Archive for July, 2009

Looking for a good title?

July 24, 2009

I keep a list of phrases and potential song titles in my notebook and I’m always adding to it. That way, if I hit a dry spell, I can just open up my notebook and see if anything jumps out at me.

If you don’t have your own list, check the list of titles we’re growing online. We call it the Title Bank.

Feel free to take one or more and add your own (see Leave a comment» at the bottom of this post). There are no copyright restrictions on titles. Many songs can use the same title. You can also take the name of a book, play or movie as your song title.

Here’s a small sample from the Title Bank.

Average American Survivor Reunion Factor
Bush Goes to Mars
Dangerous Carbs
I Lost My Job
(Janet’s) Wardrobe Mishap
Madoff Goes to Jail
Martha Vacations at Club Fed
Ten Minute Bride (Britney’s Folly)
The Ballad of Tony Soprano
Tyco Juror #4
Since You’re Out of the Closet My Heart’s On a Shelf
Don’t Go Away Mad – Stay Here and Suffer
Dandelions and Rhododendrons
The Whole Enchilada
Get On My Feet and Dance
Face Down in the Pavement
Feel my pain
Frustration Overload
Picking up your pieces
Pull me under
Butterfly Fields
Symphony in 3-D
Forever Blessed
Catch a falling star [for you]

Expand your definition of a live performance

July 23, 2009

by Bob Baker

(The following article is excerpted from my new audiobook, What Every Musician Should Know About Self-Promotion.)

Let me ask you … What has to happen for a person to be converted into being a fan of your music? There are a number of possible answers, but at the most basic level, one thing has to happen: The person must hear your music.

And there are only so many ways someone can hear your music: on the radio or on television, on the Internet, in a dance club or a retail store, from a friend on a home or car stereo or … during a live performance.

Let’s focus on that last one, because even with all of the advancements in technology, live performance continues to be one of the best ways to connect with fans, sell CDs and prosper as an artist.

Hopefully, your marketing plans include a heaping helping of live shows. But what type of live shows do you plan? The problem is, many musicians get stuck in live performance ruts and fail to think outside the box. For instance, most rock bands flock like lemmings to nightclubs. Most acoustic singer-songwriters obsess over coffee shops and folk venues. That’s fine, but they end the thought process there — and then complain that there aren’t enough gig slots for all of the acts who want to play.

The solution: Redefine your live performance goals. And ask yourself the right questions. If you only ask, “How can I book more shows at clubs?” you’ll rarely look outside that possibility. But if you ask, “How can I reach more of my ideal fans through live performances?” then your list of potential venues is suddenly wide open.

Where can you play in front of more potential fans? If nightclubs is one answer, great — continue to pursue that. But what about community festivals, neighborhood block parties, grand openings, rallies, auto shows, craft fairs, the finishing line of a city marathon, a public beach on a sunny day … anywhere that large groups of people gather is fair game.

Sure, not every option will have the logistics for a sound system, a stage, etc. But any glimmer of an idea along these lines is worth looking into. And I guarantee you, the number of other acts competing for a spot at one of these offbeat events will be much less than the number you find at the traditional live music venues.

So … expand your definition of a live performance, ask yourself empowering questions, and open your mind to the many new ways you have to reach fans through live performances.

Bob Baker is the author of “Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook,” “Unleash the Artist Within” and “Branding Yourself Online.” He also publishes, a web site and e-zine that deliver marketing tips, self-promotion ideas and other empowering messages to music people of all kinds. Get your FREE subscription to Bob’s e-zine by visiting today.

How to write a song and other mysteries

July 22, 2009

The New York Times just ended their series “Measure for measure: How to write a song and other mysteries.” In it they ask six songwriters to consider the process of songwriting and post their essays in a blog format. Read the entire 33 posts or just pick and choose. Be sure to check out the responses.

The songwriters contributing were Suzanne Vega, Rosanne Cash, Andrew Bird, Peter Holsapple, Darrell Brown and Jeff Lewis.

When the lyrics just won’t come

July 21, 2009

What do you do when the lyrics (or melody) just won’t come?

I believe this is a common problem for songwriters. When the ideas aren’t flowing, that’s when you need some tricks up your sleeve, some way to jumpstart your creativity.

Here’s a trick I use regularly. It may seem like a cop out, but it’s a legitimate, time-honored technique for songwriters: collaborate.

I am very comfortable writing melody and chords. But I sometimes struggle with lyrics. So I found a co-writer who is good with lyrics and weaker on the music side. Together we bang out new songs easily and relatively quickly. Co-writing (also called collaboration) is very common in Nashville, LA, NYC and other music centers. Look at the credits on any Motown record and you’ll see Holland/Dozier/Holland on many of the hits and other co-writers as well. If Motown isn’t your bag, check the writing credits of your favorite artist. You might be surprised.

I believe everyone is born creative, and that we sometimes block our own creativity. Stress can do this. If you are stressed out in any part of your life (work, school, relationships, songwriting), then it will be harder to reach in and access your own innermost creative thoughts.

Learn how to de-stress yourself. For some people that means regular exercise or meditation. Others need to get more sleep or resolve some interpersonal issues. Sometimes all it takes is a short break from the routine, maybe a walk around the block or a few quick stretches.

When I get stuck in the middle of writing a song, I will take a walk, to take my mind off the problem. Usually, unbeknownst to me, my sub-conscious mind is still working on it and partway through the walk, a new idea pops into my head. Voila! I’m unstuck.

Another cause of writer’s block is super high expectations. If you expect to write a masterpiece every time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you lower your expectations at first, you free yourself to write anything and that leads to risk-taking, ground-breaking creations.

In writing your first draft (or 2nd or 3rd), it helps to turn off the part of your brain that is critical and judging and just let it all flow. Later, you can re-engage the judging part of your brain to edit your draft. This is what that side of your brain is good at: finding typos, checking for rhymes, noticing logical inconsistencies, etc.

Steely Dan’s Fagen and Becker on tour

July 20, 2009

steely dan

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker on tour: Would anybody this smart and cynical go into music now?

Shared via AddThis

Twitter guitar directory

July 20, 2009

A directory for guitar enthusiasts who Tweet.

6 tips to get happy

July 16, 2009

According to a news report from NPR, a new course has replaced Intro to Economics as the most popular class at Harvard University. The course is called Psych 1504 or “Positive Psychology.”

The professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, calls it ‘how to get happy” and he uses source material from the relatively new field of Positive Psychology, as well as quoting the Dalai Lama, Thoreau, Aristotle, Confucious, William James and Ellen Degeneris.

For many people, these six tips may not be surprising, but they serve as a reminder. I find it encouraging that our young scholars at Harvard are learning it, too. There are other courses like this being taught in colleges all over the place.

Listen to the entire story here.

Six Tips for Happiness
Advice from Tal Ben-Shahar

1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions — such as fear, sadness, or anxiety — as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.

2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.

3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?

4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.

5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do — or don’t do — with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

Another one, he adds, is to dream big, and maybe that’s the connection to songwriting.

Songwriting interview

July 15, 2009

Dan and Roger

My co-writer Roger Tomhave and I were interviewed for Empower Music and Arts. We talked about our process and the various tools we use, including MasterWriter software, the Zoom H2 and so on.

periodic table set to music

July 15, 2009


I was rediscovering an old folk singer/comedian, perhaps more of a comedian and less of a folk singer. At any rate, for the science buffs in the group (you know who you are), you can hear Tom Lehrer sing the entire periodic table of elements here. The lyrics, such as they are, are animated.

Of course, if you’re into music and science, you probably already know about this.

Pat Martino remaps the fretboard

July 14, 2009

Pat Martino

I was able to enjoy the guitar in a pure and almost childish way – like a child does with a toy. I think we’re ultimately chosen to be childish. That’s exactly how we come into this world and exactly how we leave it. The guitar just happens to be my favorite toy. — Pat Martino

In a Guitar Player article, jazz legend Pat Martino shares with you an inspiring remapping of the fretboard that is radically different from what is typically taught in private lessons or at music schools.