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The Muse's News

Issue 4.5 - August 2001
ISSN 1480-6975

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This issue sponsored by:OnlineRock


I n   T h i s   I s s u e :

@-- Editor's Musings
@-- Q&A with Nancy A. Reece from Carpe Diem Copyright Management
@-- Music Reviews - by Ben Ohmart
@-- Songwriting Book Review - by Jodi Krangle
@-- Featured Article - THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC: Club Contracts
                     - by Charles Katz
@-- Musical Notes - Songwriting Contests & Market Info.
@-- Muse's Clues - by Irene Jackson
@-- Featured Article - OYSTERS & MUSES by Harriet Schock
@-- On Site Featured Article - An article already online for your
    viewing pleasure.
@-- Classifieds & Useful Services
@-- Contact information
ISSN 1480-6975.  Copyright 1998 - 2001, Jodi Krangle.  For more 
contact information, see end of issue. ================================================================= This ezine featured at - the Ezine Search Engine(tm) - ================================================================= S p o n s o r M e s s a g e : (Please support the sponsors that support this newsletter! Thanks!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ FREE WEB SITE FOR YOUR MUSIC! At OnlineRock bands, musicians and songwriters can build their own Web site, interact with other musicians, listen to music or just browse through many of OnlineRock's helpful articles related to the music world. Each week OnlineRock spotlights a different artist, song and Web site. OnlineRock offers 25 megs of Web space, easy to use Web building software, Chat rooms, Web based E-mail, Equipment giveaways and reviews, Classifieds and more. OnlineRock - Empowering Musicians ================================================================= E d i t o r ' s M u s i n g s : ----------------------------------------------------------------- I'm going to keep this musing fairly short (yes, I can hear the sighs of relief out there. :) ) and simply say that there is tons of new stuff around the site. Have a look at for a detailed listing. Also remember to have a listen to Radio Muse at . Support your fellow artists by listening to their music and send in your own music for consideration! I'd love to hear you. This month's raffle winners are: Shima Daniels of Cordova, CA, who has won a copy of Lyricist Software generously donated by the folks at Virtual Studio Systems (see for details) and Scott Jarman of Milroy, IN, who has won a copy of Mark W. Curran's book, SELL YOUR MUSIC, reviewed below (and an *excellent* start to any online marketing campaign!). This month's newsletter features a brand new, never seen before article by Harriet Schock (thanks, Harriet!) and another installment of Charles Katz's THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC. Also included is a forum discussion between Nancy Reece and Duff Berschback on how international copyright laws affect and relate to US copyright laws. It's a very interesting and informative read. And of course, there are the other features you've come to expect. Oh - and I can't help but mention that the Muse's Muse Merchandise store now features caps and tote bags. Cafe Press is VERY cool and I invite you all to check it out - . The url to pick up Muse's Muse merchandise is included below. Thanks for reading, folks! All the best with your musical and other endeavors, --Jodi Back to Menu ================================================================= SHAMELESS PLUG: Drop by today to pick up your very own Muse's Muse shirt, mug or mousepad! And while you're at it, think about starting your *own* store. It would be pretty cool to sell your own band's logo or design on promo items, wouldn't it? And starting up a store requires no investment of money on your part at all. Details on how to do that are only a click away... ================================================================= C o p y r i g h t & P u b l i s h i n g Q & A : International Copyright Laws and the US Copyright Law This is the second of many panel discussions by attorney Duff Berschback and administrator and licensing executive Nancy Reece. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Q: What is the Performing Rights Organizations Role? What is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ------------------ A: FROM DUFF: The WIPO is an arm of the UN, and it serves as the Secretariat for the Berne Convention (among others), an international copyright treaty. Over the past 10 years, WIPO has considered draft clarification about the scope of Berne. In 1996, two new treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty, were negotiated, and over 20 countries have adopted them. (The 1998 DMCA in the US was, in part, enacted to allow the US to join the internet treaties). If you're interested in learning more about this organization, visit . FROM NANCY: There are 177 States that are members of the organization, a complete list is at the web site. However there are several States that are members that have historically been poor administrators and protectors of Intellectual Properties. Their mission statement: "To promote through international cooperation the creation, dissemination, use and protection of works of the human spirit for the economic, cultural and social progress of all mankind." Don't miss the virtual tour at the web site: ----------------------------------------------------------------- Q: ...I am new at songwriting-exposure and currently only write for pleasure and contests. But, now I think I'm ready for more. Upon placing a web ad for potential collaboration, I received a reply from a foreign band looking for songs. I'm ready to send a CD and feel that I should be getting some legal backing prior to this collaboration. Can you tell me what the steps are that I should take prior to and during this collaboration? ------------------ A: FROM DUFF: A good first step would be to register your copyrighted compositions in the US Copyright Office. Is the band in a country that is a member of the Berne Convention? If so, having US protection gets you a certain reciprocity with the other country--they can't treat you any worse than one of their citizens, and have to adhere to the minimum standards of the convention. When sending your CD, tell the band whether or not the songs have been released or not--in the US, you, the creator, have say over who cuts the song the first time, but thereafter anyone can get a "compulsory license" to record the song (provided they give you notice and pay royalties). If you anticipate mostly foreign royalties, you should check into entering sub-publishing arrangements to help collect the publisher's share of those monies. More basically, make sure you've joined a PRO (performing rights organization, i.e. BMI, ASCAP, SESAC) to collect your writer public performance royalties. Good luck. FROM NANCY: I agree with Duff. It is important that before you send material to folks you should go about registering the works for the peace of mind it gives. However, I'd like to share one thing I have noticed in my years working with several selfpublished performing songwriters. When you record your own song for commercial release, (that independent CD you made, for example) that is the first release of the song. The compulsory licensing that Duff mentions does go into effect at that point. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Q: ... If I copyright a song in the United States, and the song or a portion of the song gets translated into other languages in foreign countries, would I legally still have the right to collect royalties? Even if a publisher, producer, or record company purchases the copyright? ------------------ FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS AND MORE QUESTIONS, SEE THE REST OF THE DISCUSSION AT: ----------------------------------------------------------------- TO VIEW OTHER QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES, SEE NANCY'S "COPYRIGHT & PUBLISHING Q&A" ONLINE AT OR DUFF'S "THIS LAW GOES TO 11" COLUMN AT . Please note: These two received a *lot* of e-mail in a month. If you sent in a question but have not heard a reply, it's very likely it already *has* an answer online. It's always a good idea to thoroughly look through the Q&A's online to see if your question has already been asked before you send in a request. Thanks! ----------------------------------------------------------------- ***** ABOUT NANCY A. REECE: Carpe Diem Copyright Management's owner and president, Nancy A. Reece has been involved in the music business since 1983. She was the president of an independent advertising agency for eight years as well as a successful personal artist manager for nine years. She represented the careers of several recording artists and songwriters including those with EMI, Zomba and Liberty Records as well as Benson, Starsong, WoodBridge, Temple Hall and N'Soul Records. She also represented, for a number of years, a Grammy and Dove nominated record producer. Reece has won awards of excellence in print magazine advertising and has been named as one of 2,000 Notable American Women (1995) as well as being listed in the International Who's Who of Professional and Business Women (1993). She was also named Cashbox Magazine's Promoter of the Year (1989). In addition to her work at Carpe Diem Copyright Management, Reece is a Licensing Executive specializing in Corporate and Healthcare compliance in the General Licensing Department at BMI. ABOUT DUFF BERSCHBACK: Duff Berschback is an entertainment lawyer in Nashville, TN. He represents singers, songwriters, publishers, and other assorted industry types, with a particular focus on digital entertainment and new media. He spends spare time hanging with his family, playing with his Lab, reading, and, of course, listening to music. A bit scattershot in his musical taste, at any given time he can be found listening to Bach or Martina McBride, Wagner or Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters or (old) U2, Dire Straits or Dwight Yoakum, The Rolling Stones or Frank Sinatra, and (old) Van Halen or George Winston, among others. **If you would like to ask either of these two a question, you can send your e-mail to Nancy at or to Duff at . They can't guarantee they'll get to all of the questions, but they'll certainly try.** Back to Menu ================================================================= M u s i c R e v i e w s : by Ben Ohmart ----------------------------------------------------------------- Sean Croghan – From Burnt Orange To Midnight Blue The lazy entrance to this 9 track, 45 minutes goes by the name of 'Gweneveire,' a musically blue ballad that takes me back to my REM days of the late 80s (indeed Sean has that kinda voice at times, just not nearly as whiny). Hard to believe this guy was in a punk band (Crackerbash), because even the upbeat tracks are without driving malice. If anything the tone is that of forced patience, driven on by life's repetition of rut and unhappiness. But at the same time there's a sense of humor that's dominating (as indeed there must, if singers are to remain sane) and encircling cuts like 'Cupid's Credit Card,' and 'John McConnell's Ghost,' the latter being an acoustic alt-rock tune with red blues coursing all the way thru its veins and brain throbs. Intelligent songs from start to finish. If I had the lyrics anywhere – even on the webpage – I'd share them in a second. Even if you can't decipher all words, the emotionalism of every moment you come up to and then pass is crafted, amazingly, without soppiness, but with a morbid realism that's difficult to turn away from. Like rubbernecking a good car crash on the highway? No, that's too dramatic. This is the stuff we all go thru. Every day. And that's more tragic, more soul searching, more wearing down. Yeah, the simple voice and piano of 'Space Room' could depress. But personally, I find it freeing, like expensive commiseration at the cushion of a poor head doctor's couch. Like any good pornography, living through another's pleasures and pains bleeds the soul for much needed release. Oh, and a stop over at the kicking 'It's Gonna Be Alright' will recharge your batteries if you're feelin' low. ------------------ OTHER NEW MUSIC REVIEWS SINCE LAST MONTH INCLUDE: Organic Brain Syndrome - Osho Zen Tarot - Clyde - Colleen Coadic - Scott Hallock - Tunji - The D's 3 - Kelly Joe Phelps - --------------- ****** Ben Ohmart has had 100s of stories and poems in zines and journals, and had 4 plays produced last year. His lyrics will be on 2 CDs this year, 1 a gothic album, the other a rock album. He's currently writing films, with hopes of having one done in Malaysia soon, and is also trying to break into the prison of television. He's white, 26, single and loves British comedy. He lives in Boalsburg, PA, and enjoys watching rabbits eat his garbage. Contact him at: . **Ben has kindly consented to do music reviews for this publication and also for The Muse's Muse itself. If you have an independently released CD or tape that you'd like to get reviewed, send it off to: Ben Ohmart, P O Box 750, Boalsburg, PA 16827 or drop by his Music Reviews web section at for more details.** Back to Menu ================================================================= S o n g w r i t i n g B o o k R e v i e w : by Jodi Krangle SELL YOUR MUSIC: The Musician's Survival Guide To Direct Distribution On The Internet ~ by Mark W. Curran ----------------------------------------------------------------- "Make your music with passion, make the packaging attractive, offer value for the money, and push it hard. These are the tenets of great online marketing." Mark is actually one of our columnists here at The Muse's Muse (see for details) - and reading this book through, I am reminded of just why I was thrilled to have him on board. Now admittedly, this book is geared towards musicians with product to sell rather than songwriters looking to get their songs noticed. But there is a great deal of very good advice in here that can be applied to both situations - as well as many situations that don't even involve music at all. Just about every online mode of distribution and marketing is explored here, starting with getting your own web site and setting up ecommerce, and going all the way to writing press releases and setting up your own internet record label. There are also several interviews with successful web musicians so that you can read about how they did it. Some of their techniques may surprise you. Along with all this, there's information on how to set up a home studio and if you're confused about the details of ecommerce (I know *I* have been in the past. It's not an easy subject to get a handle on...) there's more explanations about merchant providers and using third-party credit card processors. Lots of information is contained in the appendices including search engine placement tips, how to distribute your press releases via e-mail, creating your own internet radio station, listings of helpful web sites and lots of other tidbits that you'll find extremely handy. Mark's writing (and you can sample it in his columnist section if you're so inclined) is laid back and easy to understand. If there are terms or organizations mentioned that may not be familiar to everyone reading, he explains them in little grey boxes throughout the text. There is a LOT more in this book that I haven't even been able to touch on due to limited space. Suffice it to say that if you are interested in finding a way to effectively market the music you've worked so hard to create, this is a book you should definitely pick up and read cover to cover. There are few enough books out there that deal specifically with the internet as a marketing medium, yet this particular environment (no matter what the major news sources try to tell you) is here to stay. If you want to be a success outside of the traditional commercial system, this is a great publication to start with. SELL YOUR MUSIC is comprehensive do-it-yourself advice for the modern musician and well worth the read. ================================================================= F e a t u r e d A r t i c l e : Charles will be providing us with a series of articles discussing common problems performing songwriters might face within the music business. THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC: Club Contracts - by Charles Katz ©2001, Charles Katz. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jackson Browne wrote a great song in the late 70's "Running on Empty" "Looking at the road-rushing under my wheels" is the lead verse. As a performing songwriter, you put in a lot of miles between venues and you want to be assured when you arrive at a performance that it is booked and you get paid!! Without a Club Contract, you will be "Running on Empty". A situation happened recently to a performing songwriter I know who resides in the US. She is releasing her CD, hosting a party, and showcasing for the event at a well known local club. The artist has a six piece band coming from another city to headline and open for her. This event has been planned for 4 months. All the press releases have gone out and commitments have been made. The club changed their booker, no performance agreement is in place and the new booker arranged for a DJ to play that same night at the club. What a disaster. Now the artist has requested I get involved, obtain a club contract, and remedy the situation as best I can. My bottom line is "Get It in Writing". Oral agreements are easily disputable. A written performance agreement should contain the following items. 1. Name of Band ("Artist") 2. Name of venue 3. Person booking performance ("Purchaser") 4. Date(s) and time(s) of performance 5. Number of sets 6. Time for load-in 7. Time for sound check 8. Total compensation 9. Merchandise Riders 10. Dressing Room Arrangements 11. Security 12. Hospitality 13. Clippings & Posters 14. Insurance 15. Sound System 16. Video and Audio Taping The most important consideration for the performing songwriter is total compensation. This usually is a combination of percentage of the gate and guarantee to perform. Make sure you get paid at the end of the night. Do not let the club owner say he will mail the check. You have your contract. Stay tuned for next month's article: Showcasing ****** Charles Katz owns a high-tech company, Printerm, established for 20 years, and manages a Record Label, Windrift Music Inc. He currently has a CD "Night Driving Music" installed at Internet sites in the US, UK, and Asia collecting royalties. Charles is presently working on his second CD with a female recording artist and has established a virtual band, Spencer K for that project. As a business leader, musician, publisher, and promoter, he is now providing his expertise for fellow artists. Contact: Back to Menu ================================================================= S p o n s o r M e s s a g e : (Please support the sponsors that support this newsletter! Thanks!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ UNLEASH THE FULL POTENTIAL OF THE INTERNET WITH SONGSCOPE.COM! SongScope is a valuable tool enabling you to build an on-line song catalog, accessible only by proven industry professionals. Receive FREE email informing you every time record producers and industry professionals make requests. Song listings are only $29.95 per year. An ecommerce enabled marketing/promotion page and tour calendar are also available for performing songwriters to get further artist exposure. See for details or contact: ~ Tel: 770.754.4543 ================================================================= M u s i c a l N o t e s : Songwriting Contests & Market Info. In the interest of conserving space, I will only be including changes to this listing in this newsletter. All other contests and market information that have already been listed here, are displayed at & . Please check there regularly for updates! ----------------------------------------------------------------- NEW 'RADIO MUSE' WEBCAST FOR INDEPENDENT SONGWRITERS - NOW SEEKING MUSIC! The Muse's Muse & Host, Jan Best of Independent Songwriter Web-Magazine, are putting together a series of shows, one every month, featuring the songs of independent songwriters just like you! See for details on how you can send in your own music for consideration. ----------------------------------------------------------------- THE 2001 MIDWEST MUSIC SUMMIT - AUG. 10-11, 2001 The 2001 Midwest Music Summit will be held in Indianapolis, IN this year. August 10th and 11th Indianapolis will host the first ever major midwestern music convention. Over 2000 music industry executives will take party in panels, showcases and power networking during this weekend. Register online at This years headliners include KRS-1, Michelle Malone, Dust for Life, Factory 81, Aphrodite, Heather Heart plus over 120 of the midwest's (and the nations) hottest unsigned talent. ----------------------------------------------------------------- PRAIRIE MUSIC WEEK, SEPTEMBER 27-30TH, 2001 DON'T MISS IT! IMAGINE you are a student, teacher, musician or conductor with a burning desire to make it as a professional musician, a songwriter, a recording artist, a business manager or recording engineer. PICTURE an environment where you could ask any question you want about the music industry, from songwriting and performance to engineering, management and production, and have it answered by successful professionals from all parts of the industry. ENVISION yourself speaking one-on-one with managers, booking agents, songwriters, publishers, record labels (major and independent), SOCAN or FACTOR and they are giving you constructive feedback on how to get their attention. Now realize that you can. The Prairie Music Alliance presents Prairie Music Week (PMW). A component of Prairie Music Week is the PMW Conference. The PMW Conference is a 3-day conference presenting dynamic ‘hands-on’ and creative ‘interactive’ workshops on different aspects of the music industry. Workshops this year include songwriting, music contracts, skill training (vocal / guitar/ drums/ recording / engineering, etc.), career planning, Internet marketing, and much more! Learn how to make your way in the ever-changing world of music. For more information on how to become involved in Prairie Music Week contact: Prairie Music Alliance, Suite #200 – 1654 11th Avenue, Regina, SK Canada S4P 0H4 Tel: (306) 780-9830 ~ Email: ~ Web Site: ----------------------------------------------------------------- UNISONG - Created By Songwriters...For Songwriters Over $50,000 USD in cash and prizes! The 2001 UNISONG International Song Contest is open for entries! Don't miss this fantastic opportunity! Prizes include Cash, AKG Acoustics Performance Vocal Microphones, Legendary Pignose Amps, Magazine Subscriptions, TAXI Memberships, Listings and more! All entrants who provide a valid e-mail address will receive a free, current issue of Bandit A&R Newsletter by e-mail. Also, look for an amazing opportunity tba in the environment/human rights category! Once again our unique Grand Prize, not awarded by any other songwriting competition, is an all expense paid trip to Jamaica to participate in the next Music Bridges project in March 2002. Previous grand prize winners have won the opportunity to write with the likes of Burt Bacharach, Peter Buck, Jimmy Buffet, Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Stewart Copeland, Rodney Crowell, Lamont Dozier, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Frampton, Indigo Girls, Montell Jordan, Gladys Knight, Lisa Loeb, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lee Roy Parnell, Bonnie Raitt, Brenda Russell, Andy Summers, David and Don Was, and many others during past Music Bridges events. Entry deadline is November 30, 2001. Enter before September 15th to take advantage of our early bird entry fees! Enter your songs via CD, cassette or MP3! See for more details. ----------------------------------------------------------------- NEW SONGWRITING CONTEST: WENDY'S SIZZLIN' SOUNDS OF LATE NIGHT Do you have that hamburger hit? Wendy's Sizzlin' Sounds of Late Night, a songwriting contest, is asking amateur musicians to compose a two-minute ode to your Late Night cravings for the hot n' juicy hamburger. There are some "BIGGIE" prizes being offered by program partners, Shure Inc., and Sonic Foundry. Hurry up and start sizzlin' on your song as the last day to enter is August 31, 2001. For more information, visit ----------------------------------------------------------------- CMT & PRESENT THE 2nd ANNUAL NSAI SONG CONTEST Here's your chance -- the second annual NSAI Song Contest is underway. If you write the winning song, you'll receive an all expenses paid three-day trip to Nashville, introductions to music industry executives, a radio appearance on Nashville 95, a Bluebird Cafe appearance, a mentoring session with an award-winning panel of professional songwriters, a Big Baby Taylor Guitar, an AKG C4000B studio condensor microphone, and, last but certainly not least, an appearance on CMT Most Wanted Live. Plus, many more prizes from participating sponsors. WOW! That's a prize package that totals over $10,000! Everyone who enters will receive a scoring report for each song entered. The judging system will tell how each song performed, with tips on structure and commercial appeal. Enter before August 31, 2001 and receive $5 off your entry fee, plus you'll be entered into a raffle for a Big Baby Taylor Guitar. Final deadline: November 9, 2001 Visit for more information. Or call 1-800-321-6008. Good Luck! ----------------------------------------------------------------- HELP DESIGN THE SEMINAR OF YOUR DREAMS! Music Industry Insider, Moses Avalon, author of Confessions of a Record Producer and Secrets of Negotiating a Recording Contract, is preparing a series of special seminars that will reveal the inside scoop on how things really work behind the closed doors of record companies and publishing companies. To further the quality of these seminars we would like to know what areas you are interested in finding out about. Go to to give your input. ----------------------------------------------------------------- MID-ATLANTIC SONG CONTEST The Mid-Atlantic Song Contest of the Songwriters Association of Washington (SAW at is accepting entries in multiple musical and composition genres through August 13th. Please contact me, Joel Pomerantz, at for details or entry applications. ----------------------------------------------------------------- AUDITION SHOWCASE SONG CONTEST, sponsored by Songwriters Circle of Kansas City This contest is open to all performing songwriters. The 32 finalists will perform in an Audition Showcase at the Heartland Folks Fest, which will be held on October 5, and 6, 2001. A&R reps from Demagogue Productions and Trifecta Records will listen to all of the finalists and pick 3 winners. These three will perform 20-minute sets that evening on the Heartland Folks Fest Main Stage. There are also cash prizes for all three winners and studio time for first place. Entries will be judged on the strength of 2 songs (submitted on CD), the performance and a promotional package that must be submitted with the songs. Any 2 songs may be entered. There are no song categories. Deadline: August 1, 2001. Entry Fee $15. For more information: ----------------------------------------------------------------- VOCAL SCIENCE SEMINAR Tuesday August 28th, 2001, 6:30 pm - 10:30 pm at The Holiday INN - (Beaufort Room West, Downstairs Lobby) 7095 Woodbine Ave., Markham, Ontario - Telephone: (905) 474-0444 Price: $125.00 Early Bird Special: Register before August 10th and get $25.00 off - seminar for $100.00. Includes: Interactive Workshop, Fitness Break Meal and a complimentary copy of the book Vocal Science - Flight to the Universe by Diana Yampolsky For more information please call us at: 416-229-0976 Email: or visit our website at to register and reserve your spot at the seminar. Back to Menu ================================================================= M u s e ' s C l u e s : by Irene Jackson ©1998-2001 Moonstone Productions All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission ----------------------------------------------------------------- Lately I've been involved in a project for television, writing theme and background music for a new series. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a struggle. I liken it to what it must feel like to be a staff writer for a publisher trying to come up with a great song for an artist releasing an're under the gun to come up with exactly the right piece of music and they always need it yesterday! In the end, there's no guarantee that the show will be successful, anymore than there is a guarantee that an artist's album will be. Having said all of that, getting your music on a successful local television series can be very lucrative! There are several ways to go about my case, the personal contacts I had helped a great deal, but there are other options. This month, take a surf on over to an article by Michael Laskow (the founder of TAXI) called "Television Pays!". You'll find it here: The article explains how television producers often turn to music libraries for cuts for their commercials, corporate videos, series and other productions. These libraries are always looking for new music, since they often update the entire library on an annual basis. There are even libraries that are looking for songs...meaning music and lyrics. So if you haven't thought about it before, you might want to consider using your musical talents in a way that could actually pay :-) ****** Irene Jackson is a performing songwriter from Victoria, BC in Canada. Aside from writing, recording and performing, she also maintains a website for songwriters that includes tips, articles and more links of interest. Her eagerly anticipated CD "Catnip" is finally here, and her earlier recordings have had attention everywhere from Japan to South America. Songwriting Tips: Homepage: Songs on MP3: Back to Menu ================================================================= F e a t u r e d A r t i c l e : OYSTERS & MUSES - by Harriet Schock ©2001, Harriet Schock. All Rights Reserved. ----------------------------------------------------------------- An oyster makes a pearl because some foreign piece of matter, like a grain of sand, has entered the oyster and he covers it with layers of nacre (mother of pearl). Basically, he's sort of spitting at it because it's an annoyance. I think songwriters are like that. If something is stuck in our craw, so to speak, we spit at it until we get a song. Or if we are longing for someone, unbearably, we write a song to give an outlet for all the feeling we can't express to the missing or oblivious person. There's usually an element of "reaching for" or "unfulfilled" or "discontent" before a pearl of a song comes out. This doesn't mean all songs are going to express anger or longing. Sometimes, there's a longing to express gratitude or abiding devotion. But there's a longing there, nevertheless. It's hard to express these things in day-to-day existence. I just got an assignment from one of my correspondence course students which is going to lead to a very positive love song for his wife. I dare say it will have some lovely pearls she has never heard, even over the most romantic dinner. Art has a way of condensing and purging deeper emotions that mere conversation isn't capable of expressing. So where do we get the piece of sand? I'm sure there are a few things bugging you at the moment, but they would not all be great songs. In looking for a dry and boring subject to illustrate this point, my first thought was that the IRS would not necessarily inspire a good song, but then I remembered Alfred Johnson's "W2" and realized that in the hands of a skillful songwriter there are no bad subjects. But is there a rule of thumb? What might work better than what? I've been interested for a long time in what brings inspiration. It seems that having a certain distance from that which is inspiring us is essential, even if you have to find a way to get that distance on purpose. It's no accident that there's an expression, "Never marry the muse." A muse is worth its weight in plutonium. I've known people who have stayed in totally bogus relationships only because of the songs that person inspired, when in fact, there was no real relationship in the first place. But it was the equivalent of the eggs that Woody Allen mentioned at the end of "Annie Hall." He did it for the eggs. We do it for the songs. And for some reason, doing anything that will close that distance changes the person from being a muse to being someone too close to serve that purpose. I recently read a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, a Nobel prize winner and one of my favorite poets. It's called "I am too close," and one of lines, and the recurring theme, is: "I am too close for him to dream of me." She writes about having her arm under her lover's head as he is dreaming of an usherette he saw once. She nails this concept better than I've ever heard it discussed. We frequently write (and dream) about fantasies and longings, much more than we dream of those closest to us. On the other hand, those of us who want to have it all try to find a way to long for what we have. Goldie Hawn once said in an interview that she fantasizes about Kurt Russell, her long-term partner. This keeps the dream alive and is something I consider very good advice. There's a rampant viewpoint that the thrill of the chase is the only thrill there is. After the "prize" is "won," the game is over. This is patently an unevolved viewpoint, but it's so ingrained and reinforced by films and novels and songs, that we sometimes forget we have a choice. The reason I mention this in a songwriting article is that it affects the way we write. It's not just ruining our love lives; it's ruining our songs. It's also helpful to know the difference between something you're writing about and something you want to curl up with for a lifetime. Some people try to harness the muse and get it to go in an "appropriate" direction. The catch-22 of this is that only when you know yourself very well can you get this to work. And most people who know themselves very well have given up trying to steer the muse. They just let it be where it is. I have lots of students who are happily married who write about some old relationship they never quite felt complete about. That's where the juices are. They don't want to be back there in that relationship. But that's where the muse is perched. So that's where they go for the characters and the songs. I think this is fine. I once asked my producer, Nik Venet, why a particular couple (both very creative, great songwriters) couldn't make it together in life when they were obviously so much in love and they wrote such powerful songs about each other. He answered with a succinct wisdom he was known for: "Fire needs more than fire. It needs wood." So back to our oyster analogy. It used to require a search of over 1000 oysters to find one pearl. Now, cultured pearls are made by putting a bead in an oyster and putting him back into the water. Then the pearls are collected. The cultured pearls are made the same way as naturally occurring pearls, except that some enterprising person decided to help nature irritate more oysters into making pearls. I realized while thinking this through that I do that on a daily basis with songwriters. I don't have to insert the bead. They already have them. They just don't know where to look until I direct them. Once they get the knack of it, they're off and writing. Take a look at your own life. See where your beads are, and I don't mean the perspiration on your forehead when you're trying to pull a song out of nothing. There are plenty of sources of inspiration. Get out your radar and find that muse. She may be perched on the question mark of an old relationship. She may be looking out from the eyes of your present beloved. Or she could be leaping from the pages of an editorial that gets you crazy. Muses love to hide. But you're a songwriter. It's your job to find them. ****** Harriet Schock is a gold and platinum songwriter/recording artist whose songs have been recorded my numerous artists and used in films. "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" has become a standard and was nominated for a Grammy. Her fourth and fifth CDs, American Romance and Rosebud, both produced by Nik Venet, have recently been released, as well as her book, Becoming Remarkable, published by Blue Dolphin. In addition to performing worldwide, she speaks, teaches and consults in person and offers a correspondence course via the Internet. For further information about her book, CDs, concerts or consultation, go to or call (323) 934-5691. For reviews of her albums go to Back to Menu ================================================================= " O N S I T E " F E A T U R E D A R T I C L E : Arranging the Psychic Sonic Furniture By James Linderman James gives hints on how to arrange chords within your song to make use of emotion - tension and resolution. Back to Menu
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================================================================= C o n t a c t I n f o & C r e d i t s : ----------------------------------------------------------------- Jodi Krangle ............................................. EDITOR Kathryn Obenshain ...........................GRACIOUS PROOFREADER ----------------------------------------------------------------- The Muse's News is a free monthly newsletter for and about songwriters. Subscribers are welcome to recirculate or reprint The Muse's News for nonprofit use as long as the appropriate credit is given and the ENTIRE text of the newsletter is included (including credits and information at the end of each issue). Others should contact me at All articles copyrighted by their authors. Back issues and other information will be available at: The Muse's News is part of The Muse's Muse, a web resource for songwriters: For further information, send your e-mail to: ----------------------------------------------------------------- - How to place a classified ad, pass on market information or sponsor The Muse's News. - How to subscribe, unsubscribe, etc. - To submit articles,reviews,ideas,etc. SNAILMAIL: Please contact me first at
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