S.A.C. Challenge – Week 6 – Choice No. 2 – Issued by Vincent Degiorgio – Write a Holiday Hit

Vince DegiorgioVincent Degiorgio is a multi million selling songwriter who owns and operates Chapter 2 Productions.

His global reach and career has included many facets, from writing for European superstar Caro Emerald to being the man who signed N Sync in America. He continues to write for artists around the world, with dozens of gold and platinum records to show for his work for artists ranging from Japanese pop stars Lead to Canadians Meaghan Smith and Julie Crochitiere. His Cymba Music Publishing company houses hitmakers like Aileen de la Cruz, Ian Smith, Davor Vulama and his newest signing, Edmonton’s Olivia Wik.

Here is Vince’s songwriting challenge:

Write the next great holiday song.

The timing is perfect for your quest to deliver the next great Christmas song, or one to be celebrated during the holidays. Aside one new song on the globally loved Michael Buble Christmas album, new songs that have transcend the holidays are few and far between. Songs that challenge the system like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” and N Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” are few and far between. Your challenge is to lyrically and melodically enter the creative stratosphere of great songs like “The Christmas Song”, a timeless masterpiece, and songs like “Let It Snow”, both of which were written in a California heatwave. While the former speaks of the setting of the perfect Christmas, the latter evokes all of the settings of a holiday celebration without mentioning Christmas itself.  Remember, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was a fisherman’s lament. What I am looking for is a song of any tempo in any style, that speaks of your personal imagery and memories of the holiday season. Pour yourself into the idea that you do not have to be culturally specific, but you do have to deliver the message what this December past time means to you. Songs should be no longer than 3:30 long.

Many of the most beloved holiday classics were once written for movies. Use that imagery when you write your song. Rather than be jealous of yet another cover version of “White Christmas”, change the landscape for me and anyone listening with your song. 

When I was the A&R person for N Sync, I put together an album I am very proud of for five great singers. It was tailored after the Johnny Mathis album “Merry Christmas” – to provide a timeless, or timely representation of the talent at the time. Today, one is considered “The King Of Pop”. The other a timeless icon, who is the undisputed king of holiday albums.

Show me your talent with your song. Because for music supervisors and publishers, the holiday season for movies actually starts in April, not November. 

Good luck,
Vince Degiorgio

Please submit the following by Monday, March 23, 11:59 EST.
1.  Link to a blog post about your experience with this challenge.
2.  Link to your song (preferably on SoundCloud) with lyrics posted in SoundCloud.
Comments posted by people who have not registered for the Challenge will be deleted.

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

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!

Fair Trade Music Principles for a Better Future

2012 was a ground breaking year for songwriters and composers worldwide. For the first time our organizations formed alliances both in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, the S.A.C. joined with the Screen Composers Guild and SPACQ, our counterpart in Quebec to form Music Creators Canada.

Music Creators North America was formed following a meeting with the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). We have also joined hands with our colleagues at the European Composers and Songwriters Association (ECSA), and the International Council of Authors and Composers (CIAM).

The work will continue in 2013 and beyond to strengthen these newly created relationships so that music creators around the globe can and will speak with a united and powerful voice.

But what will that unified voice say? Surely, with so many organizations from so many parts of the world involved, agreeing upon a common narrative will be difficult.

Well, we have good news on that front. Almost all of the organizations have agreed upon a set of principles: the Fair Trade Music Principles.

In the coming weeks, I will present each of the Principles and explain the thinking behind each one.

Here is the first:

We call for new (and existing) music business models built on principles of fair and sustainable compensation for music creators.

One only has to think of Apple, a company that transitioned from a niche computer manufacturer to the most highly valued company in the world. The transition was built on the incredible popularity of the iPod, which originally had one purpose: to play music. (The iPod of course led to the iPhone.)

In addition, we have Spotify, Rdio and Pandora, not to mention Google and Internet service providers, generating combined revenue streams in the billions of dollars annually.

Without music these businesses would not exist, and yet those who create the core element to this vast wealth, the music creators, are the beneficiaries of very little, if any of this massive value chain.

So we find ourselves in much the same place that Third World coffee growers were in before the Fair Trade Coffee movement, and this is a situation that music creators must and will work globally to correct.

It is time music creators were fairly included in these value chains based on our collected works. The fact that we are working together internationally to achieve this goal is a real step forward.

Here’s A Pretty Ribbon On That Blogging Challenge Wrap!

Image of Two Bathing Beauties With Prize CupI logged in to Facebook early last week to discover the little earth icon in the navigation bar all lit up and a roll of “congratulations” in my newsfeed from fellow bloggers. And that, my friends, is how I found out I won the Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge that I took part in this winter. Woo hoo! Social media in action.

I Never Was a Prom Queen, But…

Imagine the trophy is a dozen roses and the hat is a tiara.

Given my love of all things shiny and my diva-esque nature, I immediatelypictured myself among Pageant Queens accepting a bouquet of nailpolish-red roses in my arms, grinning cheek-to-cheek. Less Courtney Love, but still mascara running down my face** as I tearfully accept my sparkling tiara and sash ~ blowing kisses to the countless readers who have made my blog what it is today!! **This from the fact that the challenge was based on the book:Music Success In Nine Weeks!Hahaha! But seriously, I am super glad I took part in the challenge, and I am honoured to be selected as its winner… thanks Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC) and thanks Ariel Hyatt for putting on this first ever Canadian version of the Music Success In Nine Weeks Blogging Challenge. A most excellent way to spend the start of 2012. And as it turns out I didn’t even have to wear a bathing suit to win the fabulous prizes.

Queen For a Day, But This is No “Royal We” Here

I’d like to send warm fuzzies out to my fellow participants for doing the challenge with me (with a special shout out going to Lily Cheng, who not only blogged with us but also facilitated the challenge. Thanks Lily!) We spent a concentrated nine weeks tackling topics and tasks related to social media. Collectively we set up a pretty substantial Canadian corner of new Facebook & twitter music accounts. We got comfy with Youtube and rss feeds – and then we blogged about it so that our fans could join us on the journey too.

PS Speaking of Youtube, you should totally subscribe to my channel! I started a “Homemade Music Video Project” during the challenge: my goal is to make homemade, no budget videos for all of my songs. Me editing them and everything! (There are three so far and more on the way.) Other fun stuff you can do: sign up for my mailing list,follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook. Hurray! Phew… is that… it?

Sixty of us started back in January. Out of that emerged a core group of about twenty singer-songwriters who stayed in to the end, supporting each other through the weekly to-do list. We had (and in fact still have) an active Facebook group where people shared their successes and their challenges of the business and posted information and support for each other. Several genuine friendships started through this challenge that have extended beyond the end date. I still pop into the group quite regularly to see what everyone’s up to and to soak up some extra love when I’m feeling out of sorts with my workload. The DIY model says we are autonomous in exercising creative and administrative control over our work, yes. It is also clear that the “social” in social media truly drives us humans. We need connection and community to thrive.

Maybe that is one of the reasons blogging is so perfect in this day and age of friends & fans spread out across the globe. An artist’s blog is personal and self-directed and, yet it can be highly interactive too. Online connections are sometimes maligned as shallow, and for sure there can be a Pollyanna-ish-ness that can drive me nuts sometimes. However it seems to me that online relationships when properly nurtured can be pretty darn real too.

The Take Away

As songwriters, we are all-the-time creating narratives for ourselves and others to sing. But when it comes time to write ourselves into the world… that same creative glean can get muddied. (Okay, this might be a “royal we”.) One of the biggest take-aways for me from doing this blogging challenge was the shifting away from an emotional space of passive want: hoping someone will “discover” me [my music] and moving to that of an active space. Blogging is active. It is constructive. It is also relatively inexpensive to do. As a bonus, blogging is creative. You don’t need a record label or Billboard approval to share your thoughts and your work. You just need to trust in the strength of your creativity and your ability to connect. That, and a bit of time to jot it all down.

The Other Take-Aways

… are pretty awesome too! I look forward to talking with Ariel about the eight-week Cyber PR campaign. Can’t wait to find out what’s in store once my music goes out directly to her network of bloggers and podcasters. Will my work connect on that scale too? Thanks,Reverbnation, for their contribution to the amazing prize list, too. And I’ve already had a skype meeting with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle to discuss building a second website for my little indie record label, since I’ve already got www.karynellis.com (come visit!) I’ll let you folks know when the new one is up and running too.

Okay. Now… THAT’S a wrap of the blogging challenge. But, folks, you can be sure my musings will continue on. If you’re reading this somewhere other than on my blog — Letters To My Editor — do pop by for more posts. You can also subscribe while you’re there to get my upcoming posts directly in your inbox.

Till next time!

It’s a Youtube Universe! – The Challenge Week 5

Get your YouTube face on! Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Yu-Ta Lee

Once upon a time, people had to travel somewhere to see you play music live.  Although one could argue that YouTube is still distinctly different from watching a show in person, gone are the days when a shroud of mystery enveloped artists until you were able to see them on television or at a show.  These days, having a presence on YouTube is a given and not a bonus part of your social media marketing plan.

Here are some interesting stats (provided by YouTube):

  • 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day
  • Over 3 billion videos are viewed a day
  • Users upload the equivalent of 240,000 full-length films every week
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
  • 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 25 countries across 43 languages
  • YouTube’s demographic is broad: 18-54 years old
  • YouTube reached over 700 billion playbacks in 2010
  • 800M unique users visit YouTube each month

Clearly, anyone who wants to connect with people through their music wants to be a part of this explosive kinetic activity.  While some may passively view YouTube videos, like any another TV channel, in fact, YouTube is very social.  Much of the traffic on YouTube is driven by sharing.  In addition, rating and commenting have become an integral part of the YouTube experience.

So, this week, participants of the Songwriters Association of Canada’s Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge (based on the book, “Music Success in 9 Weeks,” by Ariel Hyatt), are putting their best YouTube face forward by building or tweaking their YouTube Channels.

We’ll see YOU on YouTube!

Here are some highlight videos from our participants!

Instructions for Challenge Takers living on the edge:

1.  Link to your blog entry for the week. (exact URL)
2.  Link to your YouTube Channel.
3.  Link to a YouTube video created specifically for this week.

Adi Braun takes a leap of faith with singer/songwriter debut, “Canadian Scenes I”

Adi Braun CD Cover

Adi Braun has garnered a sizable list of accomplishments as a vocalist including releasing 3 critically acclaimed CDs, one of which was shortlisted for a Juno nomination.  She has toured the world and established a name for herself as a leading jazz vocalist.

Over the years, Adi has gained confidence as a songwriter and this week she releases her debut singer/songwriter album, “Canadian Scenes I.”  Adi shares with us the gems of experience and inspiration that have led her to this release, as well as some advice for fellow songwriters.  In the end Adi encourages us to “take a leap of faith.”

1.  Congratulations on the release of your 4th album.  What is the over arching theme or inspiration behind this new album? I have been singing songs by other Canadian songwriters as well as my own originals for several years now, but somehow I only now found the courage to capture them on record.

2.  This is your debut album as a singer/songwriter.  When did you begin writing songs, and what inspired you to branch out your creativity in this way? I actually began writing songs when I was about 16 years old and living in Germany.  Then when I moved back to Toronto two years later my life took a somewhat different turn as I began classical vocal studies (both of my parents were opera singers) and so this little dream of becoming a pop singer/songwriter “went to sleep” for many years.  I performed as a classical singer until I was in my mid-thirties and only then followed my true calling back to jazz, pop and cabaret music.  Over the past few years my fans, family and friends have repeatedly asked me to record my own songs and I have also been very encouraged by Canadian Singer/Songwriter legend Shirley Eikhard to put my song-writing foot forward.

3.  What unique challenges did you encounter approaching a singer/songwriter project that were different from your previous CDs? I honestly felt that it was more a revelation than a challenge that was truly unique in this project.  It is an indescribable feeling to be surrounded by such players as I was who appreciated and felt my music as deeply as they did and played with such heartfelt sincerity.  It was a deeply moving experience.

4.  How did you come up for the funding of this project? All of my CDs have been funded privately by myself.  It’s not been an easy road to travel on and has involved lots of hard work but the rewards have been beautiful.

5.  What are your marketing plans to support this release? To sell this CD at all of my other upcoming performing events and to continue to sell all of my CDs through different on-line stores as well as on i-Tunes.  Then there is radio-airplay which is always tremendously helpful.

6.  You have hired a PR company to help in promoting this project. Why did you make this decision and what criteria do you think is important in choosing a PR company? As an independent artist without a big agency representation you are often the only person who is responsible for all details of your work, so it is extremely helpful to have someone who is able to carry forward the artist’s intentions to the media.  My advice to anyone thinking of hiring a publicist is to carefully check them out and ask for references.  Make sure he/she is committed to your unique artistic voice.

7.  How long did it take to make this album? This album has been in the works for at least two years – in the heart and the mind, that is.  But the physical recording took place this May and by the end of June it was all completed.

Adi Braun

8.  If there was one piece of advice you could give to people embarking on recording a singer/songwriter CD, what would it be? Take the leap of faith and do it!  I have heard from others in the field (jazz, mostly) that recording an “all-original” CD might not be a good decision.  Instead – they suggested – to record only one or two of your own songs nestled among several standards.

While I find this an interesting choice and possibility I do feel that it might encourage artists to feel that they need another person’s work to “hide” behind.  I’d say – if you are not in a position to record an entire album of originals, record an EP (which is what I did).  The feeling of giving birth to something that can capture your own inner truth and authentic voice is unparalleled in my mind.

To find out more about Adi – click here.

Facebook is Favourite for Communications

The Songwriters Association of Canada ran a survey about fan communications and found that Facebook and traditional email lead the way for fan communications.  See charts below:

Question 1:

Other:  Myspace, Reverbnation, Face to Face, Weekly gigs, website, internet radio, S.A.C. website and Bandmix
Surprising Answer: I have no fans (submitted by a few respondents)

Question 2:

Question 3:

Brazil considering monetizing P2P file-sharing

As many of you know, we at the Songwriters Association of Canada have been speaking and writing about monetizing music file-sharing in Canada and around the world over the last three years. Now it appears Brazil may well be the first country in the world to adopt a system to monetize music file-sharing. The Brazilian model differs from the current S.A.C. one in at least one aspect. While we have moved away from a “levy” applied to all internet accounts, which seems to be what our South American colleagues are suggesting, we now favor a “license fee” that consumers could opt out of if they did not wish to file-share.

We have said from the early days of our efforts that ultimately this approach must be world-wide, just as the collection and distribution of performing royalties is, and are very happy to see that creators in other countries are actively moving in a remarkably similar direction.

Here is what is a short summery of what is being proposed in Brazil:

Basically, non-commercial file sharing will be authorized – should the proposal be accepted and passed into law. Each broadband user will pay a  R$3 (or US$1.71) fee  together with her/his monthly Internet Service Provider (ISP) bill. The ISP will collect the fees and distribute it to a collecting society comprised of authors’ associations that will then distribute the collected fees to authors, composers, and so on in the proportion that the works are downloaded.

For more please follow this link:


Eddie Schwartz: Canadian copyright reform must be fair to music creators and consumers

By Eddie Schwartz

In recent weeks, the government has revealed details of Bill C-32, its long-anticipated revision to the Canadian Copyright Act. It is a complex piece of legislation and one that, if enacted, would affect all the creative endeavors in which copyright plays a role, such as music, movies, books, photography, and television, among others. The bill’s impact, or lack thereof, on the music industry is the focus of my comments below.

Bill C-32 comes at a time when there has been much talk that Canada is a “rogue” nation—that our current laws are inadequate to stop “piracy” and that we have become a “nation of infringers”.

One of the ways the Bill C-32 seeks to address these concerns is by harmonizing our copyright law with the United States and other World Intellectual Property Organization compliant nations. But WIPO compliance has not restored the music industry to health in the United States or any of the other countries where its provisions have been adopted. In fact, even more draconian measures, such as disconnecting file-sharers from the Internet are being experimented with in a number of European countries that are WIPO compliant. Just as a decade of lawsuits failed to stop or significantly slow the growth of file-sharing in the U.S., these efforts are likely to be counterproductive. File-sharers can easily employ available masking technologies and instead of ending “piracy”, it will simply be driven underground.

Under the proposed legislation it would be illegal to “break” digital locks, also known as technical protection measures or TPMs, used by the entertainment industry to control digital copying. In addition, infringers could be sued for up to $5,000.

Given that currently something in the order of 100 million unique songs without TPMs are already being shared over P2P networks in Canada and around the world, it’s difficult to understand what the government hopes to achieve by “locking the barn after the horses have run off”. Music file-sharing now constitutes well over 90 percent of all the music obtained on wired and wireless networks, and dwarfs all other means of distribution, including iTunes.

The Songwriters Association of Canada has proposed that Bill C-32 be amended to legalize music file-sharing in conjunction with a remuneration system for creators and rights-holders. Consumers who wish to file-share would be asked to pay a reasonable monthly licence fee. The revenue received could be distributed to performers, songwriters, and rights-holders on a transparent, pro-rata basis by one of Canada’s respected music collectives, such as SOCAN.

This one simple measure would not only go a long way toward eliminating the need for “locks and lawsuits”, but would create a new business model that would be fair to consumers and creators alike.

Apparently the government will hold consultations with interested parties later this year with a view to improving Bill C-32. Many of us who write and perform music for a living hope that the government takes a progressive approach to the difficult issues facing our industry, and moves beyond the failed policies of the last 10 years.

Rather than follow other nations down the copyright rabbit hole into a netherworld that makes less and less sense, Canada can lead the world to a forward-thinking approach that gives consumers the unrestricted access to music they want, while at the same time fairly compensating creators.

Eddie Schwartz is a Juno award-winning recording artist and songwriter, the president of the Songwriters Association of Canada, and a director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He represents the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada in Nashville, where he resides with his family.

6 Proven Networking Strategies for Songwriters

Everywhere you turn, it seems someone is talking about how the music industry is changing. This new thing is great, that new thing is bad – sales are up here, sales are down there. But it doesn’t matter whether you believe things are changing for the worse or changing for the better – some things will always hold true. And one of those things that is as true now as it was 50 years ago- the importance of effective networking and relationship building.

It’s no secret that I love what I do. One of my favourite things is that I get to meet many different songwriters and artists- sometimes it’s in person at a SAC Workshop or it might be through one of the many emails. tweets and Facebook messages I receive daily. After digging through the pile of impersonal “check out my music” or “come to my show” messages, I’ll usually stumble upon someone asking me for advice. Every so often I’ll get a very unique question, but more often than not, I’m hit with the same ones over and over. They usually go something like this:

  • Where can I find someone I can collaborate with on songwriting (music, lyrics etc)?
  • How do I meet other songwriters or industry professionals so I can move my career forward (get a publishing deal, manager, agent)?
  • Is there somewhere I can get feedback on my music to find out if I’m on the right track (reviews, critiques) ?
  • and so on..

And when it comes down to it, all these questions focus on the same core problem- “How do I effectively network in the music industry?”

Effective Networking

It almost hurts me to say that I meet so many songwriters who lack an understanding of how to network effectively.  They attend an event here and there, talk to one or two people and walk away- usually complaining that the event “sucked”. Others rely on serendipity, waiting for that elusive “big break”- only to find they rarely gain enough traction to fuel any real growth to further their careers. This is simply not enough. You must to do more. You have to go beyond chance and seek out new and creative networking opportunities to get ahead and be a successful songwriter.

Now in the end, you have to deliver. You must have quality songs and go beyond people’s expectations. Without great songs, you are fighting a losing battle. That being said, effective networking should be a driving force, if not a major part of your daily musical efforts.

Proven Networking Strategies

Here are a few proven strategies that are sure to help make your networking more effective:

  1. Give, then receive – focus on sharing and not selling. Networking is a two way street and people will often resist a sales pitch. Try to always offer your help and skills first.
  2. Know why you’re networking – What are you looking to achieve? Do you want a co-writer? Are you looking for a publishing deal? Do you need help recording songs? What problem are you currently trying to solve- and what problems can you solve for others?
  3. Do your homework first– Make sure to avoid questions that can be answered by a simple google search. If you’re attending an event, find out who will be there – and do some research. Prepare a set of questions you can ask. Maybe things like – What’s your favourite song? What kinds of songs do you prefer to write? How do you find opportunities for your songs? By learning about who you are talking to, you’ll keep the conversation going and make it more meaningful.
  4. Don’t ever be pushy or desperate – you can be politely persistent but respect the fact that people are often busy and may not have the ability, resources or desire to lend a hand.
  5. Always Ask Permission – Always….always…always! Get permission before doing anything that may infringe on someone’s rights or privacy.
  6. Say “thank you” – you would be surprised how common courtesy has become very uncommon – little things like this still go a long way. Be polite and courteous to everyone.

Things Rarely Happen Overnight

Things may happen quickly for you, or it may take you years to see results– most likely, it’ll be somewhere in between. Be realistic and persevere. Don’t expect to do something once, like show up to one meeting or workshop and expect everything to magically fall into place. Your network will grow over time as you develop bonds and connections with people. Take your time to build relationships that are solid and long lasting. Make sure you focus on the quality and not the quantity of your relationships. Like so many other areas in life, the quality of your relationships have a huge impact on how far and how fast you move ahead.

Organizations like SAC hold monthly songwriting workshops and meetings in most major cities. You should attend as many of these and other industry events as often as you can. If you don’t live near a major city, take advantage of SAC’s online community. There you can connect with other songwriters and share and exchange your ideas regardless of where you live.

Feel free to offer up any comments below, or join the discussion at S.A.C. Connect on Facebook.

And if you have any questions for me, feel free to drop me a line at anytime, either on Facebook, Twitter, by email or drop by my website, I’m always happy to lend a hand.