The Digest, Volume 4

The Digest is a new weekly feature to the Sketchbook blog, providing an annotated listing of links to relevant articles about events, trends, people, and things that have a direct impact on us as musicians. If you find The Digest useful, or if you want to suggest improvements, please let me know. Also, if you have content you’d like to see included, please send a message via Twitter or Facebook and let me know that as well. And share the love by passing The Digest on via email or social media.

What Are The Essential Features of a Hit Record? on Music Clout.

While there’s no such thing as a sure-fire, can’t-miss formula, there are a few things that are common to most songs that make it to the top of the charts. The obvious element is that it must be a great song, but plenty of great songs have been consigned to the trash bin because they lacked a strong vocal, solid performance, and a well produced track, among other things.

So You Have a Great Song – Now What? Infographic by Hisham Dahud on Hypebot.

All you have to do is record the great song, upload it onto Reverb Nation, and wait for the labels to start calling – right? There’s more, lots more, as Dahud’s infographic explains, but it all comes down to dedication.

Taylor Swift Hits a Million Sales of Red – Without Tricks, by Steve Knopper on Rolling Stone.

No 99 cent fire sale, like Lady Gaga; no name-your-own-price; just 1.208 million sales of Taylor Swift’s Red. Unfortunately, only she and Adele can sell millions of albums at a time.

Fifteen Tips On How to Give an Interview, by David Lowry on The Lowry Agency Blog.

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: newspapers, magazines, and blogs are calling and emailing with requests for interviews. How do you handle it? If you’re like some musicians, Lowry says, not too well. Being a jerk to the Fourth Estate is a mistake that can torpedo a music career before it gets off the ground. “Remember,” he says, “they never have to interview you or cover your band, regardless of how good your band is or how big you think you are.” Be sure and read up on the don’ts and do’s before the big moment arrives.

Good News! Ten Commandments Reduced to Only Nine! by John Mellencamp on The Huffington Post.

Musician and activist John Mellencamp writes about people today “who have participated in music-related successes and are now witnessing the demise of the entertainment business as it has existed since the beginning of recorded sound.” Not too long ago, BMI and ASCAP were formed to protect artists’ interests, but now they stand by while internet pirates take off with a songwriter’s royalties. We don’t need to keep up with the internet; the internet needs to be reigned in by its creators, who are morally obligated to do the right thing.

How Music Royalties and Performing Rights Organizations Work, by on Music Clout.

Simply put, they’re your collection agents who collect royalties from restaurants, bars, and radio stations on your behalf. Usually the PRO bases its payments on data samples, as it would be impossible to number every song played at every bar by every band. Yet as logical as sampling sounds, some non-mainstream musicians may get overlooked because of it – and have a harder time collecting their money. Soundreef concludes that “sampling as a means of royalty distribution calculation is not purposefully evil, it’s just outdated.”

Five Important Copyright Misconceptions That Linger, by Jonathan Bailey on Plagiarism Today.

Everything can be copyrighted, right? Not so fast, says Jonathan Bailey. You can copyright the song but not the title to it. Nor does “fair use” mean whatever you want it to mean, either. Musicians, educate yourselves!

Can You Survive In a World Without Musicians? by Clyde Smith on Hypebot.

Forget the orchestra. Forget the jazz combo, the rock band, the solo pianist. Music is now composed by Twitter messages that are translated into music by computer algorithms, or by a computer that translates the heart and brain waves of an individual into MIDI signals.

New Beethoven Work Is Premiered, by Melanie Spanswick on Classical Mel’s Piano and Music Education Blog.

Beethoven wrote some sketches for a string quartet in 1799, but was apparently dissatisfied with them, as he never followed through with his ideas. But the maestro’s trash is our treasure: recently, Professor Barry Cooper finished reconstructing the work, which is believed to be very close to what the composer had in mind. Visit Melanie’s blog to read more and listen to the performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in G, Opus 18, Number 2.

Rules, by Bob Lefsetz on The Lefsetz Letter

Not one to beat about the bush, Lefsetz gives some sage advice to seasoned music vets as well as those who want to be seasoned music vets. To wit: don’t worry about your genre, just worry if it’s good. The money is in live performance; work on getting people to keep showing up. Don’t try to drive album sales on Twitter. And remember: no one is waiting for your album.


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