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Seeing through a bad recording advice?

#1 User is offline   porcupine Icon

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 11:31 AM

I had a very interesting situation. As a producer, I run across some doozies. I had a singer/songwriter approach me to record a better demo and asked if I could help them. Of course I'd help. I have to give you the back stroy to ask the question though...

He had a very interesting experience prior to us working together. He recorded a demo, of which I've heard (definately not broadcast quality). It is bad quality, songs better than average... but you can make out the lyrics and the melody/instrumentation enough to recognize the "song". He shopped the bad recording and had a label rep tell him that the songs were not any good citing that the lyrics and melody werent that great and they needed some work.

So in talking with him on what he wants for the project, we re-recorded the songs exactly with the same instrumentation, arrangement, melody and structure, just a better sounding recording. The only thing I changed was the mix and the quality of the recording.

In passing the label rep, he asked this guy how he was doing with the "demo". He said he recorded a new one and eventually ended up on his desk...the same songs...this time, he loved 2 of the 3. said the lyrics were great, good hooks.

I would take this as a compliment to my mix/recording quality, but i cant because the guy should have heard the song, right?

Have you ever found that people cant see the song for the song? is that happening more and more in this industry?
Porcupine
#1 song on Onstage.com's Holiday Playlist in Nov 2011 "Could This Be Christmas"
#5 song on Onstage.com's Open for Bon Jovi in May of 2010 "Turn It Down"
recorded and produced songs with several grammy winners and nominees
songs writen have been recorded by The Standard, Wooden Nickel, Jody Stapler and Prototype
see more of my music at charlieeschbach.com

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 11:51 AM

Porcupine,

Let's add a few things to the discussion here. Imagine you are an average publisher in Nashville. You have three writers you are paying out around $50,000-$60,000 a year to write songs. You have thirty of forty more writers that you represent either on single songs, or handshake deals. You have a back catalogue of 2500-5000 songs, some you bought out from other catalogues, some you have gotten by people giving them to you, some you inherited from friends that died, a million different ways. Your office overhead is $35,000-$50,000 a year. You have three artists you are trying to develop, getting them into the studio. you go through song pluggers like water, paying for all of them, because no one can get appointments to play songs for anyone, you go to parties and are involved in fundraisers that all cost money, every body you know is asking you for money or help, your last actual cut barely covered the cost of the recording and promotion, your friends who are mega hit writers are bringing you stuff that sounds like it was recorded by the top studios, musicians and producers, (because it probably was)and are begging you to get THEM cuts, and you can't even get people to listen to THEIR songs, even though they had song of the year three years ago.

Now someone brings you a song with a substandard demo, that sounds like crap, in reality the song probably is not a lot stronger than the two or three hundred priority songs he or she already has, not to mention the relationships he has with those writers or artists. And your phone rings three times a minute for someone wanting something from you, bill collectors, someone pissed off about something or someone you promised to do something for. You are in your office 14-16 hours a day and your wife is threatening to leave because you have missed all of your kid's soccer games this year and are never home. And you have to listen to about 200 songs a day from new songs, past catalogue, getting ready for your plugger to make appointments, new things your writers write, web site stuff. You deal with 200 emails every two hours. And there are always songs, emails, phone calls, appointments left hanging over and unanswered because you just can't get to them.

Would YOU hear THROUGH the song?

MAB

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 11:55 AM

Nobody can hear past a bad performance. They couldn't back in the day and they can't now, and that goes for the casual listener up to the industry pro.

On the other side of the same coin, how many "great songs" are really great records? Passionate and completely committed performances of material that is marginal at best? Tons and tons of them. So many things I really love are, at their core, junk. But the recording and the performance turn it into something special.

I'm reworking one of my old demos right now. I love the lyric and the structure, think it's got an unforgettable sound, but the demo recording did not reveal that in any way. I think it's one of my best, the equal of songs by some of my inspirations, but it needs a better arrangement and performance to bring it to life.

Addendum: I've never had the experience of re-recording something and having the parts come out exactly the same. There are always little tweaks in timing, note choice, things you decide not to play... I suspect your new demos were different in more ways than simply "sounding" better.

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:24 PM

mabbo,

Does that count for longevity in the business too? I mean if you hit one song, and it was timing, luck, relationship...all that...shouldnt it matter OVER TIME?

Gravity Jim,
you are right, there were slight differences on performance for each version, but I had to make my point with a quality recording. I guess, like mabbo said, the standard of a good quality recording has raised because so many people can get or have access to it, it puts alot of people in line before you.

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#1 song on Onstage.com's Holiday Playlist in Nov 2011 "Could This Be Christmas"
#5 song on Onstage.com's Open for Bon Jovi in May of 2010 "Turn It Down"
recorded and produced songs with several grammy winners and nominees
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see more of my music at charlieeschbach.com

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:36 PM

Porcupine,

I think the definition of "longevity" in the business has changed quite radically. Andy Warhol once said that "Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." Now I think that is about three minutes. There is no real rhyme or reason. I know people who have had one big hit and NOTHING ELSE.They write or perform great songs, look good, even a lot of times have a lot of money behind them, and still are never heard from again. There are many more "one hit wonders" than long term careers.

And Jim is right, that there is a very romantic idea about the "good old days" that really wasn't there. I have had opportunty to talk to a lot of hit writers, artists, producers, etc. And while they all talk about hearing "through the demo" if you hear the songs that were pitched to them Or the ones they pitched themselves to get where they are, they ALWAYS have great sounding demos. So it has never been true that people can "hear through the song."

This week is NSAI's Tin Pan South festival. There will be 60 shows of Nashville's biggest writers. And not only the Nashville monsters but monster writers from all walks of the industry. Paul Williams, John Oats, Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary, Felix Cavaleri from the Rascals, Jack Temphcin (Peaceful Easy Feeling) and Jimmy Webb plus 200 others are doing it. And they will tell their stories, and share songs. Many of those songs, even from the huge ones, will be great. Yet never made it out. Even the greatest don't get everything cut. It is a very inexact business.

And everyone has their "own dogs in the hunt," they have their own songs, those of their friends and sometimes even their husbands or wives.
So you have to contend with a LOT of stuff. When you have poor demos or songs that don't meet a certain criteria, going up against all of that, you get a feeling for the overwhelming nature of this business. you are only as good as your last record and you are very quickly able to go from the top of the charts to the answer to a trivia question.

There really isn't a lot of longevity.
MAB

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 11:56 PM

Porcupine,

Been thinking about your question tonight as I attended a couple of the Tin Pan south shows. One, in particular, had some really great artists and writers, two fabulous female artists, one a new artist, one established, a "senior" writer and president of NSAI. Having HUGE hits. and of course, the visit of Elliot Lurie, who wrote and sang "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl." A lot of fun and an amazing experience.
But a few of the things occurred to me in relation to your question.

As you know, some writers are not the best deliverers of their own songs. With 20/20 hindsight as some of the songs were played tonight the hits are self evident. But some of them you hear and think "I don't know if I would hear through that demo." On a couple of songs that were announced as "coming out in the next few days" on some major artists, I wouldn't be able to hear through it at all.

There is an interesting thing that all the songs have, presence. Each of them is very well constructed, mostly very singable and you can tell have been very well crafted. But a great performance can separate a mediocre song, and push it into a very good song. And sometimes weak songs can simply skip over to the top of the charts. Conversley, you will hear some songs that will simply kick your teeth in and you think "THAT HAS TO BE A HIT!!!!" Sometimes it is, sometimes it isnt. I remember hearing "House that Built Me" about ten years ago and felt 'That has to be a hit!" It was, ten years later.

Now with the additional things that go on like "music by committee" that all songs go through, we constantly have to "up the level of the odds." by doing demos as good as we can get them, in addition to all the other things needed.

So, can you listen "Through a demo?" Yes, but it is very difficult.

MAB

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 02:11 AM

Hey there pork...and everybody...I saw this thread, and I had to throw in my 2-penny.

The fact that anyone can hear a great song through a bad performance is probably a VERY RARE thing, indeed. I struggle to get my performances out, and pretty much always settle on so-so performances (what I hear in my head is mostly Fantastic...just doesn't get out that way) <_<

SO-So writing with great performances and production will usually beat out a very good song with a poor performance and production. And both songs will be soon forgotten.

But a great song with great performances and production will live on for many, many years. I think what Gravity Jim was refering to was the test of time erroding away at the old standards.......Say for instance, Chubby Checker's, "The Twist". Today, I don't think that would be such a sensation....but back in the day, before we had a million examples of great Rock, that song blew all the doors down. "The Twist" was a great song...very inovative. That's why it's still a fav. with many.

I hope this makes sence...... B) -Tom
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Posted 28 March 2012 - 08:47 AM

Tom,

That is quite correct, and many songs are colored by their times, our memories of those times, nostalgia, etc. A good example is my experience last night with Elliot Lurie, as he did his song "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" from 1972 with his group, Looking Glass. As I sat there with a couple hundred people singing "Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..." it was great. But I also could think, "If that song was coming on the market today, would it really stand up?" Probably not.

There are a lot of songs throughout history, your example of "The Twist" that have generationally diminished. Doesn't mean it wasn't cool or just what the doctor ordered at the time, but time moves on. Subject matter changes. Language morphs into other things. I find it kind of interesting how political correctness can play into it as well. Just try bringing in something like "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold it Against me" or "Stand By Your Man" in this day and age. No way.

The same can be said for the quality of the demo, which is what Porcupine started out with. A HUGE factor now is how many songs there are and the overall production expectations that we have. Most of us have better technology on our cel phones that we had in those big console stereos we grew up with. So the quality has to rise with that. Again, in the context of hearing a lot of songs, one thing I can tell you is that you will tend to fast forward past a song with an inadequate demo, and therefore probably miss the song in it's entirety.

A lot of factors comprise what makes any song rise above it's contemporaries. Relatablility, track record, relationships to the artist, committees that run it up the flag poll, positive testing, Viral status, all come as much into being a factor as the song itself and the recorded presentation and performance on that song. And a WHOLE lot of luck.

Nature of the beast.

MAB

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

View PostMABBO, on 28 March 2012 - 08:47 AM, said:

"If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold it Against me"

Tee-hee. Puns and double entendres are still funny.

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

View PostMABBO, on 28 March 2012 - 08:47 AM, said:

"If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold it Against me"

Tee-hee. Puns and double entendres are still funny.

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 03:05 PM

The more things change...everything old is...each time history repeats itself, the price goes up...etc.

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 04:57 PM

Porcupine,

I have another story that illustrates importance of not only a good demo, but the RIGHT kind of demo. And "Hearing THROUGH songs."

I have a friend in town named Frank Myers. Frank has been around a LONG time, actually more than me. He told this story to a group of my clients in one of my group tours last year. He and a writing pal, Gary Baker, had regular writing appointments once a week. They wrote dozens of songs and demoed several. Then they got some cuts and even a few hits. About 28 years ago, they wrote this one song that they both felt was a pop hit. So they demoed it pop, with a lot of syrupy strings, and the "synthisizer sounds" of the late 80's, early 90's. They played the song a lot, but everyone passed becauase they felt it was "too pop."

After about 8 years of nothing, they decided to revisit it, and thought the demo just didn't work. So they redemoed it country. IMMEDIATELY they started getting holds and then an artist named John Micheal Montgomery cut it and that went to a HUGE number one. Became one of the most played songs of the year and was THE wedding song of that year, which was about 1995. Not long after that, a pop group, Boys to Men, heard the pop version of the song and recorded it again, taking it to number one on the pop charts. The song is one of the top played country and pop songs, yet was passed on by everyone because the demo didn't fit the format they were pitching it in.Even though both demos were GREAT. no one could "hear through it."

The song was "I SWEAR."

MAB

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 07:49 PM

Quote

Have you ever found that people cant see the song for the song? is that happening more and more in this industry?
Porcupine


I'd say thats one of the major modern diseases Charlie - and really annoys the hell outta me..The whole modern world seems to drive zillions of people to put their energies mostly toward creating n presenting 'radio -ready' sounds - and not into genuinelly developing their songwriting at scource..And there's armies of experts n reviewers n professionals n songwriters all encouraging n celebrating that approach..

Insane..

Whatever anyone says here - i don't believe 'demo' presentation would've been anywhere near as important in song-selling in say the 60s or 70s as it seems to be now..Mainly because the marketplace generally demanded very well written melodic songs with good chord changes and intuitive melodies then...There was money to be made in the beautiful,the quirky and the suprising..So as a publisher- anyone worth their salt would've had a trained n focussed ear to listen for the character n personality n soul of the 'song' behind the presentation -
Because it would've meant money..and he'd have the imagination to understand it'd be great n possibly lucrative if recorded right..

As stated here , with 1,000s upon 1,000s of cookie -cutter songs brought to life n made hits thru presentation n star power alone in the modern world - a great 'song' is probably less marketable than a very average,sleepily crafted,totally predictable one these days..
So,following the money, the modern publisher is probably listening for something mediocre - rather than suprising -or fresh -or different in any way -because the very conservative , predictable n safe ones are the songs that sell n make the bread today..

No wonder the ears of someone listening thru 1000s of interchangeable songs -all making sleepily similar moves would become tired, cynical n jaded - no matter how well produced those songs were..

For me personally -i have absoloutly no problem at all picking a gem of a song amidst a sea of mediocre ones from any era (even if the gem has a poor singer n recorded on a cassette - and the average ones have radio- ready productions and great singers)..My ears are naturally very focussed that way because my love is cool,alive,creatively vibrant songs
Like wise i've got no problem hearing the basic mediocrity of something, even if its buffed to within an inch of its life n superstar session musician powered..
There again , my income dosn't rest on 'picking the hits' (which may very well prove to be an unbearably smug n utterly sh*te song like Achey Breaky Heart ) . I just have to pick cool ,timeless songs i love n believe in for myself..

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 09:33 PM

So, am I correct in concluding from having read through this thread that the general consensus is that in these current times in order to have the powers that be listen (listen through) to your song that it should be more about the clothing it has been "dressed" in rather than the underlying song itself?

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 12:06 AM

Desert Rose,

No. But if the song is not there all the window dressing in the world will not help it. But there are certain technical requirements and industry standards that have increased due to advances in our culture and industry standards. If you wanted another example imagine now trying to watch todays High definition color television programs on a 1963 6 inch black and white television screen. The basic format that songs are heard has advanced and we have to keep up with it in order to be in the game in the first place.

And as I have described there are multiple reasons for it and it also is nothing new. I got a cut my first night in Nashville in 1988. The reason I got the cut was because it was a radio ready competitive demo. Demos represent you when you are not there and you can't explain what "it will sound like when it gets all the stuff." I also described an enormous hit song that had the wrong type demos on it keeping it from being cut for many years.

I have tried to outline some of the extenuating circumstances industry people listen to songs. But again, you can apply this to your own life. I imagine if you are like most people, you don't just spend hours and hours a day in total silence listening to songs. I am sure you have family, jobs, bills, pressure from outside forces, places to go, things to do, phone calls to answer, emails, threads like this, and then our hobbys, television, movies, computer, Internet, that all go in ADDITION to listening to music. we all multi task, there is no avoiding it.

People in the music industry do this AND listen to music.Constantly. And are investing in their own product to get it to industry standards I am discussing. If you are not willing to do the minimum they have to do on their own product, why are they going to pass something of yours over their own. And make no mistake, EVERYONE YOU NEED IN YOUR CAREER, every artist, other writer, publisher, record label, manager, lawyer, everyone, is not only someone you need to get to the next level, but also YOUR DIRECT COMPETITION.

So it is much more than just having some songs that sound good. The song has to be there. The presentation has to be there. The quality of the demo has to be there. The relationships have to be there. The demand has to be there. And everything along the way has to be there. Nothing is done in a vacum.

Nature of this game.

MAB

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 12:15 AM

Desert Rose,

Another example happened to me last year. I had an occassion to hang out with a guy who is becoming a pretty good friend, Eddie Montgomery of the hit country band, Montgomery Gentry. This is one of the top country bands and are at the top of the charts as well as touring acts. I hung out with Eddie on his tour bus one Sunday night and we had drinks and he played me about 20 songs both of which were being pitched to him from hit writers AS WELL as songs he had written himself. There was not one that had a basic guitar vocal demo. They were all radio ready VERY STRONG demos that sounded like they could be played on the radio as is.

And this was a guy having to pitch his own songs to his record label to be on his own project. And he is the star. But there are multiple committees everything has to be run by. There are not single people that make decisions on songs and they all have to agree more than dissagree.
So they do everything they can from the writing of the song, the performances the demos, the relationships and everything in between. And yes, every single one of those songs were far superior to what most people hear on the radio. They quite frankly blew me away song after song. And I hear and write songs every single day so that is not an easy thing to do.

That is what is so daunting. The amount of songs out there, the quality of the writing from some of the greatest writers in the world, and the technical specifications that are standard in today's marketplace.

It is the cost of doing business.

MAB

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:43 AM

View Postporcupine, on 27 March 2012 - 05:31 PM, said:

So in talking with him on what he wants for the project, we re-recorded the songs exactly with the same instrumentation, arrangement, melody and structure, just a better sounding recording. The only thing I changed was the mix and the quality of the recording.
And sometimes you don’t need to change anything. This reminded me of something I read a while back (11 years ago as it turns out :blink: ).
Check out the last paragraph here (the bit that begins ‘Here's a true story’). The whole article is worth a read.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:58 AM

Quote

But there are multiple committees everything has to be run by. There are not single people that make decisions on songs and they all have to agree more than dissagree.


It must be sooo tough to get anything but the whitest of the white bread fare past multiple 'commitees' deciding on every aspect of an artists song at every stage..Poor frikkin' artist..
The greedy $$$$$ eyed bean-counter, group-mind mentality lording it over the art-stripping away any rough edges - any trace of individual personality n quirkiness - removing anything not already suggested n signposted by multiple hits before (to be on the 'safe' side)..
How can that fearful process ever encourage or promote anything but the blandest of the bland ?
Ever push thru anything genuinelly vital n creative ?
I'm sure clear channel use the same process to decide their playlists..

Quote

That is what is so daunting. The amount of songs out there, the quality of the writing from some of the greatest writers in the world


Songs the quality of Crazy,Jolene,Ruby Don't Take Your love to town,King Of The Road,Do-wacka-do,A Thing Called Love,Ring Of Fire,Love Letters,The Devil Went Down To Georgia,Wichita Lineman,Behind Closed Doors etc you mean...?
Songs with genuine vitality n presence, great chord changes you can't predict-magical vocal lines.Inspired songs with individual personality n musical character ?
If you'd be gracious,please post some links here of those ones n open up my mind to somethin great (I'd genuinelly appreciate it -i'm always open for that ) -because i heard nothing even remotely the quality of those kinda songs from listening to some modern country hits following previous clues off your posts.I only heard musically mediocre , cookie-cutter ones that sounded like they'd been decided by committee..

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:40 AM

"I hung out with Eddie on his tour bus one Sunday night and we had drinks and he played me about 20 songs both of which were being pitched to him from hit writers AS WELL as songs he had written himself. There was not one that had a basic guitar vocal demo. They were all radio ready VERY STRONG demos that sounded like they could be played on the radio as is"

Why does Eddie need "radio ready" songs from these people if Eddie himself is looking to record these songs himself?

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 06:49 AM

View PostDesertrose, on 29 March 2012 - 05:40 AM, said:

"I hung out with Eddie on his tour bus one Sunday night and we had drinks and he played me about 20 songs both of which were being pitched to him from hit writers AS WELL as songs he had written himself. There was not one that had a basic guitar vocal demo. They were all radio ready VERY STRONG demos that sounded like they could be played on the radio as is"

Why does Eddie need "radio ready" songs from these people if Eddie himself is looking to record these songs himself?


Totally Tracy..
Its 'cos either the songs can't speak for themselves without the posh production- or the label "committee's " have the imagination of a housefly..

Also Mabbo..If no-one can appreciate a good song unless its dressed with session musicians n digital bells n whistles- whats the point of all the songwriters nights etc you talk of in Nashville where people perform with just a voice n acoustic ?
Are they basically redundant n meaningless as a way of promoting n sharing your music then ?

Quote

But if the song is not there all the window dressing in the world will not help it


An hour on youtube listening thru a random selection of modern country or pop hits would show this to be basically false..

Musically its generally all about the window dressing..
Its the modern way..

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 09:36 AM

View PostNigeQ, on 29 March 2012 - 03:43 AM, said:

View Postporcupine, on 27 March 2012 - 05:31 PM, said:

So in talking with him on what he wants for the project, we re-recorded the songs exactly with the same instrumentation, arrangement, melody and structure, just a better sounding recording. The only thing I changed was the mix and the quality of the recording.
And sometimes you don’t need to change anything. This reminded me of something I read a while back (11 years ago as it turns out :blink: ).
Check out the last paragraph here (the bit that begins ‘Here's a true story’). The whole article is worth a read.


That IS the essence of what I felt in my scenerio. I think the song gets overlooked, but not on purpose sometimes. great songwriters can write bad ones, I would figure an exec should be able to hear the difference not matter what the quality of the recording, but alas, thats not the way the world spins.

Great article Nige!
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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:18 AM

You know Palacio, it is really not my job to show you anything. Your obvious disdain for our town and music is loud and clear. Your dripping condesencion shows through in any post. If you don't like what we do, fine, do whatever you feel you need to.

I respond on personal experiences trying to show you what we go through here. You can take it or leave it however you want to. The NSAi Tin Pan festival with acoustic versions of songs is a week long event that celebrates Nashville and the songwriter. And the proceeds benefits legislative efforts in Washington trying to fight for intelectual property rights for people like YOU, even though you have no apprecaition for anyone trying to do something on your behalf. Ignorance is bliss.

I am responding to questions here based upon what I see. The example Desert Rose, is what even the insiders of the industry have to do on their OWN songs. It is meant to answer the question on "Can people hear through a bad demo." The comments on an earlier hit song, "I Swear" is to illustrate that this is not a new phenomenon, and has been going on for many years. And if any of you do some rudimentary education for yourselves of the history of music, you will find out that every music center, every era, every corporation, has had the same committees, the same struggles, the same issues to deal with. And if you want to go deeper than that,you might study Michealangelo, Divinci, Mozart and others and their struggles with the committees and powers that be of patrons in their day. You should get a grounding in history and reality in order to understand how to fit into all of this.

I am not trying to convince any of you in anything. That is not my job. I am offering some real world examples and insights that might or might not help you in your own journey's. you can decide what you want to take or leave and your own examples might be of a different nature. I make no apologies for what I talk about, or what I say. I respond to what is talked about. I'll be happy to drop out if I am offending your sensablities.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 12:48 PM

Quote

You know Palacio, it is really not my job to show you anything. Your obvious disdain for our town and music is loud and clear. Your dripping condesencion shows through in any post. If you don't like what we do, fine, do whatever you feel you need to.


I love loads of great country songs- so have nothing against your town or the many wonderful tracks its produced in the past which have inspired n lifted me..The very best of anything - rock/pop/country/folk - whatever - crosses over limited genre boundaries -is timeless and has potential universal appeal..
I do have disdain for modern country pop tho- since (from what i've heard ) it's become musically/structurally calcified n constipated to the max -and -as has been discussed elsewhere here -has utterly rigid,corporate musical rules that must be obeyed to get a hit nowadays..It seems incredibly stifling n limiting and goes against everything i love n believe in about the free-spiritedness ,transcendence and creative individualism of great pop music- which has the courage n belief to follow its own muse (like the magical country examples i gave )

..I genuinelly asked you for examples of 'great' modern musical country writers to be educated and have my POV changed - and you're right -you've got no obligation to show me anything..But it makes me wonder how its possible anyone could be or become great songwritingwise given the musical straitjacket that the modern country "industry" n market seems to demand..
Seems more like being in prison..

Quote

The NSAi Tin Pan festival with acoustic versions of songs is a week long event that celebrates Nashville and the songwriter. And the proceeds benefits legislative efforts in Washington trying to fight for intelectual property rights for people like YOU, even though you have no apprecaition for anyone trying to do something on your behalf. Ignorance is bliss.


I organise and run my own local acoustic songwriters gathering -and do my best to encourage n celebrate creative songwriting talent..I love acoustic singer/songwriter events/evenings and have nothing but respect for them or people who organise them....My point had nothing to do with that event..
I was merely reacting to your support of the absurd 'industry' logic that its not really possible to appreciate the potential of a great song if its just played 1+1...

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 01:27 PM

Mabbo..Thinking about it-my anger i think is 'cos i'm totally perplexed and amazed about your continual glowing celebration,support n unconditional love of the modern country pop industry here in your posts - which seems so incredibly stifling n ridiculously unflexible in its musical demands..As a songwriter who wants to express yourself creatively n keep growing as an artist- dosn't it bug you at all ?
It would me..
At least Jim Colyer had the honesty to admit he'd ideally like things to be freer and more open -even tho having to be pragmatic 'cos of needing to make a living -which i can totally understand..

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 01:28 PM

I guess that leads to one final question...

What is a good song?
sales volume? interesting chord changes, lyrics or melodies? production?

IMO a great song has nothing to do with the first. It has to do with connecting with the music/lyric emotionally. if you hear a guitar solo, lyric line, production quality and go wow, thats a connection. consider there is the SHEEP factor...

once one person buys into it, if they tell alot of people, then it gets to be a popular..not necessarily becoming a great song...song are or arent great, they dont become great, but again, thats subjective.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 02:26 PM

I don’t hear where MABBO is about the “continual glowing celebration,support n unconditional love of the modern country pop industry” – he’s just being realistic, and it’s what he sees every day. And he’s trying to explain why it is the way it is, by talking about what it is like for the people who are bombarded with songs day and night, more than they can possibly listen to.

I went to one of the NSAI pitch-to-publisher nights, and got a taste of what it’s like. Song after song after song after song. Some recorded with scratchy guitar-and-voice, some fully demoed, most in between. And most of them on the upper-end of the in between. Everyone in that room was a songwriter, but if the recording wasn’t that good, you could see everyone tune out. And those few demos that were produced to a fare-thee-well, they kicked in and every head in the room started to bob up and down.

That’s not “fair” and that’s not “right” and all those songwriters “should” have been able to listen more closely to the poorly recorded song, and be able to “see past” the highly produced demo. But when it’s one song after another (for hours) it makes a huge difference. And I at least understand that I was sitting there for one evening – the guy at the front of the room does this Every Day.

If you write a Good song, and you push yourself to go out and perform/record it, with luck and grit you’ll earn an audience who appreciates what you do. Get a big enough audience, and those same guys who wouldn’t hear your song before will be chasing after you because you have something they want.

We talk a lot about songwriters who broke the rules and made some of their own. I think in almost every case you’ll find that those guys (and gals) were brimming with confidence, bullheaded, and made their own business rules as well. They may have spent plenty of evenings complaining about those stupid gits in the music industry who wouldn’t know a good song if it bit them on the balls, but they didn’t let that get in the way of their going out and earning their own audience.

And this is the conversation we keep coming back to on these boards, in that grey area between those who want to write and those who want to get something for their writing. If you ask me if you’ve written a Good Song – I will listen to it and judge it on its own qualities, whether it is trying to be poetic or abstract or gritty or country or pop or jazzy or whatever. It might very well be a Good Song. But when you want your song to enter the money-making realm – to be on a CD, or on the radio, or in a movie, to be published – to be put in a position where someone will plunk down cash to hear it, well, you are asking a very different question, and there are different criteria to answer it.

I love all kinds of songs and all kinds of writing, and a quick look through my own lyrics will confirm that I haven’t confined myself to trying to write songs that “ought to be published.” But I totally get MABBO’s perspective and his knowledge of this particular market. There are a lot of writers on this site who think they have what it takes to make it in Nashville, and there are a lot of reality checks that need to be made once you start thinking that way.
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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:42 PM

My question, which I feel hasn't really been entirely answered (in a way I can understand it) is really a completely genuine one.
I'm not trying to be rude here. I'm simply curious.

I'm not understanding why song writers who are pitching a "song" need to make these radio ready versions simply to pitch to the people/artists who will inevitably re record them?

When I think of "radio ready" I'm thinking fully professionally recorded, in a studio with top notch musicians- AND mastered? Surely to have a track that is "radio ready" it has to be recorded professionally AND mastered?

Surely it is the job of a creative team working FOR the artist - the band (or professional session musicians?) AND the producer? as well as the artists input (for he or she surely has an idea of how he/she wants the entire product to "sound"?)

I was under the impression that the total finished mixed, mastered "radio ready" version of the song is something that the record labels are interested in. You know. The final product - ready to be promoted on radio to therefore promote THE ARTIST.

Surely it can't be a case of the songwriter - the fellow at the bottom of this whole chain of events - to be the one responsible for the EXACT representation of a song that inevitably the general public gets to hear? (and this is where it just doesn't make any sense to me because the artist WILL re record the song.)

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:53 PM

I've known MABBO for well over a decade, and though I don't want to speak for him, I'm very sure that he and I share the opinion that we wish things in the business were different. What seems to be missed far too often is that while we 'wish' things were different, we have to live in the reality of the business and do what is necessary to survive. As one publisher put it to me, you can wish in one hand and sh*t in the other and see which one fills up quickest.
I myself have said on this site numerous times that I wish the system were different. I wish I could get my songs recorded with a guitar/vocal instead of having to spend the money on demos (as a quick aside, as a staff songwriter your publisher pays for your demos, but those costs create red ink that eventually has to turn black or they show you the door). I'd like nothing better than for country music to go back to the time when lyric was the most important element of the song, instead of finding a hooky groove and beating the listener over the head with it. It would be great if I could sit down with real songwriters, write great songs and get them recorded instead of having to write with artists who are often (at best) novice writers with only a fundamental grasp of how to put a song together. I'd love to again live in an age where I actually got decent royalty checks when I got songs recorded, instead of seeing my intellectual property raped & pillaged repeatedly by those who think that having to actually pay for the music they procure is an antiquated business model that stands in the way of innovation (innovation in the tech world seems to often be defined as 'let me distribute your work, make money off of it, and pay you nothing in return'). I'd love to occasionally have young writers show me the respect & consideration that I showed the previous generation of songwriters when I got to Nashville.
There's a lot of things I wish were different, but they aren't - so like every other writer clinging to the fading hope that songwriting is still a viable profession, I do what I have to do to survive. Occasionally I even get a really good song through the machine without having to compromise too much. Sometimes I have the pleasure of writing with artists who actually know what they're doing. Every now and then I have the satisfaction of helping someone else with their career, in the same way that so many generous, selfless writers did for me when I was young. All I know is that it's a lot easier to throw stones when you don't live it every day.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:56 PM

Tracy, when they talk about "radio ready," I think they're overstating things a bit. Nobody expects a completely pristine Mutt-Lange-level hit-record production at the pitch level.

But yeah, I think it does have to have everything in place, all in tune and in time, all the rhythmic and harmonic ideas developed, and it has to be performed with energy and confidence... pretty much like the record would sound.

Publishers and [producers expect this now because it can be done. Back in the day,nobody had the resources. Now every can make a "radio ready" (in the songwriting sense) recording at home. Your own work is a perfect example: you claim to have little gear and no technical skill, but your demos sound really buttoned up. So, because songwriters CAN do this, I think it is expected that they will.

In my own business, an agency used to call a jingle guy and ask him for the $500 demo. It would take a week or two to get and when you did, it would be piano and voice, maybe some harmonies. They would describe the production to you, and you'd trust them to do it. Now, the agency calls 15 shops on Monday and ask them all for 10 demos by Wednesday morning, for free. In two days, they've got 150 demos to sift through. They demand it because they know you can do it.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:58 PM

View PostDesertrose, on 29 March 2012 - 02:42 PM, said:

My question, which I feel hasn't really been entirely answered (in a way I can understand it) is really a completely genuine one.
I'm not trying to be rude here. I'm simply curious.

I'm not understanding why song writers who are pitching a "song" need to make these radio ready versions simply to pitch to the people/artists who will inevitably re record them?

When I think of "radio ready" I'm thinking fully professionally recorded, in a studio with top notch musicians- AND mastered? Surely to have a track that is "radio ready" it has to be recorded professionally AND mastered?

Surely it is the job of a creative team working FOR the artist - the band (or professional session musicians?) AND the producer? as well as the artists input (for he or she surely has an idea of how he/she wants the entire product to "sound"?)

I was under the impression that the total finished mixed, mastered "radio ready" version of the song is something that the record labels are interested in. You know. The final product - ready to be promoted on radio to therefore promote THE ARTIST.

Surely it can't be a case of the songwriter - the fellow at the bottom of this whole chain of events - to be the one responsible for the EXACT representation of a song that inevitably the general public gets to hear? (and this is where it just doesn't make any sense to me because the artist WILL re record the song.)



The short answer is yes, that is exactly the case. Most of the songs I've had recorded sounded exactly like my demos, in some cases down to copying the solos. The process is that you write a couple of handfuls of songs, pick the best 5 or 6, go into a studio with the Nashville session musicians of your choosing and record them in such a way that they sound like records. Most writers don't bother with mastering, although I'm aware of some who do. If you have any interest in doing so, you can go to my MySpace page (yes I still have one - myspace.com/rogerbrownmusic) and there are some demos on there to give you an idea of what a typical demo sounds like.

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:47 PM

I think that's the answer more than anything else. The ease that you can create a good sounding track using just computer tools has raised the bar. You need to spend something -- you need good software and good recording gear, and you need to know how to operate the software (and have a good knowledge of music). But you don't need thousands of dollars in gear (or the money to go into a studio). This means that many, many musically adept people can create very good-sounding tracks. It also means that many, many aspiring songwriters -- who don't play an instrument or can't do more than basic guitar or piano -- can't. But that's the price of admission.

Or, more accurately, someone who is listening to songs has so many well-produced tracks to wade through, the poorly produced ones go to the bottom of the pile. It's very understandable, and it would be really nice if it were otherwise.

I have had the chance to pitch to a couple of established artists, I lucked into getting to work directly with their A&R rep. For the first artist, it was OK to submit "stripped-down" demos, cause the artist preferred them. The artist didn't want to hear all the extra orchestration. Now the recordings had to be extra clean, you couldn't just go into a tape recorder (or the aural equivalent). I found out later that this was a rarity, that most artists and A&R reps and studio heads wanted the complete sound.

With the second artist, I worked with the same rep. But this time there was a label involved and the artist and label only wanted to hear *instant, international hits* -- nothing less than that. None of the songs I submitted (working with a few collaborators) got past the front gate. Only one of the songs was even in the ballpark, and none of them was up to snuff in terms of the recording.

I can complain all I want, but I'm not the one with the money at stake who's paying for the final product. And I was told frankly (but in a friendly way) that the songs that were coming in were top notch, great sounding radio-ready potential hits. If I can't compete at that level, I can't compete at that level -- it's just reality.
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Posted 29 March 2012 - 09:09 PM

Ok, thanks. That's a bit clearer in my mind now.

Gosh, I can't help but be a little saddened though. I'm thinking of all the young talent out there who may not have the technical know how -yet, or the funds for the music programs etc to really polish up their work to the standard you say is expected.
I'm also sad for the people who spend thousands of dollars getting so so, or really just not very good songs recorded by these demo places - and many of them ARE just 'so so, not very good songs" but sung by pitch perfect (but perfectly bored sounding) session singers.

Now it is also clearer in my mind why today there are so many (more) places advertising to make demo's. As well as all the companies out there looking to help to 'fund you", in other words, fund yourself, to make these demo's.

Seems like THAT is where the real earning capacity through music is today. Promising the "dream".

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 09:22 PM

Desert Rose -- it's very true that few people are making money songwriting, but many more people are making money selling services to songwriters.
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 07:12 AM

Quote

Seems like THAT is where the real earning capacity through music is today. Promising the "dream".


Ironic that theres more people than ever before promising the dream when there's less dreams than ever before to be had

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:57 AM

Maybe the dream of writing with a Moleskine® notebook and a battered acoustic and then getting rich when somebody famous records your beautiful, heartfelt, artistic song is dead. I don't know.

But I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to live another dream, based on the needs of the market now. Indie bands have never had a better chance of placing songs in TV and film, You Tube has made overnight stars of people who then monetized the attention, and I am living a middle class dream - nice house in the burbs, two cars, put kids through college, about 90K in studio gear and no debt but the mortgage - doing nothing but padding down here to my studio barefoot and writing songs and instrumental tracks every day (well, okay, there's some prospecting and paper work that needs to be done, too).

When I started my business 17 years ago, it took off like a rocket and a huge portion of my business was writing theme songs for corporate shows and connections: I got to travel to nice resorts to cast and direct talent, and I received piles of praise for my work and bags of gold. I would have been happy to do nothing else.

But the market changed, like every market changes, constantly, all the time. The budgets got cut, and original music was the first thing to go. So I concentrated on my advertising contacts. That market changed, and agencies who loved me and spent 20K a year, every year, went 100% digital/web and stopped calling me. So I shifted my focus again.

Today, I am doing a lot of advertising work again (just won a couple nice awards for it) where agencies with small creative staffs call me in for my ability as a creative director as much as for my audio production... I'm building relationships with music supervisors looking for TV placements... and I'm doing a ton of video game scoring, as the iPod/Phone/Pad explosion has created a gold rush and a need for a huge amount of content. I've scored a few massive hits, so I get a bid request from a game dev twice a month.

When I started 17 years ago, it was not anywhere in my business plan to one day be scoring games for a moil platform that didn't exist.

My point is that business is business, and it changes at the speed of money. Roll with it, find new markets, adapt to them, or go find a tar pit to drown in.

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:22 AM

Jim, that's a wonderful response, and shows a realistic attitude towards what is happening in the market and how to adapt to it.

I'd say the dream of:

Quote

writing with a Moleskine® notebook and a battered acoustic and then getting rich when somebody famous records your beautiful, heartfelt, artistic song


is definitely dead. But the dream of:

Quote

writing with a Moleskine® notebook and a battered acoustic and then getting rich when somebody famous then I records your my beautiful, heartfelt, artistic song and perform it wherever I can


is very much alive. It cuts out anyone who can't perform and record it themselves, but that's the way it is.

Your post verifies that there are many opportunities for music -- video games, corporate presentations, web-based media -- but almost all of these are about the track, the music, the underscoring, etc. The opportunities for *songs* -- music and lyrics that mean something, and that you listen to on the foreground -- are fading.

I think a lot of it is due to the invention of the Walkman and then the iPod. When music became something you could walk around with, it became a constant. It wasn't as special as when you had to bring the LP home to your boxy Stereo System, or when you could listen to the radio in your car but not walking around. Now, most people take music for granted -- it's always there in the background. So there is less close listening -- people are out of the habit of taking the time out to hear a whole CD start to finish, with the liner notes in front of them. Too much music, too much opportunity -- it's too easy to listen to music now, it's less of an event.

I feel bad for lyricists like me. If I were ten years younger I'd feel better about starting the guitar, knowing I'd have a few good years with it. Anyone 35 or younger who is frustrated with the current music situation should learn an instrument and gain some basic music knowledge. You have to do it yourself today if you want to make *your* music.
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It's a nice song. But where's the chick? (Frank Sinatra, according to Dave Frishberg)

#37 User is offline   Joan Icon

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:01 AM

View Postzmulls, on 30 March 2012 - 10:22 AM, said:

I feel bad for lyricists like me. If I were ten years younger I'd feel better about starting the guitar, knowing I'd have a few good years with it. Anyone 35 or younger who is frustrated with the current music situation should learn an instrument and gain some basic music knowledge. You have to do it yourself today if you want to make *your* music.


Example of a guy who knows how to teach adults.

Your locale should have at least a few guitar teachers who specialize in adult beginners. There's nothing magic about the age of 35. Adult beginners of any age present most of the same challenges, but chiefly these two: They think if they had enough ability to learn they'd already have picked it up. And their time is already stretched from other commitments, so it's not finding the time to practice, it's stealing the time to practice. If lessons are going well, you learn enough in the first year -- maybe even the first six months -- to get up in front of people accompanying yourself on your own songs. Those dandy fretboard demons probably all do learn young. But learning enough to put over a song, anyone can learn to do that.

Not always possible to find, but an ideal teacher for an adult beginner is someone who was an adult him- or herself when learning the instrument. Their memories are sharper as to what they had to learn to pick up the different skills. They know better which kinds of repetitive drills worked and which ones were a waste.

In so many student-teacher relationships, the teacher is the superior and the student is the subordinate. When you're an adult, maybe better at what you do than this teacher is at what he or she does, that paradigm won't get either of you anywhere. You are the client and the instructor is one of your vendors. If your teacher teaches mostly kids, this can be a hard thing to set up properly: They know from guilt, and a vendor doesn't get to guilt a client into spending more time practicing. One thing that helps is if your lessons are scheduled one at a time, not weekly at a fixed time. In the lesson should be something for you to master. Once you have, it's time to schedule the next lesson. Or if you're stuck, you schedule a lesson to get unstuck.

The other thing: Songwriters who can never get at home on guitar sometimes shine on a keyboard. So many things about it are physically easier, especially with electronic keyboards and all their tricks -- something string players should probably take the plunge and learn anyway.

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:16 AM

Joan...I picked 35 out of some orifice. And I know that I still have time, and life in me, to learn an instrument if I truly applied myself.

But, realistically, I am very soon to be fifty. And I'm going to make another out-of-orifice estimate that it would be five years or so before I was proficient enough to want to get in front of an audience (with a guitar, or keyboard).

So, what I wanted to do was do it the way I saw it done in the movies, and the way it might have been done at some time -- write lyrics, get someone to set them, have some publisher say 'what a brilliant song,' give it to an artist to record, and wait for the royalty checks to roll in. I think most of us start with that idea in our heads. If it ever worked that way, it certainly doesn't work that way now.

Over the last several years, I've looked into a lot of corners, met a lot of people, seen a lot of what constitutes success, observed what works and how it is -- you know some of the particulars of my own experiences. So I approach the whole enterprise with a little earned wisdom and a contantly evolving ethos about why it is I feel like writing in the first place, what I want to get out of it, what I realistically *can* get out of it (not just money, but satisfaction and recognition and whathaveyou) -- and whether I can construct a Venn diagram between what I want and what can happen.

That being said, the notion of *starting* a singer/songwriter career at 55 (or so) is not necessarily an attractive option. If I burned to do it, sure, but do I really burn for it? I have enjoyed writing for its own sake, and occasionally enjoy it now. Truth be told, I started writing several years ago because I was sick of performing.

I think the discussion we're having leads to the point that somebody who really wants to follow a path of music needs to be their own performer or demo-maker to have a shot. And that means having some capability of creating or playing music. Someone who is just starting out to learn needs to space and time in their life to get good at it and still have time to take advantage of their new schools. I'm not sure my timeline allows for that.
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It's a nice song. But where's the chick? (Frank Sinatra, according to Dave Frishberg)

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:32 AM

If you got into lyric writing because you were sick of performing, everything you say makes sense. Except the five years part.
Typically a motivated student will learn a monster amount in the first year, and about half that the second year. Half again the year after that. It's diminishing returns regarding the amount of skill, though of course rewarding in terms of polish and refining. The years after the first year are about learning the whole fingerboard and developing refined tone and left-hand velocity. An open mic in a noisy bar -- yes you need attention-getting skills on your instrument, whether it's your voice or your ax. But in that first year, a songwriter with great lyrics can put over a song without the 99 chords or the speed. Can begin enjoying performing to appreciative listeners in quiet rooms (think coffee-house, not bar) without leaving the first position on the fretboard. The other skills, if you want them, will come in time. But you don't need to spend years getting them first, before people can appreciate you singing your songs.

A couple of reasons I'm beating the drum on this: First, I'll be 60 soon, and I'm getting my first electronic keyboard this week or next. The other thing is that songwriters who enjoy performing can take this enthusiasm well into old age. It's potentially a life-extending, life-enhancing, friendship-building leisure skill. And there are lyrics that nobody but a silverback can really put over: songs of hard-won experience, if not wisdom. Like theater, it's a way to actively participate in your culture. If the voice doesn't crackle a bit, the singer can't fake it. :)

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:00 PM

Will take the personal discussion off-line; while I don't mind adding some of my own experience when discussing the original topic, I will save most of it for my memoirs.

The central point I'm making -- which is relevant to the "why can't they hear the song through the mediocre recording?" question -- is still relevant. In today's market, if you cannot participate in the making of the music in some fashion -- recording, mixing, notating, arranging, working the software or even performing -- you have little chance of finding a place for yourself. If you're serious about being a "songwriter" you have to develop some musical skills. You can't just write words and mail them off to Battle Creek, Michigan. Your chance of any success at all may hinge on how well you can package your writing.
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It's a nice song. But where's the chick? (Frank Sinatra, according to Dave Frishberg)

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 04:22 PM

Actually Jim, I found myself saying to someone just the other day that in recent times I have been finding myself enjoying and becoming inspired from hearing songs in movies - especially obscure films, not typical Hollywood blockbuster type movies. It seems to me that THERE songs have so much more creative freedom, unleashed from the claustrophobic box of radio commercialism.

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 04:34 PM

Tracy, you're right... Music supervisors are almost making a hipster game of seeing who can find the coolest obscure track to stick in a soundtrack.

And zmulls, when I mentioned the web, I didn't mean scoring web video..I was thinking of people like Pomplamoose, who ran a multi-million hit cover of "Single Ladies" posted on YouTube into a cottage industry that paid for a house in the Bay Area with attached recording studio and a demand that they tour. Tha dream of writng a great song and performing it ever chance you get might include making a charming video and promoting your band in virtual space.

Furthermore, I wasn't really saying that the stuff I doing replaced songwriting... Just making the point that there isn't any business that isn't changing rapidly thanks to digital technology. Whatever business you're in, you gotta roll with it.

And while I do sit in a semi-circle of blinking lights most of the time, I have a Molskine notebook, too. :)

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 09:56 AM

View PostScenesFromPalacio, on 29 March 2012 - 01:27 PM, said:

Mabbo..Thinking about it-my anger i think is 'cos i'm totally perplexed and amazed about your continual glowing celebration,support n unconditional love of the modern country pop industry here in your posts - which seems so incredibly stifling n ridiculously unflexible in its musical demands..As a songwriter who wants to express yourself creatively n keep growing as an artist- dosn't it bug you at all ?
It would me..
At least Jim Colyer had the honesty to admit he'd ideally like things to be freer and more open -even tho having to be pragmatic 'cos of needing to make a living -which i can totally understand..


Jim,

I think you miss a lot of what I talk about. I never talk about the industry itself. There are many things, probably most of them about the MUSIC BUSINESS that I don't care about at all. I don't like a lot of the product out there, and don't try to go to the lowest common denominator in my own writing or those of people I mentor. I am not determined by trends, or getting cuts or chart success, that is nothing of what I do. I am involved in the teaching of the craft and understanding the back drop of this industry in order to know how to deal with it.
In the context of this thread, the original question was "can you hear through a bad demo?" I try to give something of the background of what the industry goes through, from listening to hundreds if not thousands of songs, the issues involved in their personal and business lives and what they go through in their OWN product, which is what Desert Rose asked about. The reason, Rose, that even the artists themselves have to play their material for many levels of committees and they are trying to get the best opportunity for themselves as well. Nothing is done in a vacumn. While I mentioned my personal experience with Eddie Montgomery, one thing I also said was that while those songs were all monster demos, they were all GREAT SONGS as well.

I hear a lot more songs from this area than you probably do, because I am here. I have some amazing friends who are incredible songwriters. Roger, here being one of them. We all play shows together, we all hear each other;'s material and no, the best of many songs and artists don't make it to the radio. A lot of pablum makes it on the radio and as Roger and I have mentioned many times, it has always been like this.

Much of what people are experiencing now due to the Internet, many of us, myself for 25 years here and Roger for as many or more, is that this is what we have ALWAYS had to deal with. There are always songs, artists, record labels, etc. we see achieve amazing success and we go WHAT THE F*CK is any of that about?" And we all have songs, producers, artists, record labels publishers, that we think are unbelievable that never go anywhere. I also mention songs that take years and years to get out there, then become huge hits and they are the same song that for years and years got passed over.

I can't do anything about that. I can't deal with "What ifs?" I deal with What is."

I work with artists, writers, singers, people who are interested in finding out about this town, the craft, the business, and all the surrounding issues relating to that. I work with people one on one finding things that relate to THEM, not the fly by night, change by the second business here. That is what I try to do. I can't do anything about the other stuff. And complaining about it doesn't change that.

If you and I had a chance to sit down, swap songs, let me take you around this town and introduce you to a side of Nashville that I see, away from all the industry stuff, I bet we would agree much more than we dissagree. I can assure you that I have discust for the cookie cutter aspect of a lot of all kinds of music. I just know that I can't do anything about it, so I don't talk a whole lot about that. That to me is stating the obvious.

I see things fromm a different point of view, because some of these writers that you hear some of their hits on, are friends of mine, and I know the songs they have that ARE NOT on the huge charts. I talk about Nashville much more from the community we have here, a bunch of artists, writers, like minded individuals all coming for the same dreams, the same goals, the same desires. I have seen many of those before they go on to great success. I have seen some achieve it all. I have seen many more fall crashing to the ground. I have seen the industry change, be reborn, a LOT of crap and then some pretty cool things as well. I have seen a community come together immediatley after a 500 year flood,and help each other amazingly. I have seen people help other people to achieve great heights for no personal gain for themselves. I have seen a lot of good here, far outweighing any of the superficial nature of the industry.

So while I comment on things that are ,that doesn't mean I embrace it at all. I am very simple. The things I don't care for, I stay away from. The things I like and feel are positive, I gravitate and suggest others to. On threads like this, I think you have to get an overall perspective from many experiences, many directions and then make your own decisions accordingly.

Having said all that, we have one HUGE bear in the room which relates to all of us. Through the Internet we all have the ability to get what we do in millions of areas all over the world. In my opinion it is incumbant on us to decide what we want out there representing us. Sometimes the breaks go heavily in someone's way. A lot of times we don't. But we all have about the same chance. We have to develop what we do, put it out there in as many directions as we can and let the chips fall where they may. That can be good or not so good.

I simply don't care to talk down everything and talk about how awful certain elements of life is Everyone seems to know that. I only can offer my own experiences as one part of the equation, try to explain why I feel the way I do, and then encourage everyone else to share their own opinions. Take it all in, then apply what you need for yourself.

That is about all I can do.

MAB

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 03:32 PM

Hi MAB

On occasion I send out material country cross over stuff to publishers, but was wondering, does the west coast have a lesser eye on production value of a demo than Nashville? I don't follow the country industry much, but do they still record out on the west coast yet? I know it was a trend there for awhile. Is it still going on? And does any country publishers out on the west coast have any true connections with Nashville?

just wondering
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link below is an honorable mention from a national songwriting contest that I entered the song "Baby" that I wrote with the help of singnpeach on vocals and a couple lines for the lyrics she added. Not bad for a muse collaboration.

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 05:01 PM

Jim,

The West Coast, as well as the East Coast, was doing this LONG before Nashville did. They have to be even more sophisticated in their demos than even Nashville. You have much more involved demos because of the types of music, rock and pop are much more technically advanced because of that style of music. Much of rock and pop are dictated by the sounds of the record itself and not as much the song. Also because rock and pop are almost completely self contained, as the artist IS the writer, it almost doesn't even make sense for someone like me to even compete in that market. The three music centers are quite isolated from each other and there is VERY little crossover. Most of what does happen is actually more by accident than anything planned.

LA and New York have very insular controls as in something like Rap and Hip Hop are driven by the beats and the sound of the record. The same could be said for R&B, and "Lady Ga Ga/Madonna Style pop productions. Again, in those markets the producers are much more involved in the actual songwriting.

Nashville is actually much later to the involved demo process, just in the past 30 years, that it has evolved into more sophisticated demos. Up until the 60's and part of the 70's, simple guitar vocals could suffice, whereas rock and pop, on both coasts, have always been production oriented.

As always, learning the history of music helps. Reading biographies of the old Brill building New York pop writers, where they would all write every day, then play their songs at the end of the day to determine who would get demo production budgets. Looking at Motown, the Funk Brothers and the methods those songs were picked, with the staff of Motown voting, often against there own projects, the need for demos (a demonstration of the song) were nessasary to even get into the arena. One of the people I have been fortunate to get to know is Bob Babbitt, who played bass for Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Tempatations and others, talks about doing many of the demos that ended up being the final product.

The production oriented demo is actually something that has been going on for a very long time. Nashville was kind of the "last hold out", really accelerating it into full up demos in the 80's. From time to time a simple demo would find it's way through, but they are almost so far and few between not to even be worth mentioning.

It actually was not until I started reading Internet forums like these that I ever even realized people didn't know about the nessasaty for radio ready demos. To be honest I don't even know where that idea came from that you could just do basic guitar or keyboard demos and pitch the songs, as it has never been involved in any music business I have ever known about. Reading on the history of music, biographies of writers, artists, publishers, etc. and some basic research can show you how long this has actually been "the industry standard."

The only explination I can actually come up with is that in workshops, seminars, critiques, etc. there have been many people that say "only do guitar or simple demos" and I take that as code to say "This song really has no chance of going anywhere so save your money."

In reality, the full production demo is industry standard just like the way color in television is an industry standard. Just a cost of doing business, but it is as basic as saying "Yes, you have to have BOTH lyrics AND music on your songs."

About the same difference.

MAB

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

It actually was not until I started reading Internet forums like these that I ever even realized people didn't know about the nessasaty for radio ready demos. To be honest I don't even know where that idea came from that you could just do basic guitar or keyboard demos and pitch the songs, as it has never been involved in any music business I have ever known about. Reading on the history of music, biographies of writers, artists, publishers, etc. and some basic research can show you how long this has actually been "the industry standard."

The only explination I can actually come up with is that in workshops, seminars, critiques, etc. there have been many people that say "only do guitar or simple demos" and I take that as code to say "This song really has no chance of going anywhere so save your money."


MABBO,

I've been a producer for nearly 20 years. I have worked with quite a few people, just like you, some with huge hits, some with grammys, etc. And you are 100% about right about what you say on here. We know what we know and what works for us, thats the best advice anyone can give to others. However, I dont teach for a living, I record.

I can tell you there has been endless sessions where a song was brought to me as a 1+1 for a few reasons...1)The artist can only play only 1 instrument and needs help reaching a sonic goal. 2) If you are going to use a producer to the extent of creating a "sound" on a record, it may clash with the ideas that the artist has or in some cases, the artist may not have any ideas at all. That, to me as a producer, is why a 1+1 works so well. I get to hear it and guide the song to where it will have mass appeal or to where the final product is what the artist heard in their head. Doing a full production demo in these cases would cloud it a bit and might not be what people in the industry want to hear.

You are right ...If you are going to present a product to a label or an artist to cover, it better be a great production that is faithful to the genre that the artist, label or public WANT. but before it gets to a producer to guide the artist, if needed, a full out production may be a waste of time, IMO

Im pretty sure thats why there are so many "demo studios" in Nashville that get "the sound" for the artist. some new artist from Wyomissing, Pa (a neighbor of mine) may go to nashville because the love the country sound and they want to be a star, but first passes at all the labels, will get turned down, so the setup is as important as the songwriting is in most cases.

You and I could exchange story after story til 2 in the morning. Im sure some pretty good ones, but both of us are back into our grind in the morning.

Porcupine
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 09:41 PM

I really have to wonder whether it is different in Australia or whether it's just Nashville or how things are done in the US in general.
Now I know some time has passed since I was among the other hopefuls and perhaps deluded ;) but when I was looking to send my music to publishers here I was told that it was not necessary to send in "fully produced" with all the bells and whistles arrangements.
If I had it, fine, but otherwise they were interested in the SONGS.
After all, as they told me, and as I'd read, they were looking for all areas where "the song" might be adapted and used....advertising, film, TV, other artists....
I remember once even enquiring of a company that dealt exclusively with instrumental music whether they wanted a fully produced version or just the basic instrumental idea and to my surprise they said just the demonstration of the idea was fine. If they liked it and saw a place for it they would pay to have a polished version recorded.

At no time have I EVER been asked for a "radio ready" track. A demo, yes....a demonstration, representation of THE SONG. Decent and listenable - of course, but none the less a "demo".
In one circumstance I was even given a substantial advance by a publisher to take my demo's (which back in those days were VERY rough around the edges)and get them recorded by some well known Aussie musicians, to get a better sounding "demo". Maybe this was back in the day when music was actually making some money though. It's probably way different today and such frivulous financial advances are probably not the norm.

In more recent times I was involved with a producer and group of musicians and ultimately this lead to the release of an album.Albiet, in a less commercial vein. Again, it was the songs as DEMO'S that were put in front of publishers. Not the radio ready finished product - THAT was ultimately was given to the record company.

If I google I can find examples where articles and publishers DO say that guitar or piano/vocal demo's are perfectly acceptable. Though I must admit I've seen others that stress the "radio ready" thing.
It leaves me (and I'm sure the hopefuls and deluded) feeling quite confused.

The only thing I can think to do - for anyone reading this (from whatever country), who wishes to send something in, is to find out themselves from specific publishers or wherever they are sending music, EXACTLY what is expected.

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 12:13 AM

This is a very interesting thread. It's not covering any territory that hasn't been covered plenty of times before in the Muse, but it is covering it in a far more thoughtful and comprehensive way than I can recall having been the case in the past.

View PostScenesFromPalacio, on 31 March 2012 - 01:12 AM, said:

Quote

Seems like THAT is where the real earning capacity through music is today. Promising the "dream".


Ironic that theres more people than ever before promising the dream when there's less dreams than ever before to be had



Ironic also, perhaps, that this very website is an example of someone (and no offence at all to Jodi, our hostess, in this) attempting to make - albeit meagre - money promising the "dream". ;)

But what is this "dream"? Is it the same for all aspiring songwriters? As tempting as it might be to start exploring a few more questions such as this, I think I'll return to the central question of the thread for now. And I will be quite honest in doing so. I have little or no desire to see through a bad performance/recording. While I have occasionally made an effort to do this in the past when critiquing a song, I find it a less-than-enjoyable experience unless the song itself is of such exceptionally high standard as to genuinely shine through. In my experience, this have VERY rarely been the case.

The thing is, it's all about presentation. If we want to do well in a cooking competition, we consider the visual aspects of our plating. If we want to do well in a job interview, we pay careful attention to our clothing and personal hygiene. If we want to submit a screenplay for consideration, we ensure it's in the right format, is edited thoroughly for errors and is printed cleanly on good-quality stock. It's all very well to complain that such superficialities shouldn't matter, but the simple truth is that reality is perception, and perception is reality, and no amount of getting precious about how "things used to be" or how they "should be" is going to change that.





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Posted 01 April 2012 - 12:40 AM

Desert Rose,

I also have "heard those same words "Just send usound gs a simple demo" my entire life as well. It is kind of one of those theoretical things that ood in a classroom, but if you dig a bit, you find it is kind of misleading. Once I started getting to know hit writers, artists, producers, etc. I got a very different story. I moved to Nashville in the late 80's but I got to know many hit writers from the 50's, 60's and 70's. As a matter of fact one of my very good friends was hired by a publishing company in his early days to go through full production demos from Kris Kristofferson, and Roger Miller, two people that most writers revere as the "Bible" when it comes to solo songwriting. My across the street neighbor, who I play in a band with, produced the demos for Jimmy Webb, (Witchata Lineman, Up,Up and Away) which were huge hits in the 60's and they talk about the level of demos they did in the "old days." They even pull some out from time to time.

And it is not just America. This week has been Tin Pan South, which is a songwriter's festival. NAshville has multiple shows with amazing writers, I just came from a show after my own show. It was all rock writers from the 60's Jim Penterack (Vehicle, Eye of the Tiger, Hold on Loosely) rock acts like "Night Ranger" from the 80's, and other rock and pop acts. This afternoon was an English producer who produced Ray Charles and Joe Cocker among others. Part of the entire stories they tell are the "pathway of songs." And almost without exception, the story of the demos, getting the companies to do a budget on them, working them through the levels of committees, in their era, the ways the songs were turned down, the different demos on songs (one told a story of demoing a song 13 times before it was done right.) We have producers from Australia, (a friend of mine is an Australian artist, who has had a pretty decent track record here, Keith Urban, who used to do a lot of demos here also.)

Like everything there are a lot of reasons for this. It is industry standard, number one. But you never know what is going to turn out to be something. Many demos are used for the final product. More than one example, my own for instance, as well as Roger's experience, where the demo was used as a guide for the full final product. Demos are used not just to pitch songs, but a writers overall catalogue, (where do you think people go to find out if they are interested in working with:? Face Book, My Space, Reverb Nation, etc. Again, if someone is not doing the attention to detail that you have to do on your own material, you are not really going to find a lot of free time to spend on them.) there are "off handed pitches, where you run into an artist randomly, that couldn't hear a hit if it fell out of the sky on their head. You have to have the complete package. With a full demo, a publisher can immediatly pitch it instead of having to wait for weeks or months to get a session on it. Some publishers do still pay for demos but they are once again so few and far between, I wouldn't be waiting for it. And again, my first cut, on American Artist Shelby Lynne, happened EXACTLY because I had a full demo, of which they produced pretty much note for note.

So, as anything we talk about here, everyone has to make their own decisions. Everyone can decide what playing field they want to play on. No one has to do ANYTHING. Anybody can write whatever they want to, produce it however they want, put it on the Internet, their own CD's, web sites, they can do whatever they want. Once you start deciding on stepping up the level into someone ELSE's playing field you have to play by THEIR rules. My suggestion is that for any type of music you are interested in promoting, find out who is doing it successfully and emulate them. Do research and then see where it ends up.

The "To demo or not to Demo" question is one of the most hotly debated questions there are, and there are no right or wrong answer. But I can tell you this story. Several years ago (again, none of this is anything new) I was a host on an industry panel presented by ASCAP for about a thousand wanna be songwriters. The panel featured some very famous producers, ASCAP and BMI representatives as well as two major writers, an artist and manager. It was a lively discussion and at that time, the big topic of discussion was what effect the Internet was going to have on the industry. (This was about 15 years ago) Invaribly the question from the membership came up. "Can you guys hear through a demo, and can you still pitch just guitar or piano vocal demos?"
The answer from one producer was "Sure, I can hear through it." I stopped the room when I put my own two cents in and asked the same producer, "Wait a minute, I hear you guys talk about that all the time, but tell me the last time you cut a song from someone you DIDN'T KNOW, from just a guitar vocal demo?" All of the panel got very quiet and one of the guests said "I can't remember EVER cutting something from just a guitar vocal demo."

I am sure there are dozens of stories of that special writer, just grabbing their guitars, and playing something in the office for someone and that song got cut and became a big hit. I just really don't know of any personally. From my reading of music history, my relationships with actual people who have been doing this for many years, people who have lived the life, in the business, in all eras, I am just not familiar with any. And as I say, this is not just Nashville or even the US. The Beatles even did production demos. If you get some of the new boxed sets, you can hear some of their earlier versions of songs. There were even many that were recorded then rejected, which is why you often get "New just discovered" tapes on some artist that died 30 years ago. Getting more complete demos, have just been something that has been around for a long time. The more the actual business got segmented, with more people involved in the decision making process, it has just gotten more so.

I didn't create any of the rules. Just the messenger here.

MAB

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:09 AM

View PostMABBO, on 01 April 2012 - 12:40 AM, said:

Like everything there are a lot of reasons for this. It is industry standard, number one. But you never know what is going to turn out to be something. Many demos are used for the final product.

I didn't create any of the rules. Just the messenger here.

MAB



If there's anything to take home from this conversation, MABBO is dead on, no matter if you write/play for yourself and a few close friends or a major label artist, The game is the game. friends will hear a bad recording and not see it, same as an exec.

I think the technology aspect has put us in a new world. If ProTools was around with the masses during the Beatles, I think it would have been an interesting market. In that time 10% of the people could get what 90% of the songs out there had sonicly. Today, 90% of the people can get that sound, its there and mostly affordable...and definatly not as time consuming.

I've hear basement demos better than the radio.

That changes the landscape. and the standards of what is acceptable. So all it does if provide the same sugar coating on the outside, inside could be cr-p or caviar.

Porcupine
#1 song on Onstage.com's Holiday Playlist in Nov 2011 "Could This Be Christmas"
#5 song on Onstage.com's Open for Bon Jovi in May of 2010 "Turn It Down"
recorded and produced songs with several grammy winners and nominees
songs writen have been recorded by The Standard, Wooden Nickel, Jody Stapler and Prototype
see more of my music at charlieeschbach.com

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