Technically a blogger, Bob Lefsetz is really a leading expert on the music industry. His widely-read, independent e-mail newsletter, The Lefsetz Letter, features his lively, iconoclastic opinions on the state of the business of music. Lefsetz’s sharp, sometimes cutting scrutiny, and uncensored ideas, have established him as one of the most influential voices in the industry. He makes all of his writing available for free online, or via e-mail, earning a living instead through paid speaking engagements, and writing for other publications.

His recent post on “How to Promote” is a typical one – it’s brutally honest and realistic, but provides an excellent distillation of an approach that should benefit every SOCAN member as they pursue a career in music. In it, Lefsetz discusses how to incrementally distribute your music and build statistics, the importance of playing live and taking your time, and only building a team when it makes sense to do so.

You can read his “How to Promote” column here.

You can subscribe to The Lefsetz Letter (delivered to you via e-mail) here.


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Rachael Kennedy is one-third of the songwriting/production team L I O N C H I L D, which placed a song on a Britney Spears album in 2016, attended the third annual SOCAN Kenekt Songwriting Camp in 2017, and recently signed its first publishing deal, with Alex Da Kid, at Kid in a Korner. As usual, it was a long road to reach this point. Here’s how she did it, with some tips that might help on your own songwriting path:

L I O N C H I L D

L I O N C H I L D signing their publishing deal with Alex Da Kid.

When I was 14 years old I sat in my bedroom, wrote my first song and bawled my eyes out. It’s one of the only times in my life I can say I truly had an epiphany; I was going to be a songwriter for the rest of my life. What I didn’t know, at the time, was that that was the easy part, and I was about to embark on a crazy, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting, life-changing, 10-year rollercoaster ride.

Before I even begin writing this, I want to point out I’ve never met any two songwriters with the same story of how they got to where they are, so, first and foremost, there’s no right or wrong way to navigate this wild and ever-changing music industry. All I can say is, there are a lot of talented people trying to make this happen, but one thing you will always be able to control is your drive… SO PEDAL TO THE METAL, BABY!

The Hibernation Period|
The first leg of my journey was what I like to call the “hibernation period,” which occurred from about age 14 to 17, and consisted of me taking all that teen angst and writing songs whenever I could; after school, before school, after terrible high school parties… and this was a very important stage, because it was about the craft. I established a “by myself” writing style and developed instincts which would lay the groundwork for the rest of my songwriting career.

Get Over Yourself: Start Writing with Other People
Yes, we all get it, it’s your art, no one fully understands you, you have your own unique style, etc.  That’s all well and good, but if you want a career as a songwriter, it doesn’t mean much if no one knows who you are. It wasn’t until I started writing with other people that my career even began to exist. When you write with other people, you’re not only expanding your craft, you’re networking – forming relationships, that open doors to other relationships, that may end up bringing opportunities to you that wouldn’t have existed if you were still sitting in your bedroom, writing songs with your guitar, by yourself (though you can always still do this and fill up your emo, angst-y, songwriter-y heart).

As a side note, when it comes to collaborating with other songwriters, I just want to emphasize how important being a good human being is to a successful songwriting career. If you’re a jerk, or hard to work with, or your ego is bigger than the studio, no one is going to want to work with you. There are too many talented people in this business, and if you’re not a fun hang, there are a lot of other nice, friendly songwriters, just as talented as you, who would be more fun to write with.

Networking
When I was 19 I called SOCAN and said, “I want to go to Nashville and write songs with dope songwriters… Where do I start?” SOCAN connected me with their Nashville representative Eddie Schwartz, who introduced me to a few people, and sort of gave me the run-down of the Nashville scene. Fast forward to about nine months of writing trips back and forth between Toronto and Nashville, and I decided it would be good to expand my songwriting to one of the other major music hubs, Los Angeles. So I booked the SOCAN House in Nashville for a week, then the SOCAN House in L.A. the following week. I packed up my car and drove to Nashville where I met with Eddie again, and he said if I was heading to L.A. I should send my songs to Chad Richardson, who runs the L.A. branch of SOCAN.

Chad would become my first champion, the first person to really believe in my potential, and he set up all of my first sessions in L.A. I fell in love with the city, and how much momentum I was generating. I began working three jobs in Toronto in between trips back and forth, to save up money so I could spend three months in L.A., network with as many people as possible, and write my face off before getting my work visa to make the move officially. Again, I packed up my car, drove across the country to California, and networked like a maniac. I said yes to everything. I booked two sessions a day, I got into ASCAP’s Lester Sill Songwriting workshop, where I met Grammy-nominated songwriters and formed relationships I still maintain to this day. I went to every music industry event, party, show… you name it, I did it. During this time, I applied for my work visa. Three months later, in a grocery store with my sister in the suburbs of Ontario, I got the news it had been approved. Again, I bawled my eyes out.

The Leap 
The next stage was a game changer: I moved to L.A. At the time, I remember talking to people about moving, and everyone saying what a big deal it was, and how scary it was to uproot your life and move across the continent to a whole new situation. But it felt normal to me. It wasn’t scary, because I knew in my bones it was what I was supposed to do, and I was willing to do whatever it took to chase this dream I had. I truly think that when something is your passion, and fills you with purpose, nothing is out of reach, because reaching for it feels instinctive, and completely natural.

L I O N C H I L D

L I O N C H I L D with producer Matthew Chaim at the 2017 SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp.

A side note: be fearless. If you’re afraid of failing, this is not the career path for you. Life is way too short, and way too fast, to not do something because you’re afraid you’ll fail, or that all those people back home will judge you. So if you’re going to go for it, you gotta go ALL THE WAY for it.

In L.A., I quickly met two of my best friends, who would become my songwriting partners, and our songwriting/production team, L I O N C H I L D, was founded in 2015. We wrote hundreds of songs together, and managed to get a song placed on the Britney Spears album in August of 2016. That would never have happened if we all hadn’t spent years, on our own and together, growing a network of relationships that would bring such an opportunity to our doorstep. We were invited to attend the third annual SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp in Nicaragua in April of 2017. Then, after a year of meeting with publishers, about six weeks ago we signed our first publishing deal, with Alex Da Kid at Kid in a Korner.

To Be Continued…
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that your journey is going to have a lot of different stages, and it’s probably going to be very different than you imagine it, and that’s okay! Have your goals, and have a clear vision of what you want, and where you want to be, but be open to the path changing. Most importantly, make music with people you love, and enjoy the small stuff; the goofing off in the studio, the blooper takes from your vocal demos, the struggle, the not-so-good meetings, the amazing meetings, and the interesting people you meet along the way. Cause let’s be real here: songwriters are the coolest people on earth!


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Known for her Canadian hit singles “Can’t Stop Falling” (2010) and “Unbreakable” (2013), Laurell has won both the Billboard Songwriting Competition and Pop Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Her work has been featured on MTV’s The Real World, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and MuchMusic’s Degrassi, among others. As a professional songwriter, she now top-lines for DJs around the world, and works closely with signed artists on their singles. She’s currently featured on the hit single “Good Thing,” by Tritonal, which just broke the Top 50 on the Billboard U.S. Dance Chart. Here’s how she did it:

I live out of a suitcase and I’m still in disbelief.  A year ago I embarked on “the European leg of my songwriting hustle.” After relentlessly writing on the L.A. scene, my U.K. passport served as a gateway to more overseas collaborations, starting with an invitation, facilitated by SOCAN, to the famous Black Rock songwriting camp in Greece. The connections I made there evolved into me co-writing and collaborating in 15 countries over the past six months, with labels, publishers, artists and DJs. While the work is so much more than I ever would have imagined, thankfully so are the rewards. It’s pulled me out of my comfort zone, into an amazing journey I never would have expected. Here are some things that have helped my career and creative growth immensely over the last year. I hope they help you, too.

1. Manifesting
Even if it’s just a head game, it really works for me.  A year ago I read The Law of Attraction by Michael Lozier, and wrote down exactly what I wanted. I started training my brain to frame things more positively, and go into situations with more confidence and clarity. It increased the pace of my career development, and brought me so much more enjoyment along the way. I can just relax and deliver, rather than stress about who I’m with, and what’s riding on each opportunity. I often go into sessions thinking about how I want to feel at the end of the day. Usually all I want is for everyone to enjoy themselves, love the song, and ask me back.

2. Relationships
This is the most important thing besides your personal vision. There’s no such thing as doing it on your own. This industry is made up of a small circle of great songwriters in each city, creating a network – one I’ve been able to access in a short amount of time, via introductions to amazing people by other amazing people. Like SOCAN’s Chad Richardson, who invited me to the third annual SOCAN Kenekt song camp in 2017, which allowed that kind of access. Most non-writers/non-artists in this industry are working jobs with less risk, but they’re in it for the love of music, and job stability. When they help me, it’s because they believe in me – they don’t owe me anything. We need people to enjoy the journey with… beer after sessions, couches to crash on, people to call when you’re down, them calling you freaking out when they hear your new song for the first time… that’s where life is at.

3. Pay Attention
Soak up every single thing you can from any collaborating situation: It’s the best education ever. Finding out the hot artists, the fresh production styles, how other people phrase differently than you, and co-writers’ songwriting tricks you haven’t used yet, only helps you become a better writer. When I was in L.A., I’d go to 14-year-olds’ showcases just to hear how that generation sings things. Start learning and you’ll have way more to lean on in your sessions. Also, knowing who you’re co-writing with (artist, producer, DJ), and paying attention to what they want, is really key. When I write for the Eurovision Song Contest, I lean towards epic, soaring, emotional phrases and specific “moments” to serve the live performances of that show. When I’m writing with urban Toronto producers, I’m channeling my best Rihanna swag. There are no stereotypes, and songwriting can break the mold, but paying attention to the kinds of writing choices that make songs different from genre to genre makes us more adaptable writers. Paying attention to pop culture is also important.

“Soak up every single thing you can from any collaborating situation: It’s the best education ever.”

4. Pushing buttons
I used to be a recording artist, so I’m often the singer on my demos. Learning how to track and comp my own vocal opened up my world. I’ve been able to collaborate with DJs and producers while I’m travelling worldwide, and it’s because of learning this most beneficial skill. Because I was a recording artist (and a voice major), I’m very picky, and can now track and comp more quickly than most producers. That makes me even more valuable, because they can bounce the song to me, and I can track while they’re working on the song. It also feels good to pull some weight in the production department. The first song I tracked and comped for a young Chinese DJ won a radio award in China, and they flew me back to perform on national TV with him. If I hadn’t known how to record that song, it never would have happened.

5. Expectations
I expected professional songwriting to be a tough hustle, and it’s been even harder than that. But… I also expected myself to rise to the challenges and become better along the way. Early on, someone said to me that whatever you put in is exactly what you’re going to get out of something – and I totally agree. There’s luck, there are breaks, there’s the law of attraction, and there’s balance. Everything evens out in the end. However big you’re willing to dream is measured by how hard you’re willing to work. I know this is true; I’ve seen it, both in others and on my own path.

6. Timing
I’ve learned to trust the timing of things more this year than ever before. I now understand that a year ago, I wasn’t ready for certain things, and I may still be a year away from being ready for other things. And timing can actually end up serving us. For example, I recently suggested a title during a co-writing session with two very successful songwriters, who both shot it down as cheesy. A week later I walked into a writing camp in Amsterdam with a very successful DJ, and when I asked if there was any specific brief, the two producers in the room literally said “Well, he is all about insert my title here”. We then wrote a song with that title, it’s been recorded, and it’s going to be his new single in September! I called the first set of writers and actually thanked them for saying ‘no’ the week before.

7. Persistence
A songwriting career isn’t for the faint of heart. Most of us got into it because of passion, and that’s what keeps us going. The one thing I’ve learned about persistence is that the only way to guarantee failure is if I stop the process. Just keep going. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing. I was a mess three weeks ago because I was tired and wanted results more quickly. I even wanted to go home. But I know that going home is the only thing that will stop this train. So I can’t. And you can’t. Show up, get the job done, and love the ride!

 


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