A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘New Media’ Category

The Recording Studio

Hey guys, first of all apologies for the blogfade, I’ve been really busy, especially since my broken wrist has healed and I am playing again. I have a few great new songs ready to be recorded, well two of them are ready to be recorded, I’m still working on the guitar solo for the third which is a jazz song.

I’ve said many times that you should sign up to your Performing Rights Association. I’m a writer member of APRA (If you are in the USA you can join either ASCAP or BMI) which looks after Australia and New Zealand. Actually I wonder why it isn’t called ANZPRA? As well as making sure that you collect your performance royalties, they do lots of other things like putting on the awesone S3 Song Summit Sydney which I went to and blogged about last year. They also support and sponsor lots of seminars like the one I went to at Depot Artspace yesterday.

Now I have of course recorded in a studio before, but this was a great workshop with the opportunity to learn more about recording, mixing and mastering. There were a couple of things that I came away with that I thought I would share with you.

First of all, with the economy as it is, many studios are quiet and you may be able to negotiate a deal, even if its just some extra practice time. Rates seem to vary from $25 an hour to huge sums. Don’t just go on price because you may get what you paid for, although some people may be very good, but either getting started or just want to help fellow musos or gain experience. So cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality.

A key bit of advice is to hear some examples of their work. Also see if they have experience in your genre.  Someone into electonica or heavy metal might not bring the best out of country or a solo singer songwriter with just a guitar. But then they might too. Anyway check what they have done and ask if they have testimonials or any hits under their belt.

Another good bit of advice is to collect a selection of tracks of artists whose sound you like and you would like your track to sound like. Then you can take those tracks to the studio for the team to listen to. You can say, I want my track to sound like that. The guys at Depot Artspace, said that if you do that, they will be able to come close, although of course a lot of it is up to y0u.

There was some discussion, instigated by me, as to what costs to expect for mixing, mastering etc. I wont preempt any pricing but you should be leaving at least a c0uple of hundred dollars. One of the suggestions was whether you were looking for a single or ‘just an album track’. I was surpised at that. Obviously some people want to put more into their ‘best’ tracks. The problem I have with that is that I want all my tracks to be the best they can be and often the track you like the best isn’t the one that becomes the hit. There is also the issue that in todays world of iTunes and downloads, its quite possible that most of your sales will be for single tracks. These days of most of the albums I buy, there are only a few tracks that I really like.

I’ve currently got my eye out for a few musicians that would like to record with me in the studio. I’m especially after a drummer and someone who plays pedal steel. I can’t pay them but they will get credit on the demos. I’ll do another blog soon about demos, this blog is about the studio.

For solo artists like myself (I do play with resident or jam bands but its been many years since I’ve been IN a band), keeping time can be an issue when you bring session musicians in. When  its you on your own people won’t notice if your timing slides a fraction and sometimes you even do it deliberately. I do that in my new jazz song Color Blind. If you can’t keep steady in a studio, it’s going to cost you time and money and annoy the other musicians. My Tascam home studio has a click track and I also have a metronome, but they are both so  boring and don’t give you the one beat. Fortunately my new Digitech Jam Man has a choice of 10 click tracks, they aren’t great, but much better than what I had before and I don’t mind playing with them. Maybe I’ll  be able to download some better samples. One thing the Jam Man doesn’t seem to be able to do is let you select the beats per minute, you have to tap it in, but I digress. The point is that if you make sure you are as ready as you can be, before you get to the studio, the better your result will be.

So shop around, do your homework, ask for examples of their work and ask liots of questions. People don’t work in recording studios for a job. They do it as a vocation. They do it because theyh love it. You will pretty much find all of them interested and happy to show you around and explain how they work. Remember, its about their reputation as well as yours.

How about leaving a comment and sharing your experiences in the studio?

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

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.

What are A&R People?

I’ve seen a few people find my blog when they are trying to find out about what A & R people do, so I thought I’d blog a little about them, not that I have met many yet. A & R stands for Artists and Repertoire.

Basically they are the talent scounts of the recording industry. Their job is to go out and find future stars that the labels would like to sign up. Not too much different to talent scouts for sports clubs. They look for talent and often are involved in negotiating contracts with the new artists and help them make the transition from independant, to part of the business.

In current days, one of the most famous would be Simon Cowell of American Idol fame and many of the the comments that he makes to would be artists is about their potential as a recording artist.

To get an insite to what A&R people look for, there is a series on the BBC, which you can listen to here.

If you want more information, I found a great site called Getsigned.com. I don’t know anything about their services, but there are some great articles full of excellent information on how to get signed and other aspects of developing your professional career as an artist. Personally, I don’t want to be the artist, I want to write the songs for them.

Here is an interview with Stephan Brower of Vanguard Records

Stumble upon another way to promote your music

Having posted music on one or more websites as well as other marketing activity such as a blog, photo’s,  social networking or whatever resources you are using, there are opportunities to market these.

One I recently found out about was Stumbleupon. It’s a very interesting concept. The key concept is that you register and then download a toolbar and you use this to tell the Stumbleupon service what you are interested in. In effect, every site that you visit, you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to.

The service starts to understand what you are interested in and you can troll your way around the web looking at web sites. The more you vote for or against, the better it becomes at helping you find sites that will be of interest to you. It will also combine your interests and sites that you like with those of other people so that your recommendations may then in future be recommended to other people.

Thinking about promoting your music or songwriting efforts, this means that you can ‘stumbleupon’ those sites and recommend them. Of course besides self promotion, this also does provide an ability to provide you with useful information that you may be genuinely interested in which you can explore by ‘stumbling’.

The toolbar has a number of other features. You can use a button to send a URL to someone else who you think will be interested and you can do this by importing your contacts from your email application or by inputting an address. This is a nice feature which means you can do this without having to open your email client.

You can view ‘Channels’ of information such as images, video, viewing sites that your ‘friends’ like as well as links to sites that others have stumbled on from a selection of areas of interest that you opt in to.

So far this looks simple to use and unobtrusive. The only concern I had really was that it is one more toolbar on my browser as I now have the normal Firefox toolbar, a toolbar where I locate sites I visit frequently, a Googe Toolbar, that I don’t really use, but probably should and should probably utilise better (says he as he adds a Gmail button to it), the new Stumbleupon toolbar and the bar that shows the tabs that I have open.

I don’t know yet how much Stumbleupon will help me promote my songwriting and music, but will let you know how it goes.

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.

Tube Mogul Promote Your Music Video

I only have a couple of video’s at the moment and video is really stretching it a little because they are my songs played to a photo slideshow. You can find them by searching for me on YouTube or going to my MySpace page.

Only Memories Survive was my first. Both of these were done by my friend Noel Schlachter. If you get him to do one for you, tell him that I referred you. I don’t get anything for that, I just like it when people know that I have recommended them:)

The other song video, which you can find here, was Watch Me Daddy.

I hope to do my first real music video this summer, for my song Muriwai Beach, which you can hear on my Music Forte page.I’m just waiting to get my broken wrist back in shape.

Anyway, whatever your music video is, I recommend checking out Tube Mogul. I haven’t actually used it properly yet, because I don’t have accounts with many of the sites that it supports and the ones where I do, I have already posted my videos.

The concept is that they post your video to a huge list of websites, so that your music will get heard, which is awesome, but there is a lot of time involved. In order to post it on all those sites, you need to have an account with them. If you are going to have an account with them, it will mean completing all the forms, creating bio’s and all the other things you need to do, but then if you want to get heard, you have to do something.

So this gives you a list of all the places you can post your video’s, but it does much more than that. It allows you to go to one place for reports on how many times they have been played on each site and lots more.

I’ve decided I really like this site. I’m going to stop blogging and get into it. You should too:)

Everybody’s talking about, Slot Music

New York, Paris, London, Munich

Everyone’s talking about, Slot Music.

At least, it finally hit the NZ Herald today . Beaten by downloads affecting retail store sales, major record companies inlcuindg  Sony BMG, Warner and EMI have decided to make their music more accessible by putting it on 1GB Micro SD Cards.

They plan to still put them into CD cases and say that with the extra space, they can include the liner, liner notes and other information. They will be DRM free and you can even play your music on your computer by using the Micro SD Card with a dongle. The music will be in MP3 format at 320kbps they say on the info site, which they say is very high quality music. Really?

The say that hundreds of millions of phones, Personal Computers and in the future lots of car entertainment sytsms will be able to listen to this music.

Well hello! Do you think we consumers are thick? Let’s go back to the future and do a different thing in the same way and charge a premieum for convenience.

So here’s the thing. Back in the day we had audio casettes and vinyl. Audio casettes were cheap because they weren’t going to last long, especially on cheap walkman units that stretched the tape if they got dropped, got hot or for lots of other reasons. Vinyl was great, you got big liner art and photos, quite often big inserts with lyrics, interviews and more photos.

Then came the CD, which they said had far greater sound and extra space to put more information on. In the future, they said, they could include music videos, interviews, games, photos and much more. Of course we had to pay more for this amazing technology but it was going to be worth it. In many cases the quality was superior, even the nice ambience of the needle was no longer there.

But the extras? Well they are the exception rather than the rule. In most cases we got less liner information, because of the size. Inserts happened sometimes but not very often and the additional material? Sometimes there was a hidden track, that was fun. Occassionally someone would add a music video and a few like BB King, put out a CD ROM with interviews, games and lots more. I still have mine, it was cool. Of course I don’t play it any more, but I felt I got my money’s worth and was chuffed that an old timer like The King could do something so modern.

So here’s my take on this. I have large quantities of CD’s and DVD’s pressed, not of my music unfortunately, but for car navigation. I also have large quantities of SD Cards duplicated, also for car navigation. Firstly, even at volume pricing SD Cards are much more expensive than CD’s or DVD’s.

Universal Music is going to release about 30 ‘Slots’ to start with, from their eLabs Digital Music Unit. Sounds more like a test to me, but anyway, I do applaud them for trying new technology. I think it’s a good idea to try new technology, given that CD’s are losing ground rapidly to downloads.

Will they add extra information to the SD Cards? Maybe for some of those first 30, but then it wil be the same old story, new media for a premium price (for the convenience) and nothing more. If they had listened to people like me 10 years ago (Netguide wouldn’t publish my opinion), they could have reinvented a format giving loads of extra value, far more than people could afford to download and created a whole new generation of fans and collectors. But no, they just wanted to increase cash flow and profit. After all, they knew far better than we consumers, what was good for us.

In my humble opinion, they created the monster we have today where people download and share music for free. And it is a monster friends, because what is happening is people are downloading music for free and the poor songwriters and performers are getting ripped off.  Sure there are big bands making truckloads of money for themselves and their promotors, but they are the minority. Most of the people in your favorite bands have to work a day job in order to be able to write and perform music at night. This might not be the case if they got fair remuneration for their work.

I ask you this. Do you work for free? Do you expect to go to work and build widgets or whatever you do and expect other people to reproduce them for peanuts and give them to your mates? Will you accept a 90% reduction in your income because people have found a way to clone your products? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, after that minor digression, this is a storm in a slot. Sure they will make some of these. Then they will cry foul when people copy them (if they can be bothered). They will weep when these cards don’t get sold, except on eBay, Craig’s List or Trade Me after people have copied the music onto their computers and shared them with their mates.

I love new technology, but when I can go to iTunes and for a couple of dollars, buy the only song as a track that I like (because I am happy for the band to make some money from it), why would I buy a little SD Card that I will probably lose.

In my humble opinion, the music industry got this one wrong. Can they redeem it? Only if they figure a way to genuinely add value. They want to offer the music on iGB SD Cards. (Interesting that I struggle to even buy 1GB SD Cards anymore.) Why not do something smart and offer us real value. Do what you should have done years ago and you might find a couple of years of legs in this yet. Use 4GB cards. Load it with the music, the live performance video, the interviews, the music video, lyric sheets (the mechanical rights people can still get a share) and a personal spoken message from the band or artist. You could sell that for a premium and create collectors items that people will want to keep.

Of course when real broadband arrives, people are no longer going to buy music in hard copy. I’m sorry but they won’t. Why would you. The other day I sat down in front of YouTube an had a great afternoon watching videos and listening to music of my favourite bands of the past and the present. All it cost me was a bit of internet access (and I do have ADSL 2 from Orcon so speed wasn’t an issue.

I think the future will be:

New York, Paris, London, Munich, Nobody’s talking about Slot Music.

Radioscope – Another Great Music Site

I said I would tell you about some more sites that might be of interest to your songwriting career. Radioscope is really an industry website for broadcast radio in New Zealand. So why should you care about it?

If you recall in previous blogs, I said that the best way to get journalists to write about you is to get to know them, find out what they are interested in, what they like, read their stories, develop a relationship.

Radioscope is where a lot of media people go for their news. At least I think they do, because they haven’t put anything new on the front page since July. They do have links to new stories, so maybe it is just “technical difficulties”. Therein does lie a lesson. If you have date stamped information on your web site, keep it current!

On a deeper look, I suspect someone has left the organisation and perhaps only current feeds like the charts are being updated.

One thing that is really good is the Chart Feeds. You can find the latest in a range of charts including singles, albums, DVD, compilations, Top 40 Airplay, Pop, Rock, Urban, Juice, MTV, C4, Alt, pretty much every chart you want. A great feature is that you can download them as an Excel File.

You may recall in a previous blog about Hit Songs I suggested that ir you want to write a Hit Song, you need a pretty good idea of what people are listening to in your genre. This a great place to look for if you are wanting to write a hit song for the New Zealand market in one of the genres covered on New Zealand radio.

There are lots of reasons songs become hits, many that you have little control over as a songwriter. The record companies, song pluggers, DJ’s, concert or tour promoters and even the media and advertisers are influential. Look at what the Cadbury’s ad did for Phil Collins. When “In the Air Tonight” came out, it peaked at Number 2 in the charts, Since the Cadbury Gorilla Ad, the song has gone to Number One, years after the original song.

There are some other useful things on RadioScope. There is a large list of bands and recording artistsalong with their Label. There are also links to their web pages.

If you have an RSS Aggregator (I use iGoogle. You can access anything from their site that gets updated without actually having to keep visiting the site.

There is a weekly blog called ChartBitz by Andrew Miller which is a quick update on who’s hit the charts and other relevant news.

Another excellent feature is a listing of Labels with links to their websites. They have the 4 major labels as well as 31 Indies and 2 Distribution Companies.

There are lots of places you can go once you have written your songs. If you know who a target artist that you have written a song for is signed with, this is one way of pitching it. Go to their label. One comment on that, never send them anything unsolicited because it will probably end up in File 13, aka the wastepaper basket. Ring them, tell thyem you have written a song in the style of the target artist and ask them if you can send it to them and if you do, if they will give it a listen.

I’m sure you can find more good information on this site. I like ikt much more now that I’ve trolled through itg. It has loads of great information. Just a shame that the home page isn’t kept current.

Hey just as a footnote, I don’t sit at my desk all the time. I actually wrote this blog while walking on a treadmill for 3.8km (because my PC crashed and I had to do some of it again) Exercise mind and body.

Thanks for reading this blog. If you found it interesting, why not subscribe to it. If you know someone else who might find it interesting, send them a link. I’m also keen on feedback. Disagree with me, have suggestions or want to leave a comment, please do. I’d love this blog to be more interactive.

Love music – A Great Kiwi Music Site

There are so many great music sites out there and it sometimes amazes me that there are sites like Cheese on Toast that have been around for 5 years yet many people don’t know it exists.

Another one of these is Love Music and given that I am all about sharing great information for songwriters and performers, even if you are not a Kiwi, it is worth checking out.

It has the usual stuff like gig guides and entertainment news, but there is much more.There is an under used forum, which is a shame, so maybe you should go and make a post about something you are passionate or want to know about. I particularly like the Learn About section which has features including how to protect your music and having music as a career.

I’ve written in the past about the Top 40 Charts. You can go to this site to see the current NZ Top 40 which is very important if you want to know what Kiwi’s are listening to. This is fed from RIANZ which I have mentioned before, but this means you can get it at the same site.

There is lots of other great stuff on this site, with information, comptitions, artist features and lots more. I’m not going to say iny more, just go there now and see for yourself. It’s worth the visit!

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