Friday, August 24, 2012

Identify Yourself!

 Jan 2012
As we begin this New Year I’m sure we’re all making resolutions about where we’d like to be this time next year.  (I have decided the beach sounds good!)
I’m sure all of us would also like to be farther along on the professional path.  With that in mind, I intend to write more articles in the Songwriters Connection that pertain to crafting more marketable,  commercial songs and to utilizing business techniques that will accelerate your rise to success.  I want to begin by putting this idea in your head as you create your plan of attack for 2012.
 Identify yourself!  Create an identity for yourself as a professional in the music industry. 
Some of the ways to identify yourself are obvious (yet surprisingly often overlooked).  They instantly separate the amateurs from the serious songwriters and artists.  Here are a few fundamental ideas to keep in mind for establishing your identity in the coming year.
Identify yourself when pitching your product.  Put your contact information on EVERY piece of material you give to ANYONE!  Give complete contact information; E-mail, phone, snail mail address.  You would be very surprised at the missed opportunities that arise from making yourself too hard to reach.  Give them a chance to contact you. (If they don’t, at least it won’t be your own fault.)
Identify yourself when you have the opportunity to meet someone who might help your career.  I’m certainly not advocating annoying people you hope to work with, but don’t miss an opportunity to be noticed either, by being too shy or too polite to say, “Hello, my name is Bob and I am a songwriter.  I admire your work.”  People love being acknowledged and it could begin a conversation that pays off down the road. Give them a chance to remember you.   (They can love you or hate you, but do not let them ignore you!)
Identify yourself in your writing style.  If you are an artist, you strive to create an original vocal sound that utilizes your unique singing ability.  If you are a songwriter, you should do the same.  Everyone has a unique sense of how they use language, phrasing, rhyme, meter, rhythm and structure.  One style does not fit all.  Use what comes naturally to you.  Identify what makes you unique in your writing style and they showcase it to the world so that it becomes synonymous with your name.
Identify yourself by the sound quality of your recordings.  They are your first impression and will tell the music community where you belong on the ladder of success.  Give your songs the best presentation you can.  Set the bar for what producers, publishers, artists, A&R should expect from you so they are anxious to open the envelope when you mail or drop a new song off to them.
With the opening of my new studio, Ragtop Recording, I have already put my money where my mouth is.  From the vintage Trident console to the latest ProTools and digital outboard gear, it will take every recording I produce to the next level and beyond! The sound quality is amazing and the vibe is warm and relaxed. It will help me to identify myself even further with my unique producer’s voice.  More importantly, it helps me give you and your songs a strong new identity to help them stand out and take you further faster!
Create your identity this year and find your place in the music community that you want to be a part of!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Power of Simplicity in Songwriting

The Power of Simplicity in Songwriting
By Kim Copeland
Reprint from The Songwriters Connection E-Tip

Most up and coming songwriters have been told at least once to “be original”. Try to say something that hasn’t been said before or to say it in a new way. Easier said than done, right?

…Maybe so.

Too often we strangle our creativity by trying to be too profound, too clever, too original. Listen to the radio. Most radio hits contain elements of familiarity combined with a new twist. They aren’t reinventing the wheel. They just give us enough new to make the old sound fresh.

Listeners want to feel engaged and comfortable while listening to songs. They don’t want to think as much as feel. Music is more emotional than intellectual. Complex lyrics and musical structures have their place, but in commercial songwriting, they are rarely the songs that “break” songwriting careers. Those songs are written for the writer, not the audience. If you hope to find commercial success as a songwriter, you owe it to yourself to try to understand what listeners respond to. Why they are drawn to some songs over others. What makes them willing to pay for some songs so they can listen to them over and over again?

Simplicity is a powerful tool in songwriting. If you can wrap a deep message within a catchy, repetitive melody, you’ve got a hit. If you can create a groove that makes the listener immediately feel comfortable wanting to move to it, you’ve got a hit. By combining simple elements that any listener can get involved with easily and quickly, and original elements (whatever you do differently than anyone else), you create a fresh, new product that can attract a mass audience.

When you play to your strengths by doing what comes naturally to you, you make writing songs easier and you write better songs. Keep it simple by identifying elements that work for you and combining them in a way that works for audiences.

Study what people respond to about your songs. Once you have identified it, let that be the unique factor that you showcase in all of your writing. It could be your language; the way you express yourself or your ideas. It might be your musical gift; the chord voicings you use or the particular texture and tone of your instrument, be it guitar or voice. Perhaps you feel grooves and phrasing that is different and hooks people into your songs.

Study hit songs from several genres, and try to determine what about the song is infectious to listeners. Is it the groove, the hooky message, the musical riff, the sing along melody? Next, choose one element from each of two or three different hit songs, and combine them with one of your lyrical ideas. Maybe a repetitive chord structure from one song combined with the groove of another. Now add your original lyric to it and see if it gives you a presentation for your song that now contains some proven elements with some fresh new ones. Almost every hit song has something that is familiar hidden within it, either by design or accident.

I am certainly NOT encouraging you to plagiarize anyone’s work; but studying it, learning from it and using that knowledge to help you break through the wall of commercial songwriting is encouraged. We are all conglomerates of what we have seen, heard, felt, and absorbed. By using your experiences, talents and personal musical tastes you will create an original voice for yourself as a songwriter. Hopefully, one that will help you stand out as original while attracting a mass audience.

When you hear “be original” and “this is a little TOO different – I don’t know what to do with it” in the same conversation, perhaps you are trying too hard. Try being original within the structure of familiarity and see if not only makes your songwriting life easier, but also elevates your standing in the commercial market.