A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Songwriting New Year’s Activity and Resolutions

So its 2011 and I have made some resolutions, the big one being to really work hard in my songwriting and I’ve started off the way I intend to continue.

My first blog for this year was about my new song God if You’re Listening and having given it a lot of thought in the wee hours, I am doing an about face which will hopefully head me off in the right direction, especially a week before my first Berklee Music Semester of the year, with the paper on Commercial Songwriting Techniques.

So here’s my first weakness which I aim to correct. When I write a new song, I record a demo straight away. That’s fine if you do it so that you can remember all the nuances, but I tend to want to upload it onto websites straight away before it ripens. The result of this is that:

  • I haven’t learned how to play it properly yet. This means that the recording sounds like what it is. What it isn’t is a quality demo. Just because I know how I want it to sound, doesn’t mean that it is ready or refined.
  • I haven’t run through my Song Quality Checklist from Music Publishing 101. The first question of which is “Does the title sound like a hit. My song from my last blog started off as Santa If You’re Listening, but I very quickly realized it was wrong for lots of reasons, including that the dominant theme was a woman talking to God. It also means that it is not just a Christmas and Country song, but also a Christian song.
  • I rushed the accompaniment which actually sounded rushed and boring.
  • I added more instruments than necessary which actually detracted from the recording. As I songwriter, I really need to focus on simple elements, vocals, one guitar and bass. If  I want to pitch the song to an artist, in most cases less is more.
  • The melody and phrasing always improve the more you play a new song.

So sometime soon I am going to re-record “God If You’re Listening”. In the meantime, I am going to do the following things:

  1. Work through my Song Quality Checklist.
  2. Create a song Admin Sheet
  3. Print copies of the song and chords for my 3 performance clearfiles
  4. Register it with APRA
  5. Analyse a hit song in a similar style from my ongoing list of 5 songs for analysis. Probably Temporary Home by Zac Maloy, Luke Laird and co-written and recorded by Carrie Underwood, because it is similar inasmuch as it was written to evoke emotions and because it is a very successful hit song.
  6. Then I will revisit my song to see what I can improve.
  7. When I am happy I will re-record it, put some copies onto CD and then submit to a number of websites.

The key point I am making is about treating my songs as a business product, because if I don’t no one else will.

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It’s March Already

Wow, time has flown. I’m almost at the end of my first Berklee Music paper which is Music Publishing 101 and have been really enjoying it. I knew from past experience that this means self discipline in getting my readings done and getting assignments in on time, but it is so worth it.

Anyone who has studied subjects they were passionate about at university, knows how much you gain from them, and how they can move your career forward. The only catch now is that I have a list of so many things that I need to do asap, that the course has shown me, that I am wondering how I can start on my next paper and do all of those things at the same time.

Amongst the things I need to do is complete all the administration for my song catalogue and have everything in files so that I can access them on demand. This includes archives of Lyric Sheets, Split Sheets (only one song is a collaboration so far, so that’s not a biggie), copies of each song demo on disk in MP3 and CD format, with liner notes and much more.

One area I didn’t really consider or know how to deal with was TV and Film. New Zealand is obviously very successful in the film industry, but I also learned in my research that publishers such as Mushroom Music NZ has had real success in publishing to local and international TV, so they are on my contact list.

I have decided that I need to re-record every song demo for all songs that are on my A and B lists, before I make contact with people like Mushroom, because I want them to be impressed with my writing and not ruin chances by providing A&R people with hastily recorded demo’s, recorded within minutes of completing writing of songs on my Tascam Digital 8 Track. I have also decided that I should record more of my guitar  music arrangements as they are very good, but I have never considered them as having commercial value.

Of course this is all money and time, but if I want to have a music career as a songwriter and composer, I need to get seriously organized and treat it as a business.

So next steps. I had a meeting with APRA last week, which was very helpful. I was looking for advice, but also to let them know that I am working hard on my craft and music education and looking to go ahead in the industry. I put in an application for a grant to attend the Song Summit in Sydney in June and also inquired about next year’s music grants. Currently I am studying my Bachelor of Songwriting degree online, but I can’t complete the full degree online and the cost to travel from New Zealand to study in Boston MA, with accommodation etc is very high, so I am hoping that when the time gets closer I can get some local support to make the trip.

Another challenge I have is staying in touch with the industry and really getting to know it well, locally and internationally. This means reading magazines that you can’t buy locally. These include Country Music Magazine from Australia and of course Billboard from the USA.  New Zealand is really bad when it comes to accessibility to international music magazines, so this means more money to get subscriptions and of course time to read the magazines. There are of course loads of great websites, including the ones for the magazines I just mentioned, this also means more time for reading and research.

I haven’t done any gigs for a couple of months, because this also takes time for practice and the gigs themselves, but I really need to fit this in as well, not to mention writing new songs!

So loads of work to do, money to find for recording, artists to find to record my songs, because I can’t do them full justice myself. In between I have a full time job, a family, a mortgage and other commitments, but they say if you want something done, give it to someone who is busy.

What I need now is a winning Lotto ticket so that I can focus on my music instead of working 50 hours a week in my day job.

The bottom line is that if you want to be a success in this industry you need to work hard and a little luck would be nice, but most of the time you need to make your own luck, by putting in the effort. I can’t remember who actually said it the first time, but it was along the lines of “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Pitching your songs

As per my previous blog, I have signed up with the Berklee College of Music and start my first paper on Monday. Looking through their website, a DIY orientation visit, I found an excellent blog by Eric Beall about music publishing and marketing, which I found inspiring. I consequently ordered a copy of his book Making Music Make Money from Amazon.

I looked through several papers and decided to take Eric’s paper Music Publishing 101 first. My reasoning was two-fold. First, an area I struggle with the most is getting my music to a publisher or A&R person, which is compounded by being in New Zealand, which is a country where most of the successful industry names still have secondary jobs because the local market is so small.

Second, I am writing songs already and honing them isn’t going to help me get them out there any faster. I felt that constantly working on my songwriting craft was almost a form of procrastination in itself. I need to keep learning, absolutely and I am looking forward to doing papers that will help me with that later in the year.

If you are serious about becoming a professional songwriter, I recommend Eric’s latest series of blogs to you, and especially the latest which struck a chord with me, entitled Thanks for your submission. We regret to inform….

Below is a comment I left to his blog that is waiting for moderation by Eric, but I recommend you read his blog first for the context.

“Selling and writing music are, as you pointed out, very different aspects of the business. Many successful musicians and songwriters I have met absolutely hate the concept of having to pitch their songs or sell themselves off stage.

An interesting thing I have found in my business career is that sales people themselves are often scared of making the cold call. Sales courses are full of material about call reluctance. So if fear of cold calling is a problem for people in the sales profession, it may even more so be a problem for songwriters, who are often shy and introspective people. Sales people are very good at procrastinating and finding good reasons for not picking up the phone or banging on a prospects door.

I belong to a local songwriters group and in the beginning found it difficult to perform my new material for critique from my peers, even though in public, I was always confident performing the same songs to strangers. I overcame the fear and learned to appreciate the positives, accept the critique, whether I was open to it or not and welcome suggestions on how to improve it.

I wonder if the same call reluctance could be more of an issue for songwriters, than allocating the time. We want people to love what we write. Almost everytime we write a new song, we love it, it becomes our favorite. We don’t want someone rejecting it and perhaps it is easier not to submit it.

I found the support and genuine critique of my peers to be empowering, particularly because it was genuine. That would be one of the biggest failings imho of sites like MySpace, where we tell people who have songs that are like listening to someone scraping their fingernails down a blackboard, but we want to build them up, so we tell them they are great. But I digress.


Thanks for another illuminating blog. Persistence is totally important, but first of all you need to take that first step and act. Each step becomes easier. We also need to have a thick skin and sales people have great techniques to deal with that.

For example, if we know that on average it takes 10 calls to make a sale. Instead of being dissapointed with the rejection, we can tell ourselves that we only have 9 calls left to success.”

If you find this interesting, why not bookmark my blog and join me on my continued journey?

Music Education on the Net

This morning there was a feature in the Business Herald about Gordon Dryden, which I haven’t finished reading. Gordon is one of New Zealand’s prominent experts on education and I have a few of his excellent books in my library. The story was obviously related to the launch of his new book, The Learning Web, which I  will have to add to my collection.

A major concept of the story is that in the future , no later than 2014, 25% of high school courses will be available on the net. The timing was interesting because I already learn a lot about the music industry on the net, from blogs, web sites and especially through 2 of my favourite podcasts, being The Musicians Cooler and Music Business Radio.

I actually made a personal commitment yesterday while listening to an interview with Chuck Wills and Monty Powell on the Music Business Radio podcast Episode 79, which I strongly recommend anyone interested in breaking into the country music industry as a performer or songwriter should listen to. You can find it here. Monty was full of great information and about his experiences, songwriting and the importance of Nashville as one of the last big music cities that is still thriving and full of professionals today.

Monty’s work appears on over 50 million records and listening to him critiqueing people’s work, there is no doubt that he knows his craft intimately. For the up and coming songwriters he had lots of encouragement, stating that songwriting is a craft which can be taught and honed.

I live in Auckland, New Zealand and have a family and a day job and my commitment to them means that if I ever get to Nashville it will be for a week or 2, not to stay, which I should have done years ago, but now I want to go back to the net and education.

A year or so ago I had the good fortune to attend a weekend course with Pat Pattison, of the Berklee School of Music and I learned lots and got huge value from the course as well as the networking with other local musicians. Networking is something that Monty also emphasised as crucial to your success as many if not most careers have been forged through who you know.

From an educational perspective, I know people who went to Berklee, like Taura Eruera. But he and many others do offer excellent training on the Internet for those who can’t take a few years out to go and learn in the university or head to Nashville to soak information and experience from those who are willing to share.

The web is full of online courses for songwriting, so all I have to do now is decide where to start at a level that my budget can afford.

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