Archive for the ‘The Business’ Category

How cool is the Nashville Number System?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Not sure if I’ve ever talked about this here, but I just happened across this article about the Nashville Number System and wanted to point out how cool it is to watch session players use this. As the article points out:

So what’s so great about the Nashville Number System? Just realize that all of the musicians who play the guitar, keyboard and other parts you hear in the songs on all your CDs, use this system everyday when they record. When they do a session, there is no printed music. There are no sheets of paper with little black notes on lines on the page. No, they come into the studio, find a seat, take a pad of paper and a pencil and write themselves a number chart as the engineer plays a demo of the song they will record that day. What they are listening to in order to make their chart is a rough recording of the song. Many times it is only a guitar or piano and a singer. These musicians make up all the parts you eventually hear right there on the spot using their number chart as a guide.

(via How to Understand the Nashville Number System Part 1 |

It really is kind of a strange and humbling feeling to walk into the studio after spending sometimes countless hours on a song just to see it reduced to scribbled numbers on a single sheet of paper, and then played flawlessly.

Bad news for Nashville music in pairs yesterday

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

It was a little bit of a shock to me to learn yesterday that Ticketmaster has decided to close Nashville-based Echo, which is a company I’ve danced close to for some time but never danced with, if you know what I mean. I have friends that work there, and have followed their trajectory for some time. But:

Staffers were told today they will lose their jobs in 60 days.

And then, on the same day, to learn that Passalong Networks is soon to be no more? I mean, not that any demise within the music industry is altogether shocking at this point, but the impact of both closures being announced on the same day makes it seem a little freaky.

I hope my friends who work at both companies are able to find work quickly.

Depeche Mode, iTunes, and the state of the music industry,

Friday, April 10th, 2009

I hadn’t heard about the Depeche Mode iTunes Pass fiasco:

Just recently, Apple introduced its iTunes Pass program with Depeche Mode, only to find the proposition dismantled by the internet itself.  The Pass builds extras around a formal album release date, and packages everything into a multi-week program.

But all of that is predicated on scarcity and control.  What happens when the album leaks?  That is exactly what happened with Depeche Mode, to the surprise of few.  Buyers were left holding the bag on an $18.99 extravagance, while those paying $0 were granted access to the entire album - and various extras as well.

(via Resnikoff’s Parting Shot: Not Your Father’s Release Schedule… — Digital Music News.)

Interesting attempts to innovate and consequences in the music industry right now. I’m just realizing I didn’t blog here about the Leadership Music Digital Summit Karsten and I attended a few weeks ago, and what my impressions of that were. This was basically it: there’s so much disruption in this industry right now, and some very bright minds are trying many different approaches to make something new work, find a new model, build out lucrative side businesses from that model, etc. But it seems that the disruption is happening faster than the innovation, and that’s really freaking everyone out.

I mean, truly, that was my overriding impression from that conference: not one of hope and excitement, but one of a general anxiety and fear about what happens next.

But the flip side of that is, it’s just about anyone’s game right now. Anyone with an idea could come along and innovate on behalf of music makers, and on behalf of music lovers. There certainly are innovators already. It’s just that there’s so much room for more.

What makes a song demo work in Nashville?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The Nashville Feed has a great entry today about the “science” of cutting a killer demo, but the write-up goes on to demonstrate that it’s really anything but science. Several anecdotes from hit songwriters and producers nail the dilemma: music professionals often claim to prefer a work tape, because they say they want to hear their own interpretations, but a good many of the so-called “golden ears” on Music Row don’t seem to be as objective as they might claim. From what we’ve observed (and I’m not just talking about our own pitching, but what we’ve been witness to in various pitch sessions), a slightly less commercial song wrapped up in a well-polished demo has a better chance of being noticed than a slightly more commercial song recorded at home with just a guitar and some less-than-stellar vocals.

Perhaps the best of both worlds might be to make a home recording, but use a great singer. That’s an approach we’ve thought about taking, but in the end, we always feel our songs are better represented by studio demos anyway.

Anyway, the entry goes on to include a bulleted list of “how to make your demos real contenders,” and based on Karsten’s and my experience, there’s some good wisdom there. For example:

Trust Your Musicians: “In Nashville the session musicians are the best in the world at getting demos done,” said Hambridge. “Songwriters are not usually producers, but good musicians spend so much time in the studio playing on all kinds of songs that they often know exactly what you’re going for. Listen to their ideas.”

That’s one thing I haven’t written about often enough here: how impressive the talent is in Nashville. The first time we took a demo into the studio, we were completely knocked out by how quickly the musicians picked up the melody and laid it down for the recording. The guys were milling around, chatting with each other while the scratch demo was playing on the studio speakers, apparently not paying any attention. Yet when they all sat down to play it through, they had it sounding nearly radio-ready on the first take.

Part of that, of course, is song structure. We intentionally write pop songs, and pop songs by definition have straightforward chord progressions, so it’s not like we typically give studio musicians much of a challenge. But the quality of musicianship is so high that they even replicate the turnarounds and licks without appearing to try.

There are more tips, and some good anecdotes at the Nashville Feed. Click on over there to read the rest.

And as a bonus, here’s some video from the “By Surprise” demo session we did back in ‘05:

Exciting but mysterious

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

The publisher of “Mango Sun” emailed us this morning to let us know he has “major” interest in the song.

Should I write a song about it?

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Stumbled across a good post by Frasier Smith about what makes a song hit-ready. I think this is the songwriting equivalent of “get rich quick” schemes to the average Joe, or of “Good to Great”-style books for business. And yes, I’ve thought a lot about the topic myself.

Smith talks about various elements in hit songs that make their lyrics and melodies memorable, universal, and instantly appealing. Certainly those are elements worth striving for, if pop hits are your goal — and they are ours.

But one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is the importance of writing for me. I’ve always done this, to a degree, but at times I’ve strayed a bit into unfamiliar territory in the hopes of writing something that more people would connect with. Imagine me writing, for example, a song with NASCAR allusions. I’ve tried it. It sucked. I won’t do it again (I promise).

And I just don’t believe it’s necessary to deal with the unfamiliar. Some of my favorite hits are the ones that seem broadly appealing and universal, but which have lyrics that appear specific about the writer’s own life. I’ll cite “She’s My Kind of Rain” as an example, even though its merits are often contested in songwriting circles. I’d cite other examples but I’m about to board a plane. Let me just assert that they are plentiful.

Moreover, I’m finding that the more I strive to write about the most universal topics in the most universal way, the less motivated I am to write them. Maybe that’s a “duh” kind of realization, but it hadn’t sunken in yet after all these years of writing. I think I’ve got it now.

So for me, the question of what to write about is “whatever I’m thinking about.” And then I guess I’d hope that I’ll sometimes stumble across universal themes. That makes it pretty simple, huh?

No really, gravelly crap

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Just sang on a scratch demo we need to send off to an artist we’re writing for. Gawd, I hate doing that. My voice sounds like gravelly crap. Gravelly crap with a clothespin clipped onto my nose.

I was going to do it yesterday, but after a weekend full of drinking and hanging out in smoky places, there was no way I was getting more than a two-note range out of my voice.

Anyway, it’s done, and it gets the idea of the song across, so who cares about anything else, right?

When a $300 order is a potentially bad thing

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I just had to renew Honey Bowtie’s subscription to Billboard and I did it, of course, on But that’s a $299 order (side note: yes, Billboard is a ridiculously expensive magazine, but it’s such a great way to follow a broad cross-section of the industry), and because I’m running several tests on the site that I don’t want to skew with such a huge order, I had to very carefully step around all the spots on the site that would have tracked me and added my purchase to test results.

I am such a geek.

Why I’m abandoning MasterWriter

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Last week, a song opportunity came up (I’ll say more about it when/if there’s more to say), and it required digging through our catalog for songs of a particular style and mood. I thought I’d done a relatively decent job of setting MasterWriter up to be able to do this, but in this case when I attempted to find suitable songs, I found myself at a loss as to how to whittle down my 600+ song library in an efficient way.

See, MasterWriter is antiquated by software standards (the copyright in the web site’s footer says 2001, and yet the FAQ page still says “Coming Soon!”), and its search capabilities still require the user to select a field in which to search. Ugh. More to the point, not all fields are searchable. So where I’ve set up a rough approximation of keywords (such as male, female, or neutral, loss, breakup, happy, etc), I now realize that I have no search capability.

But I knew this, sort of. I had recognized a while back that there was every possibility that MasterWriter would never produce another software release (even though I provided them with feedback so specific it was practically a requirements document, which no one at MasterWriter ever acknowledged to me, so I shortened it and posted it as a review on Amazon, thinking maybe someone would get ambitious and use that feedback to build a better tool). At that point I started investigating other possibilities, such as Journler or Yojimbo. But now I see that I need to speed that process up and get everything moved over from MasterWriter to another app with a quickness so I don’t run into more situations like this.

But MasterWriter has no real export facility. So it seems to come down to a manual, one-by-one copy and paste process. No kidding. I’m not thrilled.

Creative reuse

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Good to see that Hall & Oates have a healthy attitude about allowing their music to be repurposed, even if that repurposing is done with more than a hint of irony.

Speaking from his home outside of Aspen, Oates credits Yacht Rock for rekindling interest in his band — and lowering the overall age of Hall & Oates’ fan demographic.
And musically, it means that the time is ripe for a Hall & Oates mashup album — the first of which is in the works from Gym Class Heroes.
Oates calls the final product “the most unique steps I’ve heard coming out of hip hop in quite a while,” and says he’ll give permission to anyone to use his music, so long as the intentions are good. “Once you make a record, it’s out to the world. Who cares?” Oates says.

I’m a bigger fan of Daryl Hall creatively than I am of John Oates, but from what I know of the two, Oates deserves most of the credit for this laissez-faire attitude toward reuse. Color me impressed, oh mustached one.

Out & About: ASCAP Writers Series

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

ASCAP Writers Series

Out & About: ASCAP Writers Series

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

K&K are attending the ASCAP Writers Series tonight. If we see you there, introduce yourself!

Random countdown & countup

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

Milestones upcoming and past. This helps me stay aware of what a given period of time feels like.

  • Just under a month until I see my dad, maybe for the last time.
  • One month exactly until I turn 30.
  • Two months (when the music executives are all back in their offices after the holidays) until we can really get back to trying to pitch our songs.
  • Three months, maybe four, until I can pay off the heaviest credit card I now carry.
  • Four months until the system I work on is widely released.
  • Five months until the Country Music Marathon.
  • Two years until I pay off my credit cards under the new, more aggressive payment plan.
  • Two years and four months until we can buy a house.
  • Two years and eight months since we left California.
  • Almost two years since I stopped dating other people.
  • A year and ten months since we left Portland.
  • Nine months since we came to Nashville.

Update on song demos

Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

I posted an update on the song demos as a comment reply to therealjae, and it occurred to me that it’s really a separate post, so here it is.

Song demos up on

Saturday, November 8th, 2003

I spent a good chunk of time this morning updating, and specifically linked several demos to the Songs page. Since I mentioned to some folks I saw a few weeks ago that I would be sure to send a link to some MP3s of our Nashville demos, I thought I’d go ahead and post it here.I only got three songs added (one was already there), so here’s what’s up there right now:

  • Get It Wrong, a pop-py tune we co-wrote with our friend Lair Morgan. The demo is sung by Dawn Martin.
  • Traces of You, a slow- to mid-tempo ballad. Demo sung by the lovely and incredibly talented Wendy Jans, who is also a wonderful songwriter.
  • You’ve Lost Me, a sorta raucous country-bluesy tune. Sung by Susan Clinton, who happens to manage Bayou Studio — where we recorded the demo.

And there’s also Mango Sun, which is a reggae tune we demo’ed in Chicago last year and pitched last August for a film placement. Nothing ever came of it, but some of our friends have told us stories of waiting more than 18 months to hear news on a pitch, being sure it was dead, and then getting a cut. So I guess ya never know.

Another demo done: Traces of You

Saturday, September 6th, 2003

K&K were back in the studio today recording a demo of “Traces of You.” K&K were excited to work with Wendy Jans for the vocals. Wendy recorded lush, exquisite vocals with superhuman speed and accuracy. The end result is much richer for it. Thanks, Wendy.

More demos: Get It Wrong & It Works

Monday, July 7th, 2003

Two more great demo experiences with “Get It Wrong” (sung by Dawn Martin) and “It Works” (sung by Kim Parent). They were both fabulous. Thank you, Dawn and Kim.

First Nashville demo!

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

K&K recorded their first demo in Nashville at Bayou Recording Studio. Susan Clinton recorded the vocals for “You’ve Lost Me” and did a wonderful job. Thanks, Susan.