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2006 Muse's Muse Awards Intro Page
By Gian F - 11/29/2006 - 03:32 AM EST

As I reflect on 2006 and the completion of my 4th year as a Music Reviewer here on The Muse’s Muse, I’m reminded of how quickly time flies! It seems like only yesterday when I struggled to do my first review for Marja Harmon, an R&B singer with a three-song “demo,” which took me two hours to write. That was 220 reviews ago, and what started as a mere recreational interest has lead to my transition into Independent A&R: my true passion and career focal point.

What made this year special is not the quantity of material that I received (my overall number of submissions went way down - see stats below), but the sources I received the material from; which inevitably made it more competitive for everyone. Record labels, publishers, managers, attorneys, and publicists who have come to trust and value my insight, supplied me with a steady stream of quality artists throughout the year. My special thanks to Rhonda Kelly of Rainmaker Publicity, Antonio Silva of Mia Mind Music, and Chip Schutzman of Miles High Productions, whose artists consistently received the highest scores on my ratings chart.

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How did this impact the selection process? It raised the bar much higher from the onset, which meant that in order to get reviewed, your project or single had to be equal to or greater than the quality of the early submissions. This is in stark contrast to last year when many of the late submissions (those received after September) not only faired well, but also won. This year, the early contenders for the 2006 Muse’s Muse Awards held onto their leads and honorably defended them for the duration of the year without serious threat from subsequent entries….in most cases.

My 2006 submissions included material from venerable Gospel veteran, Andre Crouch; Ralph Tresvant of legendary R&B vocal group, New Edition; R&B balladeers, Silk; SWV’s former lead vocalist Coko; actress turned singer, Helen Slater, best known for her role as Super Girl; and the renowned vocal group, Take 6 - all vying for the coveted Muse’s Muse Award. How’s that for raising the bar?


Take this as positive proof that the music industry playing field has been officially leveled and "independent" artists must now compete, head-to-head, with established artists (who may or may not be “signed”) for the splintered attention, diminishing affections, and fleeting dollars of the same fans who congregate in the same MySpace community (see below).


For the hundreds of artists that I did not review because your project didn’t meet my commercial criteria, always remember that ultimately, art is subjective; a matter of opinion and personal taste. To have a proper perspective on this, be aware of the fact that the Beatles didn’t meet someone’s commercial criteria and were passed on, but ended up becoming one of the best and most significant bands in the history of the music industry because of their great songs and unique identity (see #3 of "How The Muse's Muse Awards Are Selected" below).

Even in other areas of art, meeting someone’s criteria doesn’t always equate success, as DaVinci discovered when he created arguably the most famous commissioned art (The Mona Lisa) and it was rejected upon presentation. Finding commercially viable artists and hit songs is not a science (even though there is now software that disputes this), and we industry professionals do get it wrong…sometimes. Just keep in mind that a diamond in the rough has more appeal and value when it's polished...

Before I wrap up this year-end review, I want to thank all of the artists who shared the fruits of their labor with me – whether you were reviewed or not, or whether you won my Muse’s Muse Award or not. It’s always an honor to be chosen in a world of infinite choice. Thanks to Vinny Blessed, South Border, Dasha, Ms. Trinity, Melissa Forbes, Alice Peacock, Ralph Tresvant, I.B.U., Shakti, Gooding, Broken Stone, J. Scott, Eoin Harrington, Fine lines, Chayah, The Flying Club, and Tony Vic for supplying me with music that I used as the soundtrack to the 2006 chapter of my life. Your music was constantly playing on my stereo and will stay, and play, in my mind for the remainder of my musical journey.

Finally, a huge, heartfelt thank you to a very important person in my life…Jodi Krangle, the proprietor of the Muse’s Muse, whose commitment is unparalleled in providing a resource and a community for songwriters to network, access information, get news, keep abreast of industry events, and of course, receive reviews. This website (which is not easy or inexpensive to maintain) is a labor of love for her that we all have benefited from in some way (especially me). Thanks for your vision, responsiveness, professionalism, and most of all, for being you. You are very much appreciated.

Before I present the awards, some fast facts…


Many people ask how I select the recipients for the Muse’s Muse Awards. This is a very good question to which there are some very good answers. Please note the following before sending me an email.

1.) You have to have received an official review. By official, that means that the review of your project (CD) or single was posted on the Muse’s Muse Website (which of course, must meet the commercial criteria that I expound upon in my popular article, The 6 Rules Of Commercial Music Success.
2.) Your overall scores were higher in most categories than the submissions received in your genre.
3.) Your project (CD) or single is competitive (read: comparable in quality in all areas) with songs that are currently atop of the Billboard charts in your respective genre, and/or tracks that are receiving heavy airplay at the time of the review, OR you bring a fresh, innovative style or offer a unique twist on your genre of music.
4.) Supporting material (bios, DVDs, newspaper articles, copies of chart rankings) submitted by the artist or their agent (manager, attorney, publicist, marketing company, etc.) demonstrates a clear demonstration of commitment to a professional career in music (e.g. established and continually expanding audience base, extensive tour dates, radio airplay, frequent showcases, establishment of strategic alliances, developing media presence, and/or a high volume of units sold independently).
5.) Some element of the project (CD) single displays superior talent (singing, songwriting, musicianship, performance, etc.) in comparison to those submitted by competing artists in the same category during the year.


-Number of CDs received this year: 440, a decrease of 280 from the 720 I received in 2005.
-Number of CDs reviewed this year: 46, only 10 fewer than the 56 I reviewed in 2005.
-Number of female artists who submitted CDs: 316
-Number of male artists who submitted CDs: 124
-Number of CDs from independent artists: 424
-Number of CDs from "signed" major artists: 16
-Number of CDs from "signed" major artists that were reviewed: 0
-Number of "Demos" (rough, un-mastered projects) received: 2
-Number of artists submitting follow-up CDs from 2005: 11
-Number of artists submitting follow-up CDs that got reviewed: 2


-A little bit Country…and a little bit Rock & Roll…Country CDs received: 36; Rock CDs received: 42 – the lowest ever.
-Pop goes the weasel…the number of Pop or Pop/Rock, Power Pop, and Adult Contemporary Pop submissions practically disappeared this year with only 6 submissions and 2 getting reviewed.


-The saga continues…the Rap submissions continue to suffer from inferior (or lack of) engineering.
-Adult Contemporary, Country, & Adult Alternative are still the best engineered…guess adults just know how a quality CD sounds…or at least have the money to get them made.


-CDs received from Canada were reviewed 99% of the time.
-CDs received from New York (Boston in particular) were reviewed 90% of the time.
-Berklee School Of Music grads and students are reviewed 90% of the time…in comparison to CDs from the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, which are only reviewed 40% of the time...
-I reviewed more singles this year than in previous years which is consistent with the phenomenon of downloading these days…I predict there will be a tremendous upswing in this category next year...


Percentage of reviewed artists with MySpace accounts in 2005: 40%
Percentage of reviewed artists with MySpace accounts in 2006: 90%
Percentage of reviews done by listening to music online: 0%


It’s very rare when I review a project that does not come professionally packaged. What do I mean by “professional”? I mean that it looks like someone took the time to make sure that it appears to be worth the investment of my time - and theirs. Neatness goes a long way and the more visually appealing it is, the higher it moves to the top of the priority list as stated in my article, "How To Get Better Reviews." Remember, if there are 40 submissions in my mail bin (or anyone else's), the only thing that distinguishes them is their packaging. I sometimes throw packages away just based on their shoddy appearance. My perspective (and those of other industry professionals) is that if it looks like it belongs in the trash, it probably does…


I'm looking forward to hearing many new projects/singles, and visiting more venues in 2007 as I will be doing "Live" Performance Reviews here on Muse's Muse while "scouting" on behalf of talent buyers across the country, as well as aggressively promoting both past and present artists that I've reviewed, so stay in touch!

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the recipients of my 2006 Muse’s Muse Awards…

Gian Fiero, Senior Music Reviewer
The Muse's Muse

Click here for a list of Gian's 2006 Muse's Muse Award Winners For The Best CD Projects

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