Getting Your Hands Dirty With Social Media – The Challenge Week 4

Are these hands raised in victory or surrender? Photographer: Saint Huck (under Creative Commons via Flickr)

Last week participants in The Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge, hosted by The Songwriters Association of Canada, and sponsored by Bandzoogle, Reverbnation & CyberPR, took a giant leap in their online branding by looking at their websites – the home base of their online presence.  Based on the book, “Music Success in 9 Weeks,” by Ariel Hyatt, songwriters across Canada have been carving out time from their creative pursuits, to tackle the business aspect of their craft.  As a result, domain names were purchased, new websites were launched and existing websites were tweaked.  To visit our websites or view our blog entries CLICK HERE.

With websites established as a foundation, participants are now ready to tackle Week 4 – setting up social media.  For those who are not social media savvy, the book proves to be a great primer.  And for those who are already engaged online, the challenge is to develop an overarching strategy while choosing to use the right tools in an integrated way that a) won’t take up your entire life and b) will support the goals set out in Week 1.  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Flickr, Reverbnation, Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Instagram…well, the list goes on!  Good luck to all our participants as we get our hands dirty in the trenches of all things social media.

If you’ve been tracking with the challenge, you will notice that the number of comments from Week 1 to Week 3 have already decreased significantly.  Some have been distracted by life, while others have continued to mull over their pitches as instructed in Week 2.  But we’re not counting anyone out until Week 9!  How many of 61 registrants will make it to the finish line?

Okay participants, please post the following:

1.  Link to this week’s blog entry.
2.  A list of any social media assets you started this week! (i.e. anything that didn’t exist before this week)

Canadian finds success in the European Country Music Market

Larry Vannatta has been writing songs for over 25 years.  He began his first band in the 90s, “Straight, Clean and Simple.”  Around the same time, his music was introduced into the European Country Music Market, which proved to be successful, as he was kept busy touring.  He also garnered back-to-back Juno nominations.  And the next part of his journey may be what encourages you most, Larry took pause.  He stopped to “raise a wonderful family.”  Some of you may have had to take pause, but a pause is not an ending!  He recently returned to his love of songwriting and performing original music and released his new 2011/12 album, “Working Class Man.”  Upon his return, he won “Songwriter of the Year” from the European Country Music Association, and he’s been nominated for Male Artist of the Year by the Alberta Country Music Association.  Not bad for someone whose only recently gotten back into music.  We asked him to share his knowledge and experience of the European country music scene.

In Larry’s Words…

The European Country Market is very different than our commercial Canadian country radio format; it would be closer to our college market playing different genres of music on the same radio station. Radio programmers have their own shows and select the artists and the music they want to play. There are a lot of radio programmers in many countries across Europe, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, giving many artists an opportunity to be presented on their shows. One thing I have found with playlist reports is you can be added to a music directors program alongside big names like Brad Paisley, Zac Brown, and George Strait.  A well written song, is well written no matter who wrote or performs it.  That said, you still need to have:

  • professionally recorded music,
  • good vocals,
  • well crafted songs, and
  • radio promotions to represent your music.

I have been very fortunate to be working with Ross Allen the owner of Hillcrest Music Canada and his Radio Marketing Co.  Ross is a singer, songwriter, producer, and recording artist who has gained the respect of recording artists and country radio stations programmers throughout the world.  I have the up most respect for Ross and as he has helped me though the years giving me honest critical advice.  If anybody knows the European Country Market Ross does and has proved it by getting my songs in the top European Country charts and helping me get awards in the European Country Music Market.

The European market for country music has opened many doors for me and has helped me better craft my song writing skills and provide a top quality product. I have gained many contacts and friendships throughout the European market with music directors, musicians, labels, and peers. Music directors are more accessible on the internet than they have ever been before. I was just recently chatting on Facebook with a programmer from Netherlands who remembers when I released my first single in Europe 1991. Wow he knew more about me then I knew about myself. With the exposure I have gained, promotions and success though radio singles across Europe, I highly recommend it. If you’re a songwriter looking to get your music exposed by yourself or other artists, it’s a great learning curve and understanding of the music world, learn your craft, select only the songs that fit the specific market place and professionally get them recorded.

Click Here to visit Larry’s Songwriter Profile.

Building Your Website – The Challenge – Week 3

Things are about to get intense with the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.  The past 2 weeks have been a warm-up with goal-setting and crafting a pitch.  Now, participants will be getting their hands dirty as they work towards crafting a website.  Once upon a time, artists without label distribution were pretty much non-existent to the listening population.  But now, with online tools, every songwriter can create their own cozy corner of the world wide web.

The build-up to this task has been perfect, as songwriters will want to align their online entities with their goals and pitch.  What do you want people to know about you?  A visit to your URL should be the gateway to engaging with you and your music.

If you’re still in the process of crafting your pitch.  Perhaps watching these videos may inspire you:

Now, fellow challenge participants, please post the following:

1.  Your URL.
2.  Link to your Week 3 Blog entry (again, please post the unique URL to the entry and not the general website address).

3 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Goal Setting

As many of you know, the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge is underway.  Over the next few weeks, we will be re-posting some of the blogs to highlight what has been happening.  The first week was about setting goals, and Debra Alexander who is both a Songwriter and a Songwriting Coach, shared some tips and tools that will help any songwriter in goal-setting.  If you’d like to see links to more posts from Week 1 – CLICK HERE!

In Debra’s Words

After working through Week 1: Setting Goals, in Ariel Hyatt’s Music Success In 9 Weeks, I’ve decided that I need to improve my goal setting skills. I want to support myself better (avoid sabotage!), and be able to experience the satisfaction of accomplishing things daily, monthly, and yearly. Here follow some observations around goal setting.

3 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Goal Setting

1. Clear your Mental Energy and Psychic Space

Suzanne Evans, in her Business Blueprint program, lists 5 common things that can be significant time drains:
– a bad relationship or marriage
-an unresolved issue that you think about daily
-a secret that you are afraid will be found out
-an unresolved major money issue
-a lie

It’s essential to look at these things before doing anything else, because when we’re psychically weighed down, we’re less efficient. Example: last week, I finally took my Canadian Citizenship Test. I could have applied about 10 years ago! I can really feel how my psychic space has opened up.

2. Use a Task Management Program
I’m a big advocate for writing things in pen, on paper, and I use black Mead 5 Star Notebooks for scribbling down all my lyrics and stuff like goals and to-do lists. After I fill an entire notebook, I go through and list all the songs I wrote in it (lyrics scattered and disorganized throughout) on a kind of Table Of Contents 3×5 card. But I find it’s also necessary to make entries in the computer for easy tracking and archiving.

For getting organized, I like Things,, because I believe “out of your head, out of your way” is another step towards clearing mental energy and psychic space. You can track your 5 Successes Each Day, as Ariel Hyatt  suggests, with a To-Do list, as well as set up the Bigger Picture. Create Projects, and break them down into manageable tasks with due dates. Define different areas of responsibility, such as creative, business, and personal. My downfall has always been the attaching-dates-and-sticking-to-them deal, so I want to use Things more wisely.

3. Become A Better Task Manager
David Allen is the man behind something called the Getting Things Done System. There is a cool quiz here, where “In less than two minutes, you will get a visual representation of where you fit in terms of the two critical elements of self management – control and perspective.”

You can see right away how your personal productivity ranks. Then you can follow him on Twitter, sign up for his newsletter, download free articles, etc., and go about becoming a ‘Captain And Commander’ in the world of Getting Things Done.

That’s what I intend to do.

Are You Ready to Pitch? The Challenge – Week 2

Photo courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery (Creative Commons)

Our blog has been abuzz with activity as songwriting bloggers from across Canada have been busy embracing the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge outlined by Ariel Hyatt‘s “Music Success in 9 Weeks.”  Click Here for details.  If you’ve been tracking with everyone, you will appreciate that the level of experience and the goals of each songwriter are all over the map.  Such is the beauty of this challenge.  It meets each person wherever they are in their respective journey.

Week 2 promises to show even more diversity as it focuses on creating your pitch.  What I have found as a challenge participant is that each stage of this challenge requires you to “Know Thyself.”  After all, how can you put yourself out there in a clear and concise way if you don’t know what you’re putting out there.  Take a look at the pitcher.  He is focused and determined.  He is not just randomly throwing the baseball to anyone (which many musicians are prone to doing).   Let’s hear those pitches challenge participants!

Please post the following:

1.  Your elevator pitch.
2.  The URL to your Week 2 blog. (NOTE:  please post the exact URL to the entry and not just the general URL to your blog)

Supporting a Dream, a Mom’s Perspective

Sarah Command is 13 years old and busy recording in Nashville.  She wrote about her experiences in a previous blog.  Click Here to read.  When her story was published, it became apparent that the success of the Command Sisters has required significant investment of time and resources by their parents.  Hence, we invited Karen Command to write about her perspective as the mom of two rising stars.  We asked her what, if any, sacrifices have been made.  Here is her response.

In Her Words…

Thank you for asking me to guest blog and share our thoughts with your readers regarding our journey with the girls (The Command Sisters) as a ‘musical’ family.

At first I was a little puzzled on how to answer the question regarding the sacrifices we have had to make thus far as parents of young musicians.  My husband and I have actually never verbalized those thoughts.  Charlotte and Sarah’s career started quite by accident (they were overheard singing at their great-grandma’s senior’s table, sharing with her their upcoming Christmas carol for a concert).  Their ‘career’ has been evolving organically; as their musicianship grows, so does their performance opportunities (everything from singing for the children of the cancer ward at the Stollery Hospital, sharing the stage with George Canyon, Johnny Reid and others, being asked to represent the Alberta Government as Youth Ambassadors who met Prince William and his wife Kate at a private reception, performing a one-hour all-original show at the famed Blue Bird Cafe in Nashville, to being overheard and offered a publishing/production deal with the legendary David Malloy).  Of course, when this happens, things like family time and resources are definitely challenged.

I’ve always said I did not want to be a ‘hockey mom’, but I think in retrospect the two are not very different.  Both require huge commitments of time and money, support and the ability to handle the stresses of a young person(s) career at a professional/competitive level.  Our approach to the girls’ profession IS an all-consuming commitment but at the same time we would not have it any other way.  We’ve recently decided as a family to define a sort of ‘motto’ or ‘reason’ why the girls do what they do.  Once that was established, it became relatively easy to be able to ‘do what they do’ and it  makes any challenges along the way easier to handle.

For example, the girls and I are currently living in Nashville for an extended time while their dad, Rene, is back home in Edmonton, Alberta, working.  This again, is another part of the puzzle and one that we don’t really consider a sacrifice.  It’s simply what needs to be done.  I am also a paraplegic and use a wheelchair.  My approach to my disability is the same, one foot in front of the other, so to speak.  Just do what you have to do.  We share in everything, whether it be the challenges or the successes.  What could be a better than spending your time together as a family doing what they (we) love.

We are also grateful for the wonderful people we have met along the way already and the things that we have learned.  We look forward to being able to share that with others too.  If anyone has any questions about the challenges of parenting young musicians, I would be more than happy to be able to share my thoughts, in more detail, with them.

Visit the Command Sisters Songwriters Profile.

On Your Mark, Get Set, The Challenge Begins…

On Your Marks
Photo by: lincolnblues

61 Songwriters across Canada have signed on to take part in the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge otherwise known as “the Blogging Challenge,” as outlined in Ariel Hyatt‘s book, “Music Success in 9 Weeks.”  How many of us will make it to the finish line?

In last night’s launch conference call with Ariel Hyatt, some participants asked, “What can I expect to get out of this?”  The cool thing about this challenge is that you define your own goals.  Hence some songwriters may be focused on publishing, while others are more focused on lining up gigs.  Whatever your goals, I believe what you put into the challenge is what you will get out of it.  Former challenge participant, Meghan Morrison reflected that she had gotten a lot of intangible benefits from participating in the challenge twice before.  Namely, a better understanding of who she was as an artist and what she wanted to achieve.

The Songwriters Association of Canada is excited to be championing the first ever Canadian challenge and looks forward to the momentum it will create for participants.  We are also thankful to our sponsors: Ariel Publicity, Bandzoogle and Reverbnation.

So, here we go with week 1.  All participants, please post the following below:

1-Your artist name.
2-The URL to your first blog entry
3-The URL to your website
4-Your Twitter handler (if you have one), and
5- your Facebook URL (if you have one)

When a songwriter loses her voice…

Sora with Cindy O'Neil

What would you do if you knew you were going to lose your voice forever?  What song would you sing?  Here’s a guest blog by S.A.C. Member Sora whose work with someone in this very predicament is both moving and inspiring.  It is also a great reminder to those of us who still have our voices to keep on singing!

In Sora’s Words…

Every musician knows there are difficulties to be had in any recording experience.   Scheduling, financing, timing and technical issues are all fairly common. Yet,  in the end,  we overcome knowing that no matter how we come to the recording, the instrument is unfailing, that the ultimate joy is the moment when we move our songs through our fingers, through our voices, through our bodies from that ether realm of imagination into something tangible, something real.   Imagine if you would then, that in addition to the regular obstacles that there was one with a far more personal and devastating impact:  that your body had now become the greatest challenge of all.

I met Cindy O’Neil in 2007 at a SOCAN event.   We hit it off instantly and within weeks we were co-writing a song together.  It was my first co-writing experience and though I was nervous, unsure how to proceed, unsure as to how Cindy’s jazzy and my Celtic new age styles would mesh, Cindy’s positive, upbeat attitude had us laughing, chording and lifting our voices together in song.  By the end of the night I had recorded on my mp3 player the basics of a duet, “Wings in Flight”.

We always wanted to record it, especially after performing it live and receiving amazing feedback.    Everything seemed on track.  The virtuosic violinist and composer, Donovan Seidle, who is an old friend of mine agreed to write a string arrangement and we had someone to produce it in a studio.   Of course, the best laid plans often go awry and the recording dates fell apart.  These things happen right?  As an artist synergy in projects is important, it creates momentum, focuses and streamlines.  Cindy and I thought that maybe it wasn’t quite the right time, that there would always be another recording date.   A year passed and Cindy moved from Calgary to Ontario to be with her fiancé.  Still, I thought perhaps on my next recording project I could fit Wings in Flight onto it.  We thought that we had forever to record it.

Forever came sooner than we thought.

For you see, Cindy has been living for years with a life threatening disease, rheumatoid arthritis.  And the medication that allows her do even the most basic of functions, that allows her to get dressed, brush her hair, this medication is stripping away her voice.    Cindy phoned me and told me this earlier in the year and asked “can we record our song before I don’t have a voice left?”

We struggled to make a plan, with limited finances and cross country distance between us.  I contacted a producer and recording engineer I know in Winnipeg and though this seemed an ideal solution, dates could not be pinned down.  The song felt as though it might just slip away into oblivion.  But a second phone call from Ontario changed all that.  Cindy’s fiancé, Ken, was planning a surprise trip West for her and when he asked if they could see me, it was as if the Universe had opened up and given me a gift, the ability to put together the best surprise present I could think of:  a recording.

Within weeks it was all set up.    And this time, it all fell into place perfectly, the recording studio, the musicians, media.  I went into the studio and recorded the bedtracks and scratch vocal and hoped beyond hope that as the temporary guardian of this song, that I would do it justice, that I could manifest our joint vision to her satisfaction as well as mine.

Cindy knew nothing, until we stepped inside the studio.   The song was put on and Cindy‘s face said everything.   She was overwhelmed, crying, laughing and above all else, she was singing.   I can’t say it wasn’t a struggle, it was.  Cindy lungs burned with each take, but to listen to her beautiful voice soaring above the lush strings wasn’t my gift to her.  It was her gift to me.  It’s not every day the Universe gives you the opportunity to give someone a legacy.  And if a song, recorded as one’s voice fades -as the unfailing instrument cracks- isn’t a legacy,  I don’t know what is.

 Click Here to visit Sora’s Songwriter Profile.



Radio Tracking is a Waste of Money?

Is investing in radio tracking a waste of money?  Bobby Gale, a 30-year veteran of the music industry, says yes. He started off as a radio personality at stations such as Chum in Winnipeg, L’Espirit in Montreal and Q107 in Toronto. He went on to work in promotions and publicity at Polygram for over a decade after which he launched his own company plug (Music) Inc., specializing in radio, video and tour promotions. For the past 20 years, his company has promoted the talents of artists such as 54-40, Bruce Cockburn, Matthew Good Band, City and Colour, Luke Doucet, Emm Gryner, Andy Kim, Melissa McClelland, Danny Michel and a slew of other staples of the Canadian Music scene.  Bobby will be at Songposium 2012 to share his many years of wisdom.  Here’s a preview of what he has to say…

HEYYY!  Bobby “the Pitbull aka GaleForce” Gale here!  lol
‘Really looking forward & honored to address the varied questions & concerns of the modern day songwriter January 28th @ the Songposium!  (Click Here for details).
One naturally imagines that today’s songwriter is fretfully looking to monetize artistry & craft, and what better way to do it than via radio play.
Easier said than done, right?
And its waaaay more difficult than ever before.
How does one ever expect to garner airplay, you ask, particularly as a virtual unknown, when radio tells you they need to see chart activity, or market buzzz, or ticket sales, or iTunes sales, or social networking metrics, & the like?
Well, honestly, that can only be achieved by knowing what truly matters to the multitasking radio VIP/programmer; and it requires someone quarterbacking your branding objective who fully knows what & how to present to the radio gatekeeper what can arguably influence & make the difference.
In a nutshell, it comes from the veteran expertise of an industry person, who for many years has dealt with all facets of both the radio & recording industry side of the music biz.
Someone dealing with it day in, day out, in the ever evolving current landscape.
Which you may be surprised to learn a so-called “tracker” can never provide.
Tracking is for kids/neophytes, and ends up wasting money and jeopardizing careers.
I’ve always stepped up and flatly said to a prospective or existing client … “if you’re looking for a tracker” please look elsewhere” … You’ll quickly realize you’re wasting your money or that of an investor.   And you’re likely also wasting valuable shelf life or window of opportunity in artistry & production.
“Tracking” or following a records progress is something anyone can now do with appropriate electronic tools.  However, “breaking” records and strategizing to create the BRAND via radio, the essence of what really should unfold in a promotional campaign, is something few can truly offer the critical path to, let alone accomplish on a consistent basis.
Sure, there are no guarantees, but there are proven ways to success that more often deliver tangible results.
I will address several of those pathways at the Symposium.
But don’t be thinking I’ll be giving it all away.  Haha
In any case, there are certain songs that one may “think” radio wants to play, or could, or should … this is too often coming from an unrealistic/uninformed perspective and could be further maligned thanks to the novice judgement of the so called “tracker”.  Be forewarned.
It’s why I’ve staked my entire career (spanning 4 decades) & that of my clientele, on emphasizing that the artist or songwriter REQUIRES sage advice to succeed, and why a significant, if not bonafide history of promoting to radio (more than 30 years in my case) is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.  However, it has also proven to be a pivotal prerequisite to achieving greater airplay results, by having a record promo veteran with a broadcast acumen in several (major) markets leading the charge.”  ~Bobby Gale