Definitely not Rebecca Black

Not everyone is like Rebecca Black with parents able to fund their superstar dreams.  Hannah Chapplain is a talented emerging artist whose parents have encouraged her to work hard to contribute and take ownership of her own dreams.  2 years after picking up the guitar at the age of 14, Hannah had already written over 200 songs.  Reading Hannah’s reflections on her recent album and upcoming music videos, one gets the impression that she is focused, hard-working, and not under the illusion that success happens overnight.  Her story is a reminder of the importance of dedication and rallying the people around you to become a part of your team.

In Her Words…

It all began this time last year, March 2011. I had gotten a Myspace message from a producer named Anthony Santonocito who is a producer at Killingsworth Recording Studio in New York. He asked if I was interested in recording an album and told me that he liked my voice. I, being an 18 year old free spirited musician, wanted to jump on the opportunity. So, with the help and support of my family and close friends, my Dad, fellow guitarist Chris Johnson and myself took a trip that summer down to New York to record my first self-titled album, Hannah Chapplain.  We spent 10 days in the studio and came out with an album even better than what I had imagined. The album is all my own original material and was released December 10th, 2011.

There were many obstacles when trying to release this album. Like almost every other musician, finances were tight. I split the cost of the recording with my parents, but they had wanted me to feel as if I had full ownership of the album so they told me I had to raise the rest of the money to actually release it myself. I had been working at a local cafe in Orangeville, Ont. at the time, so I took as many shifts as possible and played every paying gig I could get. I ended up releasing the album using my own money, which was a huge accomplishment for me.

The entire experience of writing, recording, and releasing an album was very humbling. I hadn’t realized exactly how much work people put into such a production. There were many people around my hometown that helped me release the album and start to get my career rolling, who I often refer to as my “Team”. After we released the album, we all took a look into our connections to see where we could move from there. My photographer Paul George knew a film maker, Taylor Boehm, who had a crew put together with director, Cameron Tisi, two other camera men, Emmanuel Lachapelle, and Adam Kubiw, and actor Alex Wilson. They were all willing to film the two music videos with me. So we set a date and started the planning. We chose the songs Have We Met Before and 10,000 Years to be turned into music videos.

The preparation was exciting and totally new to me. I had a group of people taking a song I had written and using their imagination to turn it into an image. And they did just that. As we began filming I found it a challenge to go from performing to acting. I had to be in constant awareness of my body and angles. Although this was a challenge, it was incredibly fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. In fact, it has encouraged me to look into taking acting lessons just so that I can be more experienced and fine tuned for the next music video.

We are hoping to release the first music video in the next few months. The two videos look incredible and the quality is top of the line. I am eager for everyone to see them as I’m proud of the work these guys have done. I love a good challenge and am excited to see where my career takes me from here.

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Journey to “Sweet Happiness” – Prairie Songwriter Shares Tips on Making An Album

Glenn Sutter (‘sue-ter’) is a fiery folk-rocker from Regina, Saskatchewan.  In September 2010, Glenn received nationwide acclaim when his tune “Weight of the World” was chosen winner and official Saskatchewan Song on David Suzuki’s “Playlist for the Planet(CBC Radio3).  Glenn recently released his second full-length solo album Sweet Happiness.  Here are some of the things he learned while making the album…

In Glenn’s words…

The path that led to my latest album “Sweet Happiness” (released December 2011) was quite different from other journeys I’ve taken as a recording artist.  Compared to my 2008 debut, when I barely had enough material for a full-length album and had never seen the inside of a professional studio, this time I had a small mountain of songs to choose from, and I knew what the studio experience would be like.  I also made use of the following ideas:

Focus on a theme – During pre-production, I noticed that all of the tunes we decided to include had something to do with searching and discovery.  I don’t know if having this sort of theme made a difference to the other musicians or my producer, David j Taylor, but it really helped me to focus, or get re-focused during the recording sessions.  Having a theme also made it easy to write up the liner notes, pick a title track, and develop promotional material.  And now that the CD is out, I always mention the theme during interviews, or when I talk about the album or individual songs during gigs.  Seems to be a good idea, all round.

Have a clear goal and tell everyone about it – This is an effective way to get people on the same page and deepen their commitment to the project.  In this case, I wanted the album to have a live, off-the-floor sound with only a bit of overdubbing, so that became our goal.  Everyone liked the idea, and seemed to have fun with it, even though it meant making room in the studio for an acoustic piano!  Best of all, I like how it affected the results.  A number of tracks have an energy and spontaneity to them that really suits the songs.

Trust, and give yourself over to, the process – Everyone says this, but I think the proof is in the doing.  For me, walking seems to free up my energy and ideas, and I trust it to work for me as part of my songwriting process.  At the same time, trusting and giving myself over to a musical experience can be a very hard thing to do, and it will probably always be something I have to work on.  I suppose that’s part of what makes creating, recording, and sharing music so rewarding.

As a last note, now that my family is older, I’ve started touring to promote my new album.  I don’t have many tips to offer on that front, since tour planning is new ground for me.  So far, I’ve learned that it helps to plan well in advance, to build on the kindness of friends and strangers, and to watch out for crappy weather, because you’re probably going to have to drive through it!

Click Here to visit Glenn’s Songwriter Profile.
Click Here to visit Glenn’s website.

Getting Yourself Out There – The Challenge: Finish Line & Beyond

Who will make it to the finish line?

9 weeks ago, over 60 songwriters across Canada signed up for the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.  The purpose of the challenge was to help songwriters put on their business hats to develop and implement a strategy towards marketing themselves online, as laid out in Ariel Hyatt’s book “Music Success in 9 Weeks.”  There was a significant amount of excitement generated as can be seen by the posts and commenting from Week 1.  However, as with most artists on their path to pursuing their dreams, life happened along the way, and we lost a few participants.

How many will officially complete this challenge?  Scroll down to the comments of this article at midnight on March 12, 2012, and you will see the answer.   Even though there will only be one winner selected from the challenge, the entire process has been worthwhile on so many levels (you have only to read a few of the blogs to see what has been accomplished).

As someone who has witnessed the birth of new blogs, new videos, new websites, and new friendships, while also trying to stay in the race, myself, I have been amazed at what people (including myself) can do when there is community for encouragement and accountability to give the necessary external pressure.   All of this paired with a guide book that has been both easy to use and informative helped many neophytes to take the plunge into unchartered online territory.

Throughout the duration of this challenge, there has been a closed Facebook group for participants where people have celebrated, debated, and shared immensely while rooting for each other.   Many people have remarked that the most incredible gift of taking on this challenge has been the resulting community of people who are all passionate, not only to share their music, but to help each other along the way.  If you have been tracking with us and felt like you wished you had taken part, I am happy to say that this challenge has received such positive feedback, that the Songwriters Association of Canada will likely launch it again in the future, so stay tuned…

In the mean time, here is a virtual toast to all of you who have taken part, and to all of you who have been sharing the journey with us.  It is my hope that experiencing or seeing what the power of community can do, would persuade you to get out and find your own tribe, that we can all celebrate when we cross our respective finish lines.

How can you connect into community through the Songwriters Association of Canada?

1.  S.A.C. members can join the closed S.A.C. Community Facebook Group – S.A.C. Connect  (Once you have requested to join, you will be approved upon verification of your membership).
2.  Meet in person with songwriters in your neighbourhood through an S.A.C. Regional Writers Group.  If you don’t have one nearby, we would happy to discuss how we could help you start one.  Click for details.
3.  Take part in the next edition of the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge!

NOTE TO CHALLENGE TAKERS:

Okay, dear challengers,  it’s a bit of work, but here is what we ask you to post in this FINAL WEEK!:

1.   What action steps did you take or will you be taking based on Ariel’s suggestions in Week 9.
2.  What is the biggest breakthrough you have experienced through participating in this challenge? (we want to celebrate with you)
3.   What was the most significant week for you, and why?
4.  Lastly, please post ALL 9 WEEKs, labelled:  Week 1 – link, Week 2 – link, etc.,
5.  Break out some bubbly!

The winner will be announced in one month’s time.  The winner will receive a free one year membership to the S.A.C. (to be added onto existing membership), VIP 2 month Cyber PR® Campaign from Ariel Publicity that will place their music in the hands of bloggers, podcasters and online radio DJs around the world, 2 years of sponsor Bandzoogle’s Pro-plan plus a custom website design from a Bandzoogle designer, and ReverbNation is offering a $200 credit to run a PROMOTE IT ad Campaign to expand their Facebook Fanpage likes.

Congratulations to all for making it to the finish line!

To Bait Or Not To Bait Your Fans – The Challenge Week 8

Most artists encounter at least some level of discomfort when their craft and business intersect. Even though the first 7 weeks of the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge were business oriented, there was still an artistic spirit behind coming up with a branding statement, creating dialogue with fans via blogging and tweeting, creating YouTube videos, etc., Week 8 takes participants on a significant leap, out of our respective creative comfort zones, into the foreign land of talking money.  How else can artists be sustainable ?

This past week, artists have begun mulling over the task of building a “continuum plan,” which is fancy marketing terminology for the question, “What kind of carrots do I need to use as bait to lure my fans into spending money on my music?”  Some songwriters have already protested to this method and are choosing to opt out of building a strategy for their fans to opt in.

Like every other aspect of this challenge, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a social media plan to develop your career as a songwriter.  Every person has different goals which require different tools and strategies.  However, the important thing is to have a plan.  Music is not like the movie, “Field of Dreams.”  If you build it, the fans won’t necessarily come.

So, even if you decide not to come up with a continuum plan, it is still advisable to have a concrete plan to entice your fans into deeper engagement.

Okay Challengers, please post the following:

1.  URL to the corresponding blog entry.
2.  Please let us know if you will be building a continuum plan in the next 3 months.

Social Media For Songwriters: Diligence Required!

Building a social media foundation can seem daunting for many songwriters.  Most creative people don’t want to spend hours building their email lists, when we could be songwriting or performing.   The accountability and community built into the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge, hosted by the Songwriters Association of Canada, have been key for many songwriters in pushing through with the “not so fun” stuff.  Aynsley Saxe is one of the songwriters who has benefitted from taking on the challenge.

Here are Aynsley’s reflections on pushing through week 7.  May her diligence inspire us all!

In Aynsley’s words…

Week 7 is upon us, or maybe slightly behind some of the more active songwriters who are on top of the blogging game (Tom Shea & Siouxberry, congrats!) during the Songwriters Association of Canada’s Social Media Challenge based on Ariel Hyatt‘s book Music Success in Nine Weeks.

I’m pleased to say I’m still here. I’m pushing the social media snowball up the hill, gathering tons of advice, pondering brave ideas and even soaking up a few friendships as I go. It’s been an incredible journey and A LOT to digest so far. I feel a little saturated. But I guess that’s the point?

Week 7 is all about the (dreaded) newsletter. Okay, kidding about dreaded, at least in the “knotty hair” sense of the word. But I must admit I feel a little intimidated about the newsletter chapter.

The questions I’ve been pondering this week are:

What do I have to say that is entertaining, meaningful, creative, interesting and worth sharing?

How do I market myself without seeming to market myself (at least most of the time!)?

How often should I contact fans on my newsletter list?

How can I develop a community around myself and my music?

What questions should I ask fans when I send them a short survey about what they would like from me?

And this, the ultimate question….

How can I reach people in a way that is not, I hesitate to even say the word….(a hush fell over the crowd): S P A M.

I know how much I like getting emails that are all promotional – NOT. That’s the last thing I want to do to the people who like my music and who are giving me their precious time by opening my emails. I want my newsletters to be based on respect, love and genuine connection. And I want to also throw in a little bit of amusing fun in there too! Nobody wants to read a boring email right? No brussel sprouts emails please! Yuck! ;)

Reaching out to my mailing list about once a month sounds about right to me. I want to be around often, but not too often.

To date, I’ve personally contacted approximately 475 people with personal, individual emails asking them if it would be okay to keep them posted on my music. I’m not kidding. FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE (give or take a few). I’ve got 150 people to go on my personal email list, that doesn’t count Facebook friends and all those business cards I’ve accumulated through the years. Phew, what a snowball!!

The really great thing about this whole process of reaching out is that I’ve been in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in years. It’s been awesome reconnecting and thinking about them and hearing what they’re up to. I received two warm & fuzzy responses this morning that are soooo nice I had to share:

Congratulations. Let me know how I can support you.

…and to answer your quick question, I appreciate learning about your musical journey. Please keep me posted and it would be a pleasure if I could be of any help.

The personal touch isn’t overrated. The golden rule never grows old. If someone took the time to actually sit down and think about me and write me a quick email, and not treat me like one of the masses, I would likely be eating their emails out of the palm of their hand.

The challenging part has been it’s been incredibly time consuming. I average about 2 hours of email writing for every 50 contacts. Even though I’m using a form email for part of the email as suggested, I’m also making the email personal to each person. This means going back through my emails and seeing where/when we connected last and writing a little about that. And that doesn’t count the time spent when I respond (because I always try to email them back right away to thank them for letting me keep them on my list if that’s what they’ve chosen to do). The actual act of writing and responding isn’t so bad – it’s actually been pretty fun. It’s just thinking about the snowball that I resist. Kind of like going to the gym. Once you’re actually lifting weights it usually feels pretty good.

I have 3 pages left (6 hours) and 150 people to contact personally (if you’re curious, it’s people with names starting with ‘P’ to ‘T’). I did the last page this morning just to change things up (Letters ‘V’ to ‘Z’). What category are you in? Did I miss you??

6 hours doesn’t seem like a long time really. But it feels like it’s really snowing on my snowball. And this last part of the hill feels daunting. Especially since I know winter never ends and it will always be snowing. Which is a very good thing because that will mean that I will be able to continually connect with people who might enjoy my music and want to be kept updated.

One of my goals during Week 1 was to keep up an ever-growing fantastic email list… And yes, to provide great newsletters too. So cheers to cold days and big snowballs!!!

One more thing, I think co-promoting with other artists (whom my fan base might like) is a fantastic idea. Once I get my album released I will definitely be reaching out to other songwriters about this idea. If you are an artist, do let me know if you’re interested in this idea too and you think our music might be enjoyed by a similar audience. I would love to announce you to my list in a beautiful way!

And finally, dear Blog Reader (that’s you!!!), I’d love to keep you up to speed on what I’m up to musically. If you sign up for my music updates I will also give you a free MP3 when my album is released. All Love – No Spam. Promise.

Honk and Sign up here because you Rock!

www.AynsleySaxe.com

This blog was originally posted under the title, “Saturated Snowballs” here:  http://aynsleysaxe.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/saturated-snowballs/

Click Here to visit Aynsley’s Songwriters Profile.