200 shows and counting…

Amanda CottreauBy Amanda Cottreau

I’m no expert on the matter but, after having playing over 200 shows in the last four years, there are a number of things I have learned:

1.  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
My voice is a most precious and delicate instrument; it took nearly losing it to come to that realization. Investing in vocal lessons literally saved my voice. Now, before any show, I take the time to warm up and stretch my vocal muscles with the guidance of one of my mentors and industry go-to-girls, Cari Cole.  I also learned to practice finger exercises that minimize the repetitive strain brought on by guitar playing for hours on end each day.  Of course, exercising your whole body, keeping hydrated and taking time to rest are super important too!

2.  MATCH YOUR VENUES WITH YOUR VALUES
In the beginning, I played just about anywhere I could get a gig.  That said, as great as bars are for well paying cover gigs, they are not well suited for sharing intimate moments with the audience, which is very important to me.  I now veer toward cafes, galleries, and private homes, venues that better facilitate one-on-one connections with my listeners.

3.  CONNECT WITH COMMUNITY
Getting people to want to come out to your shows requires more than just putting up posters and having an online presence.  Connecting one-on-one with people in a genuine and meaning full way is the most effective advertising in the world; it takes time and boundless energy but is priceless.  Whether it is in person or online, it is important to build sustainable relationships and engage community.  As a single mother of one, with a full time day job, in addition to managing a music career, I have found the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Reverbnation to be invaluable assets.  They have allowed me to establish and cultivate relationships with a diverse range of people in both my local and global communities.

4.  KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WORTH (AND ASK FOR IT)
As much as I love sharing music, and would continue to create it whether or not I was paid, I have come to realize that my time and skills are valuable and gear costs money!  All of the peripheral things required to make my music accessible – rentals, gas, guitar strings, rehearsal time, business cards, posters, website costs, membership fees, etc. – really add up.  I quickly learned that it was necessary and warranted to ask for payment.  Be mindful of what you ask for, though; if you ask for change, you’ll most likely get just that. I always make a point, now, to ask for listeners’ gratitude in the form of attention AND dollar bills.

5.  BEFORE YOU TOUR – DO YOUR RESEARCH
As an independent artist, touring can be a really expensive and overwhelming venture.  I wish I had done more research and planning before hitting the road!  I made sure to registered all my songs with SOCAN and submitted for all my live performances but I wish I had read these two articles first: How to make the best of a Canadian Tour & Booking Your Canadian Tour – Tips by Ann Vriend.   Did you know that there’s even funding available for touring through FACTOR!?  Like I said, do your research.

Honestly, of everything I’ve learned, success really isn’t about money, it’s about people.  For me, taking things to the next level has always been more about achieving greater depth with my audience rather than higher ranks on the charts.  Music has always been a way to centre myself, allowing me to become aware and fully grounded in the moment.  It has been a way for me to communicate my experiences, build relationships, and engage like-minded individuals in my community. If I were to measure success by the quality of my relationships, well then, I think I’m one of the most successful people I know!

Click Here to visit Amanda’s Songwriters’ Profile.

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Co-Writing Coast to Coast with the S.A.C.

Dayna Shereck, John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc
Dayna Shereck, John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc

by Dayna Shereck

I can list several reasons why the S.A.C. has been so important in my personal journey as a songwriter, but would like to say that the fellow writers I have met and the connections I have made have had the greatest impact.

Several months ago, through a network of songwriters on Facebook, I came across a song that was posted called “Half A World Away”.  I immediately connected to the song and was eager to see who had written it.  John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc of Vancouver were the creators, and they had developed something really magical. I re-posted the song and complimented the writers on how much I liked it.

Early this past June I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver for a couple of days and wanted to see if I could do a co-write while I was there.  I emailed the SAC Regional Writers Group in Vancouver and was quickly connected to Lucy LeBlanc, who was so warm and kind.  She suggested a three-way co-write with her writing partner, John Pippus, and I was delighted.

We figured out a central meeting spot that was convenient for everyone. I was staying at UBC, and Lucy was coming from White Rock.  Lucy and I met at the station closest to John’s place and we headed over there together.

I spent a little time observing their co-writing style and identifying the best way for me to fit in.  I quickly learned that Lucy was a wonderful lyricist and John was a great melody man.  We bounced some ideas around, and I loved some of the riffs John was playing. I was slowly developing a chorus in my head.  It was a little country, and I thought it might be something we could work with. Lucy immediately began to piece together a story, and John nailed down the verse melody with a catchy guitar riff that I immediately fell in love with. Within a matter of hours the song was coming together.

Lucy LeBlanc adds, “Dayna came prepared. She had a chorus for a country song that seemed to crackle with energy. So, we started working with it, throwing out ideas and crafting the verses. It’s a good feeling when it all comes together, and you end up with a song that resonates among each of us.”

It was my first time writing away from home–with the exception of Nashville…and it made me feel so grounded to be writing while I was in a place that was completely new to me.

After our first session we were tremendously excited about how the song was developing and made arrangements to meet the next day to finish it. With the exception of getting stuck on a musical bridge, we did almost finish it, and sorted out the bridge and fine-tuned the details over skype once I got home.

Lucy was able to do some sightseeing with me, and graciously helped me find my way back to where I was staying.  As I sat on the bus and replayed our song through my iphone voice notes, I felt even more confident about what the three of us had created.

I was happy to have connected with Lucy and John in Vancouver, and would certainly access the S.A.C. to set up co-writing opportunities when travelling to other cities. The song we wrote is called “ I Still Want You”.  We are hoping to have it demoed in Nashville and hope to have it pitched to an artist.

Visit the Songwriters’ Profiles for this trio:

Dayna Shereck
Lucy LeBlanc

John Pippus