A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘MySpace’ Category

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?

Stepping up as a songwriter

I’ve just written a long convoluted email to one of the advisers at the Berklee School of Music. I am thinking of studying some papers on their online school, given that I live in New Zealand and they are in the USA.

The gist of the email is that I feel their courses and degrees are largely focussed at the performing songwriter, aka singer songwriter. Songwriting seems to be focussed around getting your story out, using your experiences to paint word and music textures based around what you have felt, seen, heard, tasted……

I love performing, but it is not want I think I am best at. I am way to old to try to make it as a performer. It’s too narrow a scope for me. I want to write for many genres, but my voice and playing style wouldn’t support that. I’ve written R&B which includes rap, but there is no way I could ever perform it.

I want to write, not about my own experiences, but to be able to make a credible portrayal of the artist/s who perform my work as though it came from their heart.

The courses and most books are about how to make it as a writer performer. They talk about how to market your songs to listeners. They talk about how to get gigs, how to increase your revenue by selling merchandise at gigs. How to build a fan base etc. This is all great for most people, but of limited benefit to me.

I’ve put a lot of effort into sites like MySpace and Music Forte, with relative success if you look at it from the perspective of listens. I’ve had number one songs in Country on Music Forte and been in the MySpace top 10 in the same genre for New Zealand. This means people like some of my songs, but it doesn’t help me sell songs.

One of my greatest strengths is probably also my greatest weakness. I am a generalist and do a little of a lot. I read lots of books, concurrently. I listen to many genres and enjoy most of them. I put energy into dozens of web sites, hoping that one of them will make a difference and I have had a few small successes. I had a song signed with a publisher, but he didn’t sell the song. In hindsight, he wasn’t the right publisher, but it felt good to be able to say I had one. I’ve had a few opportunities to write songs for albums, but haven’t sold one.

I’ve written some good songs, but they were largely written for my own performance and the ones that weren’t, I didn’t have access to the right artists to perform them.

The market here today seems to be largely made up of singer songwriters who write or collaborate to write their own music. When they get dry, they have sessions with fellow singer songwriters. Because I’m not focussed on performing, and took myself out of the scene many years ago to raise a family, I’m not in those circles. I’d like to be, but not as a fellow performer. I’ve written songs with local artists in mind, but haven’t made the effort to try to get them to listen. I wrote one with Bic Runga in mind, but procrastinated to the point of inactivity in making contact with her. Interesting really, because in my business life, I am constantly networking with business leaders.

This sounds like a lot of bleeting, but really what it is about, is me refocussing on my goals at the end of the year, with a view to making something really good happen. To work out how to make this career happen. It’s going to take some serious discipline and work. I’m going to need some help and I’m hoping that Berklee is going to be part of that equation, because at the very least it will help me focus and allow me to access a network that I can’t find locally.

It will be very important for me to make sure that the work I do is centred on my goals. That when I study or work, it is with the end in mind and not just about finishing a paper because there are assignments due. It’s a lot of money to spend if it doesn’t help me realise my goals.

What really helped me focus, was a blog I read and reread, by Eric Beall, author of Making Music Make Money (Which I have just ordered on Amazon, which was called Back to Basics, and seemed to describe my situation perfectly. So, if what I am saying is relevant to your situation, you might like to hang around and follow my journey.

DIY Record Album Production lessons

Almost every time I’ve played a live gig, I get asked if I have a CD that people can buy and the sad and sorry answer is no, but here’s my card and you can visit my website at MySpace. Now there is my first error, you really should have your own website, but I haven’t found a CMS yet that is easy for me to use, but I will do soon. Anyway, even if you can’t afford to visit a studio, there are plenty of low cost tools that you can purchase, either software or hardware. I have both.  Now you can create your own CD.

I will also visit Go Daddy one of these days and get my own URL, which you can easily link to your MySpace or other page until you have your own. They only charge $9.99 for a .com domain. If you listen to the great Musicians Cooler Podcast, he has a number of promo codes that will give you a discount off Go Daddy services.

I’ll wait until I use up most of my business cards which have the MySpace address on it.

Anyway, back to the story. I bought myself a Canon iP4500 printer which will print directly on printable CD’s. It was very cheap and did a great job, except it doesn’t print all the way into the hole of the CD, which is a minor dissapointment. I checked the settings and they are set to the closest it will go.

I spent quite a lot of time on the image I wanted on the label and also making sure it was consistent with the insert cover and the theme of the Album which is Greenhouse. I thought I’d be able to find some good templates on Microsoft Publisher but was sorely dissapointed. Fortunately at a sale last week I found a software package called CD Covers and Labels for Dummies, which was as simple and simplistic as you would expect, but awesome value for $5! So I as able to use their templates and my images.

I put the title on the CD label and also in smaller print on the bottom Copyright Luigi Cappel 2009.

I worked out the order of the tracks I wanted, which I listed on the Album insert. I didn’t put in the song times, which I will probably do on the next batch, because if any of these do find their way to a radio station, they will want to know how long the tracks play for.

When I went to burn the CD’s using Sonic Digital Media Plus v7, I found (having wasted 3 CD’s) on testing them that the software had reordered the tracks alphabetically which meant I had to solve this problem because I wanted the tracks in the specific order to keep it relevant and interesting to the listener and I had already printed the inserts including the track listing. To solve this, I used the Rename function and numbered them in front of the song title. Now we were sweet.

Printing the labels was easy, although cutting them to size was a pain. I used fairly heavy paper so that it would look professional and not try to slide out of the case when it was opened. I used a guillotine and found it really hard to get the edges exactly right. Next time I’ll use a straight edge and a craft knife, which will be much easier. Also you need something for the back to fold the little edges which are the titles that you can see from the side.  Detail is important as even though the CD’s are home made I want them to look professional. The only thing missing is the shrinkwrapping, which I will have done later when I create more volume. There are plenty of places that will shrinkwrap for you very cheaply.

So just to go over the presentation. The front cover is consistent with the concept of the album. This album is called The Greenhouse Demo’s, because the songs are demo’s and Greenhouse is the title of Track 4. The cover art is a picture of a big block of Franz Joseph Glacier ice that is melting at a rapid pace. The title is very easily read on both the CD label and the insert.

On the inside of the isert I have a photo of myself (because the listener can’t late to you if they don’t know what you look like and the album is about building a fan base) holding a huge block of glacial ice which has melted and been washed away in the icy river.

On the back I put another picture of myself, this time standing on White Island which is an active ocean volcano and represents the global warming and the yin and yang of hot and cold. The other crucial data I put on the back is my email address and URL so that people can make contact with me, probably one of the most important things of all.

All in all, it was pretty simple. Everyone should have an album available, even if it’s home made, whenever you perform. I’m really pleased with how mine turned out and it looks more professional in my humble opinion than some that I have seen, made by ‘professionals’.

As a footnote, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts yesterday while I was vacuuming the pool. it is Music Business Radio. The interview was with Meiko, who I strongly recommend as a good listen. I love the song Boys with Girlfriends. Anyway, on the podcast they have a section called Dave’s Demolition Derby where they get their guests to review 3 songs hat listeners have sent in for critique. I can’t remember her Manager’s name but he used to be an A&R man and made the comment that Record Companies and others get loads of unsolicited CD’s in the mail and some of them look really cheap and nasty.  If you hae to pick a few of them for a quick listen, which one do you think will get an airing, the one with a CD which someone has written on, something like My Cool Song, or one that looks like it was purchased of the shelf of your favorite CD store?

one-cube2

Another Stretch in Iraq, my Christmas Song

December is only hours away and I have just entered my song Another Stretch in Iraq into the Paramount Group’s Christmas Song Competition. Why enter a song about a soldier going back to the Iraq War?

I couldn’t think of anything more poignant than soldiers in the field opening up a parcel from home which has a miniature Christmas Tree in it. The men and women will be thinking of home, wishing they could be with their friends and family, just as they would have at Thanksgiving. Just as their families and friends are thinking of them, wishing they were at home, hoping they will come home safe, sound and soon.

The concept of soldiers going to war with pictures of their loved ones helping them keep it together and coming home finding their loved ones have moved on in their absence is not unusual and while it is tough, the strength and security of knowing your fellow soldiers have your back is in a sense even stronger than your home relationship because their support can be the difference between coming home alive or in a body bag. The memories of experiences in the field can not be fully understood by those who have not served in the field of war. The worry of those at home waiting and praying for their men and women is also a unique feeling, worrying every time the mail is late or the doorbell rings late at night.

So while my Christmas song is not about sleigh bells ringing or Santa coming down the chimney, it is about love and family, about fellowship and trust and about being alive, that special way of feeling alive in a world of uncertainty.

Now I haven’t been to war, I’ve been lucky to have come of age between wars, but plenty of my family members have served in times of peace and war.

I did spend 6 months or so researching it and the reaction of men who served in Desert Storm when I performed it in the US last year suggest that I managed to capture some of the feelings.

It must be pretty tough for someone to want to go back to the Bradley (personnel carrier)

Id rather have my Bradley

I'd rather have my Bradley

and the MRE rations (Made Ready to Eat) having gone home to the girl or guy they felt they were fighting for and finding they now love someone else. But the story has probably happened a hundred times to soldiers in the last year and to thousands before them.

So, I give to you and the judges of the Paramount Group songwriting contest, Another Stretch in Iraq and hope that they see my Christmas Song entry as a piece written full of respect for the men and women whose blogs I read and commented on at the Milblogging Site and the diaries of Desert Storm which told their story in their own words. This isn’t a song of war, but a song of people who do what they feel they must and what they feel.

Merry Christmas to all those brave people fighting and peacekeeping on their missions around the world. You and your families have my deepest respect. May your stretch be short and your Christmases with your families holding each other around  the tree be many.

Another Stretch in Iraq

(you can listen at MySpace)

©Luigi Cappel 2007

1

I was walking on an empty street

My feet were marching to a lonely beat

I had you on my mind.

I kept on walking though my feet were sore

There was no procrastinating I could take no more

I wanted to leave you far behind.

I served my time on the sand in Iraq

While you were making hay with my good friend Mark

How could I have been so blind?

Thinking of you helped me keep my cool

Little did I know you played me for a fool

Feel like I’m gonna lose my mind.

Chorus

I might as well sign up for another stretch

There’s nothing left to keep me here aint life a bitch?

At least in the army I know where I stand

Serving my country in a foreign land.

Sit-rep says its all haywire

Its home where I got shot by friendly fire

I’m going back

Home is where I thought I wanted to be

Now I’d rather have my Bradley and an MRE

Even in Iraq

Bridge

It’s a strange old world we’re living in

Don’t know who you can trust

Don’t know where to begin

Now I’m gonna live my life one day at a time

So its Christmas time and the desert is cold

My life is with the army if the truth be told

They’ve got my back

My mom and dad sent a little Christmas tree

They said that they were praying for the boys and me

They said get yourself back on track

Chorus

I might as well sign up for another stretch

There’s nothing left to keep me here aint life a bitch?

At least in the army I know where I stand

Serving my country in a foreign land.

Thanks so much for reading my blog. If you know someone who would appreciate this blog, please send them a link. Please feel free to leave a comment, I always welcome feedback. If you are inspired by this, check out the links, its not too late to contribute to a Christmas Parcel. The guys who blog at Milblogging also appreciate feedback and knowing that even total strangers are thinking of them. Finally wish me luck with my Paramount Song Competition entry, I’m keen to grow my career as a songwriter and a competition like this could be a leg up.

Weaving a story

Many people will tell you that there are 2 key ingedients in writing a great country song, the first is telling a good story and the other is roping you in so that you get emotionally involved in the story.

Today I received a ‘friend request’ on my MySpace page from Kirsty Lee Akers. Her voice sounded a little like Dolly Parton’s and that isn’t a bad thing. But this girl is from Australia and is totally her own person. She has some really good songs, covering a range of topics that show up her talents and belie her age, but one of them prompted me to stop what I was doing and really listen.

Any song that really makes you listen and can evoke emotions the way The Territory did in me, shows great talent. Kirsty Lee has a great voice, clear and crisp, but what stands out is the story which even without a great video is very moving. Another thing you should do is have your own website and hers is crisp, modern and yet you get the impression that she is sharing herself with you.

I recommend a close listen to each word for an example on how to craft a great song.

Who do I sound like?

There are lots of sites where you can post your music and one of the ways people find you is when they are looking for people who sound similar to one of their favourite artists. MySpace has that feature. Last FM is built around that concept.

Last FM is like your own personal radio station that tries to come up with the music you like. It’s free, which is great and when you listen to music you can rate it, love it or ban it and the station will eventually evolve into exactly the kind of music you like. You can get it to start playing music by selecting an artist or a topic. If you want to listen to songs about Christmas, just key in Christmas, if you want to listen to my songs or artists like me, select artist and enter Luigi Cappel.

As a songwriter, artist or band, you can set up your own site where you can upload your music and videos and people can listen to your music. Just go to the Music Manager section and start creating your page. I have 1 1/2 albums up there so far. Greenhouse and Reflections which is only half complete so far.

So here’s the problem. I have entered 3 artists who have influenced me, particularly on certain songs. They are Don Henly (in particular my song Only Memories Survive), Willie Nelson and Jimmy Webb. The problem I have is in being objective when I listen to myself. So perhaps you can have a listen to some of my songs on one of my sites and tell me who you think I sound like. You can here them at Last FM by entereing my name, you can hear some at MySpace and more at Music Forte.

If you can be bothered, it would be great if you can give me feedback on what artists you think I sound like so I can add them into my sites to help people who like those artists find me. I’ll be happy to return the favor of course.

There are many benefits of understanding who you are like. If you know who you sound like, you can look for gigs where people like that kind of music. You can get a better idea of who to pitch your songs to as a songwriter and you can guide potential fans to your music online.

MySpace and YouTube as a promotional tool

This may be old hat to you, but I’ve just started trying something new to me. I have a couple of videos on MySpace, which are basically slide shows of 2 of my songs, Only Memories Survive and Watch Me Daddy.

I’m trying to promote W atch Me Daddy because I want a great singer to pick the song up and I am also trying to market it as a song that I will edit (commercially of course, I am trying to forge a career as a songwriter) and turn into a new son that someone can give to my daughter. Wouldn’t you love your daughter to have her very own song?

Anyway, what I have started doing is when someone sends me a friend request, having listened to their songs and left a comment, I embed the song into my comment so they can watch the video and listen to it without having to go to my MySpace Page, where they can also of course watch it.

I’m doing the same when I leave a comment for an artist who I think will like the song. It’s not technical. All you need to do is go to your video on YouTube and copy the ’embed code’ which you paste into the comment.

Something else I have started doing is including a photo, like this one, into my MySpace comments. You will have seen that there is now an Add Photo command when you put comments onto someone’s page. It is a little confusing because you follow the instructions, click on the photo you want, but it is not obvious what to do next. All you do is click on the x to close the page and the photo is magically there.

Me, jammimg in Jamaica

Me, jammimg in Jamaica

Now if only they would fix the counter on my page. Last week MySpace changed the default music player. At first I had almost a thousand listens on my page and knew that was wrong, so I got them to fix it. But now it has stayed at zero for a couple of days and I know that is wrong too. Hopefully they will get it right soon.

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