Thursday, January 31, 2008

Counting Crows - free online ep

Visit the Counting Crows website for information about the band's latest double-CD release: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.

The bonus here is that the band is giving away a free downloadable "EP" for the songs 1492 and When I Dream of Michelangelo.

You can download the free "EP" by visiting the band's Digital 45 site. Geez, 45's... it's been a long time since I played one of those...

May the Muse be with you...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why this lady is smiling? k.d. lang's new muse...

Found this article in the digital edition of the National Post yesterday and thought I'd share it with you all. k.d. lang has a new collection of songs out called watershed. In the article, she describes a writer's block due to 9/11 and her overcoming it due to a new love... in other words, she found her muse...

Why this lady is smiling
After 9/11, she questioned the need for art and love songs.
A change of heart has k.d. lang singing a new tune
National Post (

Not heard much about k.d. lang lately? Well, what would you like to know?

That she lives in Rock Hudson’s old house? That she’s a bang-up Buddhist? That so bad is the torch singer’s writer’s block that she actually named her song publishing company — wait for it — Pulling Teeth?

Fortunately, k.d’s latest extraction stopped long enough for her to give us another primo work of new material. It’s called Watershed, and it’s out next week. And they say it’s less of a coming-out than it is a coming-of-age.

Eight years it’s been since the Canadian’s last album of original compositions, and she blames at least part of the “block” on 9/11. The terrorist attacks, she told The Scotsman, “turned the atmosphere in America — politically, emotionally and artistically — on its ear. Afterwards I couldn’t write love songs. They just seemed so frivolous.”

What snapped her out of it? Well, that oldest of artistic incentives: a new lady love. I saw them together — k.d. and the woman she calls her wife — back in November, at the party in Las Angeles I attended for the Louis Vuittonsponsored Murakami museum exhibition. She was, as far as reductionist categoryboxing goes, a “lipstick lesbian.” Or at least more of a lipstick lesbian than our k.d. is likely to ever be. She also smiled a lot.

The constantly craving chanteuse described her this way recently to London’s The Times: “She is very honest with me, very mature and intelligent; incredibly honest in refining my best attributes and curbing my less attractive ones.”

Oh, and the other thing: Though k.d. was once the very apotheosis of gaydom, out long before George Michael or R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, she’s over playing the poster-gal. To wit, this quote in the Times article: “It’s crazy for the gay community to let itself be defined by its sexual preferences.”

Ms. Lang, by the way, plays the Courthouse in Toronto on Feb. 21.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bangor University Offers Degree In Songwriting

UWB CrestBangor University has announced that it will be offering a "new and unique degree in English with Songwriting" through its English Literature and Music departments. The full text of the news release is reproduced below:

The song, it could be argued, is the single aspect of culture in which everybody participates- we all sing at some point, and enjoy our favourite songs. It's perhaps the combination of simple tune and words that makes a song so memorable. Singing and songwriting is an accessible art form and people have used song to reflect their lives and ideas since time immemorial. Bringing us up to date, musician, writer and journalist, Paul Morley, recently described the pop song as a 'specific 20th century art form'.

With this in mind, Bangor University is announcing a new and unique degree in English with Songwriting to be taught from 2008. This is the only degree in the UK that teaches songwriting in all its aspects: the composition of words and music, the theory, the history, recording technology and business skills. The degree offers both rigorous academic education and practical work. A third of the course will be spent writing and analysing songs, and two-thirds of the time following a traditional literary course covering texts from 1066 to 2008.

"Academics, literary critics, and people in general have for centuries gained pleasure from enjoying and analysing all forms of culture from high art, classical symphonies, from novels and plays to sonnets and haiku to popular culture: story-telling, folk songs and ballads, to contemporary forms such as the soap opera and pop song," said Ian Gregson, poet, literary critic and lecturer at the School of English.

"Songs have formed the inner soundtrack to so many people's lives. We can all relate to songs because they richly represent the changing face of our own culture, and other people's. The song form has undergone radical transformation since the Tin-Pan Alley tunes and 12-bar blues of the 1920s and 30s. The proliferation of forms and styles in the late twentieth century has meant that there has been no better time to study songs and their backgrounds, to contextualize their meanings, and become inspired to write some ourselves," said composer and lecturer, Pwyll ap Sion of the School of Music.

Copyright © 2001-2008 News and Events

Corporate Communications and Marketing Athrolys College Road Bangor
tel: 01248 383298 | email:

Well, an advancement in the acceptance of popular songwriting as degree-worthy... May the Muse be with us all - we songwriters who are always students of song...

The 2008 Great Lakes Songwriting Contest

The 2008 Great Lakes Songwriting Contest is now accepting entries, either through submitted CDs or through Sonicbids. The cost per song entry is $25.00 CDN or US (although now that the Canadian dollar is actually higher than the US dollar at times, that's not such a bargain anymore) and you can find the full rules here.

You can find the list of the 2007 judges here. They included Toronto's Jodi Krangle from Muses Muse (one of my favourite songwriting website resources) and folk band Urban Tapestry, Detroit funkster Nadir of the band Distorted Soul, and Minnesotan Andrea Stolpe, a professional (former staff) songwriter who provides e-learning courses on songwriting on her website. The list of the 2008 judges remains a mystery (until the winners are declared...)

The deadline is April 25, 2008... see you in the Winner's circle :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Brian Allen's Music Publishing Seminar at Revolution Audio

Just a short note to say how impressed I was by AMPLUS Productions' Brian Allen's presentation at Revolution Audio on the Music Publishing business.

The website bio linked above names Mr. Allen a "music business instructor" and he certainly has a wealth of knowledge. I obviously can't share 3 hours worth of seminar insights on a blog post other than encourage you to attend a seminar by Brian in person (I think he'll be doing more at Revolution Audio in the future). Besides, I noticed that it was being recorded in digital video format - so who knows, you may be able to buy it someday soon...

This last seminar also ended Revolution Audio's Operation Indie Month. Kudos to Revolution Audio and Jason for putting forth this type of program.

May the Muse be with you...

Tips to get started in songwriting industry

By Jerry Romansky* - advice columnist at in an article found here. I've done everything that Mr. Romansky talks about, but I haven't received by Grammy nod just yet...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Tracks of Your Tears

As It Happens, a wonderful weeknight radio program on the CBC, hosted by Barbara Budd and Carol Off, featured a look this past week at "[t]he tracks of your tears. Our week of depressing songs ends not with a bang, but with a whimper."

Billie Holiday's Gloomy Sunday (the Hungarian Suicide Song) topped the list. Janis Ian's At Seventeen came in second - the angst of an awkward teenage girl in high school...

And tied for second, but the hosts' favourite for depressing songs, was Harry Nilsson's Without You. As described by Ms. Budd, this depressing song had two themes 'the end of a relationship and the threat of suicide... a dark chocolate eclair stuffed with tears...'

I can't live if living is without you
I can't live, I can't give any more

Go ahead and play it... and smile... it's pretty hard to do... and my wife thinks my songs are depressing! May the joyful Muse be with you...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Emmylou Harris: The Songcatcher

I read a wonderful article on Acoustic Guitar's website. Emmylou Harris, a wonderful singer, musician and song interpreter, discusses her career as a songwriter with the article's writer, Craig Havighurst. You can find the article here, and I've quoted a few parts as well for her pearls of wisdom:

"I've always felt that you shouldn't record a song just because you wrote it," Harris says. "It has to stand up. There's a certain standard, and perhaps that's why I was reluctant for so long to attack songwriting. I knew I could write, but I kept finding songs I loved that were already written, and I suppose I didn't feel the need to write."

"The song is always the most important thing, whether it's somebody else's or you've written it yourself. So I was lucky that I didn't suffer from that feeling of being a second-class citizen," she says. "But whenever I get an idea and it's tapping me on the shoulder saying, 'I need to be written,' then I need to make the time to see if I can follow that horse and see where it leads. They say the best way to catch a horse is to build a fence around it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

"Sometimes you have to just abandon a song and use it for parts," she says. "I worked on a song for years a long time ago and finally abandoned it, but then when I wrote 'The Pearl,' I remembered the line, 'We are not sailors lost out on the sea,' and it worked. The song obviously wasn't meant to be written for ten years. I didn't force it just because it's a good line; you know when you haven't found the rest of the body. I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping these bits and pieces around."

May the Muse stay with Emmylou Harris... and may we all continue to "catch" songs...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

CSHF 5th Annual Gala

From the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame:

Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame Newsletter

Martha Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright, Oliver Jones, Boom Desjardins and Toulouse set to perform at the 5th Annual Gala

Hi Music Fans,

This year’s 5th Annual Gala honouring Canada’s best songwriters is guaranteed to be another night certain to leave any musical connoisseur impressed.

In addition to host Gregory Charles, audiences will be wowed by Dione Taylor, the Faith Chorale and Oliver Jones who will take to the stage to honour the late Oscar Peterson, while Martha and Rufus Wainwright will perform a rendition of their aunt Anna McGarrigle’s classic Heart Like A Wheel. Suzie McNeil will return to perform her acclaimed rendition of Les Emmerson’s Signs, as first heard at the CSHF Press Concert. Les Respectables will perform a modern version of Raôul Duguay’s La Bittt à Tibi, while Boom Desjardins will honour Claude Dubois with his rendition of Le Labrador. Reunited group Toulouse will honour the late Georges Thurston with a performance of his hit Aimes-tu la vie comme moi?

To reserve your seat to this once-in-a-lifetime event, taking place Saturday, March 1, 2008 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, visit Tickets are limited so get them now.

A Few More Opportunities to Catch the Show

For those of you who are unable to attend the Gala, the show will be broadcast nationally on Sunday, March 2 on CBC Radio Two at 8PM and on Monday, March 3 on CBC Radio One 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

Obituary - Lew Spence

LOS ANGELES - Lew Spence, a songwriter who composed the Grammy-nominated Frank Sinatra song "Nice 'n' Easy" and "That Face," a standard recorded by Fred Astaire, has died. He was 87.

Mr. Spence died in his sleep Jan. 9 at his home in Los Angeles, said his niece, Toni Schulman.

A one-time singer-pianist, Mr. Spence began turning his songwriting hobby into a career in the late 1940s when he was nearly 30.

He worked with a number of lyricists, including Alan and Marilyn Bergman. At 60, Mr. Spence began writing lyrics to some of his songs, and he continued songwriting until his death.

Among his best-known works are "Half as Lovely (Twice as True)," "If I Had Three Wishes," "Love Looks So Well on You," "Sleep Warm" and "So Long My Love."

In addition to Sinatra and Astaire, other artists who sang Mr. Spence's songs included Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Nat "King" Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine and Dinah Shore.

"I think he was an excellent songwriter, and his work had a lot of charm," said Hugh Martin, a theater and film composer best known for his songs in the 1944 MGM musical "Meet Me in St. Louis."

Marilyn Bergman said Friday that Mr. Spence "was a very talented songwriter. He should have had a bigger career than he did."

Singer-pianist Michael Feinstein said "That Face," which Astaire sang on his 1958 NBC special "An Evening With Fred Astaire," has become "one of a small group of songs from that era that has become a standard."

"He was a very talented man who was a real melodic craftsman," Feinstein said of Mr. Spence, whom he first met in the 1980s.

Like Marilyn Bergman, Feinstein believes Mr. Spence "deserved more success than he ultimately attained."

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

Free eBook - Promote Your Music On

“Quaxle: songwriting and music recording for the creative mind” at Quaxle, a nice songwriting blog that has made a free eBook available for promoting your original music on

Any tools that will help the post-Muse promotion are welcome!

Newfoundland Radio Star onto the Nationals

Trevor Bennett, who is the vocalist/songwriter for a band by the name of Catcher from Newfoundland and Labrador, has won the regionals for the Canadian Radio Star Songwriting contest.

He is written up in his college newspaper here. Many great Canadian musicians/artists come from Newfoundland and Labrador (Pamela Morgan, Ron Hynes, Great Big Sea, etc...) and Bennett has a chance at the national prize based on his song Catch Me If You Can. The song can be found on Catcher's MySpace site linked above. As the article points out:

Despite the ideal climate for self-indulgence, Bennett remains level-headed and focused in his desire to share his creative work with anyone who is willing to listen. "This is the kind of thing that could get my songs to the kinds of people who'll like them, outside of my immediate sphere of influence," said Bennett. "This island can be a tough place to grow from, so the exposure from this contest, and whatever comes of that, is welcome."

Let's congratulate the regional winners (I wasn't one of them) and wish all the participants the best of luck to, not only win the contest, but to make the right connections to get their music heard... and in Bennett's case, to do the Rock proud!

May the Muse be with them...

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My Lulu SongShop

Well, I "self-published" under the Lulu banner. Why not visit my SongShop? At 50 cents a song, it's a real bargain! Plus, if anybody buys one of my songs, I can claim to be a professionally paid songwriter!

Not that I'm begging here... but I am... NOT...

Ci vedimes...homepagemain.jpg

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Operation Indie Music at Revolution Audio

I've been a little late in advising on this event at Revolution Audio. Here's the direct link to what remains of Revolution Audio's January blitz for its Operation Indie Music putsch.

I'll be attending on January 26/08 for the Who Needs a Music Publisher? seminar put on by Brian Allen of AMPLUS Productions. Here's the class description:

Class description:

  • Why do you need a Music Publisher?

  • Do Music Publishers actually publish?

  • What do they publish?

  • How to make money while you sleep!

  • Understanding your Rights before you get Left!

  • Why is Music Publishing growing while the rest of the biz is tanking?

This is what I want to do - get my music published... so I'll be there writing copious notes and hope to see others there...

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Tunesmith puts words in pop tarts' mouths

I read an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today about Kara DioGuardi, a phenomenally successful hit pop songwriter. Ms. DioGuardi has written such pop sensations as Ain't No Other Man for Christina Aguilera, Rich Girl for Gwen Stefani and Pieces of Me for Ashlee Simpson.

Some quotes from the article:

"People do not know how hard it is to write a hit song," says songwriter Kara DioGuardi. "It's so friggin' hard. It's so hard." DioGuardi has been writing top 40 hits for almost a decade. In pop culture years, which are sort of like dog years, this is an impressive run...

"The songwriters are the ones who endure," says DioGuardi's manager and business partner, Stephen Finfer. "Artists are going to have one or two albums, then they're gone. The artists change, but the producers and writers stay the same..."

DioGuardi's songs are notable for their stylistic versatility, stick-in-your-head melodies and lyrical simplicity. "When I do nail a song, it's kind of honest and it strikes a chord with people. When I nail it. There are many times that I don't," DioGuardi says. "I'm not a poet. ... To me everything's about the emotional experience, because I'm not a wordsmith. I kind of live in my feelings."

DioGuardi recently took an A&R job at Warner Brothers records, and she and Finfer have formed ArtHouse Entertainment, a lucrative publishing and management firm. The songwriter, who owns the publishing rights to all of her own songs, has made millions of dollars. "I'd guess she's doing very, very, very well," says Fred Bronson, a columnist at Billboard magazine. "Every time [one of her songs] is played, she gets paid. I wish I'd been a songwriter."

Well, I don't know if Fred Bronson would have that same wish if he wasn't as successful as Kara DioGuardi... Personally, I have days where I wonder why I keep writing songs that no one may ever hear...

But may the Muse continue to be with Ms. DioGuardi and all "tunesmiths" everywhere...

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Concerts On Demand : Oscar Peterson Tribute - Simply The Best

Check out CBC's Radio 2 website for its Concert on Demand of the Oscar Peterson Tribute - Simply The Best concert from Saturday, January 12, 2008. I understand that this link will be valid for one year, so listen and listen often.

As a jazz musician, Oscar inevitably re-interpreted standards all the time, and that to me, is a form of songwriting - that reinterpretation to put an artist's stamp on a standard. One of the originals he did write, Hymn to Freedom - the unofficial anthem for the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. in the '60's, is included in this concert.

People lined up for hours to get into this free concert and you can experience it online for free as well... He was "simply the best..."

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Date with a Demo #4

Well, I brought along A Beat Away From My Heart (Reach Out)* to last night's Date with a Demo, run by SAC. The panel consisted of independent artist, Ember Swift, and ole Music Publishing creative personnel, Elizabeth Spear.

I thought the panelists were fantastic - well-spoken, articulate and thoughtful in their critiques. I'd hoped that my song was played a bit more (they really only got to listen to the first two verses and the "hook" B portion of the song was cut off). That's my pet peeve with the Date with a Demo - some songs take over a minute to complete a verse/chorus and are played for that long while, for example, my song choice for last night, takes under a minute to deliver an A-A-B, and the B portion never gets heard...

Oh well, Ember liked the flow and I could see her moving her head to the beat - she specifically commented that she liked the dropped beat and the repetition of "beat away from my heart".

Elizabeth was a bit more constrained. She liked the song and noticed the obvious Elvis Presley references, but didn't feel it was of great commercial value (not modern enough I guess). That's if for "bare bones" types of songs... Next time I attend one of these, I'm going to bring out a more "fleshed out" song - with drums/bass filling it out - to see if I get a better reaction.

Ci vedimes, and may the Muse be with you...

*Click on my ReverbNation player up top to hear A Beat Away From My Heart (Reach Out)

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LG Make The Music Contest

The LG Make The Music Contest closes on January 15/08. I entered my Lovers' Limbo video again (same as I did when Yahoo Music Canada had a contest last summer). I don't have a link to it yet as I just uploaded it and it takes some time to show up on the sight... but when voting opens on January 16/08, I'll do up another post and put the link to it then...

In the meantime, all you songwriters who have a webcam, get your songs into the website in video format by the 15th of January!

This is from the website:

There are two ways to launch your music dreams with LG:

Either way, you can come back to vote for your favorite videos on January 16, 2008 and pick a winner.

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Why Didn't I Think Of That?

From the category of "Why didn't I think of that?" - there's a website out there called that lets you "create a song for someone special..." by customizing a song for them!

From the website:

SongForSomeone is the new one-of-a-kind musical gift experience offering you the chance to capture your feelings towards a friend or loved one within a lovingly crafted one-off piece of music, complete with customised lyrics and personalised CD sleeve design. From the details that you provide us with via our online questionnaire, we will carefully craft a unique and natural set of lyrics, set to the music of your choosing, to create a very special personalised song containing both actual personal information as well your own closest feelings towards that special someone. You may not be able to sing, play an instrument or have access to a recording studio but here at SongForSomeone we give you the unique chance to surprise a loved one by putting your own true feelings to beautiful music in a completely unique gift experience!

Would you like a side order of an instrumental soundtrack with that personalized song?

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Monday, January 07, 2008

SAC's proposal for online music called 'pipe dream'

From Monday's Globe and Mail
January 7, 2008 at 3:59 AM EST

A proposal to add a $5 monthly fee to every wireless and Internet account that would allow music consumers access to all recorded music available online has been called a "pipe dream" by the president of the
Canadian Record Industry Association, Reuters and Billboard has reported.

Songwriters Association of Canada claims the plan, which has been presented to CRIA and the Canadian Independent Record Production Association, as well as publishers' groups, would raise $1-billion a year that would be distributed to artists, labels and publishers. The proposal does not detail how revenue would be collected.

CRIA president Graham Henderson said he has discussed the plan with acting SAC president Eddie Schwartz, Reuters reported, but his organization is reluctant to become involved. "We don't want to pursue what amounts to a pipe dream that is presented as a quick fix," he said. "We'll lose focus on the real issues that will help us resolve the industry's problems."

Talk about a pipe dream! Oh well, while "songwriters" are left out of the distribution list (guess songwriters are caught under "publishers"), I've got dreams of a money river flowing into my home if I can just get the one hit single published! NOT!

May the Muse (if not the Millions) be with you...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Free Oscar Peterson Tribute Concert

Saturday, January 12, 2008, at 4 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

Read more about it here on CBC's website.

"Entitled Oscar Peterson — Simply the Best, the concert will feature broadcaster Valerie Pringle as host, performances by soprano Measha Brueggergosman and several choirs as well as speeches about Peterson by family friend and former Ontario premier, Bob Rae, and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean."

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I found a neat new website dedicated to "Songpulls" - "Gather[ing] in someone's home, garage, or small venue, participants take turns "pulling" the guitar from one another and performing original songs for the entire group. The idea is to lift spirits and bring people together. You don't need a music background and your ability to play or sing is not what a Songpull is about. It takes guts to perform at a Songpull but the rewards are immeasurable."

I certainly dig the idea and you can find out more about it on the Songpull website. And as the tagline from their logo states: "Get your songs out there"...

...and as I mostly sign off... May the Muse be with you...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"A versatie composer..."

There's an article in SOCAN's latest Words & Music magazine (Winter 2007), that I, unfortunately can't link to, as it's not available on the web. It features a multi-award winning composer, Chan Ka Nin, who is also a member of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.

He's gone from rock bands to classical to electronic music, and he believes that "new music... is sound that is newly put together, rather than creating something entirely new."

As he states: "I want to communicate something to the audience... I have to find the magical idea that inspires me and, therefore, the listener. Something has to sparkle for me to use the material, be it a phrase or a simple melody or something more complex. Sparkle is what makes the music compelling."

I guess that "sparkle" is what the Muse leads us to... so may the Muse be with you...

WIRED Magazine - Byrne on Yorke (Radiohead) and the Music "Industry"

David Byrne interviews Thom Yorke and the two silent-e artistes/maverickes enjoy discussing Radiohead's latest "album", In Rainbows, direct distribution through the Radiohead website (though no longer available apparently). The WIRED magazine (January 2008 issue) "interview" is short (well, it's really a conversation with Byrne appearing to contribute more than Yorke) but interesting as it relates to new mechanisms for artists/songwriters to get their work out without record companies/publishers. Of course, it helps when you're already an international success (like Radiohead).

More interesting, to me, was a follow-up piece by Byrne on Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists - and Megastars. The 6 strategies are outlined in the following chart, ranging from Equity Deal to Self-Distribution...
These aren't the be-all and end-alls, and a mish mash of options may be appropriate for the music makers. The advice for songwriters from Byrne is clear: "I would personally advise artists to hold on to their publishing rights (well, as much of them as they can). Publishing royalties are how you get paid if someone covers, samples, or licenses your song for a movie or commercial. This, for a songwriter, is your pension plan."

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