Join ASCAP or BMI

clef.jpgIf you are writing or co-writing your own songs, and have at least one available to the public. Whether you’ve performed them on CD or online on a YouTube video , sold them or had them played on radio or have a sheet music available, you are eligible to join ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). Which company you choose is a personal choice. I would recommend researching the benefits of both before you choosing. You can only belong to one society at a time. I believe with BMI you must sign a 2 year contract. I would check that. They both have their pros and cons.

The importance of belonging to one of these groups is that it is the only way you can be sure you will be PAID if your music gets published, sold and played. These companies keep track of your copyrighted material and collect your royalties for you. They will give you reports of how many copies were sold or how many times your song has been played on the radio, and they issue you a check for your work. ASCAP and BMI are the only two highly recognized groups out there that do this, so don’t fall for any other company. Do your research!  There is a one time application fee with ASCAP of $50.oo but they do not charge any annual dues or fees.

As an example of what these performing right companies do for you, I am attaching a link to the BMI Contract here http://www.bmi.com/forms/affiliation/bmi_writer_kit.pdf I am also including links to both ASCAP and BMI pages where you can join:

http://www.ascap.com/join/

http://www.bmi.com/join

Again, I highly recommend researching both to see which society is a better fit for you and what you are doing.

If you haven’t gotten radio play on Public Broadcasting yet and haven’t sold any songs to publishing companies or had your songs purchased for commercials, TV, etc…there are still some online radio stations that work with ASCAP and BMI and pay artist royalties for spinning your songs. Some will charge YOU for the exposure..I don’t like those companies. Stay away from them. If an online radio station offers to play your songs, and it is free, let them! It doesn’t hurt to ask though if they pay royalties. There are not many online (that are not major broadcasting companies) that actually pay royalties, but search because I know there are at least a handful that claim they do. If they are paying, they will be pickier about what they will play so don’t expect them to give you a quick “yes” if they give you a yes at all. Once you get yourself to the point where your stuff is being professionally produced and sounding great, and you have joined one of the above societies, you will see your opportunities begin to grow.

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A Note About Your Songs

musicalnotesIf you are writing your own material you need to get it copyrighted. In order to copy right your songs, the easiest way to do it is to go directly to the US government site which is http://copyright.gov/.eco/ . this is important. You do not want to send your music to anyone to review until you have done this. Once you register your song, it is considered copyrighted even if you haven’t received your certificate in the mail. Unless you are notified that the copyright has been rejected. If you are sure your music is all original and lyrics too, then you can consider it done. I suggest that you buy a small, fireproof box specifically to store your copyright certificates for each song when you receive the first one. It’s a good place to store them if you are writing lots of material. The bonus is, you always know where they are and they are protected in case of a fire.

One word of caution. The government site is not super user friendly. It can be a bit confusing, so don’t sit down to do it until you can concentrate. When you go to the page above that I have linked, you find links to the type of document or recording you are registering. If you are unsure, there will be links where you can read what each one actually means. Stay calm,  it’s simple enough and a lot cheaper than using a lawyer or legal zoom.com which you can do if you like, but it can cost you hundreds to use a lawyer and you can do it yourself for between $55 and $85 on the government site. Here is the link to the costs http://copyright.gov/about/fees.html I believe this is much more sensible unless you are using OPM (other people’s money), or have your own to waste and don’t want to bother putting in the time. It’s very rewarding to create your own account and start receiving those certificates in the mail!

Once you have copyrighted those songs, then get going promoting them and yourself! You will have many things to think about now. Do you want to keep all of your songs for yourself, or do you want to sell them to other artists? Many music artists start out by carving a career in writing for others and growing to writing for major artists. I will list here some sites that you can market your songs on, whether for your own purpose or for the attention of A&R from labels who might be looking to purchase material for their signed artists.

Now, these sites are not always free, some are charged per song, some per year for a broader range of songs, some have membership fees. I will list them here:

My favorite and most recommended site if you are very serious is http://www.taxi.com taxi logo I recommend this site because I actually know heads of A&R at major labels that really do scout this site for new talent and new songs. It is not cheap, around a few hundred to join for the year. Worth every penny. You could score a publishing deal here if your material is good enough. You might even get yourself some major label attention. Hands down best site for music artists on the web!

My next favorite site is https://www.musicxray.com musicxray this site is free to join but they do charge a fee for uploading songs. It is a minimal fee and worth it. Not only can you then submit your music but you can also have it reviewed on site and get some free publicity from it! They will do their own picks of great songs and tweet about them, etc. I do know artists who have gotten deals on this site. I also know artists who have gotten their music picked for commercials from this site as well.

There are many others including, Spotify, Last.fm, Youtube, Twitter Music, Reverberation (which I think is a fabulous tool..more on that in another issue). Facebook, Bandsintown, Soundcloud, Soundcloud, Wix Music, Reddit Music, Myspace Music (which is not big anymore in my opinion but worth putting stuff on). Feel free to comment below and throw out any other sites I have missed that you feel are worthy of mention and why.

As soon as you copyright your songs you can also sell them yourself on iTunes and Amazon or CD Baby. Word of caution…don’t expect many sales other than your closest friends and family if you are an unknown. Doesn’t hurt to put them up, but until you have done tons of marketing on yourself don’t expect to go check and find you’ve sold hundreds of copies.

One last word of caution on ALL of this…DO NOT put any song on any site on the internet if it is not produced and I mean produced well. Not something you have recorded in your house unless you really know how to make it sound professional. If you think today’s A&R reps will listen to a raw unproduced song, no..not unless you are already connected. Many of them today can’t hear it with vision. Sort of like a person who cannot walk into a house that is in horrible shape and see what it can be when it’s all fixed up. Same thing..there are more people who cannot see what it could be, can’t get past the clutter, or the smell, or the broken windows. You get my point? Don’t chance putting up something that sounds less than completely professional because you can’t take it back and you don’t get a second chance with labels and A&R. Once they hear it and aren’t impressed they won’t visit it again! It’s a different story if they have already picked you up and then want you to send other ‘ideas’ for songs. Not the same thing, don’t mix them up. Be professional and polished, you won’t regret it. I will get to an issue on producers who are willing to work with unsigned artists for reasonable prices. Also in a future issue, how to become a member of ASCAP or BMI.

Go write those hits!!!!

 

On To More Productive Things

Let’s start talking about some great things you can do to help yourself. First, if you are not out performing yet, start singing or playing for people. Anyone and everyone who will listen. Have a party at your house with yourself as the entertainment. Ask your friends to give you feedback. Second, get yourself a wide full length mirror and use it every single day. Sing or play in front of it (even if you are just playing an instrument and are not the lead in the group, this helps because you still need presence to be kept as part of a band that’s going somewhere) every single day. Next, go to youtube and look up your favorite artists/bands, watch them perform live. Not the professional videos but the live videos of them performing. Try to take notes on what they do that seems to grab you. What gives them a special presence, how do they move and hold their mic? Not that you want to be just like them, because believe me, you want your own presence! But, it will give you ideas of  the things that work and appeal to people. Then go back to your mirror and let it rip. Start trying to make that same connection with yourself as the audience. Notice things like..do I look awkward or uncomfortable? Am I moving freely or am I actually moving too much? You get the idea. Pretend that person in the mirror is someone in the front row of the audience and make eye contact! Reach out to them.

You can also practice moving/dancing while singing. Make a small space for yourself and figure out how you are going to thrill people if you get stuck on a little two by two foot platform. Then try a bigger space. Figure out how you are going to move across a large area to get to your audience on each side of a large stage without being mundane or repetitive. These things are very very important when it comes to your appeal. You need to be able to engage people and you never ever want to be boring. Don’t just stand or sit up there and sing or play. Connect, connect, connect.

Some good extra things for you to do would be to look into a performance coach. I realize that can be difficult depending on your location. Not to mention a good vocal coach who won’t be hung up on training you classically singing songs you hate. You need a pop or rock coach. I’m not saying classical training is bad. But when it comes to Pop and rock, if you’ve been trained too heavily classically, it becomes quite hard for you to make the switch and come off with the natural kind of edge that today’s music is famous for. I know so many classically trained singers who just can’t sound ‘cool’ you know? They are just way too stiff. Now, vocal training is a whole other topic of areas that need addressing. But let me give you one trick. In order to gain breath support and be able to belt or get yourself out there while performing, while using the proper body parts…lie down on the floor, on your back. Load your abdomen up with big books. Now sing. Sing as loud as you can and don’t let those books fall off. This will teach you control and breath support. It’s fun. Try it! Not only is it fun, it works.

I will be back tomorrow with some great resources online. Go practice!! Eventually, we will have contests here and feature new artists that are working it well. Should be fun!

Maria

 

How American Idol Changed The Music Industry

American-Idol1

Although American Idol is in it’s final season, it has changed the music industry forever. I believe for the worse for artists. Let’s look at why, and why you need to know this.

First the why. It has changed the music industry forever because pre this show, the way an artist got signed was by having a talent and pursuing a record label that was willing to develop this talent. The label would put their money into your development and take an artist pre-groomed, if you will. They would take a raw talent and turn it into something that their marketing dollars would sky rocket to the top. They usually made their money back plus much more if they pegged the artist right (via A&R work). This environment made it much more likely that an exceptionally talented artist who had no money and no private financial backing could make it big. Fast forward to after the success of the American Idol show…the record execs realized that they had enough talent to last every year just by contestants that were on the show each season. It didn’t even matter so much if they won, it was the fact that these contestants had automatic national exposure and millions of fans! So, why would they now put their own dollars into developing a no one into a huge star? The show was doing it for them. All they had to do was go offer deals to the most likable in the bunch based on fan reaction, and/or winners. Sounds great for artists right? Wrong. What do you think the odds are of an artist landing a spot on the show? Cattle calls of thousands in every state and the picking of talent, in the very beginning is done not by vocal ability, but by TV producers who are using a specific prototype..certain, look, gender,etc. This weeds out thousands and thousands of talented contestants and artists simply based on silly TV criteria for that season. They may be looking for all ‘plain jane’ looking females one season..so even if you are drop dead super model gorgeous with an amazing voice, you will not be picked by the first ‘judges’ at the original non televised  audition because you look too spectacular! Sounds crazy right? But it’s true. The vocal ability doesn’t even come into play if you don’t make it past the criteria of the producers physically, or what they are looking for that season. Sound unfair? It is. It’s a TV show, it goes for ratings. Just so happens the major record labels profit from it.

Now for the ‘Why you need to know this’. You need to know that labels are no longer actively seeking talent that needs development. They want that work done for them by the time they pick the artist up. What does that mean for the artist? You need MONEY to make it. There are some exceptions, like if you have some amazing copyrighted songs that will be huge radio hits and an A&R comes across the song and thinks the song alone is worth the development. BUT if that’s not the case, then you need money…money to hire song writers to help you make those songs if you can’t do it yourself. You need to make a presence on the internet and have a built up fan base. They want to know that you can sell concert tickets, even if it’s small venues. If you don’t have a big online fan base then you will have to pay for lots of youtube views and Facebook likes. Oh but as an added risk, if you buy your way to lots of internet fans and don’t have fans that are likely to show up for a show or buy your songs on iTunes this could be an epic fail and cause you to be shelved if a label does pick you up. But, the likes of Justin Beiber and Ke$ha, did in fact buy their original youtube and myspace plays to get the attention of record labels. It’s just something that must be done. This can cause hundreds to thousands a month to purchase. No one on their own can receive that many youtube views, no matter how good they are. It has to start somewhere. I know this, because I’ve worked with people and seen what it takes. Once you get to a certain point in your views, you can then get to some bigger areas online that will hook the young people. But now, you’re talking marketing skills. Some have it, some don’t and most music artists are more concerned with writing their music and playing it or singing it, than they are spending hours in front of a computer trying to get likes on Facebook. Hence, you have to hire someone to do this for you. Many young artists end up having to use their parents money to get this whole thing going as they do not make enough to cover the start up costs. Trying to find a private investor in the music business is as difficult as trying to get signed by a label with no presence or fan base or performing experience. Now this takes money. You need a band when you go out and do shows. Try to find really good musicians willing to go do shows for nothing for the experience. This might work if you are starting as a group, but not as a solo artist needing a band.

I’m not telling you all of this to instill a sense of doom. You CAN make it in the music business, but the playing field has changed and if you are not motivated enough (or lucky enough to not have to work a job) to put huge hours and money into your own development, you will go nowhere. I am telling you this to save you the energy of even thinking about becoming a Pop star unless you are so driven to do it that nothing will stop you. If you are the type of artist that wants it, but wants it handed to them, this is not the industry climate for you. You will work your butt off for it. You will spend hours making friends on social media, on making small talk with people you don’t even know just to get a push. You will have to spend every single night trying to book yourself out somewhere, even if it’s a local coffee shop or open mic night. You will NOT get paid for any of this, and you will might even have to pay for the opportunity. You will have to be committed to practicing and writing every free minute. You will either have to pay studio fees or you will have to spend hour upon hour teaching yourself how to make your own recordings that sound not passable but great! There are programs out there. You will have to pay to solicit your songs on certain sites..more on that in another issue. What I am trying to say is, this is it! It’s on you. Want notice? Don’t count on shows like American Idol. Work, work, work and more work. If you are lucky enough to make a legitimate connection give them everything they ask for and MORE. Prove your dedication. American Idol has made the industry a place where only the extremely driven survive. Be driven.