Archive for October, 2009

Love in Spades

October 29, 2009

Congratulations to my friends David, Mary and Lilly. They and their team created the short, Love in Spades, which won the 2nd place audience award at the screening and 4th Runner-Up in the Washington DC 24-Hour Film Race competition.

The entire film was conceived, written, produced and edited in 24 hours by the Overnight Delivery Productions team.

David also wrote the song you hear in the film, also within the 24 hour time limit.

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Topics for songs

October 27, 2009

This question recently dropped in my inbox.

How do I decide on a topic when I’m thinking about writing a song?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Here’s what I do to get around the problem. Hopefully there will be something in here that helps you.

My strongest songs are always the ones written about a specific topic (or person, place, idea, etc) I really care about. It can be anything from my pet iguana to my baseball card collection, from chess to downhill skiing, from social causes to my favorite cartoon.

It doesn’t matter what your topic is, as long as you are passionate about it. Whenever I try to write a song on a topic that I’m not really interested in, it turns out lame, or I lose interest altogether before finishing it. It helps to be a passionate person with a lot of interests.

What kinds of things are you passionate about – think of your hobbies, your interests, your loves (and that can mean romantic love, love for your mom, your kids or your hotrod).

Another source of topics and ideas for songs is quotations. I subscribe to a free daily inspirational email quote service. There are many of these on the web. You can also get a book of quotations at your library or bookstore.

Here’s an example. I’m passionate about my guitar, no surprise there. But one time with Valentine’s Day approaching, my songwriting partner and I thought we should try to write a love song for our respective wives. It turned out a little different than we expected.

Bassman’s Lament

October 15, 2009

one amazing multi-instrumentalist

October 9, 2009

Do you appreciate live jazz? Do you like Chick Corea? If so, you’ll get a kick out of this guy.

When is the best time to write?

October 6, 2009

shoes

When is the best time to write? My stock answer is right now. Don’t procrastinate or make excuses or justify any reason not to write right now.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you neglect your family and work obligations. I am suggesting you look at your priorities. Because it’s all too easy to fall into habits that go counter to our priorities.

I’ll give an example from my own experience. Songwriting is my greatest challenge and greatest joy. Nothing is more satisfying to me than writing a new song. Still, when I come home from my day job, after dinner, I often have an evening or part of an evening free. You’d think I’d go right to my desk or pull out my guitar and work on my latest song. But often I’ll sit down and watch a show on the boob tube (or YouTube or Hulu).

Not a huge sin, but one show leads to another and before you know it, I’ve blown the whole evening and lost an opportunity to do what I really love. So take stock for yourself. For me it was the tube, for you it might be Wii, xBox, Twitter, IM or something else.

Another way to ‘write right now’ is to multi-task. Lots of us are able to write while driving and while mowing the lawn and other mindless, but necessary tasks. Try writing while walking or jogging.

Finally, don’t wait until you’re in the ‘mood’ to write. Force yourself to write everyday, even when you’re not in the mood. Soon, you’ll find that a certain ‘mood’ is not a requirement for writing. And the more you write, the easier it will be to write the next time. Don’t expect a masterpiece every time, just keep writing.

Talent is not enough

October 5, 2009

If I’ve learned anything about getting ahead in the ‘music biz,’ it’s that talent is not enough. Of course, you must have talent. That’s a given.

You can be a musical genius in your garage, but to make a career of it, you must leave the garage and attend to many non-musical tasks. There is no magic bullet, no single thing you can do that will make you succeed. It’s lots and lots of little and not so little things you must do. Each of these ‘things’ add up and build upon each other to create buzz and momentum and a complete picture.

Some of the things are easy. Some aren’t. Some examples of the interlocking little things that most indie musicians must do to succeed are:

  • 1. Live performances to put you face to face with your fans
  • 2. Have at least one product to sell: your CD, swag, etc.
  • 3. Radio airplay: commercial, college, online, satellite.
  • 4. Ongoing communication with fans: your mailing list
  • 5. Have a presence on the web where fans can buy your stuff
  • 6. Have a press kit
  • 7. Make friends with and stay in contact with industry people, including successful local musicians, engineers, producers, DJs, journalists, indie label people. These folks are all potential supporters. If you can find a way to help them, they will want to help you.
  • 8. I’m sure there are plenty others I’m forgetting.

These individual efforts build upon each other, so over time the total effect is often greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes they even take on a life of their own and are no
longer in your control. Fans tell their friends, put up their own fan websites about you and so on.

If you can do each and every one of these to some extent, it will make it easier for you to succeed. If you skip one, you’ll have to make it work with the remaining pieces. I know some of these may seem impossible, depending on your circumstances.

Sometimes the task may feel overwhelming. That’s where, in addition to talent, you need drive, heart, perseverance and patience.

Here’s some help for #5: Use Facebook and ReverbNation. They are and free and they can be set up very quickly. At the very least it’s a web presence for you until you can develop your own site. You’re going to need to gather all the elements of a web site: photos, mp3s, blog, bio, gig calendar, etc. You can use now them for Myspace, then use the same ones later in your full blown site. Or, if you already have a web site, you can re-use many of the elements in your new Facebook and ReverbNation sites.

Check out my band’s Facebook site.

Here’s some help with #6. The 29 most important elements in creating music publicity materials are explained in a publication called Killer Press Kits.

Here’s some help with #7, see the previous blog entry, called I’d Rather Be Networking than Not Working.

I’d rather be networking than not working

October 5, 2009

I just read an interesting article about networking in the music business, called The Fine Art of Networking by Kenny Kerner.

It starts like this

“Don’t be afraid of the word. It doesn’t bite. In the music business, “networking” is just a fancy term for “hanging out.” For our Jewish readership, it’s “schmoozing.” There, I can see you’re smiling already. That’s better.

The best way to learn and to make connections is to hang out—I mean network. Back in the ’70s, when I wanted to learn about producing records, I hung out at recording studios and asked questions of other producers and engineers. And even though I was just hanging out, to others in the Biz, I was in fact, networking.

Enough already. I’m going to assume you now know what the word means and move on to more important things—like how to network and why it’s so incredibly important to your careers.”

Read the whole article.

Reprinted with permission from TAXI: the world’s leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows.

© 2004 TAXI. All rights reserved.

An unusual creative challenge

October 1, 2009

There’s a web site called Album-a-Day, in which the site’s owner challenges people to write and record a complete album in a 24 hour period and post it to the internet (preferably with no sleep break in-between). He then adds your project to his list. He defines an album as a minimum of 20 minutes or 30 songs.

Anyone up for it?