Wine and Words

Big open sky – that is what I think of when I think of Edmonton. Having never been to the Prairies before, I assumed my first reaction would have been in regards to how flat the land was, but no: my eyes were continuously attracted to the expanse above, no matter where I travelled during my adventures in and around the city. Perhaps it stood out to me because I live in a small, windowless, and enclosed attic. Or, maybe I’ve become too accustomed to the forests of skyscrapers in Toronto. Regardless of the reason, it felt great to be surrounded by the vastness.

Edmonton, Hotels, FancyEdmonton, Airport, WestJet, TravelTrains, travel, freight, edmonton, on the road

Kelly (violin), Evan (guitar & percussion), and I flew out with the purpose of performing in An Evening of Wine and Words – an annual fundraising event held at The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald and put on by Richardson GMP in support of Edmonton’s Centre for Family Literacy.

Though dwarfed by modern towers, when seeing the hotel from the outside (pictured above, left), it is not hard to imagine the grandeur it must have once had. Perched on the edge of the escarpment and overlooking the North Saskatchewan River, the old building feels like a beautiful fortress. Inside the Empire Ballroom (pictured below), with its massive and bejeweled chandeliers, the imagination runs even more wild: what kind of parties used to be thrown here? What music would have been playing on those nights? Were those people in awe of the beauty of this space as much as I am today?

Fairmont Hotel MacDonald BallroomMeghan Morrison, Wine and Words, 2013, Fairmont Hotel MacDonald, Jim Cuddy

We were successful in our purpose, raising $700 for the Centre after performing a couple of tunes and auctioning off a house concert (which will have us returning to Edmonton to play later in the year).

Equally exciting, this opportunity had us sharing a stage with Corb Lund (below, left), Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke, and Canadian country rock icon Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo (Jim and Wayne are pictured below, right). Growing up, I remember my father keeping only three albums in his car: Sting’s Fields of Gold (a “best of” compilation), The Cowboy Junkies’ Black Eyed Man, and Blue Rodeo’s Five Days in July. Needless to say, it was quite an awesome experience to meet the man behind the voice that coloured so many of my childhood road trips, let alone to perform on the same stage as him (that’s us, pictured below in the middle). Wayne Petti was also a delight; full of catchy sing-a-long tunes, humorous stories, and a friendly demeanour. I look forward to hearing his full band when they come back from touring in Europe this summer.

 Corb Lund, Wine and Words, 2013, Edmonton, Centre for Family LiteracyIMG_0629IMG_0628

The show was an obvious success, raising over $100,000 (from what I’ve been told) for the Centre for Family Literacy. Considering the tickets were sold out before they even went on sale, this isn’t totally surprising.

Luckily, I was able to book a second performance while we were in Edmonton and had a wonderful weekend of reunions and reminiscings with family and friends (new and old) after opening for the invariably kind (and talented) Cam Penner at The Blue Chair Cafe.

And no trip to Edmonton would be complete without a bison seeking excursion, right? After much time exploring Elk Island National Park (which cost $20), finding many traces of bison (but no actual bison), and then (like a joke) spotting a whole herd of them chilling smugly 100 meters down the highway after we left the park (unfortunately, we were travelling on the wrong side of the divide to stop and too quickly to take a picture), we ended our adventure with punch line laughter and I leave you with …

Bison, Edmonton, Elk Island National Park  a picture of a picture of a bison.

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Webisode #89

What a difference the new Soundcraft EPM8 mixer made to the stream’s sound quality when Sue Newberry and Slender gathered in my attic for our first Online Indie Jam of 2013! With 9 people jamming on the show, I don’t know how we would have pulled it off without the upgrade.

Nine… I think that’s a record! The night of The Noble Rogues and Mike Field’s appearance may be the only contender (link is below if you’d like to watch that one too). We’re finally starting to get things right around here, thanks to the expertise of Roman Riccio (a fellow Toronto-based musician who has also appeared on the webcast) and our amazing chatroom regulars PoiPoi, MuggleFX, and PeaceAtPlay :) With a greatly improved sound and large body of artists in the room, I couldn’t help but ask for some accompaniment while I played “Frost” and sang the traditional Newfoundland tune “She’s Like The Swallow”. So beautiful! It never ceases to amaze me how musicians on this show can just, on a whim, pull musical magic together on impulse.

I met Sioux (as she went by back then) at SongStudio last summer and have wanted to bring her on the show ever since. Don’t let her laid back and sweet performances from tonight fool you; she’s got growl and bluesy grit to boot! Experience it in person when Sue Newberry and The Law  release their first full length album, “Shine Shine Shine Shine” on March 28th, 2013 at 3030 Dundas West in Toronto.

Slender – don’t let them fool you either! Though their name is thin, their sound is voluptuous (our chatroomers had other less subtle words for their sultry jazzy groove jams) and their hearts are big. I didn’t even have to hear them play to want to invite these vibrant young lads onto the show after crossing paths at The Central during LMG Productions’ Super Wonderful New Year Kick Off party. Where did the band’s name come from? It’s not as obvious as you think! Watch the show to find out :) http://youtu.be/yZsYQg8l0ls

Join us for the next LIVE stream on March 12th with I. M. Brown

Connect with the Artists:

Sue Newberry – www.suenewberry.com  / Facebook / Twitter
Slender – Website or Facebook coming soon!
Meghan Morrison (that’s me!) – www.meghanmorrison.com / Facebook / Twitter

Archived jams mentioned in this blog:

July 5, 2011 – Mike Field Jazz & The Noble Rogues on Meghan Morrison’s Online Indie Jam

May 31, 2011 – Roman Riccio and Callum H W Scotney on Meghan Morrison’s Online Indie Jam

Aim High, Right?

Toronto based singer-songwriter Meghan Morrison facebook

Thumbs Up!

You say, “Meghan! It’s just a number!”

And I reply, “I know, it’s a silly request, right? But in today’s music industry you have to build your own empire before booking agents, managers, etc. will even listen to you… and I really need to build that team around me so the band and I can turn things up to 11 :) Bigger numbers online = industry people taking us more seriously = potentially more people that can help us get better opportunities for our music.”

Can you help? :) http://www.facebook.com/meghanmorrisonmusic

Canadian Music Week is a great place to meet such people!

So let’s see if we can do it : ) 1000 is a good place to start. Can you help me reach it by March 18th?”

If we reach this goal, I will make a special collection of jumping in the snow buttons from this series of photographs :)

My Friends Rock!

Other ways to help:

Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/megsmorrison
Read my Newsletter: www.meghanmorrisonmusic.com/myletters
Watch Videos on YouTube: www.youtube.com/meghanmorrisonmusic

Tour Footage – Sifting …

Meghan Morrison's boring tree footage. Lark tour 2011.

It is amazing how much video footage one can acquire over the span of two weeks. It makes me wish I had a full time videographer working with me. There is so much to sort through: Hours upon hours of performance material, silly antics on the road, and sometimes (especially if I’m the one with the camera) shots of trees … nothing but trees. Haha. I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.

Meghan Morrison, Megan Morrison, tour, songwriting, OttawaAttempting, without success, to write on the road in Ottawa

The experience of documenting an experience is quite thrilling. It takes me back to my academic days of discovering themes and telling stories through qualitative research. I wonder if there is a way to get funding to do research on my own experiences?! hmmm…. *thinking cap on*

Meghan Morrison, Lark, We Are All Born Naked, CD Release Party, The Frigate, Halifax, Nova ScotiaCD Release party for [Lark] We Are All Born Naked in Halifax, NS

I have discovered that, for me, touring with more people is much merrier! I have done tours on my own and with a friend, but never before have I had to cram so many people and all our gear into a hatchback. Luckily, Adam Carter (aka “The Human Race“), who toured with us, was open to such shenanigans in his car. Somehow, we managed :)

The Human Race, The James Joyce, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Tour, Music, Adam CarterThe Human Race in Fredericton, NB

The most amusing were clips from the “on the road” category (what I call anything that isn’t “at a gig”). The “Dancing with the scary mask” footage from The Bridge Street Cafe in Sackville, NB is a great example of how much more interactive one becomes with their environment when, outside of one’s regular routine space, they have the time and mindset to explore.

Meghan Morrison, scary mask, mask, Bridge Street Cafe, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, TourDancing with the “scary mask” in Sackville, NB

What I thought would be the most boring part of creating a tour video, sifting and labeling all my clips (aka “data”), actually turned out to be a riot. It gave me the opportunity to fast forward through so many funny moments I had forgotten about. It was like reliving the experience with a new set of eyes.

Meghan Morrison, Megan Morrison, China Town, Montreal, Tour, Kelly LefaiveChina Town, Montreal, QC

The funny moments were definitely more prevalent after Kelly (my kick ass violinist) joined us. She flew out to Halifax and drove back with Colin, Adam and I. Here she is seen helping me take pictures with a cut out of Heather Hill, who pre-ordered the Notebook Edition of Lark. As a surprise, I printed images from facebook of the people who pre-ordered the album, brought them on the road and took pictures of them as if they were touring with me, then included them as a surprise in their notebook.

Trees on the road in Nova ScotiaMore trees. Somewhere, NS

Now that the data is sorted, I just need to summarize it all into short, concise, YouTube videos to share with the world.  A perfect summer project, me thinks. What do you thinks? :)

The Weather Girl

Here is “The Weather Girl” acoustic …. shot in Adam’s back yard with the videographic magic of Adrian Vieni (Wood & Wires) and the acoustic awesomeness of a TrueAxe Guitar.

Lyrics:

Grassy green and slippery, who knew that ghosts grow like weeds?

THE WEATHER GIRL confides in rain, she finds her gift outside. She finds her way into the bright, white lightning strike

It sets a fire in August rain, explodes and blows the girl down. Electrified by the bright, white lightning stike. The bright, white lightning …

Wind sock says clear skies ahead and extra sensory side effects

Now in an atmospheric state, half asleep, half awake
Her body rises in the bright, white specter’s light

www.meghanmorrison.com
@MegsMorrison

While We Were Waiting…

While we were waiting for our TrueAxe Guitar video shoot with Wood and Wires Productions last Thursday, the band broke out into their own rendition of my song, “Reluctantly“. It was too funny to stop, so Adam grabbed his laptop, started capturing their interpretation of “Still“, and then uploaded it to YouTube for us. I can’t wait to go on tour with these guys. It’s going to be stupid :)

www.meghanmorrison.com
@MegsMorrison

Starting Your Own Podcast – Reflections and Advice from Veteran Podcasters

Since starting my weekly web-based music showcase a year ago, I have been brainstorming different ways to help get the music of the featured artists (as well as my own) out to more people. One such idea was podcasting, which would enable fans to download musical highlights from the webcast after the live stream is finished and take it wherever they go on whatever device they please.

After hearing about the commitment and troubles Brad Gulka (@BradMezmo on Twitter), my drummer, has excitedly taken on as a founding member of the Comma Error podcast team, I thought it would be wise to talk to a few more podcasting veterans while trying to figure out how to start my own portable audio show. As such, I contacted Eban Crawford (who has featured a few on my songs on his podcast, Reaching For Lucidity) and Michael from MikeyPod (a music and interview-based podcast) who I have enjoyed connecting with on Twitter over the last few months. Both were happy to answer a few questions I had about their podcasting experiences and, more specifically, starting a podcast from scratch (thank you Michael and Eban!). Here we go!…

1) What inspired you to start podcasting?

Eban (RFL): “Back in 2004 I was living in England with my wife and was making my living selling my art online. Effie then got real sick and had to go through emergency surgery. After almost losing her and then the long recovery, I lost interest in painting. I just could not paint any longer. Being a creative person, I needed something to focus my energies on, so I turned to my music and then later discovered podcasting. I set up RfL first as an irreverent news program, which did not work out all that well, then in 2005 I turned to promoting indie music. In 2006 I was signed to Podshow (now Mevio) and I went from there. Supporting the indie music scene became a passion of mine.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “In the  summer of 2005, my friend Richard Bluestein (aka Madge Weinstein at yeastradio.com) had just started his podcast and encouraged me to start one too as there were very few gay podcasters at the time. I had a pretty good community of friends on livejournal at the time so I thought it might be another good way to interact with people over the internet.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about, but then I heard another podcaster talk for a good 20 minutes about how he sorted his laundry and realized I could be at least that interesting, so, I gave it a try.”

2) How did you do it? How did you set up a podcast?

Eban (RFL): “At first, I just recorded into audacity using a cheap mic I had lying around. I started out hosting my show on my own server. As I turned the show into a music podcast, I started learning about recording and started to improve my production skills. I went from Audacity to PodProducer in 2005. PodProducer allowed me to cue the songs and bumpers live, like on radio.

I enjoyed producing this way but my sound was still off. I started using Sony Vegas and bought a Behringer Mixer and some better mics. My sound was getting better and around that time I got my contract with Mevio and started hosting my shows on the Mevio servers.

Over the years I improved my production and cycled through gear. Now I am still hosting at Mevio and my main gear has been paired down to Ableton Live, Sony Vegas, M-audio interfaces, and my Zoom H4n from which I run my Blue Ball Microphone. I also use Sony Vegas to produce my animation and video. I create my animation using products from Reallusion, which include Crazy talk, iClone, and Crazy Talk Animator Pro.

Michael (MikeyPod): “I started out by just recording a sound-seeing tour of a fourth of July event on a little handheld voice recorder. If I remember correctly, I edited it with audacity and then posted it for free on archive.org. Then, I set up a free blog on blogspot to host the podcast. Pretty soon after that I paid for my own domain and hosting, which really isn’t all that expensive.”

3) What resources would you recommend now?

Eban (RFL): “I always have, and always will, suggest hosting shows at Mevio. I have been with them since 2005 and have never had a problem. Anyone can sign up for an account. It is free and the hosting is rock solid. You can host there and use their pages as your show site, or put your shows on your personal site as well.

As for gear, I recommend keeping it simple. I do have a lot of nice gear, but I use that for my music. For my show it is a DAW, in this case Ableton live or Sony Vegas, and my H4n. I recommend everyone get an H4n if you are into recording. It runs about $300 dollars and is worth way more. Since it is also a multitrack recorder with full effects and production potential, you can technically produce a show with only that one piece of equipment. I have used it that way in remote situations before. The great thing about Sony Vegas is that it is not only a full featured DAW, but a full featured video production suite as well. Two birds with one stone, or in this case, price tag.

As for a site, I can’t recommend WordPress enough. Going to WordPress.org is alright, but a self-hosted WordPress install is unbeatable.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “Cliff Ravenscraft at podcastanswerman.com is a podcasting powerhouse, extremely knowledgeable and a really great guy. I use powerpress from blubrry.com which makes it really easy to post podcasts on my WordPress blog. Though I don’t host my podcasts there, myself, I know you can pay for hosting at blubrry.com as well.”

4) Where do you look for inspiration/subject matter?

Eban (RFL): “For the music show, Reaching for Lucidity Indie Music Blast, it is current events and great music. Still, I only put out a show these days when I feel like it. I let the inspiration find me now unlike the early days when I would work day in and out to get my shows done.

The RfL Animated Adventures series is just built around random thoughts that cross my mind. Seriously, I just take everyday things I see, hear, or come up with internally and then blow those thoughts out of proportion. I took a hiatus from producing for a while but the new season of the Animated Adventures is gearing up right now. If anyone reading this is interested in doing some voice acting, keep an eye out on my site as I will be putting out casting calls soon.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “In my more activist days, it was pretty easy to find inspiration. I was motivated by things that I thought were unfair in the world that I wanted people to know about. Death penalty, animal rights issues, the war in Iraq. Now that I focus mostly on music, I tend to find artists that I like and are accessible and follow the trail of musicians that surround them.

One of my favorite interviews was with Christopher Willits. I was trying to get an interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto but my contact at his label said it wouldn’t work out, but what about this guy? The interview was fantastic and Christopher Willits has become quite an inspiration to my own work as well.”

5) How time intensive is it to publish a podcast?

Eban (RFL): “That is completely up to the podcaster. When I started, the recording was pretty short. I spent more time finding music and subjects for the show. As you go and you learn more production, it can get shorter or longer, depending on how deep you go.

Finding my segments, music, and making my loose outline script still takes a lot more time than producing. The actual recording of a typical audio show takes about an hour and my post production takes another hour or so. I have a lot of my production automated now, such as vocal track processing and such. Producing an animated episode is a good week or more of my life including writing the script and getting my actors and such.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “It depends on what you are doing. When I first started I liked to do interviews, those took a good deal of time. I had to contact the person I wanted to interview, arrange a time that worked for both of us, research the person, do the actual interview, edit it and then post the interview. It was really rewarding and I met some really cool people that way, but, man, that’s alotta work! Now I do mostly music shows which are much easier as I can do it on my own schedule. It takes some time to contact artists and labels for permission, and then choosing songs and putting them in a sequence I like (I’m a little fussy about this), but all in all, it’s a much quicker process.”

6) How do you increase your ratings/number of listeners?

Eban (RFL): “Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, just because you build it does not mean they will come. You have to earn your audience. Work it. Get into sweat equity. Meet others, both online and in the real world and always have your elevator pitch ready. Be excited when you talk about your show and let others feel it.

Social network and get the word out that way with other podcasters and social networkers. Never talk about your show as if you are apologizing, or as if your show is inferior to others. Self deprecation is not a great way to get people to listen to your show. Always act as if yours is the shiniest and best show around. Your show is as good, and oftentimes better than shows that are more popular. Act like it.

Always engage your listeners. Don’t ever hold back, people can tell when you are faking it. If you are wild, be wild, if you are funny, be funny, if you are quiet, be quiet, if you are controversial, be controversial. Don’t pretend to be something you are not, or that you wish you were. Be yourself.

Remember your SEO. The search engines still to this day only see and catalog your text. They can’t see your video or audio content, so use your show notes to your advantage. Write in simple and complete sentences and don’t try to game the system by keyword stuffing. Write your notes naturally. Use tags to your advantage. Get an account with Feedburner and set it up for podcasting. Set all the iTunes options. Get a Technorati account and claim your site.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “Honestly I really worried about subscribers and downloads much more in the beginning. I think of it more as a hobby now and rarely check my numbers. The things that helped in the past tho were interacting with other podcasters, and social media sites. One thing I have noticed with Twitter is that if I make an effort to really interact with people there, other users are more likely to follow me.”

7) What has been the biggest challenge for you since starting your podcast? How did you overcome this ordeal?

Eban (RFL): “This may sound weird, but I don’t abide challenges. There will always be tech glitches and such, but those things are no big deal. If a serious challenge comes up while I am producing a show I just walk away and move on. This is fun for me, if it stops being fun, I take that as a sign and go into my next project. I have many times abandoned a show that was not working and then came out with a different show instead that just rocked. At first I would stick with shows that were not working and the finished product was never really good. Keep it fun is my advice.

The only other challenge that every podcaster needs to deal with is growing a thick skin. There will be haters. Not just mean people or people you don’t know, but even some close to you that feel they are being constructive in their criticisms or may just be jealous. Don’t let it get to you, ever. That is of course easier said than done. A million people can tell you that you are doing well, but if one person attacks you, guess which one sticks in your head most of the time.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “I think the hardest thing for me was when I would put out a podcast with a topic I was extremely passionate about that got me little feedback. I would be so fired up about something and expect the whole world to stop and go up in arms with me. I found myself getting really angry with my friends and just society in general because they weren’t responding the way I wanted them to. I think that’s a big part of why I switched to doing just music podcasts. That doesn’t feel balanced either, but for now, it’s a good solution.”

8) Do you have any examples of moments that made you feel “This is why I love podcasting!”?

Michael (MikeyPod): “There are a couple of them. When I first moved to NYC from Houston in 2006 I connected with Eve Beglarian, a composer that I loved and had interviewed for the podcast. I wound up living with her for my first summer there as she needed someone to keep an eye on her apartment and I didn’t have any money to pay rent. We’ve become friends and she has become a sort of mentor for my own composing.

I lived at Koinonia Partners, an intentional community in Americus, GA for several months before I got to NYC. That was another experience that I might not have had were it not for podcasting. I was lucky enough to get to interview Habitat for Humanity founder, Millard Fuller before he passed away. Talking with him was one of the more meaningful moments of my life. He was tremendously inspiring.”

9) Where do you think the future of podcasting is going?

Eban (RFL): “This beast that is podcasting is almost unrecognizable from what it was at the beginning. Being one of the first and seeing all the changes along the way, I really can’t answer this. I am however curious to see where it heads next. Podcasting is really exciting, even now as I am not as active as I once was.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “That’s a really interesting question for which I have a really lame answer: who knows?! :-) Seriously, I think the really great thing about podcasting is that it can be whatever you want it to be. For me, it’s a great way to share music I love with others.  For someone like Cliff Ravenscraft (who I mentioned earlier), he found a way to make podcasting his sole source of income and he reaches so many people in really inspiring ways. So, because it’s such a flexible medium, it’s becoming many different things for many different types of people.”

10) What advice do you have for an artist like me who wants to start their own podcast?

Eban (RFL): “Just go for it. Start producing and learn as you go. Build your momentum and never look back. With that said, don’t force it if it is not working at the moment, just move to your next moment and rock it.

It is not your hosting, your gear, or any other outside factor. It is your enthusiasm and content. Make it fun and interesting and everything else will fall into place.

I am always available through email at ebancrawford (at) gmail (dot) com to help any podcaster that may have questions. I may not produce as much as I once did, but I still love podcasting and helping others that may be starting out.”

Michael (MikeyPod): “Make like Nike and just do it. I really believe that action precedes inspiration sometimes. I’ll be really interested to see what you come up with and may be looking to you for some inspiration, too, as my focus shifts more toward creating my own music.”

***

I think I’m ready to start creating my first podcast! I already have WordPress installed on my website (thanks to my awesome web guy, Byron McQuay at OneDesign), recording and editing gear, lots of guests to draw content and inspiration from and social network with, and now some great insights into the challenges and rewards that lie ahead :) (I also dug up some helpful hints from the itunes website that you might find handy).

Big thanks to veteran podcasters, Eban Crawford (Reaching For Lucidity | on Twitter ->@RfL_Productions) and Michael (MikeyPod | on Twitter -> @MikeyPod) for sharing their experiences and advice!

Happy long (Victoria Day) weekend!

Meghan Morrison
www.meghanmorrison.com
@MegsMorrison

Image “My Mini Podcasting Studio” courtesy of Sebastian Kupers CC-BY-SA 2.0

Wisdom of the Fish

“I’m just gonna lie here and fish in my mind”…

Sounds like it could be a lyric to a song, doesn’t it?

The jelly fish whispered words of wisdom when I put him in my ear.
He said, “You’ve learned alot about the sea, my Dear, now it’s time to use your fins”.

Last week I didn’t want to blog … at all. When I don’t want to do something I really enjoy, it usually means one or two things:

a) I’m burnt out or

b) The purpose of the thing is changing

I am relieved to say that this time it is the latter.

I am so inspired to create right now (which is what being an artist is all about), but my blog is very ‘Left Brained’. It feels like an assignment instead of a mode of expression.

Now that I am 3 articles into my monthly column on Women’s Radio, I feel the need to divide my brain a little more for these projects. The articles on WomensRadio are the resource-based accounts of my adventure that I hope other independent musicians will find useful. It is time, however, for this blog to become a more personal and creative representation of who I am as an artist and a person; A brief, weekly insight into my oddball mind that my followers who aren’t musicians can relate to along with my fellow musicians (because we’re all a little weird in our own way, aren’t we?).

One week it may be a poem based around an image of me doing something silly. Another week it may be straight up philosophy and reflection. Perhaps sometimes it will be a piece of art I have created or a song I have recorded… it could be anything. It will be whatever I’m inspired by, not just thinking about.

* “I can’t even think about wading right now. I’m just gonna lie here and fish in my mind.” is a phrase that caught my eye when I googled “the fish in my ear said”. It’s on page 77 of this edition of Field and Stream and was said by angler, Colby Lysne.

Meghan Morrison

www.meghanmorrison.com

Albums vs Singles – Which Should I Release?

With the digital revolution vastly changing the face of the music industry, as well as how fans encounter and use new music, it is imperative for artists to ‘keep up with the times’. And, with the convenience of the Internet and downloading, there has been an underlying push over the last few years to deliver fresh content to fans on a more frequent basis, in order to stay on their radar and satiate their desire to have more from the artist. But, is there a point where servitude becomes disadvantageous in the new music industry?

Last week, I read an article by Minh Chau called “The problem with releasing a single each month“. Chau’s reflections on whether it is better to give in to our convenience based society or take a ‘controlled inconvenience’ approach helped me settle the debate that has been on the back of my mind for quite some time now.

Singles are the reason for why many people bought albums in the past. They wanted one song, but had to purchase the entire album to get it. Today, no one needs to buy an entire album anymore… they don’t even have to pay for it because it is so easy to download music illegally. iTunes, artist websites, and other online retailers make it very easy to sample songs and only buy the ones you like.

So, if people are only buying one or two songs, why would an artist want to spend so much money recording a full album? Why not cater to the fans and give them a new single every month? Even with my own strong affinity for the romance of albums, this is something I had been considering doing for the sake of ‘keeping with the times’. The danger with this, I now see, is two-fold:

Firstly, it is difficult to create buzz and excitement around one single release every month (see Chau’s article). The time and money needed to properly promote my music as a whole would be wasted, because I would be moving on to the next release before the buzz from the first has run its full course. Also, there are more ways to promote an album (and the singles on it), which allow me to create new ways to engage fans each week/month while promoting a bigger body of my art.

Secondly, by becoming a servant to the fans … I become a servant to the fans… and I devalue my own work (see Herbert’s article). Don’t get me wrong, I want to be giving with my fans and serve a purpose in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I should make myself a slave to that effort. Fans value artists that they see as leaders, role models, and strong, inspiring individuals… not as pan handlers. I want to inspire, not beg.

Because people today expect to have free access to any kind of information or digital file at the touch of a finger, the things they can’t have on demand become more valuable (if the product is good). According to Wary Herbert‘s research, valuing something through a sense of scarcity may be part of our human nature. Antiques and diamonds are expensive and valuable because they’re not easy find. They are desired because of their inconvenience and limited supply.

As such, it still makes sense in the age of downloads to release a full album once every 1-2 years. Unless, of course, your artistic vision dictates otherwise. Sean T Wright is a good example of how a goal-oriented monthly release can challenge an artist and draw attention to one’s work.

In summary, I’d rather be a boat with oars and sails navigating my course on the moving waters, than a duck’s feather that floats (and gets pulled under) at the whim of the current. We are almost finished writing the next album and that is exactly how we will be releasing it :)

Until next week,

Meghan Morrison

www.meghanmorrison.com
@MegsMorrison


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Image “BSS 01” by Ana Gilbert courtesy of Buraka’s Black Diamond. License CC-BY-SA 2.0

Co-Writing From Scratch

In a blog recently forwarded to me from the Songwriters Association of Canada, producer Douglas Romanow discussed the ‘magician’s rule #2 for songwriters‘, stating that songwriters should “never perform the same trick twice for the same audience” and recommended co-writing as a strategy for developing new ‘tricks’.

I have collaborated with other musicians in the past, but up until this past Friday, I had never co-written a song with someone from scratch… I suppose, though, there was this one time that my brother and I wrote a parody of Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight“. We were young and silly, so naturally our rendition turned to potty humour (including a lyric about toilet bowls being on fire).

There is a lot of support in the industry for co-writing, especially from recording studios, producers and songwriting associations. As the saying goes, two heads are (often) better than one, so problem solving becomes more fruitful (unless the minds in those heads simply do not gel) and having someone to bounce ideas off of can lend new approaches to one’s craft. Furthermore, co-writing with experienced songwriters who have had commercial success with their songs can be an incredible learning experience and may open doors to contacts for placement of your own music. There are a number of other benefits, which Bronson Herrmuth has summarized in a great list of reasons to co-write.

I have been wanting to collaborate more with other songwriting minds lately. So, naturally, I was thrilled to be invited for a co-writing date with Heather Hill (a fellow SAC member. She also performed on my webcast at the end of Season 1)

Aside from feeling a bit insecure in my ability to co-write, I was also in the middle of finishing lyrics to a song I am writing for the next album and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to turn that song off in my head in order to create something fresh. Heather, on the other hand, co-writes often and with many people. Like a real professional, she was very prepared and had many ideas for themes already jotted down before I arrived.

Heather was really inspired to write a song that expressed appreciation for strong women who work hard, but aren’t always recognized for it. With the way she lit up when talking about this particular song idea, I knew it was the song we had to write together. You have to go with that kind of energy.

We started by doing a free-form brainstorming session. When writing for myself, I would normally start with object writing, create a word cloud with the ideas and phrases that jump out at me, and then build the brainstorm out from those core words/phrases. This time, I thought I would embrace the opportunity to try something different and let myself bounce between the approaches throughout. This resulted in a few short object writes for character development and some messy word clouds that somehow turned into a poem. Heather used the Internet as a resource and pulled out some idioms and other themes from cyberspace.

As we shared our outcomes with each other, we made notes about the ideas and words that struck us as being compelling, paying particular attention to ideas that could become the “hook” of the song. Then we attacked the verses, choosing to base each verse around different characters that shared the same basic experience of being strong women who aren’t always recognized for their strength and may not see it in themselves.

With the idea in mind that some women go above and beyond the workload of the average woman, we constructed the song in such a way that, when read together, each of the verses could represent a different point in the same person’s day (representing their overwhelming workload) OR be viewed as a snapshot of three different peoples’ experiences throughout any given day. The chorus takes a step out of the individual character’s situation and is a third party recognition of their efforts and qualities of strength.

I was surprised at how quickly the first draft came together. After 4 hours and two delicious banana muffins (baked by Heather) we had the whole thing typed on the computer and ready for melody experiments. Using a computer for writing lyrics was also a new experience for me, as I always veer for pencil and paper. It was fast though, being able to copy and paste, and seeing the full structure laid out on the whole page made it easy to see where the structure was going. I may attempt this approach again on my own when I try out the MasterWriter software.

See you next week,

Meghan Morrison

www.meghanmorrison.com
@MegsMorrison

Image “Two heads are better than one” courtesy of Darron felon. License CC-BY-SA 2.0