A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘music forte’

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.

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Give Pump Audio a try

Some time ago I was told about Pump Audio, but I hadn’t checked it out until now. I’ve been using Sonic Bids for some time and I suspect if I lived in the USA, they would be really good for me, but I haven’t seen any gigs in New Zealand to aim for and very little in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sonic Bids is great, it just hasn’t been able to do anything for me.

My focus and goals are as a songwriter rather than a performer, although I do love playing to an audience. This means that my needs are to get my songs to a market, but my market is performers more than listeners which presents a problem for me. I’m not sure whether Pump Audio can do anything more for me, given that they are really looking for high quality finished product. My recordings are samples and I typically look for a way of presenting my songs that opens a door for the artist / singer to put their own personality and interpretation into it and l feel that by recording to the highest quality makes it more difficult for it to fit into someone else’s style, thereby reducing the size of my potential market.

The thin with sites like Sonic Bids is that you pay for each submission and that can add up pretty quickly. I must say that they give real value for money and the work they do is worth every cent they charge. The problem for my needs is mostly that they are US centric and more gig and song competition focussed. I will continue to use them for competitions or opportunities when I plan to travel to the US again.

So back to Pump Audio. First of all from a credibility perspective, they are owned by Getty Images, who purchased them in June last year. Getty are a world leader in photography and imagery and having just received a healthy check for a photo they bought from me recently, I know at first hand that they are serious about their business.

You can’t send Pump Audio MP3’s (except for the first couple which are an audition to see if they good enough), they are looking for high quality CD’s. The first benefit in my opinion from this is that it removes the tyre kickers who submit every song to anyone who they think will listen, and of course most of them don’t. You have to make an effort to send them your music.

You don’t pay unless they sell your music and then you get paid 50% of what they sell it for. This sounds a lot, but when I think of the money I have paid for other submission services that got me no money, this way they are motivated to move your product and if your product is good, you will get your return.

You keep your song rights (IP) and their deal is not exclusive, so you don’t have any barriers to also offering your music to other buyers. They cover a variety of media and say that last year alone they placed over 80,000 items to TV alone!

If you have high quality recordings on CD, I would highly recommend giving them a go.

In the meantime I am working on my latest song which is another song about dads and daughters, really about babies. It’s called When Madison Smiles and hopefully you will find it on my MySpace and Music Forte sites before too long.

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.

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:)

Take lots of photos of you and your band

You never know when a photo will be useful. It might be photos for your tracks, an album cover, photos for your bio or web page.

Many web sites where you post your music, like MySpace for example, let you post photos with your tracks and so many people use the one photo for all tracks, which is boring. Boring reduces interest value.

If it’s a photo for your Press Kit or EPK, I recommend that unless you have a great photo, get a portrait photo done by a professional photographer. It could be the classic head and shoulders, or you doing something. You should at least have one clasic shot because it says you are mature and professional and you treat your music career as your business.

Shots for Facebook like this one, which my daughter took of me playing in Montego BayLuigi Cappel performing in Montego Bay

Luigi Cappel performing in Montego Bay

in Jamaica are fun shots, but not good enough quality for professional use.

If you are going to use shots in relation to a song or for an Album cover, make sure they are relevant, if it’s a song about a beach, like my song Muriwai Beach, then show a photo of Muriwai Beach. When I record my album Greenhouse, I have a photo of me holding a very large chunk of ice in my hand at Franz Joseph Glacier. The glacier is melting away with global warming and fits nicely with the title song which is also called Greenhouse. You can hear it at Music Forte.

If you don’t have a performance video, then video slide shows are a great way to add your songs to sites like Youtube. This one was done for me by my friend Noel of Powershows. In this case he supplied the images from his photo library.

There are lots of plug ins for websites like Photo Bucket which I use on my MySpace page. It lets you have some fun and easily put up a slide show. Photos add interest to your web page, especially a slide show, which attracts attention. It also helps people connect with you and feel like they know you a little. It makes them want to come back, or leave a comment, its about developing a relationship.

Even if you don’t need them now, take them anyway, you will find good uses for them. Take a camera to your gig and even if you don’t have anyone you know there, someone will take it for you.

Do you know who your fans are part 2.

Following on from yesterday, I wanted to cover a few more ideas, because first of all it is about the song, but someone has to hear it and if you know who is going to like your music, then you can influence the chance that they will find it.

So here are some more questions to ponder:

What hobbies do they spend money on?

Where do they live? Why not try to get gigs near the right demographic? If you play death metal, it might be in working class area (crass generalisation I know that many death metal fans are well educated but generalisations have some degree of fact). If you play country, then a rural tour might be on for you. You should have an idea of where your fans live. Or at least where a higher percentage do.

What do they drink? If they have a favourite tipple, that might help. For example if they are students burning the candle at both ends, you could look at getting Red Bull to sponsor your gig. They could help promote it and offer deals. If they are farming people for country music, Speights might be the go. When you ask for a lot of money, for example to sponsor a tour, you have to get in early so they can budget for it if they are keen, but if you only want some product and promotion for a gig, it can be pretty easy. The thing to do is tell them what’s in it for them and ask. It’s often that simple. Just remember that can offer something to them, you just have to figure out what that is. At he very least its visibility and if you have done your homework, you will know what it is.

What radio stations do they listen to? There are many ways of getting attention from radio stations if you use some smarts, even if you are unsigned and they are not playing your music. I might have a look at this topic in the future in more depth.

What TV shows do they watch? TV is a bit harder to get to, but if they are young and watch the music channels. In New Zealand it might be MTV, Juice TV, Alt TV, you will be surprised at how easy it is to get some support from them. Wherever you are, there are similar local stations who want to know about local acts. Check out what exposure other bands or artists similar to you are getting. Ask the band or artist, ask the station, don’t forget they have to have shows and videos. If it’s summer, have a beach party and invite Juice TV to send a crew over. You are a songwriter, use some of your creativity to find novel ways to make things happen. Write a song about the beach party that you are inviting them to and send it to them. Have them in the song.

I had a sales rep working for me a few years ago. He was from London and had that Cockney patois and wanted to make things happen. Within a couple of weeks he had his own show on our local MTV. All he had to do is ask.

What magazines and newspapers do they read? I’ve talked about PR before and will again in the future. If you know the types of magazines your fans read then you know where to send your Press Releases.

Where do they go on holiday? A couple of years ago I was in Raglan, (you can hear the story on my Music Forte page, the song is called Raglan Rain) and there was a guy who I recognised from New Zealand Idol running around the small town putting mini posters on all the shop windows that would let him, promoting a gig he had that night in one of the cafe/bars. Unfortunately I can’t remember his or his bands name, I guess I’m not the right demographic. Obviously he had decided that the surfing and artsy type of people that hang out in this famous surfing area where his target market and was now doing everything he could to get lots of people to his gig.

The great thing about what he was doing was

  • He had indeintified where his target market could be fiound on a Saturday night
  • He visited all the shops (probably around 50), got most of them to put his mini posters in the window and spent time talking to the locals.
  • His venue was the only one with live music at night so once everyone knew it was on, he was pretty much guaranteed a crowd.

I drove past that night and the bar was full of people having a great time. They all paid a door charge and the band would have not only had a great night with people who liked their music, they also made a profit on their gig.

Making money at gigs with merch

While famous bands can earn good money at gigs, for the lesser mortals, often gigs are played for free or cover costs and not much more. For some payment might come in terms of free drinks, food and maybe accomodation.

So how can you make money at your gigs? One good way is merch, aka merchandise. If you can get someone to man a mechandise table, this is a good way to sell some extra product and help build and support your fanbase.

First thing of course is your CD’s. Even when I am playing at an open mike or bar gig, I often get asked for CD’s that people can purchase. My recordings to date are all demo’s and while they are reasonable, they are far from professional quality, for a start I don’t have a drummer on them, not by choice, I just haven’t got round to finding someone to help me with that. Nevertheless, if I had some I could sell them.

So the next thing is because they are demo’s and not of a quality that I would want to produce professionally in volume, I have decided to burn my own for now. To that end I bought a Canon PIXMA iP4500 inkjet printer which will print straight onto printable CD’s and DVD’s. SO I can burn my CD’s from my TASCAM recording unit, or from my PC. I can print labels locally and buy DVD cases, so that I can also easily print slicks to go in them. I can now produce a pretty professional disk for around $3 and sell it for $10 which I think is reasonable. I can also print quality demo’s to go with my Press Kit. If it’s a demo, you could also add other material on the CD including your EPK, lyric sheets in Word or PDF format, video’s etc.

If you have a real following, you can do things like print T Shirts, there are companies all over that can do this for you. In New Zealand, one that is possible is Closet. There are also loads of companies that sell promotional products and there are lot of things that would work for you and many of them are quite cheap, even with screenprinting. One good example is Designagift. Think about what fits with your type of music and the type of audience you have and make sure the Merch you have made is suitable and would be attractive to them.

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