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The Digital Songwriter

A whole new style of composing music and writing lyrics has arrived in the form of digital songwriting. By using hi tech home studio equipment and software, you can now record your music and lyrics at the same time as you actually write your songs. In the Sixties and Seventies, the most any young songwriter could have hoped for, would have been a 10/50/50 song deal with a music publisher - any music publisher. Whether or not the songs would have been published was another matter. At that time, the ratio of works accepted but not actually published, may have been less than eight in every hundred.

In reality, most songs acquired by publishers were left on the shelf to gather dust. If any were eventually published, mainly because an artist had covered (recorded) his work, it would have made the average songwriter feel like he'd won a week in heaven - especially if they had printed his music. If you could go back in a time machine and reveal to mister Sixties songwriter/producer that today he could not only record, arrange and mix his own songs on a virtual home studio, he could also publish, release, distribute and, with the aid of midi, print off the sheet music (in several keys) all on the same day - he would probably have had a heart attack! So what is this thing called digital music and why did it have such an impact on the music industry? Believe it or not digital was first introduced as a kind of "upgrade" to its older cousin ' analog. Actually, there are still some recording artists and producers today who prefer analog claiming there's a quality or originality to it that cannot be "captured" or reproduced using digital. Recordings in the Sixties, for example, are famous for having a distinctive analog sound of their own. Perhaps so - but most today, I would argue, prefer digital, not just for recording, but also for the advantages in transmitting, distributing, storing, retrieving, and even reconfiguring electronically.

You may get a better idea of digital if you compare it directly to analog. Think of analog as a speedometer on a car. The speed you're traveling is revealed by the arrow moving round the dial. Digital, on the other hand, can only function by using zeroes and ones (0 or 1) and may be restricted in reading the values to a tenth in between numbers. One of the many difficulties which have now been overcome ' is in changing digital to analog and vice versa. Interestingly, a compact disc functions by using both analog and digital.

The audio sound exists initially in analog. Then, the disc is encoded digitally. In reading the disc, the player converts the audio back to analog when the sound comes out of the speakers. By recording and composing music at the same time, the digital songwriter has neatly bypassed many of the obstacles faced by his predecessors including the prospect of publishing his own works on his web site. By adapting to new technology - he's also realized another great prospect: in recording the music he will also own the copyright in the masters (embodied performance).

In doing so, he starts to cross into the producer/artist realm. Some may see this as an opportunity of reopening former days as an artist - and or promoting the name and product (new recordings) of a previous time. Whatever your reasons - if you're approaching digital music as a performer/writer with a view to self publishing, there remains two extremely important questions: Is the product commercial? How do I market it? Both points are as relevant today as they have always been. Knowing what is Commercial is something anyone can achieve with great accuracy through simple, regular research - and yes, using your instincts.

Check your niche of the market and see what and who is selling. In making judgments on what is commercial, you need to trust your instincts, too. It's not just what or who is selling the most, or in great numbers in a particular genre, it's also about what or who is going to be selling the most, or in great numbers in the next six, twelve and twenty four month periods from now. Marketing your product is something you can also learn as skillfully as creating commercial songs. Remember also, it's not just a case of what is selling well in your own country (important as this is).

You need to be thinking on an international level if you want to expand your selling rate significantly. The first thing, after publishing your product, is to start promoting your web site using lots of good solid links from other sites. Design the pages with one thought in mind: collect email addresses to build a sustained opt in fan base. Go all out to make your website appealing and well above the average looking site.

Have regular up to date articles, photos and data about you or your band with information on forthcoming gigs. Respond quickly and enthusiastically to people emailing you with any questions. The more interest you create the stronger your fan base.

Anyone who is serious about this can use auto responders. I have lots of friends who love to write and produce product - especially other artists. This means they can publish lots of different artists.

If this is the area that interests you be sure to have an updated digital agreement to cover non-exclusive master rights. Once you decide to start, aim to build two main catalogs, one for publishing, and one for record licensing then watch your catalogs, profits and success rate grow.

Dennis Sinnott is a music consultant in the entertainment industry. He was formerly Head Of Copyright at EMI Music in London and is now a leading music consultant in the entertainment industry. You can contact him today at: dennis@musicenquiries.com http://www.MusicEnquiries.com


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