Thursday, 27 February 2014

2000 Years in 2 Hours. Bring It

I really enjoyed staying in London with my good friend Sonia Stein. She is currently working on her own songwriting/artist career in London. We have been best friends since we met at Berklee College of Music 5 Week Summer program in 2007 when we were roommates. Take a listen to what she is doing now!

Context and Methodology guest speaker, David Stoll, came by to give us a 2 hour presentation on the history of music (harmony, rhythm, and history) of the last 2000 years about. Starting with the Medieval to the present, he spoke about:
  1. The progression of harmony from Gregorian mono phony to present day counterpoint and beyond
  2. The changes in rhythm from cannon-like madrigals to present day house electronic music
  3. The impact of politics, philosophy, science, economics, religious, etc on music throughout these times
After the lecture, we discussed our progress on our Context and Methodology research papers. 

February 26th, 2014

Here is a brief introduction to David Stoll, as taken from his Wiki page: 
"David Stoll was born in London, and studied composition at Worcester College, Oxford University and at the Royal Academy of Music. After completing his education, he worked as a free-lance composer for concert, theatrical and TV/film music. Stoll is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He served as chairman of the Association of Professional Composers. In 1999 he was elected co-chair of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA),  and also serves on the boards of several other music organizations. Stoll operates school and corporate training programs in creative thinking based on music, and founded and directs the In Tune In Europe seminar and Building Music for primary schools."

His presentation was more of a skeleton than a full lecture of the topics because each of the pivotal points in history merit their own lectures. Two points he made that stuck with me are that no music would exist without the background of silence and no music would exist without listeners.

From the birth of what some would call tonality in the 1600's Baroque period to present day music.

We did a lot of listening rather than talking about the changes in harmony, which was nice. Using our previous knowledge of musical history and theory gave us a reference. At least it did for me.

We then backed up to the beginning again and went over the same time period with rhythm in mind rather than harmony.

Rhythm had a much more complex start in my opinion because harmony was monophonic when we started, and rhythm was almost madrigal-like at first listen. So rhythm seemed to not have as far to go in terms of complexity and experimentation.

Here are some of the pieces we listened to during the lecture. My personal favorite is Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

(I have a deep appreciation for Fantasia. Especially the Dinosaur section, which was animated to Rite of Spring)...

Finally the world view time line came around and this was the quickest section and yet, felt like the most dense...

What I liked about the relationship between music and all the other aspects of society, is that they truly reflect each other! This was the main point that I was not already educated on.

As time goes by, man became more and more independent and nationalistic beginning to think for themselves and create for the individual rather than the patron or higher class. I liked the fact that you can hear these socio-political changes reflected in the music of the time.

As the lecture came to an end, we touched upon my personal favorite topic right now, the digital age and its impact on music. Once the millennium hit, digital took over analog in every sense, not just in music. Global market forces become more the leading decision makers, listeners crave a more interactive experience with music, and people lack the attention spans we once had for music. People become less willing to pay for entertainment and the machine has won.

He passed out these handouts before leaving along with a quick survey asking about how the lecture could be better and so on. I appreciated his love for the subject matter, which gripped mine and the classes attention very well. Thank you David Stoll :)

On to my research paper! Here are a few new research topics that I am playing with:
  1. Transformation: Analyzing the Rising Standards for Songwriters in the Music Industry in the 21st Century.
  2. Transformation: Analyzing the Relationship Between the Rise of Technology and the Fall of Artist Labels in the 21st Century.
  3. Transformation: Analyzing the Effects of the Music Business Paradigm Shift on the Songwriter During the 21st Century.
Even though my abstract is still based on the first topic, I have a feeling that I am more interested in the later two, based on my outline...
Now my outline went in another direction after I started reading some of my new books I checked out from the Corsham Library. I think I want to focus more on the paradigm shift in the music industry from monolithic record labels controlling global distribution to independent artists gaining more control of their own careers during the digital age. My original topic was insinuating that the artist is at the mercy of rising standards, when the reality is, major labels are at the mercy of the Internet. And though it has become easier to distribute and network your music across the Internet, reaching an entire globe of potential fans, the hardships imposed on artists from labels in the past have been displaced into competition with all the artists on the Internet doing the same thing on their own. I like this idea a lot more than "poor me, I had to work harder to make it in the industry because I have to do it myself." No. I GET to work that much harder because I hold the power now.

I am pretty confident with this outline. lol I have emailed Richard and am waiting for some feedback now.



What a great topic, I am really enjoying myself. I mean I have a perpetual headache from educating myself on the music business from basically scratch, but I'm enjoying it ha

I AM SO BUSY! Thank God.


32 Bars. No Chorus. Write A Hit.

I know that AABA form is one of, if not thee, most successful songwriting forms, but I have never written a 32 bar song in AABA before and let me say, it was hard. If I could say what my main strength is in songwriting, I would say writing catchy choruses. So, AABA form is a chorus-less form based on two verse sections, a B, or bridge section, and another verse. That means the whole song has to be one hook after another! So I teamed up with Esther Frake for this task since she has experience writing in AABA form and already had music written. We got together on Sunday and spent about 3 hours writing the lyrics and melody from scratch together, which was really nice for me. The music was lighthearted and deserved a light, happy topic, which was another exercise for me. We came up with the title and topic: Storybook Love. It was a hit in class and I am very proud of myself and Esther for this collaboration :)

February 25th, 2014

The first to go was Maxine, who sang her AABA song A Cappella. The song was strong with a definite, strong melody that followed the criteria very well. It has been said that a good song can stand alone A Cappella, and hers did! The overall critique was her use of metaphor was slightly overbearing and some lines could use some rethinking as to stay away from anything too cliche.

This brought up a great point about songwriting. My favorite way to write is through reference. A metaphor is already a reference, but they are so solidified sometimes that they become cliche. So, I like to reword metaphors or reference the reference. Right now I am working on some lyrics, "It's not the hole you made in my heart, it's the greener grass you made it for." I am referencing the metaphor, the grass is always greener on the other side, so with that common knowledge, I am referencing the understood concept of the metaphor without actually using it, which puts the listener on the inside of my thinking through common knowledge of metaphor. I LOVE METAPHOR!

John and Kirsty sang their duet from last week's task (120 bpm song) called "Corner of the Room." The song went over well with the class. The only critique was the start of the chorus resembles the melody to "All of Me" by John Legend. It's an easy fix though.

Anna and Esther played a song (120 bpm) they collaborated on in which Esther did the backing track
and Anna wrote the lyrics and melody. Such a great split of talents. I love working with Esther :) The song was a cross between rockabilly and burlesque styles making it a treat for the classes ears! The best critique for this song was moving the verse from the second half, to the first half. I think that would make the song move well.

Farhan and Rosey played their AABA song next. Farhan contributed by playing lead acoustic and Rosey wrote the song. The overall critique was that the song lacked a strong melody line to differentiate the two sections.

Bianca and Will M. worked together this week on something in Portuguese in AABA form, which I am so proud of Bianca for! Apparently, she wrote something else to the tune he wrote and he wasn't keen on the topic and had her change it to be centered around a bonfire. She kept at it and they wrote a pretty awesome song together. The melody, which he wrote, sounds familiar to a lot of people in the class, so that might need some addressing. Because the song is in Portuguese, the title line appears in the middle of each verse section rather than the first line or the last line. It worked for me!

Owain played a song he wrote with his brother with such a strong melody, I was sooooo happy. I have been listening to some 80's ballads lately, and wondering where all the verse melodic movement has gone. I was very satisfied. The class seemed to be confused by the roles of the characters, but I liked the idea of taking the third person perspective and making it first person!

Béth and Alex wrote together this week and the song "Light" was half in French! We all agreed that the song could easily be all in French because it was so beautiful. Good job!


This class was tiring because we all went to the BASCA Geisha event the night before and were out late! Richard taught this class rather than Joe. The two of them compliment each other very nicely. I got a good amount of cards at the geisha night and I am going to start emailing people back today.

I finally made a linkedin. It's still a work in progress. I think I need an assistant already.

Facebook Fan Page:
Improv/Major ProSeminar Blog:
Recording Technology Blog:
Songwriting Blog:
Wedding Singing Website:
Twitter: @stevierae91
Instagram: @stevierae5

Going to send some emails.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Competitive Energy

Wednesday is here and we have our second Context and Methodology meeting featuring our research proposals. It was a lengthy class lasting the maximum time and we didn't finish everyone's research proposals.

So here is my gripe, one time only, hear me out: if you are going to take up class time on questions or insist on having special class times, DO THE DAMN WORK. This isn't high school anymore. Okay, I'm done. And we're happy! And we're all friends! And I am ready to PARTYYY (Kristin Wiig voice from Bridesmaids).

February 19th, 2014

My research question is A Transformation: Introducing the Performing Producer/Songwriter

I have chosen this topic because it really pertains to my personal aspirations and will give me an incentive to dive into the grueling, tedious, heavy topic of the music business. If you ever can't sleep, just start reading about the controlled composition clause. Anyway, it is interesting, just heavy and scary at times. Every chapter is a reminded that you are going to have to work a lot harder. Richard thinks I have anxiety every now and then (he's probably right) and so I know I am a bit crazy about the subject...

Here is my abstract and a few sources and quotes that I have found in my research.


The music business is a myriad of roles including songwriters, publishers, musicians, producers, managers, engineers, and armies of record label affiliates to name a few. The two aspects about the music industry that has continued to be true are that it all starts with the songwriter, and that the industry is always changing. The music business evolves almost as quickly as technology. It was only a matter of time before the two fields became inseparable for the songwriter. There are thousands of songwriters, musicians, and artists all working towards the same goal—to find a place in the brutal world of the music business. Where there is competition, there will be evolution and selection. The standard has shifted from lyricist/musician forming the songwriter to the singer/songwriter forming the performer, and finally the performer/engineer forming the ultimate music industry cocktail standard of an artist. The self-sufficient songwriter is the newest model to follow when attempting to make the music industry home.

I will explore the brave new world of the producer/singer/songwriter and the steps they took to launch their careers in the impenetrable music business. Focusing on the contemporary pop producer/singer/songwriter, I will discuss the importance of networking, self-promotion, and publishing and why these are the foundations in which the new age songwriter must adhere to. 

In conjunction with my research through printed scholarly materials, I will also include primary interviews with industry figures, successful artists, and professional publicists. These are the people who have seen this ever-changing music business as well as the songwriters who thrive or fail in the process of adapting to the evolutionary universe of professional music.  
1. Beall, E. (2004) Making Music Make Money: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Music Publisher. Boston, MA: Berklee Press. 
2. Little, J. and Chatburn, K. ed. (2006) Musicians’ and Songwriters’ Yearbook 2007: The Essential Resource for Anyone Working in the Music Industry. London: A & C Black Publishers Limited.
3. Poe, R. (2006) The New Songwriter’s Guide to Music Publishing. 3rd Ed. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books.
4. Avalon, M. (2005) Million Dollar Mistakes: Clearing Your Music Career Clear of Lies, Cons, Catastrophes, and Landmines. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Publishers. 
5. Baskerville, D. and Baskerville, T. (2010) Music Business Handbook and Career Guide. 9th Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sherwood Publishing Partners. 
6. Passman, D. (2008) All You Need To Know About the Music Business. 6th Ed. London: Penguin Books. 
7. Wakefield, M. (2009) ‘You Oughta Be in Pictures’. The Performing Songwriter, May 2009, (117): 18-22. 
8. Danton, E. (2009) ‘Ryan Tedder’. The Performing Songwriter, May 2009, (117): 70.
9. Greenburg, Z. (2014) ‘Golden Oldies: How to Become a Music Publishing Mogul’, Forbes, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18 February 2014].
10. Rubin, S. (2005) ‘Music Publishing: Everything You Wanted to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask)’, Sound On Sound, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18 February 2014].
11. Vecserdy, S. (2013) ‘A Diary from the LA Music Business – Szilva’s Story’, The Music Producers Forum, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18 February 2014].
12. Gryner, F. (2014) ‘The Multiple Personality Recordist’, Recording: The Magazine for the Recording Musician, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18 February 2014]. 
(Note: Dear Talen, this is my bibliography so far. I keep it updated so that I don't have to track down each source webpage and book I use even if no quotes were used from that particular source. If I read it and it helped me understand my topic more, I cite it. I haven't started my paper at all and I already have my sources referenced. This is how it's done. Good luck referencing little brother!) 

The class' suggestions were to hone in on a specific artist who fits this criteria. I changed the title already from Producer/Singer/Songwriter to the Performing Producer/Songwriter as to clarify my intent and focus on the specific type of artist I'm looking for. For example, Ryan Tedder is one of the most well know producer/singer/songwriters in pop music right now. I know I write about him a lot, but that's because he's kind of the shit... 

Other suggestions for artists were Jamiroqaui, john Newman, and James Blake. Not to get off topic, but does something seem a little off here? Oh right, no women. Where the hell are all the women. They are out there and I'm going to find them. I did find one article on a female singer/songwriter who went into production and began her own publishing business, but I wasn't too impressed with her output unfortunately. It was a real let down actually. 

Another suggestion is to compare and contrast this so-called (and apparently not politically correct) evolution of the music business and how that relates to the rising standards the industry has for aspiring songwriters. I like this idea and will most likely do that.

Here are the other topics flying around in class! 
  • The Presence of Nature Imagery in the Lyrics of Award Winning Indie Bands
Finding a theoretical framework that you can adhere to might be a good way of focusing on a theory through the eyes of another's research rather than coming up with your own theory, which is more of a PhD. This helps avoid any subject that might be too subjective and cannot be proved really. 
  • An Analysis, Comparison, and Reflection of the Varying Attitudes in Punk Music
  • Lyin' Eyes: A Notion of Authenticity and Mass Appeal in Songs of the Eagles'
David Geffen believes this authenticity in the Eagles' music was paramount in Laurel Canyon. A readig reference from our guest speaker, Barney Hoskyns:

  • Bruce Springsteen: Religious and Cultural Archetypes 
Myth is the oldest form of storytelling in human history and archetypes are key in the process. Archetypes are not people, but the grand references that are understood among our culture. Biblical and mythological reference are examples. 
  • Identifying the Legacy of Heartland Rock in "Sam's Town" by the Killers
  • A Lyricist in the 21st Century: A Professional Path in the Collaborative Songwriting Industry
And a few more. We all got tips and feedback on our topics and will be turning in key definitions next week. We will discover 3-4 key concepts for example the transformation, performing producer/songwriter, and publishing for me maybe. It is also advised that we focus on a select few text materials otherwise we can become overwhelmed with our topics. The paper can only be 8,000 words and too much material will cause a word count disaster. I dealt with that last trimester....


I am very excited about my topic and look forward to researching further! I need to hit up some of Bath Spa's Rock Back Pages databases and get a few more sources. I have sent out some emails to various people and hope to get some primary research from them as well. Otherwise, I wont have any extra interviews and such like my abstract says :( 

I am now a member of BASCA as well!

Tonight is a girls night dinner in Bath for Bethany's birthday too! 


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

120 bpm and Beyond: The First Collaborations

Happy Birthday to Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson!!!!!!!!

The task of writing a song at 120 bpm or more was a lot easier with the help of skilled pianist and songwriter, Owain Coleman this week. We spent a few hours in a practice room at Newton Park campus working with some scratch lyrics I had written sometime in October, and it turned out nice once I dug into the lyrics and made some changes. Next week's task will be to write an AABA form song..... Oh man. Let's get in touch with some 32 bar standards.

February 17th, 2014

The famous Michael-Angelo explained his process of creating such immaculate art from marble as the cutting away of everything that doesn't look like the target end product. This is the same for songwriting in a lot of ways. The process of subtractive construction. How this relates to this week's task of co-writing a song with 120 beats per minute (bpm) or more for a tempo because when the meter and/or tempo changes in a song, the syllable count is altered. It's harder to say a lot in an upbeat song than in a slow paced ballad basically.

The first collaborators to take the stage were Alex Dillien and Farhan Mannan with their song Super-Unleaded, which was a continuation from the on-the-spot writing exercise we did last week. The song title and subject were fitting since the two of them love writing songs about driving... The overall consensus was that the class wanted to hear more melodic range in the vocal line, possibly exploring the 3rd or 5th in the chorus. I personally loved the pre-chorus range and melodic rhythm the most :)

Next was Lesley Hobbs and Will McKecknie with their collaboration they also began in class last week, Train Is a Leavin'. Lesley provided the lyric and the basis of the melody and Will provided the harmonic aspect on acoustic guitar. The song was an obvious mix of them both, which was nice to hear. Some points that were said were that the two key changes that appear in the song were slightly overbearing and that the lyrics could be shorter and more concise.

As we are listening to the songs, Joe is creating a chord chart on the side by ear.... in real time. Musical Rainman moment! I began testing his metric estimations... and he was right! Whoa. You can find so much excellent material through his website and various articles in Total Guitar Magazine!

>> Click here to be educated ;)

Next was Rosie Lacey, who did an outside collaboration with a lyricist called Where Do We Go From Here, in which Rosey wrote all but the lyric. The song was a love song that came across very straightforward and lacking in imagery, however something with room to grow is always great, especially in the first class. It was agreed that the song would benefit from the presence of a bridge. So hopefully Rosey can work something out with that. Since she didn't write the lyrics however, there was a sense of indecisiveness on going about changing the lyrics.

Food for thought: how do you take creative liberties if they aren't your lyrics?

I could say how I would do it, but that may not be the most comfortable way for everyone-- write with your equals. If you write with other good artists, or artist that are better than you, there is less of a chance of this sort of unnerving situation arising.

Joe gave us an exercise to list our top 5 favorite songs and thing of where the title appears in the song. Does it appear in the verse as well?

For arguments' sake, Come Home by OneRepublic, Mercy by Duffy, Someone Like You by Adele, Come Back When You Can by Barcelona, and People Help The People by Birdy. These are all examples of songs with titles that appear in the chorus.

BUT... Have I Told You Lately by Van Morrison, First Floor People by Barcelona, Skinny Love by Bon Iver, Mercy by OneRepublic, and Bottle It Up by Sara Barielles all have titles in the verse sections. Have I Told You Lately is form specific though, so that one's off the hook... JUST SAYING.

Then we had Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson and Farhan Mannan again with Bèthany's Good Enough. Featuring a strong, repetitive chorus, the song was cool, however the class for the most part agreed that the choice of verse melody and harmony was strange and hard to connect with. I like dissonance, but if you're not going to resolve and satisfy the ear, keep the dissonance light. I don't want to say "tasteful" because that implies a lack of taste, but something of that nature without the negative implication. The end of the bridge was very strong and when that last chorus hits, the ear is so happy :)

Oh and then I looked up and Joe wrote 123 bpm. I checked with a tap tempo app on my phone and he was right.... Mind blown.

I probably went next --my notes aren't in a particular order-- and my collaboration partner was down with a nasty cold, so I sang Get It Right a cappella. I was happy that I did because I had never even tried it before... plus I wrote the song a few days earlier while Owain Coleman wrote the piano and then the night before I re-worked the verse lyrics and melody completely. It went really well anyway. The overall attitude I got was that the chorus lines were a bit unfitting for the song and needed reworking. Joe sent me some helpful links to songs with the same theme and they all have a more positive outlook of "I'll Get It Right".

The last group I took notes on was Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson and Kirsty Folan who both sang and recorded Emily for their collaboration. They had this cannon thing going that was very pleasing, however the song was in 3/8 or 6/8 which means the tempo was either 85 or something in the 200's. Common issue with 6/8 is that it is going to be ballad-y.

Last, we talked about author, Sheila Davis, who writes a handful of songwriting books including The Craft of Lyric Writing, Successful Lyric Writing: Step By Step Course and Workbook, and The Songwriter's Idea Book. In her writing, she talks about her acronym VVTS, which stands for Voice, View Point, Tense, and Setting. If you can identify all 4 of these in your writing, you have done a good job so far :)


Well that was fun :) I am slightly nervous about trying to write this 32 bar AABA song and still maintaining my own styles. Whatever, you never know until you try right?!

Had a fantastic weekend with a few classmates at the Ram Jam set up by former classmate, Chris Rogers (thank you very much!) and sang a few tunes with Alex, Lesley, Beth, Will, and Chris :) Tami also came and we girls had a fun photo taking spree in the dimly lit bathroom....


Friday, 14 February 2014

Context and Methodology Day One: The Matchmaker

Wednesday after class, I performed for These Beautiful Things at Burdall's Yard in Bath! It was a fantastic show with 3 other great bands that lined up very nicely with me and my set :) Thank you Bath Spa for the opportunity. I may have also landed my tech job I have been aiming for! YAYY 

It was nice being back in the classroom with Richard. It feels like ages since we all last saw each other. This course will prove to be a challenging and intriguing exercise in the world of music and, in my case, publishing and the music business. We convene every Wednesday from noon to whenever and will be composing a beefy 10,000 word research paper on a topic and thesis of our choice. This first class meeting was half spent going over our ideas for the papers and half spent in a master class with BASCA Business Development Officer, Rowena Morgan.

February 12th, 2014

So far, my paper subject is leaning towards the business of music publishing and the strategies used to obtain a publishing deal. I want to associate this paper with what I am currently working towards in my career since it's going to take an entire trimester to write with countless sources to read.

If I were to sell myself right now, I would say that I am a vocalist, songwriter, and recording engineer with demos to back it up. SO... how do I find a way to incorporate that particular skill set, a strategy for getting published, and academic, scholarly research to back it up into a narrow topic? I guess I will find out once I start quote searching through the handful of books I rented from the library today.

Musicians' & Songwriters' Yearbook 2007

All You Need to Know About the Music Business

Making Music Make Money: An Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Music Publisher

Million-Dollar Mistakes: Steering Your Music Career Clear of Lies, Cons, Catastrophes, and Landmines

Music Business Handbook and Career Guide

The New Songwriter's Guide to Music Publishing

Journals **
You Oughta Be In Pictures by Mare Wakefield and Performing Songwriter, May 2009

Ryan Tedder by Performing Songwriter, May 2009

My thesis sentence is still in progress, but it looks something like this currently...

Next Wednesday's assignment is to write a 200-250 word abstract for my paper to get the ball rolling. I am glad that the assignment is already in motion!

The second half of the class included BASCA's Rowena Morgan, Business Development Officer. She held a fantastic master class on communications in the industry and gave us a lot of pointers and tips in regards to networking, professionalism, and most importantly, communications.

BASCA is the equivalent of the Grammy people in the United States.

Some of her initial pointers were in relation to networking yourself at events and gatherings of other people in the music industry. If you don't put yourself out there and talk to people, you wont get noticed. On the other hand, you have to know when to stop talking and when to move on.

Songwriters should find other songwriters to collaborate with. New songwriters are looked for by experienced songwriters for their songwriting youth, and experienced songwriters are looked for by new songwriters for their knowledge and connections.

Everyone hates networking. I personally don't hate it when its person to person networking, but I do get tired of keeping all my online networking sites up to date and thriving. Networking in itself can be a full time job! She explained that Americans have a better knack for it though because we basically start at the age of three...

Rowena holds invite only gatherings for people working in the business trying to network called,
Geisha Nights. She brings people together and has a fantastic track record for being an excellent matchmaker. She hold about 4-5 a year and the next is coming up at the end of the month. I have been invited to this event and I am very very excited! Number one thing to have handy are business cards! Good thing I just got a bunch made, thanks mom :)

She then moved on to something called the "Elevator Pitch". The concept is you should be able to pitch yourself to a publisher/manager/label from the time an elevator lift leaves one floor and reaches the next... Or was it the destination floor...? Doesn't matter. Point is, memorize your pitch and make it to the point.
"Hello, my name is Stevie Rae Stephens. I'm a pop singer-songwriter from California. I have a BA in Audio Engineering and I'm working on a Masters' in Songwriting in Bath. I've studied voice for 10 years and I was in the top 75 contestants on American Idol last season before I produced and recorded my full length album." 
Phewww. If I can memorize that with fluidity, I will admit I sound good on paper! Ha. This was the other point she made that I am very much aware of. Don't be afraid to promote yourself. It may feel conceited or  lacking in modesty, but that's how it works because no one is going to say these things for you. You may think less talk, more walk, but truth is, with a good attitude, honesty will be perceived as confidence, not cockiness. Besides, if YOU already believe in yourself, THEY will find it easier to give you the chance to do the "walk".

Then, hand the person your business card :)

Also, know your genre! I have encountered this problem before. You must have a genre. I don't exactly know what mine is yet, but I just go with pop singer-songwriter usually. It's scary to say that though because most of our younger lives are filled with our peers being "too cool" for pop music and not quite understanding that just because its pop genre, doesn't make it top 40. AND... if you aim to write top 40, good. You'll probably write a hit and make a lot of money and all those haters will remember they scoffed at your ambitions once! lol

So far, most everyone I encounter with a publishing deal, obtained it by accident or chance. Looks like the trick really is to put yourself out there. Go figure ;)

We talked about the fact that not all musicians are lyricists and not all lyricists are great musicians! Not everyone is good at it all. I know, because I get by with my piano skills and have a lot more talent in my arrangement skills, sense of harmony, and vocal skills. I think my lyrics are great, but they don't come as easy as they might for others. I know people who struggle with melody and I can come up with those all day. This is why collaboration is key!!! I am so glad this module and all these upcoming opportunities are coinciding with Collaborative Songwriting!

Before this event I'm going to, I should create a shopping list of all the people I need/want to meet. The person you need the most may not be the person you think  you need the most so you basically need to know them all.... Rowena says the first 50 friends you make will be the hardest ones. After 100, it gets easier. Knowing one person is like having a gold membership on a credit card.

This will take a lot of work. So get started!

When in London, you are never far away from useful people. London is comprised of three main circles: Media people, Finance people, and all their supporters make up the last third. So like I said before, its good to know them all.

Stay relevant, read up on autobiographies about singer-songwriters like me, and get caught up with the Publishing Rights Societies like ASCAP, BMI, and PRS. Look up publishers who accept unsolicited demos and write with EVERYONE.

** I spent an hour and a half looking through the library books at Newton Park Library and just before leaving decided to look through the journal section since I don't get out to NP that often. It was a small room with about 7 ceiling-high shelves on a track so they can be moved left and right to see the contents of the shelves. I found about 2 years worth of the magazine Performing Songwriter and spent about 30 minutes going through, finding my couple articles. I also found a reference to Barcelona's Absolutes in the 2009 issues, which made me very very happy! :D

Then... I saw a glimpse of a Sound On Sound magazine on the other shelf, so I reeled it open and found the last 10+ years of SOS... I forgot all about publishing and songwriting for the next 3 hours hahahah


Can't think. Must do research. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, 10 February 2014

200% Awesomeness

After a much needed California vacation to visit family and friends, Collaborative Songwriting with Joe Bennett, we covered a few basics about collaborating.

It has been a good day getting back
into the songwriting swing  of things. I am very excited for this new module and look forward to the amazing collaborations ahead. Starting off the new trimester with the module

February 10th, 2014

Co-writing music is a common practice in the music industry and has been for decades. Why collaborate? Well, almost half of #1 hits between 11955 and 2000 were co-written so there's one point. There are pros and cons to collaborative songwriting, however there are numerous benefits to right the downfalls. If we want to be songwriters, we have to be able to write with others.

What are the creative benefits to collaborating?

Finding others to write with can compliment your skillset(s) such as finding a pianist that can play a hole hell of a lot better than you can... Reading up on some publishing FAQs, I read that most writers either write lyrics or music and less often do both. How true that is? I don't know because I can't imagine a reality when a lyricist is writing completely separated from some sort of meter and melody.

Another plus to collaborating is increasing your output. If you find someone you write well with, teamed up with double the output compensating for halving the pay off.

With a collaborator, you probably have a writers' block deterrent as well as instant feedback at your hands at all times.

Last, but not least, MOTIVATION. If only I were motivated to write a song a day. I could be a professional by now. Having someone other than yourself to commit writing time to can drastically change your daily/weekly/monthly output. Obviously, I should work on my motivational skills to write alone because I shouldn't only want to schedule writing when I'm feeling it.

What are the Career benefits of collaborating?

Writing with others, especially others that are further in their career than you, can up your networking and your reputation tremendously.

PUBLISHING! Writing with other published songwriters is basically an interview with a publishing company!

Getting a cut of the product is another goal worth noting. When you write with artists who do a lot of performing, you have a good chance of attaining a cut and all of the above.

Lastly, its a lot of fun...

Why would artists not want to collaborate?

For starters, most splits between co-writers is 50/50, so you are settling for less money.

Other possibilities include a sense of less individuality, risk of formulaic mediocrity, and/or the feeling of achieving less.

Here is a snapshot of a section from a Sound on Sound article on Publishing that I really like. Click here to read the full article.

Different Types of Relationships in Collaboration

Relationships with an equal. This sounds like a friendly,  healthy, and non-competitive environment to write in.

Relationships with someone who is better-known than you are. This can be helpful during the learning process and to attract attention yourself if necessary.

With a newcomer. Newcomers may be more green and willing to go back to the basics of simple songwriting that someone more weathered may have forgotten to pull out every now and again.

Lastly, with a contact or a 'surgeon', someone who takes apart songs and replaces the weaker parts with better things.

What are some common behaviors collaborators should practice?
  • Respecting the co-writers' idea
  • Replacing poor ideas with better ones
  • Always serve the song, not your ego
  • Be flexible in working methods
  • Be prepared to delete good ideas
  • Be focused and avoid distraction
  • If it isn't working, finish the song yourself! 
Collaboration Models

The Nashville Model - Looks a lot like two people sitting together face to face with an acoustic guitar and a pen and paper. 

The Svengali Model - popular back room songwriters behind the so-called songwriters such as
  • Sascha Skarbeck & Amanda Ghost (James Blunt)
  • Darren Lewis & Tunde Babalola (Lily Allen)
  • Dee Adam
  • Steve Robson
  • Eg White
  • Mike Batt
Demarcated Model - When two people are not face to face and/or working on different parts of the song (lyrics & melody).

Jamming Model - Looks a lot like what U2 is doing. Basically everyone jams until the song is created.

Top Line Model - Some one who specializes in top lines comes in and writes one for the artist of group. 


Having a songwriting environment that fits your needs is important. Some types of songwriting environments include a project studio, a rehearsal room, a songwriting room, and/or separate rooms. 

A few of the different types of processes and products are melody-setting (Mona Lisa), lyric-setting (Tempted), song over band (With or Without you), concept outward (You're Beautiful), and top line of b-track (The Promise).

Process Model

As you can see, vetoing ideas is not an acceptable way to collaborate or song write. When ideas aren't flowing the right way, keep it for another song. Nobody benefits from flat out rejecting ideas. If you don't think something fits, rather than shooting it down, offer something better in its place.

Negotiation is another aspect of songwriting that can be tricky. If something needs negotiating, there probably is a better lyric to replace it with.

Process Taxonomy

Time-Based Taxonomy

Production Taxonomy

The first day of class was great with Joe and the rest of the class. There are some people in the class that weren't in Songwriting Skills last trimester and I look forward to getting to know them.

Joe takes a lot of pictures of us when we're not looking... and they somehow make it into the next slides.... VOODOO

The barn was freezing today, hopefully the heating will be back online soon!

I will be working with Owain sometime this week for next Monday's collaboration! Wish us luck.

Yay for collaborating!!!