3 Songwriting Partnership Lessons From Lennon and McCartney

Arguably the most prolific pop songwriting duo of the 20th century, John Lennon and Paul McCartney crafted some of the best known and most beloved tracks of all time as the major powerhouses behind the Beatles. Although each would go onto have successful solo careers — McCartney with Wings in the ‘70s and largely by himself thereafter and Lennon, along with wife Yoko Ono, helming politically charged outfits during his tragically short post-Beatles career — many insist they were never as good apart as they were together.

When boiled down to the basic status of “co-writers,” however, Lennon and McCartney aren’t so different from you and your writing partners. They dealt with many similar issues that, hopefully, won’t crop up too often in your own career, including copyright disputes, claims over who wrote what, and the public deifying one half over the other. It’s indisputable, however, that their combined power created a musical benchmark few other have risen to.

Although there are many, many lessons to learn from Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting partnership, here are three key takeaways that will get you and your present and future co-writers on the right track to crafting musical masterpieces.

Rebecca3 Songwriting Partnership Lessons From Lennon and McCartney
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5 Ways To Tell If Your Vocals Have Too Much Processing

When working with the endless options of vocal effects in today’s average digital audio workstation (DAW), it can be very tempting to go overboard. It’s like having a huge, free buffet in front of you — of course you’re going to want some of everything. But that doesn’t mean you need to put chocolate on pizza or eat four plates until you get sick. Several artists get away with large swaths of effects on their vocals. Look at Radiohead for example. Their seminal album Kid A opens with the song “Everything In Its Right Place,” in which singer Thom Yorke’s voice is reversed, looped, pitched up & down, and drenched in a variety of distorting effects. However, above all of those vocal FX lies Yorke’s clear human, emotive singing voice. So, when experimenting with effects like Radiohead, be on the lookout for these five signs that your vocals have too much processing.

Rebecca5 Ways To Tell If Your Vocals Have Too Much Processing
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5 Secrets To Making Your Sub-bass Notes Audible

Whether you’re making pop, hip-hop, or EDM, chances are your music is going to include sub-bass. For those who aren’t familiar, sub-bass are low-pitched notes below approximately 60 Hz, and often go below the lowest frequencies that humans can actually hear. In other words, you often can’t hear sub-bass; rather, you feel it. For example, if you’re seeing a concert and the DJ builds to a drop, then the whole room starts vibrating with low frequencies, that is sub-bass. As electronic drums and midi instruments continue to play a bigger and bigger role in popular music, the use of sub-bass is becoming standard. But since humans often can’t actually hear frequencies that low, producers have to come up with ways to bring out the pitch. So, we compiled five secrets to making your sub-bass audible.

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5 Ways to Make Your Fans Feel Special

You’re probably used to drafting up fan-oriented Facebook posts and newsletters, but one hurdle many artists can’t surmount is how to give individual fans the attention they crave. After all, you’re busy marketing, promoting shows, booking tours, and, oh yeah, making music. At the end of the day, there’s no time or money left over for extensive chats with single fans on a regular basis.

The good news is that there are lots of ways to make connections with individual fans that cost you nothing and take virtually no time at all. Try these five ways to build those connections and get to know each of your fans a bit better.

1. Create a private Facebook group

It’s overwhelming to try and interact one-on-one with your most loyal fans, but by creating a private Facebook group and inviting those most devoted to join, you’re not only able to give them extra attention, but also build your fan network by introducing your biggest fans to one another. This could also lead into creating a passionate and cohesive street team; after all, it’s easier to brainstorm and plan using Facebook threads.

For a little extra zing of specialness, make sure you name the group something like “[Your Band Name] VIPs” – something that denotes that the group is exclusive. Post first-listens, demos, or show off your album art before revealing it to the world. Incorporate your typical social media content in the group, too, but make sure to sprinkle in enough exclusives to reinforce its specialness. Be sure to check in at least once a day and “like” and comment on every post. Seriously.

2. Host Google hangouts

For an even less time-consuming option, set aside an hour a month and host a Google hangout for your hardcore fans. Hand-select who gets to attend, and make it into a contest if you feel your fanbase would be into the idea. Though some might be bummed they missed out on a hangout, always remind your fans that there will be another next month – then direct them to where they can either sign up for your newsletter, enter the contest, or whatever entry venue you choose, if you choose one.

During the hangout, chat about your life, talk about your music, introduce your fans to your cat or significant other, or play some covers. The possibilities are really endless, and you can feel free to get as personal as you like. Bonus points if you remember something personal about your fans from their Facebook posts. For example, play a song and dedicated to someone in the hangout because you know it’s his or her favorite.

3. Follow them back

Seems stupidly simple, right? It takes milliseconds, yet it means the world to fans. No matter who you are, you’re going to get excited if one of your favorite musicians follows you back on Twitter or Instagram because it’s a real rarity.

But who do you follow back? A good rule of thumb is if you recognize the person from one of your shows or from another platform, or if that person directly interacts with you via a tweet or comment, follow him or her back. That fan is more invested than folks who just follow indiscriminately and never engage.

If you want to go the extra mile, “like” and comment on their posts, and make sure that they know you’re noticing them. Those miniscule interactions mean so much.

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4. Give them free stuff

No duh, right? Human beings love free stuff. Your fans probably have already picked over your merch table, but if you see one of your devotees hanging out after a show, ask him or her which items appeal to him or her the most. Then, graciously give him or her one. Sure, it’ll eat into a fraction of your merch take at the end of the night (and, speaking as a former merch girl, make sure you let whoever’s manning the merch booth know you’re taking something so the count isn’t off), but it’ll ingratiate you with that fan forever.

Also, if you’re given free drink tickets by the venue, slip a few to your biggest fans. This is a surefire, no-cost method to reward your fans, and some might even be excited that you’re “buying them a drink.”

5. Send them video replies

One of the latest Twitter trends is video replies. Next time a fan tweets at you, instead of just “favoriting” the tweet or shooting over a quick reply, take 30 seconds and make a short video on your iPhone. It doesn’t have to be some long, drawn-out message; simply say, “Hey [name]! Thanks for listening to my new track! So glad you like it. Hope to say hi at my gig this weekend in Cleveland!” (If that person is from Cleveland – if not, mention gigs in his or her area.)

Make sure to always personalize the tweet with that person’s name. Besides making him or her feel special, it removes any doubt that it’s just a generic video you send to everyone.

Remember that even the most minute effort on your part means so much to your fans. Even more importantly, keep in mind that music isn’t a one-way street; the most beloved musicians try to give back to their fans as much as they get, so if you don’t currently have a fan-oriented marketing strategy in place, it’s time to adopt one.

Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Goldmine magazine, Paste, and more. She is the founder of REBEAT, a “blogazine” focused on mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle.

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Five Lyric-Writing Tips For New Songwriters

Great lyrics have the power to mold a shapeless piece of music into a profound statement, but a few poorly-written lines could potentially ruin an otherwise great song. Well aware of this fact, many would-be songsmiths opt to sit out of the songwriting process altogether out of fear of writing bad lyrics or of not having anything meaningful to say at all. But like every other aspect of songwriting, lyric-writing is a skill that’s developed over time, trial and error and lots of difficult work. We’ve assembled five helpful tips to help strengthen your lyric-writing game.

1. Start writing as much as you can

This tip seems obvious, but it has to be said. There’s a misconception out there that great songwriters do their work purely through inspirational means, but that’s just not true. When you first learned how to play your main instrument, you probably spent a considerable amount of time stumbling around practicing until you began to really figure things out and develop as a musician. Why would the lyric-writing process be any different?

Get in the habit of writing as frequently as possible, and don’t just stick to lyrics. Keep a journal, write short stories, jot down phrases or statements you find interesting throughout the day. If you’re in the habit of writing frequently, when those moments of inspiration decide to grace your presence, you’ll be ready.

2. Your feelings are icky. Get used to it.

Now for a less obvious tip. If you want to write any sort of honest, meaningful lyrics, get ready to confront some dark truths within yourself. Wow, that got deep quick, didn’t it? Lyrics are nothing more than your own thoughts and feelings reflected back at you. Many musicians don’t write lyrics because they’re secretly afraid of how they feel and what they think.

If you’re new to lyric-writing, you should expect, and even welcome, the bits of unpleasantness you’ll come across while scouring the depths of your mind. When you befriend the truths, feelings, memories, and thoughts that scare or mystify you, you can begin to transform them into meaningful narratives.

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3. Define what you love and loathe about lyrics in other people’s songs

Taking some time to think about what makes a song’s lyrics meaningful or embarrassing can help set you on a path toward writing great lyrics. Most people can recognize bad lyrics in a song, but few people really consider what exactly makes lyrics cheesy, vapid, laughable or just plain unmemorable.

If you fawn over Leonard Cohen’s lyrics but get nauseas when you hear Kid Rock’s, start to think about why. The exercise of pinpointing what makes lyrics good or bad can get you in the right headspace for writing your own.

4. Cut out the cliches

Cliches are not your friend when it comes to lyric-writing. Lyrics like, “I’m broken,” or anything that rhymes vein with pain should be avoided at all costs. Why? Because even if the songs you’re writing aren’t emotional, they should be meaningful to you. Cliches are like serving junk food for Thanksgiving Dinner. Your listeners deserve delicious ethically raised roast turkey and all the trimmings, not a greasy bag of chips.

5. Not everything has to rhyme

Newer songwriters sometimes go out of their way to make the lyrics they write rhyme, and this can be detrimental to a song’s lyrics. Forcing rhymes where they don’t need to be might cause a lyricist to choose weak phrases over stronger ones resulting in no real benefit to the song.

The lyrical phrasing in a song should always supersede things like rhyming, but there’s ways of singing and placing words in a certain way that mimic rhyming. Developing these skills takes time and lots of missteps and false starts, but you’ll improve and solidify your own style over time.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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4 Steps to Building Community Engagement Online and Off

Have you ever wondered how some artists seem to have all the luck? How they’ve acquired troves of dedicated fans, and seem to constantly be in motion, be it with a new single, tour, or video? How is it that they seem to have such a solid support system, when by all accounts you’re just as talented, have been around just as long, and are perhaps even in the same market?

The answer is community. The artists who have learned to leverage the power of community are the artists you’ve heard about. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that anyone can tap into this golden resource, and by doing so, you open up your visibility and your connection with fans. And to be honest, it’s a whole lot more fun than tweeting to no one and hoping your post gets a few likes.

When you build your community and engage them, you know your audience is waiting to hear from you, you know they’re going to click “like” and comment, and most of all, you know you can count on their support. So how do we make this happen?

1. Don’t be boring online

This seems simple enough, right? But if you struggle with posting regularly and keeping it engaging (i.e., not just posting about your shows and music), you’re not alone. This is one of the main struggles I see artists face, and unfortunately it’s a big one, because let’s face it — if you’re boring online, no one is paying attention and your career is going to get stagnant fast.

Take the time to get clear on your brand, and then bring that brand to your audience. Show them who you are beyond the music, and I promise you’ll hook more fans than if you just spam them with info on your shows and new releases.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the number-one thing I ask artists to remember and live by when it comes to posting online is that there’s a lot of great music out there, but there’s only one “you.” Your music could get you a lot of fans — maybe even a few big fans. But it’s your personality; their connection to you as a person; and your values, beliefs, and ideals that are going to bring you those superfans. Trust me on this one.

2. Use your shows as the networking opportunity they are

Please don’t be that band that goes onstage, plays a set, and then either slinks off to the back to hide or leaves the venue. Your shows are a prime networking opportunity and a chance to build your community from the ground up, while engaging in real time.

Remember that whole “show them your personality” thing I was just saying? This really comes into play here. Use your shows as an opportunity to connect with the audience, the other bands on the bill, and even the venue workers.

I know, I know — it can feel awkward and uncomfortable to approach people you don’t know and ask them how they’re liking the show, or what their favorite local band is, or simply introduce yourself and thank them for coming out (people really remember that kind of thing). But would you rather be comfortable with no fans, or break out of your shell in the name of success?

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3. Get involved in existing communities

There are so many opportunities — both online and off — to embed yourself in an existing community, and then leverage that built-in audience to spread your message in the most authentic way possible.

Here are some examples:

  • Get active in Facebook groups by offering your knowledge and expertise whenever possible. There are so many to choose from, ranging from networking groups that connect musicians and industry people across the world, to genre-specific groups, to city-specific groups. Find the ones you fit best in, and then get active in there. The more often people see your name pop up and associate it with a general helpfulness, the more weight your name begins to carry.
  • Get out there and go to local shows that aren’t your own. Find the bands after their set, congratulate them, introduce yourself, and really get to know them. This is important — it’s not enough to just say “great set” and move on. Make the time to follow up with them and build a real connection.
  • Find local opportunities that have nothing to do with music, and get yourself involved. There’s a lot of value in being a part of community events where your target audience is bound to be, and just getting to know people as people. When it feels appropriate, it’s okay to mention your band, but that shouldn’t be what you lead with. Again, this goes back to the idea that if you can hook people on your personality, they’re much more likely to support your music.

4. Listen to what your fans say (as well as what they don’t)

If you have 200 diehard fans constantly asking you to play in Arizona, you better find a way to get to Arizona. Once you’re there, you need to interact with those fans like crazy. Hang out with them before the show. Ask to sleep at their house if it seems appropriate. Talk to them about what the Arizona scene is like, what they enjoy, what they wish was different. Take notes.

If your fans keep telling you they love a certain song that you’ve only been playing live, consider making that your next single. If the photos you post of your dog get the most attention, do more of that. If your fans go to Warped Tour, do the battle of the bands to get on there. (And even if you don’t, be one of those bands that stands outside the venue giving away stickers and chatting with people in line while sharing your music and swapping stories.) Take every single opportunity you can to get closer to your existing fans, and to get to know potential fans.

Just as important, however, is to listen to what they aren’t saying. If no one is liking or engaging with your 12th post about Saturday’s show, stop doing that. If you dropped a single with no warning and no one is listening or cares, don’t do that again. If no one is coming out to your shows, think about why that could be (are you boring onstage? Do you play out too often? Who are you sharing the bill with?) and rectify the situation.

There are so many learning opportunities, and the truth is that your audience will tell you what they want — you just have to be willing to listen. Sometimes, you’ll find that what your audience wants isn’t necessarily what you set out to create — but sometimes that’s okay. You just have to be willing to be flexible while balancing what’s most important to you.

If they want more covers, give it to them. If they’re telling you they want less hometown shows by not showing up, be willing to adjust. Be flexible and always be willing to learn from your experiences.

The answers to your struggles — and your future fans — are right there waiting for you; you just have to be willing to listen, and to break outside your comfort zone.

Angela Mastrogiacomo is a pop-punk enthusiast and the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and Infectious Magazine. You can find hanging out with her dog, eating sweets, and curled up with a good book. Read more at http://angelamastrogiacomo.com/

Rebecca4 Steps to Building Community Engagement Online and Off
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6 Tips on Creating Viral Video Content for Your Band

Zac Green from popular music blog ZingInstruments.com walks us through some important tips on creating viral video content for your band.

YouTube is one of the best platforms for promoting your music and building a huge fanbase. Music videos are among the most watched types of content, and when these go viral it can often catapult a band from relatively unknown to international fame in a matter of days.

But what actually makes a video go viral on YouTube, and how can your band get that to happen? Despite the seemingly arbitrary manner in which some videos go viral and others don’t, many viral music videos have a number of attributes in common with each other.

Here’s six tips on creating viral video content for your band.

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5 Ways to Save Money on Tour

Ah, summer. The smell of fresh-cut grass, sunblock and warm PBR. It’s tour season, and this summer tens of thousands of up-and-coming bands across North America will hit the road in hopes of bringing their music to new listeners far from home. Without a doubt, touring can be an incredible experience for new bands even if they’re not playing to packed rooms every night. But if you’re unprepared, a poorly planned tour has the potential to cost you and your bandmates hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Here’s five tips to help you save money on tour this summer.

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