Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Free VST Plug-Ins

Carlos posted on a Free VST Plug-In post I blogged last October and I've been meaning to post his link here. It's an excellent resource for more free VST plugins... from instruments to effects, you'll find something on his site...

The site is in German, but the links are in English for the most part and, trust me, you'll understand what the free VST Plug-ins are for (music, or at least technology used to make music, appears to be a universal language)... Carlos' Free VST Plugins... Enjoy!

And may the Muse be with you... wonder how you say Muse in German?

Paul Simon on Songwriting

Stumbled on this interview by National Public Radio (NPR) of Paul Simon:

Paul Simon says some people describe his songwriting process as being "backward." He often comes up with the musical accompaniment, he says, and only then finds a melody and writes lyrics. That process was at work with some of the songs on his new release, Surprise, which is a collaboration with electronic-music pioneer Brian Eno.

The legendary singer-songwriter talks to Melissa Block about working with Eno — who has produced albums by the Talking Heads and U2 and is known as the father of ambient music. Simon offers insights into how he creates his songs, drawing on music of previous decades and literary influences. He also discusses how the events of Sept. 11 and celebrating his 60th birthday have affected his creative process.

If you follow the link above, you can listen to the interview (sorry, can't embed it here).

May the Muse be with you and Paul...

American Songwriter - Lyric of the Week

This is a feature from American Songwriter magazine that I get emailed to me... I thought it'd be fun to share on my blog. I have to admit, I wasn't crazy about this week's pick, until I read the twist at the end... I always dig a nice twist in a lyric (I used to do that a lot). I'll add these as I get them...

Never would have gone

to that side of town

if it hadn’t been for love
Never would have took a
miner tracker down

if it hadn’t been for love

I never would’ve loaded up a .44

Put myself behind a jailhouse door

if it hadn’t been, if it hadn’t been

for love

from "If It Hadn't Been For Love"
written by Chris Stapleton & Michael James Henderson

Sold On Song - BBC Radio 2's Songwriting Academy Competition

I stumbled on this wonderful website that is a songwriter's resource and competition all-in-one:

Sold On Song by BBC Radio 2 and the British Academy of Songwriters & Composers.

From the website:
If you are interested in songwriting, this is your opportunity to get involved and you could end up with your music played on Radio 2 in addition to having your song worked on by a chart topping songwriter.
The Songwriters Academy will provide you with an unrivalled opportunity to kick-start your career in Songwriting. Open to all, regardless of genre, The Songwriters Academy is a major new search for songwriters.
The site is not unlike CBC Radio 3 (see my site there :) but also adds a few unique touches for the songwriter looking to publicize his/her music. There's a newsletter that you can sign up for straight from the site, as well as links to great resources: Songwriters' Guides.

I urge you to check out this great site that will surely be around for a while... hey, its BBC!

May the Muse, and her technological helpers, be with you (or at least not against you...)

Ignite Young Songwriters - Vancouver East Cultural Centre

From the Vancouver East Cultural Centre website, for young songwriters living in and around the Greater Vancouver Area (ah, I lived in Van City many years ago now...) you will find the following:
Attention Songwriters aged 13-21!

The Ignite Songwriter’s Intensive is an opportunity for young artists to receive one-on-one mentorship with young musicians currently making waves in the Canadian music scene.

The mentors for the 2008 Intensive will be Leah Abramson, of indie-rock group Octoberman and folk revivalists Dyad; Ryan Guldemond, of the acclaimed chamber-pop sensation Mother Mother; and Dan Mangan, one of Vancouver’s finest young singer-songwriters.

The mentors will help the youth create new material to be presented as part of the Ignite Youth Week Festival, held at The Cultch May 5th-10th, 2008.

Participants will not only receive mentorship from world-class artists, but also consultation sessions with industry professionals, a demo recording session at the Hive Creative Labs, a performance techniques workshop, and a showcase at The Cultch.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Marsalis Brothers to honour Oscar Peterson (CHSF)

The latest addition to the already star-studded list of performers provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see two jazz legends honour one of Canada’s own.

Hi Music Fans,

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 5th Annual Gala is excited to announce that it has today added two legends of the international jazz world to its already exciting lineup.

The addition of New Orleans icons Ellis and his son Branford Marsalis elevates the evening to new heights, as the duo perform in honour of Canadian jazz luminary, the late Oscar Peterson. Branford, a three-time Grammy Award winner and world-renowned saxophonist, will perform Peterson’s Wheatland alongside his father Ellis, who is the premier jazz pianist in New Orleans. This performance will be the first time that the two have played Wheatland together in public. Ellis originally learned the composition in the early 1990’s for his Canadian tour with the Ellis Marsalis Trio.

Tickets are limited and selling fast so get yours now before it is too late at

A Few More Opportunities to Catch the Show

For those of you who are unable to attend the Gala, broadcast partner CBC Radio will air two programs on CBC Radio 2 on March 2nd. At 7pm there will be a special interview with Paul Anka, followed by the broadcast of the Gala at 8pm. In addition, on March 3rd CBC Radio One will air one-hour specials at 2pm and 10pm.

A one-hour presentation of Words to Music: The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will air on CBC Television on Monday, March 3 at 7pm.

Make sure to visit the store to pick up some great music from this year's inductees and performing artists.

To ensure that you are always up-to-date about the CSHF, make sure to sign up to our official newsletter.

The CSHF Team
Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
56 Wellesley Street West, Suite 320
Toronto, ON M5S 2S3
Tel: 416.926.7953/ Fax: 416.926.7958

Criticism of SAC's Music File Sharing Compensation Proposal

Saw this article in today's National Post that criticizes SAC's recent proposal for compensation for music sharing monetization, deemed by the author to mean a "song tax":

National Post

Monday, February 25, 2008

Debunking the song tax

National Post Published: Monday, February 25, 2008

You probably read about the proposal put forward last week by the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) for a $5 monthly tax to be applied to all "internet subscriptions" and distributed to songwriters as compensation for illegal music sharing. As a sensible human being, your reaction was either rage, laughter or some combination of the two. But let us put on a sober face for a moment and enumerate everything we can think of that is wrong with this pitch:

-It would penalize those who engage in no legally dubious filesharing to begin with. Some internet users don't care for music and may not have media files of any kind on their computer. Others have only music they obtained legitimately -- whether purchased from a recognized online vendor like iTunes, downloaded from an artist who offered it free or copied from older media for personal use. Those legitimate online vendors, by the way, would immediately lose the Canadian market, crippling the hopes of musicians who believe that internet sales are a better path to viability for the recording industry.

-Some users may not download much Canadian music, or indeed any, yet the Songwriters Association proposes to reward only "Canadian music creators" with revenue from Canadian internet users. The anticipated income would be in the neighbourhood of a billion dollars annually; this is curious, considering that in 1999, before record sales began to slump, the total value of all recorded music (from any country) sold in Canada was only $1.3-billion.

-The proposal uses statistical figures from biased sources (citing a Canadian Recording Industry Association "news article" in estimating overall nationwide filesharing) and spectacularly tortures figures from independent ones.

-There is no suggestion that the decline in legitimate sales of recorded music over the past 10 years, whose severity is itself controversial, has been caused by anything but illegal filesharing. The possibility that the music industry might be the victim of suicidal marketing choices, or that popular music might simply be in a fallow period, is never considered.

-Higher prices for internet access in Canada would worsen the "digital divide" between rich and poor. Canadians already pay large amounts for bandwidth -- according to the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the UN, access costs twice as much per bit here as in the U.S. and easily 10 times as much as in Japan and Korea.

-A special tax on internet access for songwriters would inevitably be followed by demands for similar taxes in the interests of motion picture producers, authors and visual artists. The songwriters' demand for the seizure of $60 a year can only be considered modest if one denies the obvious -- that as groups with equally legitimate claims came forward, it would soon become $120, or $200, or $500.

-One of those groups might well be non-songwriting performers on music recordings, who enjoy certain moral and royalty rights under some regimes. What, after all, is so sacred about the traditional legal balance of royalty rights that weighs so strongly in the favour of the songwriter at the expense of other contributors? Who contributed more to the first hit version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine -- was it Marvin Gaye, or the writers (Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)? You can reasonably argue either side. But then you have to consider the unheralded sidemen who played those thrilling strings, or the backup singers, or the studio engineer who stuck a microphone in front of Mr. Gaye's mouth. The apportionment of credit entrenched in 20th-century music law is quite arbitrary, and has led to abusive practices at times, such as when powerful producers or managers bullied artists into giving them false songwriting credits.

-Remarkably, the proponents of the internet tax for songwriters seem not to have considered the possibility of widespread tax avoidance. They want $5-a-month tax on "internet subscriptions," but what defines an "internet subscription"? If four people in my household have access to a wireless network, but there is only one bill, do we owe $5, or $20? How can internet cafes and public libraries bill their customers? What about users who let passersby piggyback wirelessly on their laptops as a matter of courtesy? Couldn't any large group join together to buy one wide-band "subscription" from an ISP to beat the tax?

-How is the money to be distributed? SAC hallucinates an ultra-powerful, bias-free "collective" that "would track internet and wireless file sharing activity on a census basis. Virtually all sharing on the internet and wireless devices would be tracked," they promise, and "Creators and rights-holders will be paid with a level of speed and accuracy never before possible." Will this happen before or after pigs fly? And are you comfortable letting Eddie Schwartz and Randy Bachman monitor all the filesharing activity on your PC, or would you immediately click on the encryption option that peer-to-peer sharing applications already offer as a matter of course?

We know what choice we would make.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Beat Away From My Heart (Reach Out)

A Beat Away From My Heart (Reach Out) is a new (old) song that I recorded at JL Studios in downtown Toronto in October 2007 (thanks to my lovely wife for that Christmas present in 2006) . Jeffrey at JL Studios mixed it up nice and in spite of my singing, I think it's a catchy tune.

Many thanks to Jeff Russo for picking a lead and laying some backing vocals... Now, can I get it published? Check it out in my ReverbNation player above...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't give up the Ghost: Singer-songwriter Amanda finally takes the spotlight

By STUART HUSBAND - More by this author » Last updated at 16:36pm on 16th February 2008


She turned James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful' into a mega-seller and has written hits for the likes of Beyoncé and Whitney Houston. But success as a singer has always been elusive for Amanda Ghost. She tells Stuart Husband why she's finally ready to take the spotlight...

Amanda Ghost is telling a story about a recent trip in a New York cab.

"I was on my way to see the music producer Mark Ronson," she says, "but I had this bad back.

"When the driver suddenly slammed on the brakes I literally screamed with pain, and suddenly I couldn't stop screaming.

"Everything came out - that I was thousands of miles away from my newborn daughter; that I needed to keep working despite a slipped disc - all the highs and lows of the past nine years.

Amanda Ghost

Amanda Ghost has written hits for Whitney Houston and Shakira. Now the 33-year-old is ready to take the spotlight for herself with new album, Blood on the Line

"It was incredibly emotional," she says, "and as I sat there sobbing, the cabbie actually apologised, which is unheard of.'

Amanda has burst into the room like a force of nature, apologising for being late (her daughter Gia has been "playing up"), casting self-deprecating looks in the mirror ("God, I'm such a mess"), and enthusing about the clothes for the photo shoot ("So glam!").

It's a tribute to the 33-year-old's vivacity that she has made it through a decade that's been every bit as turbulent as she's hinted.

She was tipped for a stellar singing career back in 2000, when she was plucked from Enfield-born obscurity by Warner Brothers' Andrew Wickham, the man who signed Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris.

He claimed Amanda was better than both. She was fÍted accordingly, until her debut album, Ghost Stories (released in the U.S. only) failed to sell in huge quantities.

She was then left in hellish limbo, with Warners refusing to release a follow-up and trying to morph her into a Pink/Avril Lavigne hybrid.

"I think the reason it failed was because I wanted to do too much," shrugs Amanda.

"I could write in any genre - pop, jazz, country, reggae - and I put them all on the album. The chairman of Warners said that I had a great voice but I couldn't write hits."

An ironic remark, considering what came next. Amanda had signed a separate songwriting contract with Warners, and in 2004 was asked to polish up a somewhat maudlin ballad.

Amanda Ghost and James Blunt

Amanda with James Blunt after scooping their Ivor Novello awards in London in 2006

The song was James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful', which went on to top the charts in Britain, the U.S., Canada and virtually any other place where soulful young men moon after hopelessly unattainable women.

Her co-writing credit brought her Grammy nominations and two Ivor Novello awards, and, with her writing partner Ian Dench, Amanda has since gone on to provide huge hits for Beyoncé ('Beautiful Liar', the duet with Shakira, which went to number one around the world) and the latest American Idol winner Jordin Sparks ('Tattoo', which has given Amanda her third US top ten song in 18 months).

As well as working with boy wonder Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse's producer, the in-demand Ghost has been asked to provide songs for Whitney Houston's much-anticipated comeback album, and has been collaborating with musical legends Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie.

All of which means that it's a more propitious time for Amanda herself to venture back into the spotlight.

Her new album, Blood on the Line, provides a low-key acoustic showcase for her earthy, soulful voice to tackle a few of the songs she's written for other people over the years (including 'Time Machine', penned for her best friend Boy George).

Later in the year she'll be on the judging panel of a new American reality TV show that's a sort of American Idol for aspiring songwriters.

Amanda credits Boy George with honing her own songwriting skills. She met him when she was 19 and working on the door of London's then legendary nightspot, Mud Club.

"I was a fashion student, dabbling in journalism and pretending I didn't want to get into music," she recalls.

"I mean, I'd been singing and writing songs since I was eight; I'd sing them to my friends in the playground, and they'd go, 'You didn't write that!' and I'd go, 'Yes, I did!'"

Boy George took her under his wing. "What he gave me was an invaluable musical education.

"I was a pop kid at the time, and he introduced me to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and David Bowie."

(Mitchell has since become a friend, and credits Amanda's song 'Blood on the Line' with reinvigorating her own faith in music.)

"George," Amanda adds, "knows more about music than anyone I've met."

The main thing he taught her about songwriting, she says, was to concentrate on simplicity and directness.

"Bob Marley said that the greatest songs can be hummed by a three-year-old, and it's true.

"George would be saying, 'Your voice and melodies are great but your lyrics are shit,' and I'd go, 'But they're from my heart!'" she grins.

"He also taught me that it's about two per cent talent and 98 per cent graft.

"I don't think of myself as a professional songwriter - I hate them; they come in and write the 'moon-in-June' stuff and don't add anything.

"To me, if I'm writing with someone, it's important that their voice comes out in the song, otherwise there's no point."

This seems an appropriate moment to bring up 'You're Beautiful', a song that's become the 'Lady in Red' of its generation.

For Amanda, its legacy is more ambiguous: it's set her up for life, but Blunt was curiously reluctant to acknowledge her as co-writer until he was forced to by the Ivor Novello triumph, hence her mix of pride and dismissal now.

"It changed everything for me," she admits. "Until then I was a struggling artist.

"It took James Blunt three years of hard work to write, whereas for me it was ten minutes of polishing up the chorus at a kitchen table in LA when I was bored.

"I didn't think it was very good," she says with a smile.

"I said to my publisher, 'Take my name off it.' Thank God they talked me out of it. It's a really childlike song, that's why it did so well, but a lot of people still don't realise he didn't write it by himself.

"Everyone says, 'Do you hate him, does he hate you?'" she continues breezily, "and we don't.

"But there's a lot of vitriol towards him, maybe because he got so successful so quickly with a song that's so loathed."

Amanda has always been grounded, a trait she attributes to her family - her father is Trinidadian, her mother Spanish, and she has two sisters, who are both bringing up families in New York.

But you get the feeling that success, now it's finally come, is all the sweeter, not only because she's a mother herself (her partner, Gregor Cameron, is a TV producer; they live in Notting Hill, London, and are planning an April 'flamenco wedding' in her mother's native Seville), but also because her new-found clout is happening on her terms.

"Being an artist, for me, isn't about being famous," she says firmly.

"Growing up with George, I got a crash course in how awful full-on fame can be.

"I'm doing this album because a lot of people have been asking me to do it, but I'm just as interested in my songs and my label and nurturing artists, bringing raw talent to fruition.

"The first time round, I wasn't ready. I signed for £1 million and I was on the cover of a Sunday magazine before I'd sold a record.

"Immediately, everyone wanted to shoot me down. You have to earn it, and f****** hell have I earnt it," she cackles.

"I've been plugging away for nine years, and I know everyone hates Madonna now, but one thing she taught me as a young, aspirational girl was that a quitter never wins and a winner never quits."

And Amanda Ghost strides off with the exuberant air of someone for whom those words have been triumphantly vindicated.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Networking Nashville - Gordie Sampson

Since I'm dishing out quotes from songwriters lately, I thought I'd add one from another Canadian-born songwriter, Gordie Sampson, from an article entitled Networking Nashville by Nick Krewen in the Winter 2008 edition of SAC's Songwriters Magazine:

"If there's a golden rule, Sampson says it's important to stick with your artistic integrity. 'Certainly strive for uniqueness,' he advises. 'Try to find what's unique about you as a writer and milk it for all it's worth once you find it. Some of those kinds of things are kind of hard to put into words, but once you come across a lyrical style that you can recognize as your own, or a musical style that is your own - that's what the world wants to hear. They want to hear individuality... they want to look in the window of your soul...'"

The Secrets of Songwriters - Review & Quotes

Just finished an interesting read that goes one-on-one with some of the leading songwriters: The Secrets of Songwriting: Leading Songwriters Reveal How to Find Inspiration & Success.

The author, Susan Tucker, interviews a baker's dozen of songwriters (one being Canadian Carolyn Dawn Johnson) and each offers some insight and pearls of wisdom into the craft and the business of songwriting. It's well worth the read and it is available here:

Here are some of my favourite quotes from each of the songwriters interviewed, be they insightful, inspirational or insane :-)

  1. Brett Beavers - "Songwriting has always been the woman I must try to make fall in love with me, over and over again. But it's the chase that makes me feel most alive."
  2. Jason Blume - "Let's face it: Every writer is not going to make the top of the charts. Does that mean they are failures? Not in my book. As far as I'm concerned, the failure is the one who was so afraid of failing that they never pursued what was in their heart, and never had a chance."
  3. Chuck Cannon - "I'm not listening for song ideas; I'm listening for soul ideas. I'm listening for understanding on a broader level."
  4. Bob DiPiero - "I think rewriting is the cog that makes the wheel turn around. Once you get something out there, you really focus on it. But not as I'm originally trying to put something out. Overanalyzing something, especially in the initial stages of writing, can be the death of a song. Let it go by, you can always come back and change it."
  5. Stewart Harris - "Believe in yourself. That's the most important, because on the days that nobody cuts your songs, and nobody will give you a writer's deal, nobody's listening to your songs, you have to have the belief in yourself to get out of bed, and to go walk out there, and take a deep breath, and go after it."
  6. Carolyn Dawn Johnson - "Never hang on to your last song. Never believe it's the last song you're going to write. There's always a better one coming."
  7. Gretchen Peters - "I think your song is the most perfect right before you start writing it, because you have this beautiful vision of it in your mind, and you haven't screwed it up yet."
  8. Hugh Prestwood - "With every song I write, I go through this period where I think, 'This is the greatest song I've ever written.' Then, 'This is a piece of crap.' Then, 'This is great; no, it's a piece of crap. Now it's great.'
  9. Mike Reid - "[Finding it hard to write the second verse is a] very common problem, when you get that incredible chorus, and you get a first verse that is just honking. I've found two things for writers to look at when they get stuck. First, you may discover the verse you have is not the first vers, it's the second verse. And the other is, because you're looking for the great line, step back and ask yourself, 'What is the story?' Life must be the protagonist."
  10. Steve Seskin - "One of the things I've maintained all these years is that you can mix art and commerce, but don't mix them in the creation. Don't let the commerce poison the art."
  11. Allen Shamblin - "I really trust that the subconscious mind is going to deliver and, in a way, I try to work around the conscious mind because, when we're writing, and thinking about it, we're filtering so much. So, when I write, I try to bypass my conscious mind as much as possible, especially when I'm writing by myself. I'll pick up the guitar and start singing nonsense."
  12. Tia Sillers - "God, when you're high you feel sexy, and immortal, and creative, godlike. The muse isn't with me; I am the muse."
  13. Craig Wiseman - "One of the greatest insights I ever made was getting humble enough to realize I'm not special. I'm just an average guy, and if I feel it, and I think it, and I do it, then I'm virtually guaranteed that everybody has felt the same thing."
May the Muse be with you... but only if you're working hard enough for that Muse to find you...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oxygen 8 to the Axiom 49 at Revolution Audio

Completed another upgrade... 24 keys and some more controls moving from M-Audio's Oxygen 8 Keyboard MIDI Controller to its Axiom 49 model. I've already set up the MMC controls for the Axiom to control the Sonar 6 play/record functions (see this site for tips)... the challenge will be to get the sliders/knobs/pads working the way I want... Any suggestions?

Thanks to the folks at Revolution Audio for making this a painless upgrade and for supporting the local music creators with good deals and fair trade-ins... (and thanks to my wife for putting up with this "hobby" of mine)... For those looking to "trade up", I'd encourage you to deal with the fine folks (Jason, Will, Kate) at Revolution Audio. From it's website dealing with Used Gear:
  • We are looking for trades! Change your old outboard gear into something new that you will use! Please contact us for a quote.
  • We do not sell guitars, amplifiers or other music equipment. Home Recording IS what we do - this is not just another section in our store. Recording Equipment is our store.
  • We only sell quality items of good value, tested personally by us.
  • We are home studio owners and enthusiasts. We are doing this because we love it
  • We are knowledgeable. If we don't have the answer we will find it for you. We are committed to get you recording in your home and this is why we have a 100 percent success rate in doing only this.
Now it's time to make some music...

Gordon Lightfoot at the Chattanooga Tivoli

Found this article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press by Casey Phillips. There's some nice, short discussion about the current songs of one of Canada's outstanding songwriters, Gordon Lightfoot, and some his classics:

With a career spanning more than 45 years, Gordon Lightfoot has had a long time to make a name for himself.

But it took a trio of other names — Peter, Paul and Mary — to give the 69-year-old Canadian folk singer/songwriter’s career the boost it needed, he said.

“(Their cover of) ‘For Loving Me’ went up quite high on the charts ... and got my career started down in the States,” he said. “When (they) recorded that song, they actually started my career.”

It often seems that praise for Lightfoot comes from his peers as often as from critics and fans.

Bob Dylan is quoted as saying of Lightfoot’s work, “Every time I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever.” Johnny Cash referred to Lightfoot’s 1967 single “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” an epic of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, as “an extremely fine piece of songwriting.”

Wednesday, Lightfoot will perform renditions from a 20-album discography spanning multiple decades when he takes the stage at the Tivoli Theatre.

Since suffering a burst artery in 2002 that prevented him from performing for 28 months, Lightfoot said his songwriting has strayed from sprawling epics such as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” he wrote earlier in his career. Now, his writing is more focused on songs that are “more entertaining,” he said.

“There are a lot more toe-tappers now than before. It’s not all ballads. There’s a lot of good beat material in my show.”

Still, Lightfoot hasn’t forgotten the songs that garnered him attention south of the border. Fans of his classics should be well satisfied when they leave the Tivoli, he said.

You can hear Gordon Lightfoot discuss some of his songwriting background. In this mp3, he talks about the first song he wrote at age 17, inspired by the hulla-hoop craze of the 1950s.

And in this mp3, the songwriter discusses the story behind "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and what he would write another 7-minute epic song about.

May the Muse be with us all...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vision 4 Music Songwriting Contest

Continuing the contest trend in my latest posts, here's another contest for songwriters put on by the folks at Vision 4 Music. You have to have an account with Vision 4 Music (free), and the entry fee is $25.00 USD per song (no categories). From the website:

The Vision 4 Music Song Contest was created to help amateur songwriters on their road to becoming professional songwriters, plus to provide a music portal/platform to have their songs heard.

The Vision 4 Music Songwriting Contest awards are:

  • First Prize - starting at $2500 (juried)

  • Second Prize - $1000 (popular vote)

  • Third Prize - $500 (juried)

    There are two ways to win: the first and third prizes are juried awards. The Vision 4 Music judges will be considering your song's melody, composition, lyrics and originality, and the two songs that rate most highly in these categories will win.

    The second prize is awarded based on popular vote on their website, All submissions can be reviewed online. You must pay for each song submitted for consideration, but there is no limit to the number of songs and supporting material you may submit to build your fan base on our website and influence the popular vote.

Good luck to you if you decide to enter, and may the Muse be with you...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Foster to Join Anka at CSHF Gala

The latest addition to the already star-studded list of performers provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see two of Canada’s top performers on the same stage.

Hi Music Fans,

David Foster will join Paul Anka on stage at the CSHF 5th Annual Gala on March 1st, 2008 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Other performers include blues vocalist Serena Ryder, Jully Black – a favourite in the Canadian music scene - and the addition of Anna and Kate McGarrigle and Lily Lanken with family members Martha and Rufus Wainwright for a rendition of Heart Like a Wheel. Martine St. Clair will honour Claude Dubois with a performance of his classic song Artistes.

Additional performances and presenters will be announced soon.

Get your tickets now before it is too late at

A Few More Opportunities to Catch the Show

For those of you who are unable to attend the Gala, broadcast partner CBC Radio will air two programs on CBC Radio 2 on March 2nd. At 7pm there will be a special interview with Paul Anka, followed by the broadcast of the Gala at 8pm. In addition, on March 3rd CBC Radio One will air one-hour specials at 2pm and 10pm.

A one-hour presentation of Words to Music: The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will air on CBC Television on Monday, March 3 at 7pm.

Make sure to visit the store to pick up some great music from this year's inductees and performing artists.

To ensure that you are always up-to-date about the CSHF, make sure to sign up to our official newsletter.

The CSHF Team
Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
56 Wellesley Street West, Suite 320
Toronto, ON M5S 2S3
Tel: 416.926.7953/ Fax: 416.926.7958

Contest to Career

And yet another songwriting contest theme today... This post provides the story of Molly McGinn, who parlayed a songwriting contest win from the MySpace RPM Challenge (recording an album of original recordings in a month - see for more info... I think February is the only month this year, so that leaves just 23 more days...). This article is from Yes Weekly... and Molly McGinn sells here songs here...

The song gushes out of the car radio turning out of the Harris Teeter parking lot onto High Point Road and headed into the sylvan interlude of Sedgefield before the avenue reaches into the ugly strip-malled expanse that aprons from Greensboro's stunted skyline.

Only it's a song about Kansas.

"A cathedral in Kansas where the cowboys come to pray," Molly McGinn sings. "It's so quiet you can hear a prayer drop from a mile away."

The voice is plaintive and open, sweet and powerful. The music is expansive, like the landscape it describes, the only instrumentation to speak of the gently rolling strum of an acoustic six-string and the stately cry of a steel guitar.

Dodge City. The bloodiest town in that frontier state. The place of McGinn's birth. The image of Christ hung between two thieves on the altar of the cowboy church. She contemplates the finality of death, the strange fate of the good and the bad falling into the same lot, herself cast interchangeably into the roles of "the penitent, the spiteful, the forgiving one."

McGinn's independently released CD, Girl With Slingshot, which includes the cut "Preachers and Thieves," was passed from her boyfriend, Sean Coon, to Kathy Clark, a volunteer DJ at WQFS 90.9 FM, the campus station at Guilford College. The music would find its way to the world through other channels, too.

A songwriter since the age of 8, when she composed "welcome home" songs for her father on his return from business trips, by 2000 a budding journalism career with the News & Record had crowded music from her life.

In October of that year, McGinn covered a murder trial in High Point. The defendant, a jealous lover, had scratched the name of his girlfriend into a bullet he used to kill her. After that, when she would swim, each time she sank beneath the water's surface the name would pound through her head: "Anjanette Craine. Anjanette Craine."

She felt miserable as a reporter. Particularly with the police and courts beat she found herself unable to leave the job at work. Another time, when a landlord in High Point was shot in the face, "my editor said, 'You have to go ask his family how they feel,'" she recalls. "I didn't want to ask them how they felt. I wanted to say, 'What can I do to help?' I would pour myself into these lives and I couldn't shake it off."

She cast off that heavy cloak when she made the painful decision to leave journalism. She has ever been trying to make her life align more closely to the true aim of her passion. The first step was going to work for Kindermusik, a Greensboro-based children's music education company, where she wrote children's music and conducted research for product development.

"They helped me fall in love with music again, doing all this brain research on the social and psychological impact it has on a child's life," McGinn says.

She started writing songs again, lullabies to put herself to sleep. And there were songs inspired by a serious romantic relationship that had ended in a breakup.

"I started rock climbing, I started long boarding, I started surfing," McGinn says. "I started feeling myself uninhibited, putting aside the idea that everything I did had to be perfect. You know, just try anything."

She started attending indie film group and composed a film soundtrack. She started attending blogging meet-ups and exploring new-media networking. She started singing and playing guitar with a band called Thacker Dairy Road.

Now, McGinn is planning her departure from Kindermusik, conjuring a small business that will harness her writing abilities with her budding online social networking and marketing skills. She expects that Kindermusik will be her first client, and she will also be able to promote her own music through the business.

"It's a lot more risk in it, but I'm kind of tweaked about it," she says. "I'm kind of scared, but what the hell else am I going to do? It's what's next for me."

Paramount among the reasons for this independent entrepreneurial gambit is her need to free up more time for music. McGinn rehearses twice a week with Thacker Dairy Road and the band's live booking is double that again. She also performs solo once a week at M'Coul's in downtown Greensboro. She plans to record with Thacker Dairy Road and record more solo material in February.

Girl With Slingshot came about as a sort of fluke.

A little more than a year ago, she ran across a contest on called the RPM Songrwriters Challenge. She had two weeks to write 10 songs, and another two weeks to record them. She won, but didn't have any plans to release the recording, which was produced by Greg Griffith. Then she played the songs for Coon. He liked them and encouraged her to upload them to sites like, which provides online music retail services. McGinn's album made AmieStreet's Top 30 for 2007.

The songs on Girl With Slingshot bear a spare warmth that McGinn says is related to both her grueling production schedule and preference for simplicity. One song committed to posterity as the clock ticked down, "Rekkid Playa Heart," was recorded in McGinn's car to the beat of the turn signal using a chair-adjuster for percussion.

"I literally locked myself in my house for a month," she says. "I left an outgoing message on my answering machine to my friends, saying, 'No disrespect, but I'm probably not going to return your calls.'"

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at

2008 USA Songwriting Competition starts

Boy, it looks like it's all about contests in today's posts... Visit the 2008 USA Songwriting Competition to get your entries into that competition. From the site's homepage:

2008 Competition

:.Radio Airplay!

:.Grand Prize of US$50,000 in Cash & Merchandise!

:.15 different categories

:.Winners Will Be determined by Top Music Industry Pros*

Since 1995, the USA Songwriting Competition®, the world's leading international songwriting event, has been honoring songwriters, composers, bands, and recording artists everywhere.

*Winners are selected by a Blue Ribbon committee of music industry judges including record label publishers, producers, A&R from Universal Music, Warner, EMI, Sony/BMG Music, and other distinguished professionals. This is your chance to be discovered by the biggest names in the music business!

Our competition offers a shot at the big time for songwriters, original solo artists, and bands everywhere around the world. For you it is the contest that might just open the right doors, make the right connections and get your songs heard. Winning songs receive radio airplay! (the first for any songwriting competition!).

This is not American Idol - this is the professional songwriting competition that offers winners the clout that it it takes to really make it!

.: FREE EARLY BONUS: First 1,000 entries will each receive a USA Songwriting Competition Compilation CD. Hurry, Enter now! Click here to enter the 2008 Competition...

Best of luck to you all... may the Muse be with you...

2007 International Songwriting Competition Finalists Announced

You can find the list here... I'm not on it :( but you can still take a look at the entrants and vote for your favourites here...

Entries for the 2008 International Songwriting Competition are being accepted now.

Best of luck and may the Muse be with you...

LG Make The Music - Vote For Me!

Why not visit this direct link to my video for Lovers' Limbo that I've entered into the LG Make The Music Contest and vote for me... it's FREE to vote!

May the Muse be with you...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Find and Share Free Sound Effects and Loops

Found this wonderful site through a posting in the newsgroup (thanks to the author, Ricky Hunt, for the find). Soundsnap is a "free online sound library and community for sound designers and producers. People can upload sounds and share them with the world." From the site's FAQ:

Who is Soundsnap for?
Soundsnap is mainly for Sound designers/recordists and music producers, filmmakers, web designer's and video game developers. It can also be useful to hobbyists for their home videos, people looking for ringtones and anyone else that needs sounds.

Why did you create Soundsnap?
People are moving from sample CD's and sound effects libraries to looking for sounds online. Everything is becoming digital and free. There was no one online offering a huge library of free material that was really high quality. Before Soundsnap, most sites were either paid sites or they had a lot of junk.

Any tool that assists in the creative songwriting process is greatly appreciated. A grateful acknowledgement to the site's creator, Tasos Frantzolas, a young sound designer living in Athens, Greece, on making this tool available... I encourage you to check it out and may the Muse be with you...

The Rights of Creators

Bill Freeman, writer and chair of the Creators’ Copyright Coalition published the following article in today's National Post. As an unpublished songwriter, I can appreciate that I would, one day hopefully, be in a position to reap the benefits of a successful song - something that I've created... As an ISP customer and media "downloader", I'm not so sure how much I support the proposed SAC levy (see below for link), but it does seem to be the most feasible "tariff" system to ensure, in music as media anyway, that songwriters are compensated... It does not need to be $5.00/mo. however... $1 or even 50 cents would be a good place to start... You tell me...

New bill next week to bring copyright law into Internet age
Yet again, the Canadian government will begin the difficult task of revising our copyright law when new legislation is tabled in Parliament next week. The effort is bound to be controversial. There are strong and influential interests on every side. Some user groups will argue for the free distribution of all content that appears on the Internet. Corporate interests, on the other hand, will argue for strong controls and restrictions on the distribution of all copyright material.

Creators occupy the middle ground somewhere between these two extremes. We want to protect our work, but we also want it widely distributed. Creators depend on their copyrights to grant us the right to earn money from our works, but we also need access to other creators’ works. Perhaps more than anyone, we understand that a balance between the interests of users and copyright owners is essential.

Canadians should take an interest in the new copyright legislation. Our information society is increasingly driven by the economic sector reliant on copyright. In 2001, some 131,000 creators in Canada spent the majority of their time working at their art. This does not include the thousands who depend on creators for work in the film, television, publishing, visual arts and music industries, and it does not include those in the computer software industry whose work is also protected by copyright.

Every professional creator in this country is an independent entrepreneur. Most of us work alone and find it difficult to promote and protect our work. Our environment seems to change every day. The Internet is providing new opportunities to deliver our creations to our audience, but inadequate legislation is making it difficult to protect our work in this new technological world.

Musicians are the canary in the mine, showing what can happen when copyright legislation gives inadequate protection. Today virtually anyone can download music on to a home computer without paying a fee, and almost every recording artist and songwriter has lost substantial income from pirating. This is only the beginning. Soon technology will allow the downloading of feature films the day they are released. Whole libraries of books are already available online. To creators, this provides a new and innovative way of marketing our works, but the content has to have adequate protection or it will be “ripped off ” just like music.

Creators are exploring the Internet as a marketing tool. Again, the musicians are pointing the way. The Songwriters Association of Canada has proposed a system to share music on peer-to-peer networks for a modest fee [read more about the proposal here]. Canadian book publishers are developing electronic publishing programs, and filmmakers are discussing similar projects. For creators, the Internet holds out the promise that they will have more control over their work and hopefully gain more income from it.

Producers and publishers also need copyright protection if they are going to operate in the world of the Internet. It costs money to edit, design, print and market a new book. Feature films today cost millions of dollars. The companies that put up that sort of money expect a return or they will not take the risk.

All of this is making us feel uneasy. The government promises that the new legislation will bring Canadian copyright law into the Internet age, but what will be in the legislation? Here are some major issues worth watching. Moral Rights Unlike the United States, Canada follows the European tradition that grants creators of copyright moral rights in their works, giving them greater control over how their work may be changed or used and how they will be credited for the use of their works. Will moral rights be reaffirmed and strengthened? Pirating How to reduce infringement while allowing a strong public domain? Creators need the right to charge a fee for their work, offer it under collective licenses, distribute it under licenses such as the Creative Commons or give it away. Internet Service Providers Creators support “notice and takedown,” a system already in effect in Europe and the United States. The legislation should give copyright holders the right, within reasonable limits, to require ISPs to take down illegally distributed material . Fair Dealing Creators support the fairdealing provision for the purpose of private study and research, but not of commerce. Educational exemption The Ministers of Education want to exempt all material that can be accessed freely on the Internet if it is not marked “copyright,” and its reproduction clearly prohibited. This is not necessary. Material on the Internet can be handled easily by collective licensing. Educators should not be trying to balance their budgets with an exemption that gives them such extensive free use of copyright works. Licensing Canadian creators and producers have formed licensing agencies like Access Copyright and SOCAN that facilitate the use of content. Such collective licensing agencies, which enable customers to access material and provide income for creators and producers, should be strengthened. Technical Protection Measures Producers and publishers say they need to stop the circumvention of TPMs and prevent the removal of digital rights management information from works. Computer programmers say that being able to circumvent TPMs is fundamental to programming and must not be made illegal.

The sides are shaping up in the copyright debate. Already the blogs are spilling over with impassioned statements supporting or opposing various views. As creators, we hope that the public understands that creators’ works need protection if they are to have the chance to earn a decent living.
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