A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘record company’

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?

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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.

What are the fans listening to? How to get your hitsong.

Some great advice I picked up somewhere was that if you want to write a hit song, you need to know what people are listening to. Whilst its true that there are song pluggers and the radio is very much influenced by the record companies, the fact is that if he radio are regularly playing songs, whether it is because they have an incentive or for any other reason, the net result is people listen to them.

I think it was Jimmy Webb at the S3 conference who said that if you listen to a song at least 5 times, it will grow on you and you will start to like it. This is a formula that they use to get you to buy or follow a track. The lyrics become familiar, the hook becomes entrenched in your mind and if it is pleasing to you, you may well find yourself singing along.

Hit’s are here the money is in songwriting. If you write a hit song, you will be well remunerated and also you will become noticed and in demand by artists and their team, looking for a new song, hoping that you weren’t a one hit wonder.

So is there a magical secret? Magical no, but the key thing is knowing what people like, what are they listening to today. It’s easy to find a market for your songs in today’s world with so many internet vehicles like MySpace, FaceBook, iTunes, Music Forte and hundreds if not thousands of others. But these are less likely to get you a hit for music’s sake, than the radio, which isn’t going away anywhere fast. Radio plays mainstream and mainstream is what it means, i.e. what most people are listening to today.

So in my humble opinion, if you want to write a hit song, rather than (as Ralph Murphy says) be a self indulgent songwriter, writing songs to play in bars after 10 P.M. when people are drunk or t least merry and mostly don’t care, you need to write something different. Something uplifting, which is often very different to what the average songwriter puts together. Murphy says that the hits are the songs that people listen to on the way to work in the morning when they want a lift.

So the first thing to do is to find out what they are listening to. I live in New Zealand, so if I want to write a hit song for the local market, I would go to RIANZ. “The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand Inc (RIANZ) is a non-profit organisation representing major and independent record producers, distributors and recording artists throughout New Zealand.”

RIANZ publishes the weekly New Zealand Top 40 Singles Chart. “The Top 40 Singles Chart is compiled based on a 75:25 split between physical / digital singles sales figures and radio play information gathered by radio data collection agency Radioscope.”They also publish a number of other charts including the Top 10 Radio Airplay Chart.

Like all charts they show the position this week, last week and weeks on the chart. A quick look through these will tell you what is popular in your local world. These charts are a mixture of everything, local and international. To give you an idea, the Top 40 as at Monday 28 July included 5 local acts and Number One on the chart was Phil Collins, In The Air Tonight which this time has been on the NZ charts for 21 weeks! Always on My Mind by Tiki Taane is number 3 still and has been on the charts for 14 weeks.

In my opinion, Always On My Mind is very much a polynesian sound and will be hugely popular locally with our youth and with a reggae flavour has some legs internationally, but I can’t see it being on the charts at Billboard, the other place I look to see what is popular, especially on the Country Charts because Country Music has a huge following in the USA, my major songwriting target market.

So now you know what people are listening to on the radio and what they are buying. What do you do next? Subscibe to my blog and I will tell you more, this isn’t a book after all lol.

If you think this blog is helpful, tell a friend. If you want to hear some of my songs, check out my MySpace page. Oh and please do leave a comment. Is my blog intesting? Is it helpful? Are there things you would like me to write about?

What is the best way to send your demo to someone?

I’m not convinced there is ‘the right way’ it depends a lot on the circumstances. For example, do you know them? Will they listen anyway?

So the first thing is whether it is an artist, a record company, a publisher, a critic, an A&R person, try to talk to them. If you can get their phone number, try to ring them and talk to them. If you do, be polite and friendly, introduce yourself but get to the point quickly.

So there are 4 main ways you can send your demo.

  • You can send it as an attachment to your email. The risk is that their mail server will not allow your email to get through at all, or that it doesn’t accept large files. Don’t do this without their permission. It is an easy solution because they don’t have to do anything to get it.
  • You can use a product like You Send It which allows you to set an FTP site. FTP or File Transfer Protocol is designed is a secure way to send files from one computer to another via a 3rd party and there are several free services. Another one you can use is SendThisFile. Basically the way they work is that you upload your file to their site and they send an email to the person you want to have it, telling them how and where to access it. It means that they can get it when it suits them.
  • Another solution is to direct them to your web site, whether it is your own .com (Don’t have one yet? Check out GoDaddy) or your MySpace or other music site. If you want them to be able to able to download the song, not just stream it, make sure you have enabled the download.
  • The other option is in the mail. If you do that, make sure your presentation is very good, as in artwork, or at least make sure the name of the track is printed on the CD as well as your name and contact details. Often the CD will get separated from the case, so if you don’t have everything on it, they may love it, but not remember where it came from which would be a disaster. You can buy CD pens, or better still get a Lightscribe Drive so that you can etch the details straight onto the CD. It isn’t beautiful but it is much more professional than scribbling with a CD pen.

Of course you also need to send a lyric sheet. I always include chords above the lyric lines. I do this in Word, but there are lots of software packages that do this very nicely. I have a copy of Finale Notepad, but I’ve never actually used it.

So what is the best way? I still don’t know. I think the best way is to ask the person who has approved you sending it to them, what their preference is. Make life easy for them and the act of asking and doing what they asked, will help with recognition when they get it and your demo will then be more likely to be the one they listen to.

Make your Bio text effective

Why do you have a Bio? Is it to make you feel important? Is it written for a purpose? There may be many places where you can use a Bio, for example on a blog, on your music page or to get someone to do something.

I would hope it would be to get someone to do something. Today I am talking about the bio that you send to an A&R person, I record company, a publisher, or someone who you want to have buy or perform your music. In most cases this would be a document you would post, courier or give to that person.

You want the person who reads your bio to act, to listen to your demo, so the first thing you have to do is make them want to read it in the first place.

In advertising and writing news stories, my favourite formula has always been AIDA or AICDA. Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. the C in the second one stands for Conviction. So in simple terms:

Attention. Make them want to read the whole bio, which is I said yesterday, should be 2-4 paragraphs. Start with a line to grab their attention, just like a headline. It might be something compelling about you, or maybe something about the song the Bio accompanies.

Interest. Tell something interesting about yourself.

Interest. What is special or interesting about you, and here is something that I have learned from the media world, make it relevant to the specific reader. If I am sending out press releases, it’s not one size fits all, I modify it for each media or publication to make it relevant.

Desire, make them want to read more, or to become involved with you.

Conviction. Convince them that the time they spend reading your Bio and listening to your songs is going to be well spent and rewarding.

Action. Ask them to listen to your song and point out respectfully what you are asking from them. This is a business document and not just a whiny, please listen to my song cause mum said its really good.

Start with your most recent achievements first and given that you only have 4 paragraphs, make them short and snappy. Don’t use exaggerated praise, don’t say you are the best artist they have ever heard, be humble but confident.

Songs have to have WOW factor for A&R people to get excited

So you want to send your song to an A&R person and see if you can get it picked up by a record company or one of their artists.

Take a step back from the song you wrote and love and think about what their email and snail mail boxes look like. How many submissions do you think they get in a week. I’ll give you an idea. Even the smaller ones will get 100’s of demo’s. Why should they listen to yours?

Is your song REALLY GOOD? Who told you? Here’s an analagy. When you watched American Idol (Come on, I know you watched it at least once!) do you remember Simon or Randy ask “Who told you you could sing?”. So I’m asking you, who told you this is a good song? Your friends and family?

But this is only the first question. The record companies get thousands of really good, well constructed, nice songs every year. The thing is they are not looking for a good song, they are looking for a GREAT SONG. They are looking for something UNIQUE and given that there are always numbe one hits, there are plenty of great songs out there.

It can be on the same subject matter as other songs, but it has to have something special, a great hook, a really catchy melody. If your song is going to be a hit, it has to appeal to millions of people not dozens or hundreds.

When the A&R person listens to the first 60 seconds (because that might be all the hearing your song gets, they need to be saying “WOW, this is the ONE!”

So go back to your good song and see if you think it is great, or is it as Ralph Murphy says, a great song for people to dance to in a club after 10 P.M.

Of course not every song will be a hit, most of the songs of the great song writers aren’t hit songs, but it was usually their first hit that started their professional careers.

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