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S.A.C. Challenge – Week 3 – Issued by Heather Gardner – Writing for Advertising

February 23, 2015
Heather Gardner
by:  Heather Gardner, Music Supervisor, Vapor Music
Writing a song specifically for advertising is a unique beast — a songwriter needs to find the delicate balance between being authentic, but yet appealing to a variety of demographics, musical tastes and, ultimately, products to sell. Additionally, songs written for advertising need to be more than great songs — they also need to be cleanly produced and quickly ready to be heard on air at a high production value (in most cases, there is simply not enough time to allow for re-recording a song, or making major changes before the ad’s audio mix!).
My challenge to you is to write a song based on the below advertising brief (a real brief that we did late last year) — it includes musical and lyrical references, but (as is often the case in the ad world), without seeing a rough edit of the specific commercial. I’m looking forward to hearing what you come up with!
Creative Brief:
The spot features a child so we’re looking for something child-like, light and playful, fun, capturing the moment and that captures the spirit of a child. However, we don’t want to be emotional or heart-stringy — we’re looking for something that’s purely fun. You can definitely be somewhat quirky, while appealing to a mainstream TV audience.
A few references they’ve given us in terms of tone are The White Stripes’ “We Are Gonna Be Friends”, “On The Radio” by Regina Spektor, Sheryl Crow’s cover of “Sweet Child O Mine”, “Big Yellow Taxi” or “Mushaboom” by Feist. We also like something along the lines of Karen O’s tunes for ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. We’re open to different instrumentations.
Lyrics don’t have to be perfectly on spot on thematically, but speaking to childhood (in a fun way, not in a nostalgic or longing way) is great. Female or male vocals are A-OK.
The spot is 60 seconds in length, with 30 and 15 second cutdowns, so your submissions need to be at least 60 seconds long, but be able to capture the same sentiment even if only 15 seconds was being used. Including the full length track is always best as it allows the editor the maximum flexibility in hitting the right points in an ad with specific lyrics or musical moments.
Instructions to participants:
Post a link to your song and blog in the comments section below by midnight, March 2, 2015.
Music Supervisors always need the right music yesterday.  This is your chance to show Heather you can respond to a creative brief and turnover something quickly that meets the request.  Good luck!

S.A.C. Challenge – Week 2 – Issued by Rob Wells – Write an explosive pop hit!

February 16, 2015
Rob Wells has a challenge for you!

Rob Wells has a challenge for you!

Rob Wells is a multi-platinum, award-winning producer/songwriter based in Toronto & Los Angeles. He has worked with numerous multi-platinum selling artists, with songs landing on millions of award winning records. His work has appeared in major release films, network TV shows and video games worldwide.  Awards include first place in numerous songwriting competitions, SOCAN #1 awards, gold, platinum & multi-platinum certifications.

Our week 2 challenge is as follows:

I’m looking for strong female based Pop/Top 40 songs.  Think Selena Gomez.  Think Demi Lovato.  Think big.  Think hits.  Think target audience of 13-18 years old.  If you’re writing a global, universal, and (a little bit) quirky smash song with an interesting title, I’m interested.  If you can sing your explosive chorus a thousand times and not be sick of it, I’m interested.  Trim the fat.  No unnecessary sections or long intros.  Take me on a journey.  Make every lyric count and funnel towards a great chorus payoff.  Maximum 3:30 in length.  Good luck!

Your song is due February 23 by midnight. Share a link to your song and a link to your blog post in the comments below.

S.A.C. Challenge 2015 – Week 1 Blog – Writing for Matt Dusk

February 15, 2015

by Debra Alexander

Writers across Canada are working on writing a song to pitch for Matt's next album!

Writers across Canada are working on writing a song to pitch for Matt’s next album!

The S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge 2015 got underway unofficially a few days before the official launch, with an e-mail welcome to participants and an invitation to join a special Facebook Group. The Challenge blogging community quickly coalesced online, posting greetings, best wishes, encouragement, and brief introductions about themselves and their songwriting. Many posted links to their song samples, while some have had to set up their blogs and song streaming accounts and make their very first posts. Most are dealing with a new onslaught of social media and learning how to balance life, work, and songwriting with new demands on their time. A few industrious writers are even simultaneously enrolled in Pat Pattison’s Berklee songwriting course on Coursera (the focus of a previous year’s SAC Challenge). Returning Challenge veterans welcomed newcomers and reacquainted themselves with friends from previous Challenges, and initiates jumped in fearlessly—or maybe not so much! The walls of comfort zones are tumbling down, and as brave souls inspire others to step out and step up, there’s been a chain-reaction of empathy. Everyone feels the heightening of the raised bar that a legitimate pitch possibility brings.

With the official Monday morning launch on February 9th, 117 participating songwriters were greeted with an inspiring video by artist Matt Dusk, calling on untapped Canadian songwriting talent to help him expand the musical landscape for his new record. Matt cited several reference songs, and much discussion swirled on the Facebook page as Challengers began analyzing the tracks and charting their approach to writing a song Matt would want to place on the record. Tempo, groove, BPM, chord progressions, arrangements, Matt’s vocal range, subject material for lyrics—all are finding their own way into the task, and many new co-writing relationships are being forged as well.

Canadian songwriters from coast to coast, along with some discerning U.S. music-city songwriters, recognize the value of coming together as a community under the umbrella of the annual SAC Challenge Event. We have guitar and keyboard players, producers and lyricists, vocalists and business-savvy music-pros, all reaching out to each other to lend a hand and make creative partnerships. The degree of support is amazing, ranging from offers of phone calls to help with technical, gear-related issues, to invitations to live regional events where writers can connect face-to-face. My fellow Challenge songwriting coach James Linderman has been instructing and encouraging between the lines of the Facebook communiqués, and has generously posted some much appreciated how-to videos on guitar techniques and on timing, tempo, and groove. He keeps us all laughing, and makes even the most challenging Challenge fun!

As participants engage in the creative process for the next 6 weeks, they are asked to write a weekly blog post about their experiences. Already the blog and Facebook posts bear witness to the benefits of taking part in SAC Challenges of years past. Writers have made contacts they never would’ve made, both locally and long-distance; written songs they never would’ve written, recorded songs for an upcoming record, and received a FACTOR grant for songs that came out of a Challenge. I know I speak for the whole community when I say we are grateful to Lily Cheng and The Songwriters Association of Canada, Barb Sedun and SOCAN, and Matt Dusk for this year’s Challenge. We are all excited to be involved in building a wonderful songwriting community as we develop our songwriting craft and embrace each new assignment.

Please post a link to your blog post for Week 1 in the comments section below.  Your song for week 1 will be due at the same time as your song for week 6 is due.

How to launch a video on YouTube

February 12, 2015
Screenshot from NJ Taylor's music video - "I Don't Care"

Screenshot from NJ Taylor’s music video – “I Don’t Care”

by: NJ Taylor (NJ’s videos have garnered up to 98K views)

As an independent artist, it’s always difficult to figure out how to successfully launch a new song or music video. We all hope to see our music video go viral but the truth of the matter is that the probabilities of that happening are really slim. There are thousands of videos being uploaded every minute so our video becomes literally one in a million. So how can you stand out? How can you get more views and generate more activity?

The obvious thing is to promote it on all your social media platforms but once again, there is so much information being uploaded every minute that it’s not enough. The way to go about launching a YouTube video successfully is with online promotion. But beware, there are many online companies that claim that can get you X amount of views/likes/comments for a fairly low price but stay away from these. Often what they do is ‘buy’ views/likes/comments or they get them by spamming people and you want neither. You want to be able to target people that will potentially become true fans.

First things first, make sure to tag your video properly. It’s seems like an obvious thing to do but not everyone seems to know that. When you edit your video, write the title as follow: “name of artist – title of song”. Below the title, you can add basic information; write a brief description (official video, etc.) and add all your main social media links. Then add all the relevant tags such as artists you are comparable to, location, etc. Don’t forget to monetize your YouTube video. You can do so through companies such as Google Adsense, Audiam and AdRev.

Here’s a list of online promotions that are worth trying:

  1. YouTube: The most successful way to promote your music video is through Google AdWords’ video campaigns. If it’s your first time using this service, call them and they will guide you on how to create a successful ad.
  1. Facebook: Create a Facebook event the moment you launch your video; invite all your friends to join the event and then create a Facebook ad to promote the event Raise attendance at your event. Also create a post on your fan page with the link of your YouTube video and make sure to boost your post. Then create a Send people to your website ad; go to “Create Ads – Send people to your website – then enter the URL of your YouTube video. More importantly, target your audience properly.
  1. ReverbNation: Their Promote on Top Sites and Promote Video campaigns are both excellent to promote a music video. Both campaigns feature the ads on premium sites such as MTV, YouTube, billboard, Pandora, Spin, Paste just to name a few. Make sure to have a good quality picture to use for the promotion. Your picture is the very first impression to your product and it’s what will make people click on your ad or not. I recommend in running your campaign for at least a month to see considerable results.
  1. Twitter: There are few different ways of creating campaigns with Twitter Ads. You can aim at one specific location such as a region or a city, you can target an interest (i.e. specific radio stations, artist similar to you, etc.) and many more. Create different campaigns and experiment to see which one gives you the best results. Create appealing tweets that will make people want to click on the link such as “Do you love pop music, if so check out my new single…”. They also now have a brand new feature to drive clicks called Quick Promote. This new feature allows you to promote one specific tweet that you already have posted on your Twitter page instead of running a full ad campaign.
  1. Promote the launch of your video to your fan mail or in your newsletter and also contact all relevant bloggers.

When promoting your video, make sure to focus on quality and not quantity. It’s better to get slower results that will make you gain true fans rather than fast results that won’t result in anything more than numbers. And if you prefer having someone doing it for you, you can hire a social media manager. Bottom line, make sure to create a budget for your online promotion.

Once you have done all that, make sure to promote it as much as possible and don’t forget to submit it the S.A.C.!

Visit NJ Taylor’s Songwriters Profile.
Visit NJ Taylor’s YouTube Channel.

Challenge No. 1 – The S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge

February 9, 2015

We are excited to announce this year’s challenge is being launched by a REAL PITCH REQUEST!  As such, you will have 6 weeks to submit a demo for this first challenge.  Although you will not be submitting a song in 7 days, you will be required to submit a blog about your experience of the challenge thus far, the progress you have made, any collaborations you may have initiated, and challenges you have encountered in working towards this challenge.

We would like to thank Barb Sedun and SOCAN for helping us to issue this challenge.

Matt Dusk is an established Canadian artist who has a challenge for you.  Take a look…

Good luck everyone!

Songwriting Camps: Expanding Creative Connections for Commercial Success

January 29, 2015

2012SongworksVancouver.WebBannerBy: Vincent Degiorgio

Writing camps have become an increasingly important forum for songwriters to collaborate. In Canada, Justin Gray’s Creative Collective, and SonyMusic Canada’s Idol camps were among the first, both receiving support from the Songwriters Association of Canada. President of Tanjola Entertainment, Daniel Mekinda, remembers how the initial idea to stage a camp for Canadian idol turned out to be a great platform for launching the inaugural winner, Ryan Malcom.

“The first Canadian Idol Writing Camp was an amazing success. Every song on the album came out of that camp. It was an amazing experience to get more than 20 amazing songwriters congregating in one place for a week,” recalled Mekinda, who ran the camp while working for Sony BMG. While large-scale camps such as the Idol nine room extravaganza were common in Scandinavia, it was something new in Canada.

D-Pop is one of Europe’s most successful camps hosted by TG Management in Aalborg, Denmark. Held at various venues just an hour by plane from Copenhagen, the company that gave the world global superstars like Aqua has camped it up for more than 10 years now.

“I believe in doing what you love, and we love doing D-Pop” says organizer and partner Lotte Aagard. “We’re excited to hear every new song that’s been written. I truly believe as long as you have heart and passion in it, it stays fresh. For that reason, so has D-Pop.”

Thomas Wallen, the A&R head for Malmo, Sweden’s hyperactive Roasting House Music Publishing which has landed the No. 1 single in Japan, offered some advice on how collaborations should be put together. Spearheading a crazy roster of writers that has already conquered the Japanese market, he noted that it’s much more than throwing a few people in a room and saying “write!”

“I’d say you have to find a way of being both safe and bold at the same time”, says Wallen. “If you’re just one or the other, it gets boring and you don’t get the big songs you’re looking for. People need to get along, but the best result sometimes comes from when writers get together with skeptical minds and get overwhelmed by the skills of others. That’s when the magic happens.”

For the past seven years, the SAC has held its own professional camp called Songworks which has evolved from simply a “writer in the round” into one of our premier networking events. Held four times annually, Songworks has been introduced in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Edmonton, and Vancouver to date.

Songworks is a professional invitation-only songwriting camp hosted by the Songwriters Association of Canada. The three-day intensive songwriting retreat is designed to offer writers the opportunity to collaborate on artist driven projects, allowing writers to develop long-term relationships with other songwriters and performing artists. S.A.C. members have the opportunity to submit for open chairs at a select number of SongWorks camps. Click Here for more information.

Vince DiGiorgio is an accomplished songwriter with sales that have exceeded 30 million units. He is currently President of Chapter 2 Productions. www.chapter2prod.com

Writing From a Title

January 15, 2015

songwritingby: Peter Linseman

A strong title can ensure that people will remember your song. Many music supervisors and publishers have to sift through thousands of titles to find the right song for publishing and licensing opportunities, so your title is a key marketing tool.

Choose fresh and innovative words and themes, then mix them together with the common words and themes. An example of this would be “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, or “Stairway to Heaven”.

As you build a list of potential titles, why not create a “Hook Book?” Most Nashville songwriters keep there titles and themes in a Hook Book and refer to it in co-writing sessions.

Titles, Titles, and more Titles

Use this list of title categories to brainstorm ideas on new titles which will hopefully lead you to new songs.

  1. Questions: What’s Love Got to do with it?
  2. Commands/Requests: Lets go crazy, Beat it
  3. Political/Social, Current Events: Imagine, We are the World
  4. Character/People: Alejandro, Vincent
  5. Places: Born in the U.S.A, N.Y. N.Y.
  6. Objects: Little Red Corvette
  7. Emotional State/ Condition of Mind: Just Can’t Get Enough, All Shook Up
  8. Action/Activities: Dancing in the street, Run to You
  9. Dates/Times: Workin’ 9-5, Last Friday Night
  10. Metaphors: Love is a Battlefield, Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall
  11. Similes: Like a Rock, Like a Virgin
  12. Numbers: 9 Crimes, Route 66
  13. Rhyming: My Guy, Rock around the Clock
  14. Alliteration: Seasons in the sun, The Way We Were
  15. Assonance: Rolling in the Deep, Sweet Dreams
  16. Music: Play that Funky Music, Your Song
  17. Novelty/Nonsense Word Titles: MMMMBop, Na Na Hey Hey
  18. Dance: Twist, Macarena
  19. One word: Blow, Fame
  20. Opposites: Ebony & Ivory, Sound of Silence
  21. Humorous: Forget You (FU)
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