Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tip: In Defense Of The Title

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 12, 2011 @12:57 PM

In Defense Of The Title

by Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley, Songwritier Advice

As songwriters we’re all paying attention to lyric, melody, structure, rhyme scheme, groove, track and more. In coaching writers I usually find the last thing a young writer considers is “the idea”. What is the song about? Is it an idea that will make a listener want to discover the song, listen further and get you beyond the dreaded “nice” comment? Is it relatable?

 

Sometimes it starts with a title, I admit to being a title writer. I think if the title gets people to listen to the song, open the book, try the movie then we have a leg up.

 

Not to say that every great song has to have a clever title but it sure can help a co-write get off the ground, give your subconscious something to work on or make a publisher pick your CD out of the pile.

 

I have to share one instance with you of a title really working. Years ago I moved to Nashville and while most of my success was in Pop music, especially in the UK at that time, I was getting country cuts. I was writing with Hall Of Fame songwriter Kye Fleming, still one of my best friends and the best pure lyricist I know. So.. we were stuck and she suggested we take a break in the middle of the day and go see a movie. We went to see Jerry Maguire. You remember, the “show me the money” movie.

 

The theatre was mostly empty aside from a few songwriters and music folk we both knew. Midway through the movie René Zellweger looks at Tom Cruise and says...."you had me at hello”. Kye elbowed me and said, “watch this”. Sure enough 4 people got up and made their way out, in the middle of the movie. They knew they had found their idea, or the perfect title. In her wisdom Kye told me that they would all go write it, a couple will demo it, a few publishers will get it to producers and one will be a hit in 6 months!

 

Around 6 months later Kenny Chesney had a number one called “you had me from hello”.

 

I still keep a running list of anything that remotely sounds like an opening line, great title or just a good idea.

 

One Nashville writer I know always cautioned me to “make sure the journey was worth the destination.” Don’t just depend on the twist or the hook to carry a song but make sure every part of lyric is seamless leading up to the big idea. In other words, a great title on it’s own is not a great lyric. Good advice!

 

Mark Cawleys’ songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK and around the world. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cut’s in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website “Song Journey” created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one on one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists in the US, UK and Australia with a new one on one co-active coaching service. Visit www.idocoach.com for details.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, USA Songwriting Competition, Mark Cawley, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross, Chaka Kahn, The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 09, 2011 @04:02 PM

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

~written by Cliff Goldmacher

 

Cliff Goldmacher

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities.  While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences. By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

 

Differences Within the Similarities

In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other.  One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations.  The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres that the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York.  There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village. 

 

Finding the Songwriters

One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate.  Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there.  New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious.  In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

 

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go to people on every trip.  This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community even though I had to discover it little by little.   I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.

 

Co-writing

Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville.  It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week where they meet with a different cowriter every day in a publishing company office on Music Row.  This happens for several reasons.  First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfill. The more songs you write,  the more quickly you’ll fulfill your quota.  Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers.  As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” cowrite. Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a cowrite, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with.  The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule.  This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers who are either artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.

 

Lyrics

Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York,  I’ve noticed  that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly.  In Nashville, the story is king.  This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end.  There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story.  New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers,  has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together.  Please don’t misunderstand.  It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song, but it’s a different skill set.  I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun.  Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s.  In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.

 

Labels

Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists.  This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities.  The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects.  In New York, bands tend to write their own material and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs.  Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts.  Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write and cowrite their albums as well.

 

You Can’t Lose

At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create.  Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan.  In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song.  What I mean by this is that somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song.  So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa) I’d highly recommend it.  Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.

 

Good luck!

 

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter and his company http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos. 

Tags: song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, Music Row, co-writing, Differences, New York City, NYC, SongCircle, songwriting community, music publishing, collaborations, Universal Records, Ronan Tynan

Songwriters Tip: Tearing Down Walls With Your Teeth

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 04, 2011 @10:31 AM

Tearing Down Walls With Your Teeth by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin

 

Have you looked at the Billboard charts lately, and wondered – why aren’t I there?

My songs, production chops, my voice, my performance – I’m as talented as anybody out there, and then some. So why is someone else having the hits, and not me?

Often, the difference between you and the guy in the front row at the Grammys holding the award, is one more phone call.

As sensitive people, we don’t have built-in hustle muscles. The irony is, we need them more than ever. Truthfully, no matter how talented, if you’re not willing to tear down walls with your teeth, stay out of the music business. The race is to the hungry, not necessarily the best.

The odds are against somebody swooping down and discovering you while you stay home singing to the squirrels. But, if you are brave enough to make one call a day, every day, to one new music contact, at the end of a year, you’ll have 365 new people in your business life. If only 10% of them ever listen to a note, that’s still 36. And all it takes is one.

Remember: the difference between you and the guy in the first row at the Grammys with the award in his hand, is one more phone call.

Make that call.

 

© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.  

Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations. She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.

Tags: song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, writing songs, Billboard Charts, Molly-Ann Leikin, Grammy Awards, writing lyrics, music career, musician, Music Career Coach, How To Write A Hit Song

Songwriting Tip: Creating Cool, Daily Content for Your Fans. Easily.

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 03, 2011 @04:58 PM

Creating Cool, Daily Content for Your Fans. Easily.
by Tess Cychosz

So you’re an emerging artist. That means by now, you probably feel like you’ve seen about a million articles from industry reps talking about how important it is for you have daily interaction with your fans. You need to be on Facebook getting “Likes,” Youtube getting hits, tweeting until your hands are raw, etc. etc. You get it. But unless your last name is Gaga, your life probably isn’t that fascinating on a daily basis.

So the question is, how can you create content that’s actually cool and interesting to your fans on a daily basis? Well, I’m here to try and help answer that. Here are a couple ideas and tools to capture your daily activities and make them look pretty nifty too. Added bonus: these apps and tools all allow you to immediately share via Twitter, Facebook and more.

Take “Vintage” Digital Photos. Typing “Making my morning coffee” on Twitter doesn’t sound that rad… when you say it like that. But using a photo is a fun and easy way to share something simple from your day. To make it even more exciting, there are a few fun “vintage photo” apps out there to make your morning coffee even look cool. See my super-awesome examples below. Voilà! An ordinary coffee cup is turned into a photo that could qualify for the wall of your local Starbucks (ok, that might be stretching it, but you get the idea). If you’re a Droid user, my favorite app is Retro Cam. iPhone users should check out Instagram.

From boring coffee to cool coffee

 

 

Mix Daily Video Clips with your Tunes. You’ve seen it a million times: A person sitting in front of their computer, the backdrop is a bedroom or basement, and it’s just another talking head. This is fine every once and a while to give several updates at once (a nice alternative to a newsletter) but it’s easy to expose daily activities in a more creative way. Check these out: Taking a ski trip? Pidgeon eat your lunch? Or maybe you’re really happy about a Snow Day? Putting together a few clips taken with your data phone and using some of your music as a soundtrack can be a clever way to showcase a new demo or bring back an old tune you released a few years ago. Apps with cool video effects: 8MM Vintage Camera app for iPhone and Videocam Illusion for Android. Edit clips together on your phone with apps like Reel Director or Qik.

 

Make Gig or Studio Photos into a Mini Production. Sonicbids Product Manager (and pal) Lou gave me this idea and I’m a fan. Once you’ve taken all of your cool content in the ways listed above, use it to create a quick and easy mini production. Play a gig last night? This is a great way to showcase your favorite photos from the evening in a snappier way than your average Facebook photo gallery. Animoto, lets you create quick 30 second productions (which you can throw together in minutes) for free and seems to hit it out of the park. But you can also check out Masher, too.

So there you have it. A few ideas to make that experience waiting in line at Guitar Center staving off the headache from the florescent lighting an opportunity to engage your fans. Don’t forget to show me a photo (@SonicbidsTess) when you do. This article is written by Tess Cychosz from Sonicbids

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, sonicbids, EPK, press kit, electronic press kit, Reverbnation, Rootmusic, Myspace

Songwriter Opinion: Whose Career Would You Kill to Have

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 05, 2011 @12:24 PM

Whose Career Would You Kill to Have(and what is stopping you from having it?) by Molly-Ann Leikin

 

Molly-Ann Leikin, Hit Songwriter


Yesterday, when no one was returning my calls and my lunch date bailed after I paid for valet parking in Beverly Hills, I tore into my secret stash of peanut M & M’s and made a list of everyone, in every field, whose career I’d like to have instead of mine.  

l. Mary Oliver – the poet’s poet.  Her first collection was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich when I was an intern there during my New York City Jingle Days.   

2.Whoopie Goldberg- the funniest woman in America, if not the world.  

3. Lois Capps – the member of Congress from Santa Barbara, CA.  Think of the changes me, my chutzpah and galloping Jewish guilt could make in the U.S. House of Representatives.    

4. Michelle Kwan – the epitome of grace and strength and miracles in a small blue dress.  She often skated to one of my songs, “An American Hymn”, and I’ve always wished we could change places.  (This comes from growing up in freezing Canada where little girls were sent out in storms to amuse themselves. ) 

5. Lady Gaga

The trouble with wanting to be any of the gifted people I listed above is we already have one of each.  We don’t need two.  What our world could really use is you and your unique contribution. By trying to imitate the success of somebody else, you will miss yourself completely.

Do you well, learn how to get your name in the papers, and maybe someday, you’ll be an even bigger star than Lady Gaga, who, y’never know, could be sitting on the edge of her egg, gobbling peanut M & M’s, shushing the cattle from which she derives her wardrobe, so she can hear your new song.


© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin www.songmd.com
Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.   Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations.  She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, writing songs, Molly-Ann Leikin, writing lyrics, music career, musician, Mary Oliver, Whoopie Goldberg, Lois Capps, Michelle Kwan, Lady Gaga

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 04, 2011 @01:51 PM

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting, interviewed by Kiran Michaels

Ken Hirsch, Hit Songwriter


Ken Hirsch won First Prize in the Pop category of the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition as well as the Overall Second Prize with the song he wrote "Is That So Bad", co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell. He has also written the numerous hit songs such as “I've Never Been To Me” by Charlene and top 40 hit song “Two Less Lonely People In The World” by Air Supply. His songs have been recorded by legends in the music business. He talks to Kiran Michaels about how he writes songs and how he gets inspiration for it.  

1. You have written with the top names in the business today such as Hal David ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", "This Guy's in Love with You"), Gerry Goffin ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Paul Williams ("Evergreen"), Howard Greenfield ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"), Ron Miller ("I've Never Been To Me" & "Touch Me in the Morning') and have written songs that have been recorded by the the biggest names: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Air Supply, etc. Can you describe how you write a song? 

In my case, with most of the above co-writers, I created a complete melody first (which is always subject to change and molding)and then played it for them either live or on tape.  Most of these co-writers like to be inspired by a melody and rarely just write a freestanding lyric.  With Howie Greenfield, "Two Less Lonely People In The World" started as a title he had come up with from his personal book of titles and lyric fragments.  However, there have been just as many co-writes that happen simultaneously in the room which brings a whole other type of energy to the process.  On rare occasions I am given a partial/completed lyric or a lyric idea.  All three procedures are viable as long as the results work.  Every other blue moon I write both music and lyrics and thus avoid any creative conflicts and sharing of royalties!



2. Hal David, Gerry Goffin  and Howard Greenfield sounded like the people from the Brill Building. Did you ever write songs at the famed Brill building? 


No, when I was hitting the streets in 1970, it was kind of the end of the Brill building era  but a publisher I played my songs for in the building connected me with Doc Pomus ("Save The Last Dance For Me", "This Magic Moment"), one of the most famous of the Brill Building writers, who became my partner and mentor.  



3. How do you get ideas for creating a melody?

Other than seeing what bills need to be paid, usually an interesting set of intervals or chord progression can get the juices flowing.  

 

4. Who is your favorite songwriter, music wise? What did you learn from him/her?

In Pop it would have to be Burt Bacharach and Carol King.  Burt's sophistication combined with his innate soulfulness and Carol's ability to write hooks with a soulful energy are masterful.  They write melodies that are both accessible and unpredictable.  Then there's everyone else from Irving Berlin to Richard Rogers to Jule Styne to McCartney/Lennon to James Taylor to Ashford & Simpson, etc.



5. Who is your favorite songwriter, lyric wise?

I've been fortunate to write with some of the best so they all fall into that category.  I personally like lyrics that aren't too obscure, can be easily grasped or tell a great story.  Everyone from Sammy Cahn to Marty Panzer to so many of the country writers who really are wordsmiths of the first order.



6. How did you write your winning song? Did the melody come first or the lyrics or background music?

Our song "Is That So Bad" (co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell) actually started with a track that Peter was working on.  I added most of the melody and Rosie and Hillary, an artist we were working with, created the lyric.  It was loosely based on Hillary's own experience and then fleshed out by Rosie.  A fortunate confluence of events!  The final demo was produced by Smidi Smith and sung by Windy Wagner, so it's had quite a journey - so far! 



7. The top 3 winners this past year were all collaborations. Is collaboration in Songwriting important these days? 

It is and it isn't.  It depends on your strengths and ability to work with others.  But collaborations generally bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table that you necessarily wouldn't have come up with yourself.



8. Can you describe the collaboration with other writers and producers?

If everyone is pulling in the same direction it can be inspiring.  It helps if everyone can put their egos aside and concentrate on the work.  It's always a gamble, certain collaborators pull things out of you that you did not foresee.  It sometimes puts you into a different zone than what you're comfortable with but that can have positive results.  I've been writing a musical "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Robin Lerner ("This Kiss") and although we've never collaborated before we're both bringing different sensibilities to the project and it seems to be melding really well.  So the crapshoot this time is paying off!



9. What advice would you give to up-and-coming songwriters out there? 

It's all been said a million times but try to go with your gut and try not to compromise too much.  Having said that, try to be as objective as you can.  Don't fall in love with everything you write, many of the times it can be improved.  Don't be reluctant to give up on an idea if it's not working.  I try to separate myself from the writing and put myself in the place of the audience and imagine if I would enjoy listening to this song or if it moves me.  And it helps to have a very thick skin, never take the rejections personally - as hard as they may be to accept, there might be a fairy tale ending just around the corner.  And always keep the tape recorder running!

Ken will be performing his winning song along with a medley of his hit songs “I've Never Been To Me”, “Two Less Only People In The World”, etc at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at Bluebird Cafe on May 5th

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Ken Hirsch, hit songwriter, Billboard Top 40 Hit, Grammy, Gerry Goffin, Hal David, Carol King, Paul Williams, Howard Greenfield, Ron Miller, Brill Building

Tom Silverman: On Songwriters And The New Reality Of The Music Business

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 @06:17 PM

Tom Silverman On Songwriters And The New Reality Of The Music Business

Interview by Lorenz Rychner

 

Tom Silverman, founder the independent label Tommy Boy Records

Tom Silverman founded the independent label Tommy Boy thirty years ago. Over time it was home to a great many award-winning artists and consistently dominated the Dance charts.

Together with industry veteran Dave Lory, Tom Silverman launched the New Music Seminar (www.newmusicseminar.com) where today’s songwriters, artists, and recording musicians can tune into the latest industry trends as presented by high-profile producers, performers, and other industry figures who are at the forefront of the new developments.

We will report on the latest seminar taking place in February in Los Angeles. In the meantime, we wanted to hear Tom’s views on the state of the industry as it affects songwriters and new artists.—LzR

Formerly, songwriters/artists looking to make a career from performing their own material pretty much needed a record label deal to make it happen. Not now. What has changed?

Tom Silverman: I think it is important for songwriters to understand what’s going on with the music business, what the changes are, so that they can adapt and figure out the new ways of plugging in. There may be more opportunities than ever before, if you can see the big picture. A lot of them still think it’s business as usual.

So what I’m talking about is—as the business has gone downhill, like 80 percent in the last 10 years—the number of artists that are signed has decreased probably by 60 or 70 percent over what used to be released in the past by labels. People at labels have becoming very wary, they are not taking risks, they can’t afford to be wrong. In the old days if they batted .250 that was okay, now they have to bat .400. And on the ones that lose, they can’t really afford to lose that much money.

So who has the best chance to still benefit from a label deal?

Labels are looking for artists who already have a head of steam, who have built a base for themselves so they’re not starting from scratch. There are exceptions, but fewer and fewer. They are looking for artists who already have a big fanbase, like fifty thousand Facebook fans, a million YouTube views, so they are not starting from nothing. They are looking for different things than they used to look for, and radio isn’t necessarily breaking certain genres of music the way it used to. So all of that means that music is a lot different now.

How can a songwriter adapt if radio isn’t in his picture?

On radio you used to have about 30 seconds before the hook to get listeners interested before they would change station. For your songwriters it’s important to know that if you’re getting exposed on YouTube or on Spotify or even Pandora, you have five seconds to suck the listener in, because in ten seconds they could be somewhere else.

Goodbye intro...

Your readers might even consider using a different song structure for the promotional version, the one you put online, the one playing behind the YouTube video—instead of three or four minutes long, maybe it’ll be two minutes long because people’s attention span seems to have shortened compared to what it used to be. You want an opportunity to expose more music and give them a taste, and if they like it, they can go to iTunes and download the full four-minute version.

So there might be a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-out version of every song, in additon to the full three-verse version there might be a two-verse version...

...and the intro might not be an intro but the second half of the chorus to grab the listener...

Absolutely, so people have to start to experiment with different song lengths, different song structure. Listeners could be playing a game at the same time, checking their text messages—there are so many ways that people are ingesting music, it’s no longer either radio, or at a club, or in front of their hi-fi speakers at home.

And it’s mostly earbuds now...

I remember in the old days when I was producing records we always used to have that single mono Auratone speaker that we used to listen to the final mix to make sure nothing was missing. That was what it would sound like on a car radio or a kitchen radio, like what most people would be listening to. Now they might just as well have a little white wire coming out with two earbuds, and a little compressor that makes it sound like 192 kbps, and see if it still passes muster. When you’re in the studio, you listen to huge studio speakers with big amps, great sound from 20 to 20, but that’s not how people are listening to music, really. These are things people should watch and consider.

On your seminar website I saw the term “Creative Quartet”. What is it?

I also call it the Creative Conundrum; it is composed of four elements that combine to make an artist a hit artist. There is a lot of clutter in a world where over a hundred thousand albums are released a year, and over 81,000 of them sell less than 100 units, and 17,000 releases sell only one unit! Thousands of musicians produce releases on their home computers, with programs like Garageband, and they pay maybe 35 dollars to put it up on TuneCore, and these releases don’t get bought by anyone, but they get in the way of the artists who are in real studios spending real money in real time trying to break through. There’s so much clutter out there, the artists have to have a sound, everything about them has to be differentiated to have a chance at breaking through.

What are the four elements?

Okay, so we break it down.

• The first is the song. It has to stand out, above the other songs actually, the composition, including lyrics and everything about how the song is written.

• Second is the production, the recording, the performance—everything that happens in the studio.

• The third element is the live show; a lot of groups are breaking because of the notoriety of their live shows. If they’re great live, then that could be how they market themselves and promote themselves, and in some cases, a great-enough live show can make an artist break, even if the songs are just OK and the production is just OK but they are just so amazing live. More and more that is the case, as radio is diminishing in power.

• The fourth and last area is becoming the most important, more and more, and that’s the image, the concept, the story, the platform, what does the artist stand for, what do they look like, what is their image. All of that stuff that previously was intangible back in the pre-video days.

Not image as strictly looks...?

In the video days the look became more important, but now in the YouTube days, people are buying artists based on what they stand for, “How do they affect me?”. Susan Boyle is a great example, that one little video of her ended up selling 31/2 million albums in six weeks this time last year, based on what people liked about her that she stood for—here’s this hausfrau from Northern England, able to beat the odds, and people thought anything is possible and they bought that story. She’s singing the same song that Rod Stewart and a million other people sang before, and the production was good and the performance was competent, but if it was any other artist, if wouldn’t have sold a thousand copies.

She was different...

...so the whole thing is, how do you differentiate yourself? Her story was differentiated, plus there was the X-factor, England, which leaked over into the US on YouTube and got tens of thousands of views if not more.

Think about Lady Gaga, if not for her image, would she be this big? I mean she has good songs and good productions, but without the image, I don’t think so. What about the Black Eyed Peas without Fergie? Sometimes you just have to put the package together in a way that it makes sense.

The image has always been important, but it has never been more important than it is now, and by image I don’t just mean the look, I mean the story, what they stand for, is it a political band, are they nonconformist, do they stand for something like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead maybe, or a jam band might. Is there a perception that they are meaningful, is their lifestyle something people can relate to, they’re buying the lifestyle more than they’re buying the music. “I’m into what this artist is into, so I’m buying this guy”, as opposed to just the song.

Is this order of the elements fixed, or is number four creeping up to take the place of number one?

Well, the order I gave you is the chronological order that starts with the song of course. If I were to list the four elements in terms of impact they might have on somebody’s career potential, I would move the image up.

To the top?

Yes, in a way it is already number one. The image shouldn’t be the afterthought. The concept of the group should be decided on before the song is even written, because—if the songs don’t fit the concept of what they’re standing for, then it’s a mismatch and doesn’t work.

So the first thing an artist has to say before even getting into the studio or starting to write is “what do I stand for, what am I trying to say, how am I going to be different from any other artist, how can I differentiate myself in this area”.

Then he’ll make songs that differentiate themselves because the hooks or whatever will be so outstanding that they’ll reach out from the internet and grab you by the throat and suck you right in. So the next morning when you wake up, that song is still stuck in your head. That’s the purpose of a great song, and then the production is getting the great performance that delivers that song.

Maybe a song doesn’t have to have all four of those things, but it should have two or three.

Maybe an artist doesn’t do live show but his videos are killer...

...or there may be a case where the song is just so great that it overwhelms the need for an image. But usually those ones will sell a lot of singles on downloads but not albums. People always buy the album if the artist is meaningful to them, but not if only the song is big; then they don’t need the rest of the songs on the album, they just want the one song.

A lot of consumers just enjoy songs, and don’t have to have an artist attached to it, they just like that record. That’s OK, by the way; the new business, the economics of singles, could become substantial, because the other change in the business now, back to the way it used to be in the ’50s, is that five times as many singles are selling than albums. So I think a lot of writers, producers and artists are missing the opportunity to make hit singles.

I think also the artists are making the mistake of trying to make an album right away. I think the idea is to make a song, find the one song that’s going to move people, then the album will come out of that. Use the song to prospect, to tune up, to find your audience.

Sticking to singles allows someone to test the waters without breaking the bank.

Yes, and that’s not new. When I started Tommy Boy, we only did twelve-inches, we didn’t do 45s and we didn’t do albums yet. Until we found a twelve-inch that resonated, even in 1981 money, $3.98 was already four times what now a download is, and most of them only had two or three versions of the same song—instrumental, a cappella, maybe bonus beats and the radio version or the album version, so that was a good margin for us in those days. Imagine today, in dollars adjusted for inflation... that would be like nine or ten bucks. Imagine if you could get nine dollars per download, we’d have better economics and we could sign more artists than we’re signing now.

Anyway, that’s really what needs to be known. Making a whole album for a new artist, a writer or a producer will spend a whole lot of time, and usually that artist isn’t going to get picked up. But in the same amount of time they could do five or six different artists with two songs each and test those, and when one connects, then make the album. If it doesn’t connect, make another single.

Why are we as an industry so fixated on the album? It’s an anachronism that we have refused to accept. People are so egotistical, they think people want to buy a body of work from an artist or group when nobody even knows who they are yet. That’s pure ego, and it’s time for that to really stop for new artists. Once an artist is established and has built a fan base, when there is a demand, it’s a different thing. Until they do, a single is a fabulous tool for prospecting.

You also have a different perspective on making money from one’s music.

How do you change your mindset when you realize that music is the way you build your relationships with your fan base, but it’s not necessarily the way you’ll be making money? The way you’re gonna make money is merchandise, touring, maybe some music sales, and maybe other things we haven’t even thought of yet. But it’s the relationship that you’re monetizing, not the records per se.

So these are some of the things that we’re gonna be discussing at the seminar.

 

More about Tom Silverman can be found at www.newmusicseminar.com/blog/about-us/staff/ 

 

Excerpted from the March edition of Recording Magazine 2011

©2011 Music Maker Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission. 5408 Idylwild Trail, Boulder, CO 80301  Tel: (303) 516-9118 Fax: (303) 516-9119  For Subscription Information, call: 1-800-582-8326 or www.recordingmag.com For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Songwriters, Song writers, Tom Silverman, tommy boy records, the music business, the new reality, New Music Seminar

Songwriters Tip: Presenting Yourself as a Pro

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 02, 2011 @05:25 PM

Presenting Yourself as a Pro

(By Molly-Ann Leikin)

Molly-Ann Leikin
In Nashville, one of the most successful songwriters of all time writes on Mondays and Wednesdays, then spends the rest of the week wearing another hat altogether.  The man is not a tunesmith on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.  He is in business.  That’s when he pitches his songs.


Business people make professional-sounding phone calls, write professional-looking mail email, texts, and check their spelling. They arrive on time, look solid and immediately gain the respect of the person on the other side of the desk – in our case, the guy with the contract and the money.      


Recently, while interviewing candidates for a job in my company, people I’d spoken to at length on the phone who sounded like great possibilities, showed up late and stoned in flip flops.  They texted during our conversation, spelled songwriting with two t’s and didn’t know who David Foster was.  Folks - that’s not it.
If you looked at yourself in the mirror, would you hire you?  Would you want to do business with the person you’re looking at?  Do you appear to be a solid investment?  And most important, do you know what the guy on the other side of the desk needs - not just what you want him to want?    


It would help if you consider yourself a potential business partner, not somebody begging for a shot.  That sure changes the dynamic, doesn’t it?       


Do you have a business card?  If not, get one.  A clever one.  Make it as original as your music.  After all, nobody can stuff a CD in his wallet.  At least not yet.        Always remember this:  you have something to contribute to the literature of music that nobody else but you can, because nobody else but you is you.  
Present it in a professional manner, and you’re half way home.

© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin
Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.   Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations.  She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.    

Tags: Songwriting, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriters Tip, Presenting Yourself as a Pro, song writing. song writer, The Carpenters, Emmy Awards, Country Music Awards

Songwriting Tip: 5 Tips to Build a Kick Ass EPK

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 01, 2011 @12:31 PM

5 Tips to Build a Kick Ass EPK (Press Kit) by Tess

EPK sonicbids

 

High fidelity audio is key. Long gone are the days where a cheaply recorded demo is fine to shop to promoters and music buyers. With high-quality studio equipment becoming more and more accessible and home studios beefing up, it’s hard to ask any music professional to ignore the fidelity of your recording anymore. Keep the demos as a fun thing to share with fans on your blog, while your EPK highlights your highest quality work.

 

Invest in a quality Main Photo. Picture an image of 4 flannel-wearing guys, one holding a fiddle, all with long beards standing in a grassy field. Now, picture an image of 3 girls, all dressed in purple with loads of pink lipstick and their hair taking up half of the frame. You can at least safely assume these two bands don’t make the same genre of music, even though you haven’t heard either of them play. What I’m trying to say here is that your image matters. I know that ideally your “music will speak for itself” …but I hate to say it… it doesn’t. The viewer of your EPK sees that before anything else and it sets an immediate expectation of who you are and what you’re about. You main photo is your first impression. So don’t skimp on investing in your promo photos and make sure it gives off the right image for your sound.

 

Write a descriptive Elevator Pitch. If you were riding in an elevator with a stranger, and you had 30 seconds to sell your band to that person, what would you say? Choose your words carefully on your EPK elevator pitch, because this is your chance to grab the reader’s attention. The most important thing to remember is that the pitch should describe the music, because music is what the reader is looking for. The second thing to remember is that arrogance, triteness, and vagueness don’t work well. Avoid saying things like: “You’ve never heard anything like this before!” or “My music defies all genre and comparisons.” If you want to talk quality, highlighting a single great quote from a blogger or a recent award is a good tactic to get the point across.

 

Display complete Calendar Dates. A complete and up-to-date Gig Calendar is one of the most important and useful things to have in your EPK. It’s pretty simple: your calendar is your line-item resume. Promoters, especially those for performance opportunities, want to know the types of venues you are playing, how often you are performing, and even what nights of the week you tend to play. A complete calendar that includes past performance dates gives viewers a great idea as to where you are in your career, and if you’re a good fit for their gig. Also, many promoters prefer to see bands live themselves before booking - without the where and when, no one will know where to go to see you play and they most likely won’t go to the extra effort to head to your Myspace to check it out.

 

List out your Press Reviews. It’s nice to tell everyone how great you are, but it’s even better if you can show how great other people say you are. Keep in mind that brevity isn’t just the soul of wit – it’s the soul of everything in the music world. Choose the best quotes from the best articles and include those. And when I say “Press” I don’t mean only the New York Times. Posting links to bloggers that gave you a shout is definitely something to include.

 

Sonicbids.com is a sponsor of the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. If you want some more tips, check out the Sonicbids Lounge – our blog dedicated to educational content – or find me on Twitter @SonicbidsTess and we can keep the conversation going.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, sonicbids, EPK, press kit, electronic press kit, music production, music artist

USA Songwriting Competition's Christopher Tin Wins 2 Grammy Awards

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 @02:35 PM

Christopher Tin

USA Songwriting Competition winner Christopher Tin wins 2 Grammy Awards at last night's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. This marks a historic win, making Christopher the only USA Songwriting Competition winner to win 2 Grammy Awards in the same year. Christopher Tin won an honorable mention award at the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition with the same song that won two Grammy awards. 


Christopher Tin is an American, Grammy-winning composer whose work is primarily classical, with a world music influence. He won two Grammy Awards for his classical crossover album, Calling All Dawns. He is also a composer for films, video games and commercials. Tin is best known for his composition Baba Yetu, featured in the 2005 computer game, Civilization IV. Christopher Tin made video game history today, becoming the first composer to win a Grammy Award for a song composed for a game. Tin took out the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) at the 53rd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles yesterday for his composition "Baba Yetu", the opening track from Sid Meier's Civilization IV. Tin also won the Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album for his debut album, Calling All Dawns, which also features the song "Baba Yetu".


He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, becoming the first to be awarded one for film scoring, to study composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music in London, and he graduated with a MMus with Distinction. He was also the winner of the Horovitz composition prize, and graduated with the highest grades in his class. He was also commissioned by the US Embassy in London to compose music for a string quartet. In 2003, he became a Sundance Institute Film Music Lab Fellow.
Darrell Scott (2005 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize Winner, Country) was nominated for a Grammy Award of Best Country Instrumental Performance of his song "Willow Creek" at the latest 53rd Grammy awards. 


Past USA Songwriting Competition winners that have gone on to win Grammy awards include: Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxler who won first prize in the Children's catgeory of the USA Songwriting 2004 and won a Grammy in 2005. Current top winner of the USA Songwriting Competition, Alannah Myles won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance in 1991. Dave Merenda (Honorable Mention Winner, 15th USA Songwriting Competition) won a grammy award as a co-writer with Sarah McLaughlin with their song "I will Remember You". Dave will be performing live at USA Songwriting Competition's songwriters showcase during the SXSW (South By South West) on Friday 18, 2011 at Borders Books & Music (4477 S. Lamar, Austin, TX).


USA Songwriting Competition has a long history of having winners getting success, recording and publishing contracts, have their songs placed on the charts as well as having their songs placed on film and television. 2009 First Prize winner (country) was signed to Universal Records. 2005 First Prize winner (Pop) Kate Voegele was signed to Interscope Records the year after she won and had her winning song hit top 40 on the Billboard Charts, her latest album hit Top 10 on the Billboard 200 Album charts this summer. 2007 Overall Grand Prize Winner Ari Gold had his winning song “Where The Music Takes You” hit #10 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Judges include A&R managers from record labels such as Warner, Capitol Records, Universal, BMG/SONY Music. 

For more information on the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit:

http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, USA Songwriting Competition, Composer, Grammy, Grammy Awards, Hits, Christopher Tin, Royal College of Music, London, composing