Yesterday, I attended the New Songwriters' Workshop put on by the Canadian Radio Star songwriting competition folks and supported by Astral Media, and sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Canada and Sennheiser. The workshop was staged at Metalworks Studio (very cool setup).
The topics included What's In a Song?, Music Publishing 101 and Writing for the Radio, along with a song review and critique session. Greg Simpson of Mindbenders Music was the host of the event and the presenters included songwriter Blair Packham, Wayne Webster, Music Director of Virgin Radio 99.9, John Alexander, Senior VP-Creative Affairs for ASCAP, and Vivian Barclay, head of music publisher Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd. Don Quarles of SAC was assisting as well.
Much was learned and will be shorlisted to the following points:
- Music is patterns, but you have to break those patterns to keep the listener engaged.
- You're not a genius. Don't overwork a song, but re-writing it as a craftsman can and usually does make it better.
- There is no rule to songwriting other than - "Don't be boring!"
- Music is communication - the song should speak for itself and not have to be explained (my problem, big time).
- Know your audience and listen with your audience's ear.
- Your mother is not a music critic when it comes to your songwriting/performing abilities - she doesn't count (sorry Ma).
I brought my song She's My Favourite Place to be critiqued and boy, was it ever! I know it was a bad mix (my fault) but the production and the song itself did not go over well... That leads to another point from the workshop - Do your demo well! You may only get one shot so whether it's stripped down bare (just piano or guitar plus vocal) or with more advanced production, it has to work... if somebody is listening they're only going to listen for a minute before moving on and if you can't win them over, you get tossed in the "NO" pile... songs under 4 minutes and hook within 45 seconds...
I got some re-writing to do on some old songs and a new mindset to take into the new ones... may the Muse come to me!