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McCartney wins Gershwin songwriter prize

Paul McCartney will be honoured with a fledgling but prestigious musical honour, after being named Monday as the latest recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

The U.S. Library of Congress, which administers the honour, announced the 67-year-old British musician and former Beatle as its third winner of the songwriting prize on Monday.

"It is hard to think of another performer and composer who has had a more indelible and transformative effect on popular song and music of several different genres than Paul McCartney," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement.

Billington selected McCartney after discussion with entertainment industry leaders.

The Library of Congress houses the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, a vast resource of musical manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, other documents and memorabilia that originally belonged to the famed songwriting brothers.

"As a great admirer of the Gershwins’ songs, I am highly honoured to be given the Gershwin Prize by such a great institution," McCartney said.

Organizers will celebrate McCartney with a star-studded tribute concert being planned for spring 2010, with a line-up of performers to be announced later.

First awarded in 2007, the Gershwin Prize was created by Bob Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr — who also created the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The first two Gershwin Prize recipients were musical icons Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

Songpitch.ca To Launch Soon

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The Songwriters Association of Canada and Astral Media Inc. recently announced the launch of a brand new Web portal for songwriters and composers across Canada.

The portal will revolutionize the music industry. It enables songwriters across the country to share their compositions, receive advice from industry professionals and offer their creations for sale to music buyers for television, film and other media. The new portal will also make it possible to replace the traditional practice of mailing CD demos to songwriters, musicians, agents and distributors.

Songwriters Eddie Schwartz, Jim Vallance, Greg Johnston and Marc Jordan, known for their songs performed by artists such as Pat Benatar, Diana Ross, Hilary Duff, Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams and Olivia Newton John, are just some of the prominent industry members who will provide free, personalized feedback to songwriters who upload their songs to the platform.

"The launch of this new portal is in keeping with Astral Media’s creative and innovative spirit. Thanks to our work over the past few years with the Songwriters Association of Canada, we can have an immediate and significant impact on the careers of thousands of songwriters, aspiring and emerging artists and music program students across the country," said Jacques Parisien, Group President, Astral Media Radio and Astral Media Outdoor.

"When aiming to have a significant and immediate impact on emerging talent, aspiring and established artists, you must start at the bottom of the Canadian radio industry’s food chain. That is, to start with the songwriters. The Songwriters Association of Canada and Astral Media both know that it all starts with a song. Thanks to this partnership with Astral Media, a songwriter from any region of the country will have access to the industry’s senior decision makers as well as the advice of Canada’s most prolific songwriters," added Don Quarles, Executive Director of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

To learn more about the new portal and how it works, visit www.songpitch.ca.

The Songwriters Association of Canada is dedicated to the advocacy and education of Canadian songwriters and devoted to developing and nurturing songwriting communities across the country. Astral Media is one of Canada’s leading media companies, active in specialty and pay television, radio, outdoor advertising and interactive media.

When it’s live and I try it… I’ll let you know how the Muse works within this site, but I am looking forward to it… may the Muse be with you.

Paul Williams Announced as Keynote Speaker for CMW 2010

From the CMW news release:

Canadian Music Week announces Songwriter/Performer/Actor, Paul Williams, as a 2010 Keynote Speaker. Presented by the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), he will be speaking on Saturday, March 13 as well as performing on the “Kings of Songwriting” panel as part of the Songwriters’ Summit. The conference runs from March 10th – 14th at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Paul Williams is an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning Hall of Fame songwriter. He has composed such timeless musical standards that have been recorded by diverse musical icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, Ray Charles, R.E.M., Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, Luther Vandross and Kermit the Frog. He is a recipient of The National Music Publishers President’s Award and is President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

Publicly lauded for his work as a singer/songwriter, he has created classics such as “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “You and Me Against the World” and “An Old Fashioned Love Song”. He has scored the films Bugsy Malone and Phantom of the Paradise and his songs “The Rainbow Connection” (The Muppet Movie) and “Evergreen” (A Star is Born) grace the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie songs of all times.

Williams predicts he will be best known for his lyrics to “The Love Boat” and his appearances as ‘Little Enos’ in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy, however he has made numerous appearances in movies and television throughout his career. His recent work in theatre and television includes creating the story and writing the songs for Disney’s A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa for which he received an Emmy nomination, Garry Marshall’s touring sensation of Happy Days, and a stage version of Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.

Incredible talents such as Paul Williams inspire Canadian Music Week to explore the world of songwriting with a daylong summit…

The Canadian Music Week Songwriters Summit is a series of workshops specifically designed for songwriters with participation from esteemed industry professionals. Occurring on Saturday, March 13, 2009, attendees can experience session topics that include ‘Kings of Songwriting’, ‘Xtreme Performance Makeover’, ‘Can Artists Afford to Give Away Their Music for Free’, ‘The Screen As Jukebox: Song Placement for Film and TV’ and many more. To attend the Songwriters Summit, one-day event tickets are available for $150.00 and can be purchased by visiting www.cmw.net or by calling 905-858-4747.

Canadian Music Week is Canada’s leading annual entertainment event dedicated to the expression and growth of the country’s music, media and entertainment industries. Combining four information-intensive conferences; a trade exposition; a film festival; four awards shows and the nation’s largest New Music Festival – Canadian Music Fest – CMW spans a five-day period from March 10 to March 14, 2010 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and various downtown Toronto venues, attracting participants from across the globe. For more information, visit www.cmw.net.

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Special Songbook Collection – Songwriters Hall of Fame + Hal Leonard Publishing

The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SongHall) has announced a partnership with Hal Leonard Publishing, a world leader in the music print industry. The partnership with the legendary music publisher includes the creation of a series of branded songbooks for the Hall of Fame, and and innovative link between the Hall of Fame’s digital Virtual Museum and Hal Leonard’s vast library of song sheets and folios.

“We are excited about this new partnership,” said Hal David, “because it permits us to extend our mission of honoring the world’s great songwriters, by offering sheet music, both in print and online, to the public. The partnership also will result in direct financial support for the Hall of Fame by Hal Leonard, permitting us to continue our many educational activities.”

Hal Leonard has created the first in a forthcoming series of Songwriters Hall of Fame songbooks highlighting the songwriting gems of 38 inductees from 2003 – 2009, including Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora (“You Give Love A Bad Name”); Desmond Child (“Livin’ On A Prayer”); Loretta Lynn (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”); David Bowie (“Fame”); Queen (“We Are The Champions”); Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl”) and many more. This premier Songwriters Hall of Fame Songbook features bios and photos of each artist, along with an introduction by SongHall Chairman/CEO Hal David, and is being sold at music and bookstores nationwide.

Hal Leonard’s SheetMusicDirect.com has now been made available as a SongHall online affiliate. Options to download sheet music from Hal Leonard’s SMD are available on hundreds of inductee web pages within the Virtual Museum. This new feature enables links to hundreds of thousands of pages of digital sheet music and song folios by everyone from Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The Hal Leonard SMD program is easily accessible and user-friendly, loads quickly, and takes customer service to a new level, customize viewing experiences with a variety of options on every page.

About Hal Leonard Corporation
Founded in 1947, Hal Leonard Corporation is the world’s largest music print publisher, producing songbooks, sheet music, educational publications, reference books, DVDs, CD-ROMs, children’s music products and more. In its more than 120,000 available publications, the company represents in print some of the world’s best known and most respected publishers, artists, songwriters and arrangers. The Hal Leonard Corporation has been a formidable presence on the Web since 1997, the year it launched SheetMusicDirect.com (SMD), a worldwide website for downloading legal and accurate sheet music. For more than a decade, SMD has been and remains a leading online destination for musicians seeking printed music.

About The Songwriters Hall of Fame:
The Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates songwriters, educates the public with regard to their achievements, and produces a spectrum of professional programs devoted to the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships. Over the course of the past 40 years, some key Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees have included Desmond Child, Dolly Parton, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Steve Cropper, Richard and Robert Sherman, Bill Withers, Carole King, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison and Cy Coleman among many, many others. The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond.

Full biographies and a complete list of inductees are available at the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Virtual Museum at http://www.songhall.org/.

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Comox Valley Songwriters Circle

Just a plug for a local B.C. Songwriters Circle site I came across… The Comox Valley Songwriters Circle is a group of songwriters of all abilities who get together on the first Wednesday of each month to show off their songs… Check out their website for more info and may the Muse continue to be with them…

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Songwriting – Pay It Forward

I enjoyed reading this article from a Nova Scotia local newspaper about songwriting as an art that can be passed along. Kudos to songwriter Steven Bowers (pictured) who is working with youth and passing along the craft/art of songwriting:

Equipped with good information and persistence, young musicians can forge a path as a songwriter – even if it’s not the career that a guidance counsellor would typically suggest.
Singer/songwriter Steven Bowers has been at the trade for about a decade, and still he says it’s a continual learning process. But at this point, he’s comfortable imparting some of the experience he’s earned at a songwriter’s workshop for several high school students this Saturday at Glasgow Square.

“We want to teach them about the business of songwriting. It’s not really something that’s focused on around here – basically how to connect with other songwriters, how to get your stuff heard,” he says.

He remembers back at the very beginning – writing music but not really having any idea of how to get people to listen to it. In high school he had an outlet through school programs, but without knowing anywhere else to look for performing, there was little opportunity.

“When you’re in high school, you can’t play a lot of the pubs. So, with the exception of local groups that put on coffee houses, you don’t really know many avenues to get your stuff out there,” he said. “The open-mic circuit was really big for me in Halifax. A lot of kids, if they are going off to university or to college, most will have open-mics at the local campus bars they can take advantage of.”

But even with the local notoriety that comes with frequenting an open-mic – or hosting one, as Bowers did – there’s still a distance to travel between pub staple and marketable songwriter. That involves networking with other musicians and knowing organizations which exist to put people in the music business in touch with funding opportunities and information. And it’s those angles Bowers, along with fellow musician Christina Martin are hoping to impart.
“Now that you’ve established yourself as a performer, you have to have some kind of product. If you want to sell your music – and if you want to be a professional songwriter versus someone who’s a hobbyist, you might not be interested in recording your stuff,” he said.

“But, from there, you need a venue to sell your music, people aren’t going to buy it sight unseen. And even if you want to go the radio route and not perform in your life, you still need to connect with the organization.”

The Muse is with you Steven… Inspirational! Keep the faith!

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SongStudio ’09

Kudos to Blair Packham et al (which “al” includes Rik Emmett, Ember Swift, Steven Page, Zack Werner and more!) for setting up SongStudio ’09, described as a “week-long adventure in songwriting at Toronto’s Ryerson University” and scheduled to take place this summer: July 18 – 24, 2009.

Just a bit from the website (which you should visit for yourself):

The week will focus on learning how to write your best songs ever. Best of all, you will get many chances to perform your songs, for supportive, attentive audiences in a warm, nurturing environment.

SongStudio’s format is designed to help you acquire strategies and tools to help turn your ideas into real, finished songs. Good songs that speak to your audience. If you have something to express through song, we can help. Maybe you only write lyrics. At SongStudio, chances are you’ll meet someone who needs help with their words, or who only writes music. And in the meantime, we can help you make your lyrics communicate more effectively, and help you learn how to write effective, compelling melodies and chord changes.

Something else happens at our workshops. Some might call it networking. We prefer to think of it as making friends, and if the last four years are any indication, many of the friendships made at our past workshops will be for life. This is a beautiful thing. So often, songwriting is a solitary art. When the experience can be shared, a community builds.

At SongStudio you will sing, you will laugh, you will listen, you’ll “talk shop”, but most of all, you will grow as a writer and as an artist.

Sounds like a wonderful, creative environment… May the Muse be with them all!

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Akbar to Springsteen?

I read an interesting article involving a “guest” of a federal medical facility in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, who hijacked a plane and forced it to Cuba almost 30 years ago… He then discovered that he didn’t like Cuba and raised a ruckus there so the Cubans shipped him off to Miami in 1981 where he stood trial for air piracy and was sentenced to 50 years…

Muhammad Akbar, born Gerald Leland Marity, was an honourably discharged soldier who served two tours of duty in Vietnam (1966-67). He joined the Black Muslim movement upon returning to the U.S. but fell off the rails… he sought asylum at the Irani and Iraqi embassies in Mexico prior to his hijacking crime… they both turned him down…

Why is this in my blog… Akbar is suing (he does this a lot) the government and his caregivers for stifling his songwriting career. His claim?

“I’m a damn good Black Songwriter who happens to be a Muslim and an airplane hi-jacker (sic) serving a 50 year sentence,” he wrote. “I’ve decided to direct my Lyrics to Ms. Britney Spears, Pink, Bruce Springstein (sic) the best in the world of pop music. This has infuriated the staff here at the prison into breaking the law.

“So far,” he continues, “30 of my letters and songs have been delayed, tampered, and opened for the obstruction of justice by the defendants and not reached Ms. Spears, Pink, or Springstrein (sic) and I want it to stop immediately.”

“And I want these three entertainers notified as to what’s going on by the courts,” he demands in his petition. He says that when he complained to the warden’s office and others, “I was told that I was paranoid and having dilusions (sic).”

Akbar wants a judge to investigate his claims, and he also says he wants $50,000 for pain and suffering, although it appears from his filing that he initially valued his pain and suffering at $30,000, then upped the value and wrote a “5” over the “3.”

Enough said… sometimes the Muse is NOT with us…

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Musicshake… and Musicshare!

The Musicshake website declares “Music for Everyone, Created by YOU”. TechCrunch featured the site in an article published earlier today.

The free Musicshake mixing program (Windows platform only, see interface screenshot below) “lets users create personalized, professional sounding music using a variety of modules and pattern-combination methods, which is quite addictive once you get the hang of it (takes about 10 minutes and there are templates to help get you started). You can convert music you make to mp3 and download them to your computer, or convert them into a personalized ringtone. You can also show off music you create to your friends and place it in charts to promote your work to others.”

Musicshake then lets you monetize that creation on its website and share the proceeds with you 50/50. So budding composers, why not check it out. Here’s a video of the proggie in action:

May the Muse-icshake be with you… now go create…

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HitLab Dynamic Hit Scoring

A Canadian company, out of Montreal, was featured in an article by Roberto Rocha of the National Post yesterday discussing the DHS (Dynamic Hit Scoring) software featured on its website: HitLab.com.

From the article:

“We see this as the future of music,” said Eddie Wenrick, chief executive of Hitlab.com,a Montreal startup that aims to be the big new platform for farming musical talent. The company is a blend of MySpace– the social networking site popular among bands –and Canadian Idol. Members create profiles and add their songs for all to hear and buy. But for $30, they can get Hitlab’s software, called Dynamic Hit Scoring, to analyze their music’s hit potential. If they score highly, they increase their chance of signing a record contract.

Every three months, the four Hitlab users with the highest DHS score are invited to a talent show before a panel of industry honchos. The winners get coupled with managers and hopefully ink album contracts.

Hitlab would get a cut of the deal and publishing rights, and fame-seeking virtuosos get the exposure, Wenrick said.

“It’ll be a springboard to kick-start their careers,” he said. “We like to say we’re a baseball farm team before they go to the major leagues.”

Wenrick, a veteran of the music industry — he was an executive at Columbia Records and Epic Records and ran several talent management firms — understands that letting a robot pick new talent is exceptionally inhuman in a human-driven enterprise. This is why he also invites another top four members, as voted by other users, to the showcase.

“This is for users who don’t have a hit song, but have a large following and show potential,” he said.

And from the website on how DHS works:

To analyze music, the system breaks down the sound frequencies of a song into 78 variables such as tone, pitch, tempo, etc. If a song has very similar patterns to a song that was at the top of the billboard for a long period of time, the DHS score will be high. On the other hand, if the song has a moderately similar pattern to a song that was low on the billboard charts for a short period of time, the DHS score will be lower. By comparing a song to the database that holds the recent trends in music, we can evaluate how appealing the mathematical patterns of the sound frequencies are to the human ear, thereby evaluating a song’s hit potential.
Step by step:

  • Each MP3 song is digitized and parceled into tens of hundreds of short audio files.
  • A set of unique features (78 isolated variables) of the audio contents is extracted from each segment.
  • A full set of identifying features is created for each piece of MP3 content.
  • The complete set is then stored in the database.
  • Each MP3 is ranked according to its peak position in the Billboard compilation using the algorithms and stored in the database for future analysis.

I don’t know if something like this actually works. I guess it would for “pop” songs that may have many similar characteristics. My concern is whether a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, who didn’t sound like the prevailing pop at the time, would make it threw this type of screening…

May the Muse (and technology) be with you…

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