monthly videos where I give constructive feedback on my patron’s tracks. We’d love to have you!”

Incorporate LYRE’s versatile sounds into your own productions:

February 16, 2024

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.