Monday, 17 March 2014

I Feel Pretty

Once again, David Stoll came to speak with the class about musical theater and composing for theater. I found that the lecture was aimed at songwriters and composers who actually know about musical theater culture and the inner workings of theatrical drama. However, that isn't so much the case in this class, even I felt in over my head and I love musical theater. I've been in musical theater. I went through a phase of wanting to commit to musical theater as a career path. Damn.

Just in case you don't know why this picture is awesome.
March 12th, 2014

Apparently Steven Sondheim hated the song I Feel Pretty from the hit musical West Side Story because Maria, a poor Puerto Rican American girl would never sing the words I feel pretty and witty and gay. I tend to agree and that has slightly shattered my perception of how much I love that musical.

If I took anything away from this lecture, it was to establish the terms of your involvement from the beginning so there are no mistakes or problems. It skips all the business we don't want to discuss and gets to the music that we want to compose.

Coming up with an agreement of ownership can be easy or hard, but do it before you start putting the hours in so that business is aside.

Grand Rights are the rights reserved for the creator of dramatico-musical materials. The grand right only exists in a musical work which is written specifically for a particular dramatic usage, whether that is opera: a stage musical: or a ballet production. Another more amusing definition might be: A musical performance whereby if it takes place in costume and you can throw something at it, there's a Grand Right.


Grand Rights are not licensed by the performing rights societies so you have to keep on them if you want to see your royalties. There are usually three recipients of Grand Rights including the lyricists, writers, and composers.

Anyway, grand rights are something you should probably know about if you want to compose for musicals. Its a possibility for any songwriter I suppose!

We ended class with an exercise that I botched unfortunately, (a lot on my mind and none of it was writing a hit opening number in 15 minutes). It was a fun little task, but there just wasn't enough time.

As for my Context and Methodology research paper, I am working on placing as many quotes and pieces of information from all my books as I read through them so that I don't end up spending two hours on two paragraphs like I did this weekend. I wrote the introduction. Woo. It's the part of the essay that is most likely to change.

Here are the notes so far:

Transformation: Analyzing how the Music Business Paradigm Shift has Affected the Songwriter in the 21st Century.

There are few constants in the music business including its transformative nature and songwriter based foundations. With the advancements of technology since the millennium, the role of the songwriter has adapted to the rising standards and expectations of the industry. Today, technology and songwriting are completely intertwined forcing the once songwriter to evolve into the performing producer/songwriter. There are thousands of songwriters across the globe fighting to fit within the brutal, impenetrable music industry and where there is competition, there will be natural selection. As the standards shift, so do the roles in which an aspiring songwriter must adhere to.

I will compare and contrast the brave new world of the performing producer/songwriter to the music business at the turn of the century. Through secondary and primary research, I will analyze this shift of expectations and transformation of the songwriter in the 21st century.

1. Introduction
“…Music is music, no matter what contracts are signed and how the lawyers have chapped up the rights. Music fans don’t care about contracts, they care about the music and the musician. And that’s the point: there no longer needs to be a middleman between musicians and music fans” (Chertow, Freehan: 2009). 9 (Possibly different quote...when I find one.)

Here are the two paragraphs: 

The discovery and process of utilizing electricity in the early 19th century has made music and technology inseparable. Technology continually challenges the limitations we establish and the impossibilities we embrace every day as forward-thinking minds pine over a very promising and powerful tomorrow. The Midas Hand of technology has left a golden, crater-sized footprint, waiting to be holstered and exploited, in every aspect of the human experience. The seemingly small fraction of that influence lies in the colossal culture and business of music. Today, music is bigger than it ever has been before.

The music industry has transformed many times in the last century, yet each push for change does not become any easier than the last. Every few decades, new advancements in technology provoke transformation within the impervious walls of the music business and the latest development lies in the 21st century. Access to technology has called for a power conversion—a transformation—and for the first time, it starts at the bottom of the pyramid with the songwriters. This foundation in which the music gatekeepers have stood on for so long, has initiated an inevitable shift in the paradigm of music business and artistry. This is a digital age and “a growing group of forward-thinking artists…are quietly creating a revolution” (Gordon: 2008). Xvii

2. The Industry Monolith
********SIDE NOTE: Speaking of Industry Monoliths, I totally started feeding into this one------------->
They always get me with these totes. 

(Whom am I referring to when I use ‘music business’ term? Major label companies forming music distribution monopolies. Definition relevant to pre-millennium era)

A. Music 3.0: A Brief Historical Overview
In order to understand how the music industry has transformed, we should know where the music business started. Bobby Owsinski uses an appropriate numbering system to track the evolutionary stages of the business in his book, Music 3.0. Lasting almost fifty years, the first generation of music business followed a model that is currently considered to be the original method of the industry. Music 1.0 consists of artists sending demos to major labels, being signed, joining forces with A&R

“Today, the artists contribution – talent, imagination, persona, and creative energy – is as important as ever...That makes the artist more powerful, and the average record labels offerings see much less significant in comparison... One cannot, however, under estimate the importance of the strong business network, and back in Naples often have huge business networks, with a lot of mission-critical support just a phone call away” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 22

3. The Foundation
(Whom am I referring to when I say ‘songwriters’? An industry built on the backs of songwriters because it all starts with them)

4. The Great Depression of the Millennium
(The steady decline of major record labels after 1999 due to advancements in technology)
“Consumers are more selective and sophisticated in their tastes and about technology, and that/s something that everyone in the music industry should not only be aware of but also cater to. It’s the only way to survive in today’s music world” (Owsinski: 2009). xiii

A. No Bridge, No Toll
(The distribution monopolies no longer link the artist with their fans. Introducing the age of social networking. An end to finite distribution windows)

B. Dissolution of Mainstream Genre
(The mainstream music genre begins to disintegrate as new forms of distribution are offered. Multi-genre music availability)
“Access to music has never been easier, and music is driving on both the regional and global level. Rock, singer/songwriter, Bluegrass, hit – hop, heavy-metal, DJ versions and remixes, and ethnic music of every variety...are just some types of music enjoying tremendous success today” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 7

i. Internet Radio
(Exposing the public to more than just mainstream music giving artists more control of their own publicity, marketing, networking, and connection to audience)
“Fans and consumers have far more convenient options for discovering new music than ever before, including the Internet, video games, television, and referrals from friends via email, instant messaging, or social networking user groups” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 27 

ii. Virtual Shelf Space
(The move from limited CD shelf space to unlimited Internet, virtual shelf space making wider varieties of music available to public)
“…It will be abundantly clear that trying to sell overpriced plastic disks to people who have ubiquitous online access to the entire vault of music will be like trying to sell snow at the North Pole” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 8

C. Disillusion of the Astronomical Hit
(Clarifying that the all time musical ‘hit’ was a product of limited availability in the past. More listening options merit different tastes of listeners)
“Music making is a global phenomenon, and there is more than being made than ever before...That is what is making it so hard today to duplicate the success of make up artist like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the who: there are too many choices, too many different ways to get music, and of course, too many other interesting ways to spend money” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 37

5. The Displacement Theory
(How the digital age affects songwriters through displacement. Technology and social media is available to the public making the pool of competition vaster than ever before)
“Artists, if they want to, or shifting into a position of power in which they are working with the labels, not for the labels” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 23

A. Survival of the Fittest
(Brave new world of technology and DIY opportunities or small fish big pond syndrome? With accessibility comes competition, which comes with serious tactics for survival)
“Make no mistake about it: as the entry barriers fall, the cost of rising about the clutter on an increasingly cluttered marketplace grows” (Gordon: 2008) 137

B. I’m Not a Businessman; I’m a Business, Man
(Introducing the all in one songwriter – the producer, the musician, the singer, the songwriter, the publisher, the manager, and the distributer)

i. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
(The paradigm has shifted responsibilities from the monolith to the individual. Labels want to invest in acts they know are already successful)
“It used to be that, as a musician, only 10% of your career was up to you. ‘Getting discovered’ was about all you could do. A few gatekeepers controlled all outlets. You had to impress one of these magic few people to be allowed to present music to the world. As of the last few years, 90% of your career is now up to you. You have all the tools to make it happen. Record labels aren't guessing anymore. They're only signing Artists that have made a success on their own” (Gordon: 2008). xiii

C. The Definition of Success
(Defining success is the next step to finding the right path in the career. Less instances of multimillion dollar musicians and more live in studios with multitalented DIY artists content with their means, making a comfortable living)
Antony Bruno Executive Director of content and programming for digital mobile at Billboard magazine - “Technology is more Democratizing, without a doubt. Again, it depends on what successful is. Are you going to be the next Rolling Stones doing this by yourself? I doubt it. But, if your definition of success means owning your own condo or coop in Brooklyn, making a decent living, then those are realistic goals” (Gordon: 2008). 146

“For each artist wrestled million copies of the CD, there are hundreds have done just fine by selling 5000 copies were keeping 80% of the income!” (Kusek, Leonhard: 2005). 28

“Sometimes artists crave fame a lot more than they yearn to make the kind of music that will attract and keep fans for the long term…The vast majority of artists aren’t like that…just being able to make music without having to work a job on the side is considered success” (Owsinski: 2009). viii

6. Conclusion
Some new resources from Rock's Backpages! 

So there is what I have right now. Tomorrow is a master class in the main lecture hall at the Court. That's exciting. 


Man, I am tired. I have hay fever or something and I didn't sleep last night. Today is St. Patrick's Day and nobody gives a shit here. I wore green though... 


But, I LOVE THE SUN when it decides to come out!!!!!

It's grand..... rights..... ;)


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