Q. Dear Sound Chick,

I am considering a purchase of a powered PA system. I'm looking at the Mackie 808s and the Peavey 696f. I will be using it for live performances with an acoustic vocal trio. What are the pros and cons of these two units and how are they different from one another?

A. The 696 is Peavey's best stab at duplicating the functionality of the 808m. But they still miss the mark in two very important areas:   1. Price: It lists for $50.00 more than the 808m. I do not understand why they think they can ask this much for a unit that is still inferior to the product they are trying to compete with. They copied some of the 808's features (dual graphic EQ's, and 1200w) but that would indicate an equivalent pricetag.   2. Features: It lacks the all-important 'input level' (gain/trim) knobs. In an effort to avoid installing this expensive feature, they have included a cheap feedback detector/eliminator. My opinion is that feedback busting is best done during level-setting or with the graphic equalizer. The feedback button was a lame effort to save them production cost and still retain their trademark volume/gain' circuitry. Nice try, Peavey, but there are no shortcuts when it comes to good sound.

SoundChick Recommends:

For Powered Mixers:The Mackie 808M -list $679.00

For Rack Units: The QSC PLX series - list $700.00-1100.00 depending on wattage

For Monitors: Crown C-300A - about $300.00 on e-bay

For Headphones: The Crown D-45 - $345.00

 Q. Hey SoundChick, I noticed you have a number of Mackie 808m Powered mixers. Are you that happy using them?

A. Yes, I am very happy with the Mackie 808m's. The reason is two-fold. 1) They seperate gain from volume. This becomes very important for fighting feedback and getting the cleanest signal possible. No other powered head has that that I know of.  2) They have a massive heatsink. Anyone who has ever had an amp shut down during an outdoor concert due to the sun beating on their amp can tell you they wish they'd had a bigger heatsink. A fan alone just won't do.

Q. Dear SoundChick: I want to buy a PA for an acoustic /trio playing small rooms: restaurants and the like. Probably wouldn't even need any monitors. In the back of my mind I have a future vision of a 5- piece group (Vox x 3, Guitar x 2, Bass, Drums, Keyboard) playing slightly larger venues. (no stadiums, spandex, eyeliner or big hair: at least not for the guys.) Do I need to get a rackmounted system, and if so , what components should I purchase?

A. Sounds like your 5-piece band will only take 8 channels anyway. I don't mean to sound like a corporate shill, but the Mackie 808M head is perfect for that and can entertain about 200 people outdoors with its 1200 watts. If you are only entertaining 100 folks, you can even use 12" mains. The best performing 12" mains I have seen are the Yamaha SV112 club series. They list for $279 each, but can be bargained down. They are also pole-mountable and can be used as mains.  Use one for a main and the other as a monitor for even smaller crowds. Since you are not mixing a stereo signal, there is absolutley nothing wrong with using one main at a gig! Takes up less space. Also,with the same kind of speaker as mains AND monitors, you can be confident that your EQ sounds the same to your crowd as it does to you. Of course if you have a higher budget, try the new JBL SRX Series - the 12" model packs a whopping 3000 watts each!

Q. How much effect will the brand of power amp have on sound quality at mid-level volume?

A. Probably not much to the layman. Until you are recording or heavily touring, and running 4,000w plus, you won't hear the difference between a Peavy and a Crown. The more important considerations are your speakers and your mics. It does no good to have a Crown amp pushing signal from a Radio Shack mic into equally cheesy speakers. Garbage in - garbage out. You're much better off singing into a Shure Beta 58 through a Peavy amp into JBL cabs or better. As you learn to listen closely to your system, better mics and speakers *will* reveal the differences in amp quality. The best sounding monitor amp I have heard is the old Crown DC-300A. You can get em on ebay for around $300.00 - a real bargain!

Lately, I've been pretty impressed by Behringer. As the story goes, the engineers who started Behringer came form Mackie and brought along a mic preamp design still under patent by Mackie. Behringer lost the suit, but not before they had manufactured thousands of boards with Mackie circuitry. In case you didn't know, Behringers are so cheap, you can throw them away when they break.   If your band is seriously financially challenged, consider trying Behringer. There's no shame in saving money if the gear gets the job done.

Performing Rights Organizations

Q. Both ASCAP and BMI have two different options, to sign up as a songwriter and/or to sign up as a publisher. As an independent artist, is there benefit to signing up as both songwriter and publisher since we will currently be publishing the first CD ourselves. For that matter, even if we don't sign up as an ASCAP/BMI publisher is there an advantage to at least coming up with a name for our publishing 'company' and putting it on the CD?

A. I am a member of BMI, mostly because it was free. When I interviewed Kim and Joe Johnston (hugely successful Christian writers in Nashville), they had chosen to each sign up with a different PRO so that they could compare royalty checks from both sides. (Great choice since they co-write everything!) The difference they came up with was that ASCAP pays less more often and BMI pays more less often on the same songs.

I'm a member of BMI, but have yet to receive one red cent from my airplay, even though my catalog has been registered with them and played on the radio every single week for more than ten years. When my contract expires, I will be heading to ASCAP.

As far as logos on your CD, the publishing logo just makes it seem as if you're serious about your image. The other thing it does is to let A&R people know you have representation and active copyright management.

The chart below was pulled form the ASCAP website. Of course, they tout themselves as the better choice, but upon further research, it seems that the following comparison is accurate.


American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI)


A membership association comprised of songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers. A corporation with which writers and publishers are affiliated.
Under U.S. Copyright Law, those who publicly want to perform copyrighted music (radio, TV, cable, bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, concert halls, airlines, orchestras, websites, theme parks, etc.) must have the permission of the copyright owner. ASCAP licenses these users of music, collects the fees and pays its writer and publisher members their performance royalties. Under U.S. Copyright Law, those who publicly want to perform copyrighted music (radio, TV, cable, bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, concert halls, airlines, orchestras, etc.) must have the permission of the copyright owner. BMI licenses these users of music, collects the fees and pays its writer and publisher affiliates their performance royalties.
OWNERS Writer and publisher members Radio and television broadcasters. (The very organizations ASCAP and BMI license!)
TOTAL 2000
Over $575 million - the greatest revenue of any performing rights society in the world. ASCAP's operating expenses are also among the lowest in the world. Does not disclose its financial data to writers or publishers. Financial reports sent only to broadcaster stockholders.
YEAR FOUNDED 1914 by writers and music publishers. 1939 by the broadcasting industry.
Negotiation with music users. If any licensee and ASCAP cannot come to an agreement, a federal court is available to determine a reasonable fee for that customer's ASCAP license. Negotiation with music users. Recent 1993 Consent Decree change allows court determination of reasonable license fees and interim license fees if negotiated agreement cannot be reached.
12 writers and 12 publishers, elected every two years by the writer and publisher membership. Current President and Chairman of the Board is Academy and Grammy Award winning lyricist Marilyn Bergman. Past presidents include Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould and Academy and Grammy Award winning lyricist Hal David. Broadcast industry executives chosen by broadcaster stockholders plus one BMI employee
Writers and publishers sign identical contracts and may resign at the end of any year of the contract on three months advance written notice

The standard writer contract is for two years and the standard publisher contract is for five years. Some writers and publishers negotiate shorter-term or co-terminous deals.

The two- and five-year contracts continue to renew for additional two- and five-year periods if the termination date is missed. Termination notice must be by registered or certified mail within a specific window (for example, no sooner than six months and no later than 60 or 90 days prior to the end of the contract).

WHO CAN JOIN Songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers, since 1914. Open only to music publishers from 1939 to 1950; writers able to affiliate commencing 1950.

Four domestic and four incoming foreign distributions per year. Moneys from all U.S. licensed areas are distributed to writers and publishers every three months.

50% to writers and 50% to publishers.

Clearly defined, objective and fair payment system.

Guided by a "follow the dollar" principle in the design of its payment system. In other words, the money collected from a particular medium (TV, radio, etc.) is distributed on the basis of performances in that medium.

Performances can be feature performances (visual vocal on TV, a song played on the radio, etc.), underscore (background music on a movie of the week or a weekly series), a theme song to a series, an advertising jingle, a promo or a logo. In radio, almost all performances are feature performances. 

On television, payments are based on when a performance occurs (afternoon, evening, etc.), where a performance occurs (network, cable, local television, etc.), and how a composition is used
(feature, underscore, theme song, jingle, etc.)

Based on all of these factors, a performance will generate a certain number of credits which in turn are multiplied by a dollar value to arrive at a writer or publisher payment.

Four domestic and four incoming foreign distributions per year to writers and publishers. Most U.S. moneys distributed quarterly.

50% to writers and 50% to publishers.

Payment schedule lists minimum amounts due for some types of performances.

Most writers' and publishers' royalties are in the form of one-time "voluntary" payments over and above the minimum payment-schedule rates. These "voluntary" payments may vary significantly from distribution to distribution and may also vary significantly between different types of performances. The size of each voluntary payment is determined each quarter by BMI management. These voluntary payments have ranged from 0% to more than 300% above the payment rate.

May move moneys around (e.g., radio royalties distributed on the basis of television performances and vice versa).


Local commercial radio and television, the major television networks, non-commercial radio (including National Public Radio and college stations), non-commercial television, cable services, background and foreground music services, airlines, colleges and universities, "serious" music concerts, pop concerts, new media, Internet, certain ice shows and circuses; non-surveyed license fees distributed on the basis of feature performances on radio and all uses on television (background music, theme songs; etc.).

ASCAP uses a three-pronged approach to surveys for highest levels of performance data accuracy. Surveys use a combination of the most advanced digital tracking technologies, data provided by licensees, and an in-house staff of music experts.

In radio, ASCAP conducts separate surveys of country, Latin, jazz, urban contemporary, religious, classical, ethnic, and pop music stations so that the total moneys collected from those genre-specific stations are paid to the writers of works with performances on those stations.

Specific distribution formulas applicable to all surveyed areas and for all types of performances.

License same general areas as ASCAP

No specific payment formula is set forth in the BMI payment schedule for any licensed area other than network television, local TV and radio

Royalties are paid for all performances by headliners and opening acts in the 200  top-grossing U.S. concert tours, as well as selected other major live performance venues. Live performance payments commenced in 1993. Commenced paying on live concert performances in 1996.
Has surveyed and paid on college radio performances since 1979. Has surveyed and paid on college radio performances since 1989.

The first American performing rights organization paying its composer, writer and publisher members for music performances on the Internet beginning in June 1997.

ASCAP's EZ-Eagle™ Internet licensing tool identifies highest value music sites, captures song title information, identifies user and automatically sends licensing materials. EZ-Eagle™ can also decode watermarking technologies and provides a technical partnership with Cyveillance, the leader in intellectual property monitoring for the Internet.

Some payments to affiliates made in 1998 for performances on the Internet.

BMI MusicBot™ Version 2.0 links song titles found on the Web with the names of the works' songwriters and music publishers.

Where substantial moneys are received in a current year for prior periods, ASCAP has included those moneys in special distributions. These are designed to direct the royalties received to those members who had performances in the years in question. Members of foreign societies participate in these distributions. Special distributions have been made from moneys received from the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks, local TV stations, MTV and HBO, among others. Specific explanations are forwarded to all members as to how their shares of the overall distribution were determined. When retroactive moneys have been received by BMI, they generally have not been paid out in the form of special distributions to writers and publishers who had performances during the periods for which the moneys were due. Where special distributions have been made, little information has been provided as to how each writer's and publisher's royalties were determined.
Through agreements with foreign societies in the major countries of the world, ASCAP receives royalties for the performances of works written by ASCAP members which are performed in foreign countries. In 1999, ASCAP collected for its members $134 million in foreign performance income. ASCAP also collects for foreign society writers and publishers for performances of their works in the U.S. and forwards those moneys to foreign societies for distribution to their members. (See: The ASCAP International Advantage) Has agreements with foreign societies for the payment to BMI of royalties due affiliates for their performances in foreign countries. Does not publish foreign financial data. Forwards U.S. money to foreign societies for distribution for U.S. performances.
Agreements with practically all foreign societies provide that ASCAP licenses their repertories except for works specifically excluded. In most countries of the world, works go into BMI repertory only on specific request
Writers and publishers elect the Society's Board of Directors and a Board of Review. Writers and publishers sit on advisory committees which meet periodically in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Miami. Open membership meetings in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Writers and publishers have no say in the running of BMI.
All ASCAP writer and publisher members are treated alike, from the newest member to the most established member. Members are paid based on performances, not who they are. All similar performances are similarly credited. Members who have a complaint about the Society's distributions to them or the application of the Society's rules may seek relief from the Board of Review. (See: The ASCAP Advantage.) No obligation to treat all writer or publisher affiliates alike. Affiliates aggrieved by rules may seek arbitration, with loser liable for both parties' legal fees.


Watch this space for a comprehensive article on booking. It will take alot of time to get it written.

In the mean time, please enjoy this article I lifted from the Just Plain Folks newsletter.   It's written by Derek Sivers (The founder of I thought it was brilliant. It addresses the challenges of booking in the college market (a much overlooked revenue stream for touring musicians). Get yer coffee sugared up and give it a read!


One thing to get straight: don't confuse college radio with college gigs. The kids that run college radio are the real music fans. The ones deeply into music for music's sake. But the ones with the big budgets for entertainment and activities are called the "Student Activities Office."

These are usually made up of the girls in pink sweaters who won the election for Class Treasurer in high school. (Think Reese Witherspoon in the movie "Election.") It's a very play-it-safe environment because they want everyone (yes every last person) to be happy, so they can get reelected.

This means that the Student Activities Office wants to hire the most fun, safe, lively, crowd-pleasing entertainment possible. Whether it's a hypnotist, comedian, rubber sumo-wrestling suits, the guy that brings the exotic lizards, a famous talk-show host, hot-wax hands, a magician, or musician - they just want entertainment.

When approaching them, you need to emphasize what a safe bet you are. Your marketing should be filled with testimonial quotes like:"One of the finest performances we've had here all year!" - the College of St.Angus."...the crowd couldn't stop laughing at his lyrics!" - the Thirsty Whale."A real joy to work with - we can't wait to have her back!" - Siberian Sunbathers' Convention.

Your bio should mention all the awards you've won, and what big-mainstream-media sources have also recognized your talent.


Ask anyone who's done over a dozen college gigs without a big track record. You often play at lunchtime for a depressing cafeteria of stressed-out students who are trying to study, and scowl at you for disturbing them. But at least you get paid afterwards. Some actual situations I've had:

Their contract said they had an adequate P.A. system but it turned out to be a tiny microphone that plugs into the wall for the principal to address all classrooms. (I did the gig anyway, and sang into it.)

We drove 22 hours for a $4500 gig in Arkansas, but they forgot we were coming, so we played to 8 people in a backyard in 40-degree weather. (Fingers numb.)

In a big echoey gymnasium, having to set up next to the noisy cotton-candy machine, because that's the only power outlet in the room.


See my diary from two typical weeks on the road, here:


The idea of a real "tour," where you cross the country in a perfect line, rarely happens. The way I was able to make a full-time living out of it was by saying yes to everything.
Ohio on April 8.
Connecticut on April 9th.
Michigan on April 10th.
Maine on April 11th. No problem!
Play for 2 hours. Drive for 14. Play for 2. Drive for 16. Repeat and fade....

Another scenario: You live in New York. You mail your flyer to colleges from Florida to Maine, imagining a nice long tour. Instead you only book two gigs: one from South Carolina, one from New Hampshire.

Because of this, doing the college circuit on the East Coast is a lot easier than doing the West Coast. There are 500 colleges within an 8-hour drive of New York City.


  • You can perform in any situation, right?
  • Your guitarist quits the night before a gig, and you've got another guitarist to take her place, right?
  • You've got enough money to pay for your own transportation and hotel both ways, in case something goes wrong, right?
  • After driving 14 hours, you're clean, lively, and friendly, right?
  • When they change their mind at the last minute, and want you to perform at 11am instead of 11pm, you roll with it, right?
  • When the drunk frat boys heckle you, and run their "play some Skynrd!" joke into the ground, you keep your cool and do your best show possible anyway, right?
  • You know plenty of crowd-pleasing cover songs for emergencies, right?
  • You've played in the cold with numb fingers, sang full-voice at 9am, and can do three 2-hour shows with no break in one day, right?
  • If not, prima donna, this is not for you.


Rule of thumb: they book the Spring semester in the Fall, and the Fall semester in the Spring.

Exceptions: I always booked a lot of April shows in February, and December shows in October. But these are usually the smaller "last-minute" shows.

Secret: June is a great month to contact the colleges. The staff-employee, the Director of Student Activities, is there working for the summer when things are quiet. This is a good time for her to book some "Welcome Week" entertainment for the end of August and beginning of September.


I mainly got into the college market to promote my 5-piece funk band (Hit Me). But I figured since I was going to spend all that money on membership fees and marketing, I might as well make some other ways to book me, too. So I made:

for $1000, the 5-piece funk band
for $600, the acoustic two-person version (me & one other band member)
for $450, me alone
and as an afterthought, I made the Professional Pests, where I would run around campus in a black fabric bag, bothering people. Price? $1500. See it here: (Of course the Professional Pests got as many bookings as my musical acts.) Point being, I was able to work with any budget they had. Of course I wish they could always book my $1000 full band. But if not, I could always sell them on the scaled-down version.


There's an organization called the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) that puts on conferences where all the Student Activities buyers can get together to check out showcasing talent. Their website is

It's VERY hard to get a showcase spot there. You're up against the best-of-the-best that are spending thousands on making a super-professional video submission. Artists on the Billboard charts, performers with 20 years of college experience, comedians from Saturday Night Live, etc. Everyone puts together a great 3-5 minute video of their live performance sampler. Quality matters. Edits matter. That's a whole 'nother subject, though. In short: your video needs to be amazing. Once a year (summer) you can submit it for showcase consideration. Out of ~250 submissions, they pick ~20.

And it's expensive to get involved!! First you have to be a NACA member (~$300) then buy a booth (~$200) then a registration (~$125) then a submission fee (~$50) and after all that the odds are 19 out of 20 that you'll be rejected. But if you get accepted, a showcase-acceptance fee (~$150), then the cost of going and playing (~$500). Now I'm not complaining. I don't think NACA is getting rich. This is just what it costs to do everything they do.

For my band, I submitted for three years, (and spent $20,000 doing it!) until I finally got a showcase spot. But once my band played on that mainstage showcase on the opening night, we booked 30 gigs at about $1000 each, right there on the spot. (Another 100 or so over the next year.) So it CAN all be worth it if you're really going to commit to this and really think it's your thing.

On the other hand, some people spend years trying to get a showcase, finally get one, and don't get any gigs from it. My band was a VERY fun-party-crowd-pleasing band. I think that's why we did so well.


Every month, I would send out flyers to the Student Activities buyer at every college in my area. My advice on making a good college flyer is here:

Out of the 350 schools that hired me, I think over 200 of them came because of my flyers. Which made me think if I had to do it all over again, I might just skip the NACA conference completely, and save the money to spend on marketing methods that go directly to the college buyer.

You can see that in my older article, here:

My advice: If you are considering doing the college scene, start with the mailing list and sending flyers. Get a few shows that way, and see what you think. If you love it, and want to commit years to doing it, no matter what the startup expense, then either join NACA or get a NACA-friendly booking agent.


I still constantly maintain an updated database of 2880 colleges around the USA and the full contact info for the exact person at each school that is doing the hiring of entertainment. I sell it for $75, which includes free updates for as long as I have them.

Buy it here:


The booking agents that work with the NACA scene are all listed right here:

About Derek:

Derek Sivers is the founder of and But then you probably knew that by now! If you have a CD to sell and it's not on CDBaby, check them out today!

Booking Agents

Q. What's your thoughts on booking agents in the Houston area? Who's good and what's 'typical' fee they work for? Maybe more specific, who'd be good for Jen's style of music?

A. I haven't personally worked with a booking agent in Houston - I've always done it myself. But from what I gather from the pros is this:

1) Booking agents can range from 10-35% of your gig fee. Make sure they have a list of their current clients and venues to show you, and then call or e-mail those refernces to ask how they enjoy working with the agent. Does the agent actually visit the clubs they book? Do they have an exclusive agreement with that club? Will the agent be willing to work with contracts?

2) Most booking agents here in town aren't really into original music, but if she can stomach doing cover gigs for awhile, I'm sure they could get her placed into venues that will at least pay the bills.

3) Since she is a keyboard player, she will be able to get a referral to a reputable agent from the Piano Entertainers Guild here in town (if she joins).

Q. "I want to play gigs outside of my usual area - how do I get started in booking myself to clubs and venues in other cities if I don't know anyone?"

A. My best suggestion is for you to surf the webpages of local artists similar to yourself. Take a look at where they are playing. Then submit your presskit to those clubs. If they like the other artist, they might be inclined to like you too.

You should also pursue radio play in those towns before you book your gigs. If you have no fan base and no history there, why in the world would a club owner book you there? If you at least had radio play, you could demonstrate to the owner that you are doing your homework on his market and putting forth the effort. Call that station (if they are not top 40) and try to arrange a live on-air performance. For a list of independent radio stations, visit the Texas Music Office's radio database located here.

The most important tool any touring musician has (next to their rolodex) is their presskit. Get one. If you don't know how to make one, take a look at my on-line kit here. Also read the section in the database about presskits. Now get to work!!!

Seek recommendations from other musicians. Don't pay more than 15%.

Learn to do this yourself before hiring someone to do it for you.

Visit the venue and ask yourself these questions:

1.Do they have good service?
2. Is the venue really interested in promoting their acts\with real advertising?
3. Is this a place you would want your fans to come to?
Then do the following:
1. Call the venue to ask who their entertainment director is, make an appointment to talk to that person when they are not slammed with work.
2. Ask for 10 minutes of their time and have a great looking press kit. They want to know that you will work as hard as they do to make the gig a success.
3. If you want to learn more about the booking business and touring in general, I recommend the book, "All Area Access" by Marc Davison. You can get it on I refer to my copy all the time.

"Songwriters' Capital Gains Tax Equity" Act

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

For More Information Contact:
Barton Herbison (615) 256-3354 or (615) 390-5678

"Songwriters' Capital Gains Tax Equity Act" Introduced

Nashville Songwriters Association International promotes legislation to change age-old tax inequity

Washington, DC — Representative Ron Lewis (R-KY), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, today introduced legislation to correct an age-old inequity and to allow songwriters to claim the Capital Gains Tax Rate when they sell their “song catalogue.” Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, will introduce a companion bill in the United States Senate and serve as the lead Senate Sponsor. The “Songwriters' Capital Gains Tax Equity Act” will apply only when a songwriter sells the royalty stream on a group of songs (“song catalogue”) and will not apply to ordinary royalty income.

The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), established in 1967 and with more than 100 chapters around the country, is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriter’s trade organization dedicated to serving songwriters of all genres of music.

“NSAI wants to thank Congressman Lewis, Senator Bunning and all of the lawmakers who have helped us get this important legislation introduced,” said hit songwriter and NSAI President Bob Regan. “This is something that should have really been changed fifty years ago, and something the songwriting profession needs.”

When songwriting first emerged as a profession in the 1920’s and 1930’s, almost all of America’s professional songwriters assigned their copyright to a music publisher. This means the songwriter did not own the song, receive any royalty payments from a song, nor were they required to participate in any expenses toward exploiting the copyright. Under that scenario songwriters receiving Capital Gains when a catalogue was sold was never an issue.

However, with the advent of radio in the 1930’s, and television and popular music in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the business model evolved dramatically. Today most successful songwriters will be involved in one of two business models. (1) The songwriter and music publisher are equal, joint-venture partners. This is called “co-publishing” and finds the writer and publisher equally sharing expenses to exploit the copyright (demo costs, legal fees, etc…) and equally sharing in any royalty income, or, (2) The songwriter IS the music publisher and bears ALL of the expenses toward exploiting the copyright. Under either scenario the songwriter should be eligible for Capital Gains just like music publishers.

“We have lost more than HALF of America’s songwriters over the past decade due to Internet piracy, corporate mergers and de-regulation of radio,” said NSAI’s Executive Director, Bart Herbison. “NSAI is focused on changing many age-old laws that unfairly impact songwriters.”

Songwriter royalty income is the only income stream in this country where the federal government both sets the amount of payment to a songwriter (for example: currently 8 cents each time a record is sold) and the only profession where the federal government says the royalties must be paid immediately after they are collected. A songwriter may go for years with little or no royalty income, have a big hit, then be subjected to disproportionate tax payments because they MUST receive their money immediately after it is earned. Unlike songwriters, book authors and other creators can NEGOTIATE their payments and spread payments out over a number of years for tax purposes.

“The average songwriters annual income is only $4,700,” Herbison continued. “Since songwriter royalty income is subject to such unique rules, we have to make Members of Congress understand our unique situation.”

(Original Signature of Member)


To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide capital gains treatment for certain self-created musical works.


Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee


To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide capital gains treatment for certain self-created musical works.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. CAPITAL GAINS TREATMENT FOR CERTAIN SELF-CREATED MUSICAL WORKS. (a) IN GENERAL.-Subsection (b) of section 1221 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to capital H.L.C. asset defined) is amended by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (4) and by inserting after paragraph (2) the following new paragraph:

"(3) SALE OR EXCHANGE OF SELF-CREATED MUSICAL WORKS.-At the election of the taxpayer, paragraphs (1) and (3) of subsection (a) shall not apply with respect to any sale or exchange of musical compositions or copyrights in musical works by a taxpayer described in subsection (a)(3).".
Subparagraph (A) of section 170(e)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting "(determined without regard to section 1221(b)(3))" after "long-term capital gain".
(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.-The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act.


Q. I guess my first question is about copywriting songs b/c I am paranoid about going to open mics or songwriter's meetings and having someone rip off my amazing ideas.

A. Formal copyright protection means less and less these days. It seems like artist's songs are being posted to file sharing services against their will, and there's not much you can do about it. That is the risk we take when we reproduce our music digitally.

However, in the case of open mic performances or songwriters meetings, the risk is quite small. Most of the songwriters who attend them are not there to swipe ideas or do anything more than display their works and garner applause. It is the songwriters who appreciate the risks of this exposure the most.

When you play at an open mic, you automatically generate a room full of people who can stand up and say they saw you sing it first. This is considered a form of 'publication'. After all, the best form of copyright protection is to be the first to be seen and heard playing the song!!

When you submit your song to a songwriters association for peer review or 'critique', the whole room understands that your works are protected. In fact, your name, idea and title of your songs would be published in that group's monthly newsletter. The Houston/Fort Bend Songwriters Association publishes crituque results in their newsletter that you can find here. In effect, they are certifying a copyright date *for* you.

 The SoundChick Sez:

When you submit a song for copyright to the Library of Congress, send it via registered return receipt mail.

Hang onto the green receipt until you get your certificate back.

This receipt acts 'in lieu' of a certificate during the eight month backlog.

BTW - here is a link to the Library of Congress' Copyright office and the copyright form!

You can place 20 songs on a single form for $30.00!!

Songwriting Contests

No question was submitted for this category - I just felt like airing my pet peeves about SONGWRITING CONTESTS:

After receiving about the 500th solicitation for a song contest, I came to the conclusion that most of them are a big rip-off because: The SoundChick Recommends: To make it fair for everyone, here is how I would re-write the left:
1) the value of the prizes often don't exceed the value of the entry fee (often up to $100.00 per entry!!) 1) The entry fee should be low (no more than $10.00) and the prize money should be proportinate to the number of songs that are submitted. Of course, if corporate sponsorship is involved, this could be a better ratio.
2) Contest prizes are usually a cheap guitar or a cheap recording device. (Which the songwriter probably already owns). 2) What the songwriter wants is MONEY!
3) Winning a songwriting contest does not open any doors in Nashville (or anywhere else) 3) Openly state that winning a songwriting contest does not open any doors.
4) Most contests take no consideration for other skills (vocal ability, production quality, instrumentation) 4) The contest should award prizes for vocal ability, production ability, etc... share the wealth! It increases the odds of winning *something*!
5) The judging criteria are rarely disclosed. Judges are undercompensated and overtaxed by thousands of entries. "Teams" of unpaid and unqualified judges cause inconsistency in evaluation quality. 5) The judging criteria should be based on guidelines similar to those set forth by the Nashville Songwriters Association, (or other recognized entity) and provides these criteria with the entry form. Also, the number of judges should be limited and they should be paid on an hourly or per song basis.
6) the Judges names and qualifications are not disclosed. 6) The Judges names STILL not be disclosed, but their qualifications should. Judges can be harrased before, during and after the contest!!
7) The distribution of contest entry fees is not disclosed. 7) The distribution of contest entry fees should be completely explained.
8) The contest administrators do nothing with the song once the contest is over, OR they may use the song without compensating the writer. 8) The contest administrators assist the winner with whatever advice and distribution that they can, and offer the writer a contract for any use they may have in mind.
9) Some contests have over 50,000 entries!! 9) Limit the contest to the first 500 entries
10) Writer ends up spending too much money on mulitple cassettes/CDs and postage. 10) Writers could submit entries via MP3 format, instead of expensive mailers
11) Writers never know how many submissions were made or who made them. 11) A list of writers names and states be provided during contest
12) Writers never find out why they lost. 12) writers can ask for a critique for an additional fee or have some explanation why they lost (this is not as bad as it sounds -)

Cover Vs. Original.

Hello TC,

I am part of an acoustic duo. We have been together about 6 months and have about 50 cover tunes. I never really got into songwriting. I was wondering if there are any songwriters out there who are not actual performers and/or who would be interested in having someone else sing their songs.

In order to recommend writers to you, I'd need to hear more what you sound like. The background clip on your site didn't have vocals on it, but your bio had some good references. If you could link an Mp3 to me, that would be helpful. I'm certain that most local writers would be delighted to have you perform their tunes, as long as you do two things:

1) if you record their music, you must pay them the standard royalty; and

2) mention who wrote the song after you perform it.

You can find lots of talented local writers by hanging out in the places that they do - at original music venues and open mics (more on that below). You can also join the local writers groups - The Houston Fort Bend Songwriter's Association The Houston Association of Acoustic Musicians,, and the Houston Chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association .

As far as music venues in Houston, - There are three kinds -

1) regular tavern gigs, (like Ron's) where the crowd has no patience for anything they don't already know. You can sneak some originals in, but they have to be every bit as slick as what they'll get from a juke box. Examples: Ron's Pub, The Bull and Bear Tavern, Big John's Ice House, and most restaurants.

2) listening rooms - Nearly 100% original material, and cover music is (can be) frowned on, unless it's so obscure that no one would know the difference. Examples: McGonigel's Mucky Duck, Anderson Fair, most house concerts, like the Songwriters Sanctuary.

3) hybrid venues where original music is accepted in varying ratios, depending on the tastes of the club's owner. Some of these places are happy with no more than 30% original, others can take up to 100%. Examples - JP Hops House, The Vintage Bar, Dan Electro's, Rudyard's.

In my opinion, there are more than enough music venues in Houston to keep everyone gainfully employed, but the trick is to make sure you know how much other bands are being paid. You don't want to underprice yourself just to get a gig, or other musicians will not be happy with you. The Houston msuic market is currently paying an average of 100.00 per band member per night. I cite one case of an open mic host who was having a hard time for several years. On his own, he drove the price of an open mic host from 150.00/night down to 40.00. We are still suffering from that.

The easiest way to get a gig from the clubs in categories 2&3 is to go play the open mic in that venue. A comprehensive list of those can be found at . Most venue owners work their bars 24/7 and cannot come out to see you and don't have time to review press kits. (Although a great press kit is absolutely necessary in many cases).


Q. My son is cranking up a music career singing Americana music. He and I both write. He sings well. I don't. He should be wrapping up a demo CD in the next 4 - 6 weeks (finally).  I'll probably join HFBSA soon. I know that song reviews are something I can get there (and I need that).   But I'd also like to help him find sources for honest performance critiques (for now, just the songs as recorded on the demo CD). Do you have any suggestions for me?

Hi there!

I can review your son's work. As a full time performer, I can offer my opinions on stagecraft, commercial value, vocal delivery and image. As a sound engineer, I can also offer feedback on the production value of the recording and mastering. The HFBSA can also assist, but you need to make sure they know the the critique will be 'production only'. Otherwise they may suggest song changes that you cannot (at this point) make!

You can also get free feedback from booking agents, club owners and other performers. Just make sure your son is not in the room, so that they are free to express what they really feel about the music. There may be critisisms that artists find very hard to accept. Just make sure to ask these folks for an appointment during a time of day that they are not terribly busy. Post-lunch seems the most obvious time to ask for.

Demo Recording

Q. Is a home recording sufficient for submittal to or is it better to wait for a high quality sound and look?

A. Your home recorded stuff will be just fine for demo submissions. Save your commercially-packaged CDs for selling. If you must, burn a song or two off the new recording and submit that with abbreviated packaging. But like I said, don't spend the money on the Taxi membership until you run across the 'perfect' listing. $300.00 is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, with each listing you will have to decide whether she is submitting as a 'writer' or an 'artist'. Can't always be both except for the singer/songwriter listings. Pick a hat and wear it (for each listing).

Q. What recording studio do you recommend for DEMO development? And what is considered a fair price?

I can recommend the following studios for demo development (having worked in all of them).
White Cat Productions, Buzz Smith, Heights Sound, Sonrise and Sugarhill. Hard to say what a 'fair price' is for a song, since I don't know the level of production you are after. (drums and backing vocals or just a guitar and vocal?) Most simple voice/guitar demos will take about 1-2 hours to record, maybe another hour to mix and master. If you are thinking about bringing in session players, then songs will take longer - even up to 15 hours depending on the arrangement. It really depends on the speed and skill of the musicians you use. There is a reason that Reba McIntyre doesn't use her road band for recording. Being a session player is an art!

The SoundChick Sez

Before recording your demo,take the soundclass offered by White Cat Productions. It can save you thousands on the cost of a full length album project.

You don't want to go into the studio without being completely prepared. Time is money, folks!!

Before you spend ANY money on demos, be sure your songs are as good as they can possibly be. This is no time to let your pride get in the way. Take your songs to your local Songwriters Ass'n and get them critiqued. 50 heads are better than one!

Digital encoding

Q. How do you get a locally produced CD to look like a record company produced one when you put it in your computer cd player? How do you get the AMG information to show? What does it take to get it on CDDB and have this information available and triggered by the insertion of a local writer's CD?

A.CDDB (CD DataBase) is an internet based application that displays artist, title, tracklist, and other music-related information automatically when you insert a music CD in your computer or DVD player. (A-la Music Match, or RealPlayer) Most commercial music CDs do not contain any of this information on the CD itself, because not every mastering or duplication house employs it. However, if the same CD had been loaded to a specific database before, the information may pop up as a result of another member's database entry. When subsequent copies are burned by other users from that database, the data will be imprinted on those CDs. When you burn your production master, the information may be encoded using Protools, or an Alesis Masterlink or similar device, but the file name sizes are restricted to 8 characters.

There is a better naming convention available in RealPlayer, which can also write to the AMD section, but I'm not sure I would want to re-create a master in this fashion, even if it *is* all 1's and 0's. (digital).


Q. I'm looking through the Oasis ad to see how to reproduce what they do for their tools of promotion. One item on their list is they say "National Distribution at,, cdnow,, and" Sounds like a big list right? Well, turns out that -all- the web sites listed are 'resellers' of What's that mean? It means this: I got Jen's CD on for the regular $29.95 annual fee and magically, we're also listed on, CDnow,,, and

Amazon charges $29/yr, and to create your 'associate' account you given them a bank account number so they can transfer funds from sales at no cost (otherwise it's $8/check they write!) Now Oasis says "'Free' tools of promotion" does that mean they cover the $29/yr charge? Do they also create an associate account for you (with your own bank account numbers??) or is it through -their- associate account? Very interesting, what does Oasis actually give you??

Note that the Oasis ad also lists CDBaby and CDstreet, both of which appear to be separate from (and also have their own fees structure)

A. Yeah, I've read through their agreements more than once, and found that you get very little for your 29.00. They will list your CD, and hold your stock, but they do absolutely nothing to drive traffic to your artist page. Distribution without promotion = zero. Why would a customer click on her link if they had never heard her before, or at least seen her picture or read a review? If Jen were signed to a record label even on a development deal, she would get more exposure than Amazon could give her. They have to promote their artists in order to sell CDs. The $29.00 fee covers the administrative cost of setting up the artist page.

99 percent of my CD's were purchased by folks who have seen me perform, and they bought them from the edge of the stage, or from my website. I have had a few sales through during the week that I was featured on their front page.

It seems bleak, but it takes time to develop your fan base, and solicit radio time from radio stations. It's time for Jen to reach out to the college radio market. I feel she fits very well there, even if she's no longer in school.

Our FemTour for 2004 is designed to increase fan base, and booking out of town. My situation is that everyone in Houston who is interested in independent music has heard me and bought a copy of my record. It's time to go after new listeners, even on a short term loss.

Has she completed a press kit yet?

to answer more directly - I do not believe that Oasis picks up the $29.00 fee. I do not know why they can say that their promotional services are free.


Q. Where can I find a good duplication facility?

A. Duplication choices abound on the 'net, but the cheapest and fastest is for runs of 1000 or more. When you get into these volumes, you are buying 'replication', which is to say, the CDs are stamped from a glass master that can be made from a half speed master. For short runs, you would be buying 'duplication', which is the same 'burning' you do on your computer at home.

If I decide not to do that myself, I use Church Cassette here in Houston- They have ultra-fast turnaround, and are offering as number of good specials this month. I don't get commissions from Church cassette.

The SoundChick Recommends:

For Short Runs (500 and less)

For Quick Turnarounds Church Cassette

For large runs and custom packaging:

 Late Breaking news -  Just found and used a great CD duplication service called  They are co-branded with Guitar Center and did a great job for me. Took about two weeks to get them back, but I was able to successfully upload my high rez art and huge .wav files at 44.1k and they sound great. See link on the sidebar. You'd better have broadband internet for this service!

Equipment Cost

Q. I was planning to spend about $1500-$1800 for a PA system, including speaker cables and stands (I already have mic's), but I'll spend more if necessary to get what I want. Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

A. Total cost new for the system you described in your e-mail - Powered mixer/head - $699, 2 -12" mains (one used as montor)- $560 - 2 speaker cords - $60.00, 3 mic stands - $90.00, 3 mic cords -$75.00 1 speaker pole - $50.00 grand total of $1528.00.

If you found yourself in a bigger situation, you can use the passive 1/4" 'out' from the 808 to patch into an additional amp and speakers. Very upgradable.

Monitors are optional, but they sure help. You could start with only one monitor , as Gary and I have used that configuration too. It works just fine, but I'm a huge control freak about sound, and I'll bring anything that will fit into my trailer! Let me know if this helps.

 The SoundChick Recommends:

Eventually you will learn that sound equipment is worth exactly what you pay. I have successfully shopped on e-bay for many items, but I always hold to this rule:


Buy the best you can afford.

Always buy racks and cases for your components.

Q. I'm wondering if I should get one of those 8-channel boxes that will serve my needs for now and worry about bigger and better later on, or get a 12 to 16 channel board (Beringer, Mackie) w/ onboard effects and a 1200 w stereo power amp: stuff them in a road case to move them around. Both scenarios would include 2-way speaker cabs (Mackie, Yorkville, JBL) w/ a 12" or 15" woofer.

A. The decision to use a modular vs. powered mixer depends entirely on your level of comfort with hooking shit up. The two systems we've talked about are comparable in power and features.

The difference is that the Mackie box has all the effects and amps hardwired in. The other difference is price. Your QSC rack amp alone will cost you more than the Mackie box with all of its effects, routing and features. I should mention that there is nothing wrong with buying a Behringer board. The engineers who started Berhinger came from Mackie, and you can see that the Behringer board is a complete knockoff of the Mackie in appearance and design. The difference is that Behringer does not hold the patent on Mackie's super-quiet mic pre's - the trademark of that super-clean Mackie sound. 

Equipment Configurations

Q.  I am a DJ with a standard setup(Technics, 3 ch. mixer). For sound, I have a Crown CE1000 and two powered JBL EON 15". My question is whether or not it is OK to run the signal from the mixer first to the Crown and then out to the JBL's. For my needs, the volume I get with the JBL's alone isn't sufficient. Using the amp I get better volume but I'm afraid I may have damaged the speakers becuase of it but I really don't know. Could you be so kind as to give me just a general rundown explaining the basics about how to achieve the loudest, cleanest sound with what I have. Also, what should I have the level set to on the amp and what is the best way to control the overall volume on the mixer?(ie. gains, input sliders, or master volume knob) How can I know if I have damaged the JBL's for sure? Help! I'm stressing with all this expensive crap that I'm afraid I'm destroying with my addiction to ear splitting volumes. Thank you so much fo! r your time.

I hate to say it, but I think your speakers and/or your amp might be toast. They are not meant to be used together.

Reason #1: The input jacks on your particular speakers are designed to accept a 'line level' input, which is measured in milli-amps. Your Crown amp pushes about 15 amps if run full-out, as opposed to your mixer which delivers about 0.0015 amps. I am surprised it worked at all.

Reason #2 - Your Eon spekers are already powered. They *are* amplifiers. Run one amplifier into another and you get .... toast.

Your total volume is limited by the wattage of your amplifiers (in this case, your Eon Speakers). It cannot be increased. However, if your master output level is always higher than your channel levels, then distortion is less likely. It would be cleaner this way.

Sorry to give you bad news.


Q.  I know you have been following this FCC stuff and so have I, to a point. From what I can guess from what little I have paid attention, is this all about preventing bigger radio companies from buying smaller ones? And/or is there more to it ? And, is there any pressure on KPFT to sell to a bigger company?

Hi - this is long - hope you have some time.

The FCC's role is to regulate the use of the public trust we call 'radio waves'. No one owns radio waves. But the government can regulate their use, since they can't physically control them. They do this to protect communications networks from unlicensed pirate signals, to prevent the neighbor kids' walkie talkies from transmitting over the heating element in your toaster-oven, or cell phones from disrupting radio traffic on airplanes, etc..However, it also protects you from evil independent musicians like me.

Every few years, radio stations are audited by the FCC to ensure that they are serving the communites from whence they derive their income. In this audit process, the radio stations must advertise when and where the public can make comment to the FCC regarding how well they are doing their jobs. Typically, the spots are made in the middle of the night as to discourage any real public input. They can't afford to have even one complaint, or the station has to have a real public hearing.

Slowly but surely, small TV and radio stations have been selling their licenses to larger companies that have stations and newspapers in the same broadcast area. In this way, most local retailers and businesses find themselves writing checks to the same entity for their advertising bills. Also, record companies find that if they select the right 'family' of radio stations, they are likely to get more radio play for their artists than if they had solicited small stations individually. They get more airtime for fewer ad dollars, since the ad packages often cover both AM and FM stations, and newspapers/magazines in the same market. That's why you only hear 17 different songs on a 'top 40' station. They select a different 17 songs every Tuesday, based on record sales numbers provided by SoundScan and the BillBoard record charts, in the hope that this type of music will help their advertisers to sell more beer or insurance. If a station bucks the format, the advertiser will take their dollars elsewhere.

Small radio stations cannot offer this 'bang for the buck' level of service. They die out pretty quick, but they can make alot of money in the end, because each radio license for a particular frequency is worth several hundred million dollars. They are worth this much because all of the available frequencies in major metropolitan areas are already in operation. There are a limited number of frequency licenses, a limited number of broadcasting minutes, and therefore high demand.

When this much money is at stake, media companies are unwilling to take a chance on any programming that is 'edgy' or takes any chance of falling outside the very lowest common denominator. Independent music pushes this envelope all the time, and is largely regarded by the media as being 'high risk'.

The June 4th decision made by the FCC allows major media to purchase up to 45% of radio waves in major market areas (up from 35%) as well as run any number of newspapers totalling 45% of circulation for that area. This means that nearly everything you see and hear is corporate owned and operated. Folks like Ted Turner are essentially in charge of how news is reported (or NOT reported). He also gets to pick what music you hear and what kind of beer you drink while dancing to it. Through this kind of media control, he can even tell you *how* to dance to it. This makes Big Brother very proud.

KPFT (through the Pacifica Foundation) is always under pressure to sell to big media. In today's market, the 5 Pacifica FM stations could be worth a billion dollars! Fortunately, Lew Hill (Pacifica Founder) saw this coming, and created the Pacifica Foundation, which is owned by itself and accountable only to it's listeners. If Pacifica went under, the whole shooting match would be sold and the proceeds would end up in a trust for wayward cats, or some such. As long as Pacifica can stay out of debt, little folkies like you and me have a shot at getting airtime.

So, contact your federal representative and complain. It's not too late to have the decision rescinded.

The next best thing is to hassle your local top 40 station to play local music.


Q. Some acoustic/electric guitars seem to be more prone to feedback during live performances. I've notice that some performers use a soundhole cover to limit feedback. It seems sort of counterintuitive to stuff something in the soundhole, but apparently it works. What has your experience been and are the other rememdies besides a soundhole cover? The problem seems to be aggravated with multiple mic setups - but are certain pickups/interior mic set-ups more prone to feedback than others?

A. Feedback is created when the resonant surface (the face) of the guitar vibrates in phase with the sound coming from a floor monitor or other loudspeaker. The cause of this sensitivity is excessive 'gain' recieved from the guitar's pickup or internal microphone.

There is a difference between 'volume' and 'gain'. When you turn either of them up, they both appear to make your guitar sound louder - and it does -but:

1) 'Gain' controls the amount of signal taken from the guitar and delivered to the mixing board (gain is also called 'input' level). If the gain is set too high, your guitar will feedback through the speakers even with the slightest amount of volume applied to the front of house or the monitor wedges. It will be most prevalent in the monitors.

 The SoundChick Recommends:

If you have the budget, I love the LR BAGGS guitar Pre-amp.

Learn to use the notch filter. This way, you can turn your guitar up as loud as possible, during soundcheck and 'dial out' the offending frequency.

It also has XLR and 1/4" outputs, which are very nice when you find out you left your regular DI box at home.

Cut back on your gain until the board reads 0db input (about midway up the response meter), then slowly bring the 'volume' up in the monitors and then the front of house. This is a very effective way to eliminate feedback.

Stuff something (like a rubber feedback buster) in the sound hole. This works because a) you are interrupting the 'loop' by preventing the intense sound from reaching the guitar's internal mic or pickup. and; b) you are dampening the amount of vibration created on the face of the guitar. This only goes so far though, as sometimes the vibration is so intense that it is transmitted directly to the bridge of the guitar and recylced through the pickup without any assistance from the internal mic.

If you are using a 'blender' type pickup, swing the blender all the way to the 'pickup' end of the switch. Remember, the internal mic is pointed directly at the monitor wedge. Would you point your vocal mic at a wedge?...Didn't think so... I hate blender pickups. The quality of sound you would get from the internal mic is completely defeated when you are forced to turn the gain back so far that the 'detail' frequencies are lost. Stick with a pickup or outboard pre-amp.

If you simply *must* have a blender pickup, I can recommend the Highlander IPX-2. Pricey, but wow are you gonna love it. Otherwise, get a regular Highlander IPX-1 (no internal mic) Your soundman'll love it.

My personal pickup is a Fishman Pro-EQ outboard unit.

Used gear shopping on e-bay

I wasn't asked about this, but I felt it was important anyway...

When I go shopping for used gear, I use a number of sources. I cruise local pawn shops, used gear departments at music stores, electronic repair places, e-bay, the newspaper, - all of the places you might find used gear. Trouble is, the gear is not guaranteed to work, and sometimes I have to have it serviced right after purchase.

You shouldn't be afraid to do this. In fact, there are some great pieces that just aren't made anymore. (e.g. the Ashly SC-68 8-channel parametric notch filter - *I grunt like Tim Allen when I look at it!*) You won't find these pieces in the Musician's Friend catalogue or the Sweetwater book.

For the sake of argument, let's say you're shopping for a 1984 MaxiBlast Steam-powered, Analogue Wheeze-eliminator. They used to cost $400.00 when they came out, but Maxi-Blast went out of business (let's hope!) and now you need one.

Start thinking like a pawnshop owner. Whack 75% off that price for the same piece used. So now you have a target area of $100.00 for the item, plus shipping (30.00) and repairs (100.00). If you are shopping in town, you can eliminate the 30.00 shipping charge.. Now you have a $200.00-230.00 total budget. See how fast 25% becomes 50%? You begin to understand....

The SoundChick Sez:

Buy the best you can afford.

Always buy racks and cases for your components.

Use the e-bay escrow service

Leave room in your budget for repairs

Stick to your budget

Can it wait? - THEN WAIT!

Will it improve your sound quality by at least 15%?

 If you are using e-bay, begin by looking up your item by using the titles and descriptions check box. If you get several hits back, re-sort your search by the "ending first" filter. Enter each item page and click on the "Watch Item" link. Do it for all of them ( to a max of 30 items). You are not buying it yet, and don't worry, more will be posted - believe me!

Wait for all of the auctions to end (maybe 4 days) and revisit your "I'm watching" page. Record all of the ending prices, but exclude the items that did not get a bid.. Revisit each page and record what the shipping charges were. Then average the ending bids and shipping charges. This average will become your price ceiling for the item itself and for it's shipping. Period. Then research the item and bid on them one at a time at about 75% of your average estimate. Do not place concurrent bids, or you may end up owning two!!

Take advantage of the e-bay insurance plan and the escrow option for big ticket items.

Gear Toting

Q. Everytime I try to fly to Nashville with my guitar, I have to argue with the ticket counter about putting the guitar on the plane, it even if I offer to give up my carryon bag. I have a hardshell case, but I still don't trust the baggage handlers to keep it in one piece. Is there a kind of flight case made that I can trust?

A. My flight case is made by Hafer Case in Richmond, Texas. They make all the tour cases for Destiny's Child and the Back Street Boys. Mine is ATA certified and has casters, a retractable handle and recessed hinger and latches. HOWEVER - if you can't get a case like this, you'll be pleased to hear that airlines can no longer prohibit you from carrying your guitar onto a plane. In fact, you get to keep your carryon too. Print the document here and take it with you. Some airlines like to pretend it doesn't exist, but they still have to recognize it. It's a memo from the Transportation Safety Administration that gives you the right to carry your instrument onto a plane. We can thank the American Federation of Musicians for this victory.

Q. All this PA gear is really heavy and I end up looking like crap right before I have to play. I would also like to keep the weight of any individual component to 50# or less. What can you recommend?

 The SoundChick Sez:

For God's sake!! Get a Rock-n-roller cart!!

Fer Christ's sake Get a speaker pole bag! I hate it when those things fall off the cart during load-in.

Invest in dolly boards, and if you buy a trailer,try to get one with a ramp door and interior lighting. Also, the larger the tires, the softer the ride for your gear.

 A. The mackie box we talked about in your e-mail weighs 36 pounds. Each speaker (4 incl monitors) weighs about 40 pounds for a total of 196 lbs. Takes about 10 minutes total to get the speakers on the sticks, and plug them into the back, add mic /guitar cords and YOU'RE DONE.

The modular system we talked about has a 21lb QSC PLX amp (pretty light!), but add the 30 lb gigrig, another 25 lbs of effects boxes, EQs, 4 speakers, Mixing board and you get a grand total of 246lbs. Add cord bag weight to both. Let's talk about time, too... Add 30 minutes to hook up your speakers, plug the mics/guitars into the board, the board into the eq, the sidechains into the board, the EQ into the amp, the amp into the speakers.

Did you remember to bring moist towlettes and hairspray?

A Better Way to String Your Guitar

House Concert Production

Q. I got a question!!!! What books/websites/publications do you recommend for novice small houseconcert/coffeehouse producers/promoters???

I've been trying to search out some good books/websites/publications and so far have come up w/ very little. Mentoring is somewhat helpful, but I would also looooooove to have some reading material, esp some that include comprehensive checklists.

A. The House Concert Circuit has grown exponentially with the rise of the drivel we call 'top 40 radio'. Songwriters are clamoring for better venues to play, and their fans have risen to the occasion by offering up their own homes as showcase venues. Because house concert audiences are so discerning, you don't need much for good sound either. One example of a good system is described here.

There are a plethora of resources available to learn how to put on your own house concert, and here are a few: article_links.html


If you're reading this, you can probably already sing. (Keep reading even if you can't). If you're reading this, you probably already have the nerve to get up and perform for the public. If you're still reading this, then you are probably having trouble with your voice.

Guess what? November/December is the worst allergy season for vocalists. It’s because of the cedar pollen released when Christmas Tress are cut in central and east Texas. I get laryngitis every year right around the holidays when my most high-profile gigs are scheduled. It never fails. In fact, I have rehearsal tonight and I am just croaking right now. But I'm not worried because I know how to beat an allergy, a virus, bacterial infections and fatigue/overuse.

Hoarseness and laryngitis are symptoms of your larger problem, which is dry and swollen vocal cords. Remember when you were a kid, and you could make a humming sound by blowing over a blade of grass? That’s exactly what happens when you sing. Your vocal cords are like a blade of grass in the shape of a long oval ring (like a rubber band). When you push air past them, they make a resonant, humming sound. The more relaxed and thick your vocal cords are, the lower the note. When you stretch them tight and thin, you bring the long part of two sides closer together and you get a high note. If they get swollen and you force a high note out, they touch, vibrate against each other, and can create a raspy, buzzing sound, and even nodes or calluses.

So, what produces the dryness and swelling? Well, dehydration and inflammation, of course!

For the dehydration, drinking tons of water isn’t enough. You need to hydrate your lungs, so that you will be using moist air. If you are croaking today like me, get into the shower and breathe steam for at least ten minutes. If your hot water doesn’t run out, stay in there! Alternately, you can use a humidifier, or drape a towel over your head and lean over your sink. When you’re not breathing steam, you should be sipping water constantly. Ignore myths you may have heard about avoiding cold water or ice water. None of it is true. Your throat will return to its normal temperature in minutes. I enjoy a simple hot tea with honey. Just leave off the lemon for now. It can strip needed mucus protection off your cords. Also, if you like milk, good news! Milk is great for restoring a dry throat. If you can stand it, have a cup of half and half! If they made Theraflu with Advil, I’d be cornering the market!

The smell of Vicks vaporub is a comforting memory, but don’t use it. The menthol will dry you up. It’s for chest cold and runny noses. There is nothing you can put on the outside of your body that will reduce pain or swelling in your vocal cords. YOU NEED A RUNNY NOSE RIGHT NOW! Also, stay away from antihistamines and cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and diphenhydramine. Anything with ‘–ine’ in it. Don't dry up your nasal passages.

Most importantly, do not whisper. Whispering dries out your vocal cords. It forces air around both sides, and not just through the middle. Talk if you must, even lightly hum, to warm up, but DO NOT WHISPER!!

For the swelling, drink A LOT OF cold water and take three Advil (not Tylenol!) (600mg ibuprophen) every 6 hours. Don’t do this for more than a day – it’s hard on your liver. You drink, beer, right? More reason to be concerned for your poor liver. Acetaminophen won’t work for this because it is not an anti-inflammatory.

For you new-agers, it is OK to use herbal supplements and vitamins of almost any kind, as long as they are not aromatic. GNC sells "Throat Coat", a green tea with slippery Elm. I don't like it, but I know others who do. Don't bother with glycerin throat sprays like "Singer's Secret" . The stuff tastes awful. I've used it several times and couldn't get a result.

When you feel better, try humming SOFTLY with your mouth closed. (Breathing through your nose loses less water vapor, and will keep you from being too loud before you're ready). Start with the lowest note you can manage, and SLOWLY slide up the scale until you reach your ‘break’ point. Let this take ten seconds. On your second pass, stop just short of your break point, and slide back down at the same speed to your low note without stopping. Try it right now, I’ll wait J.

On your third pass, start just a touch higher and slide up and down again. Please don’t push this too hard. No show is worth damaging your instrument.

Lead Sheets

Q. I want to publish my own material (develop my own catalog), but I lack the skill to produce sheet music - who can I contact (trust) to help me get a five to fifteen song catalog off the ground?

A. You don't need sheet music until your song is a hit. Otherwise where is your market? It used to be that you had to have a 'lead sheet' to apply for a copyright, but that's no longer true. There is a company here in Houston that produces (scores) sheet music - they are across the street from Houston Mass Photo but I can 't remember their name. In any case, the publishing company will generate the sheet music if it is needed.

Live Recording

Q. I have started recording with a great engineer here in Portland, but, I can see this is gonna take forever, and I am starting to convince myself that my talent is better appreciated LIVE than it will be in the studio.

So, tell me how you charge to do it, and, what is needed next, compression, remixing mastering all that, what am I really looking at?

A. Howdy! The live recording process goes something like this:

0. You begin your album art design. (yes, you should do this first, as it is always the reason that projects are released late).

1. Put a band together

2. Book a venue where you believe there will be a good crowd (Your own backyard (home venue) is usually best)

3. You select 12-18 songs you want to record.

4. Rehearse until you can do it in your sleep.

5. Advertise your gig heavily with flyers, e-mails live radio spots, press releases, anything....

6. On gig day, have a group of folks decorate the club and if possible, set up a buffet table - you want your crowd to hang around for awhile.

7. Load in to the gig a few hours early so you can tweak the sound really, really well.

8. Soundcheck until the house and recording engineers have you optimized in each channel.

9. MAKE SURE THE ROOM FILLS WITH FOLKS WHO JUST LOVE YOU - pay them to come if you must! Make sure they know they are going to be part of a live recording so that they behave themselves during the show.

10. Have an emcee for your show so that a nice live introduction can be recorded.

11. Do a great job at your gig and above all HAVE FUN!

12. After the gig, the recording engineer will make a rough mix for you to review so that you can select which songs are good enough to 'make' the cut.

13. You hire a mixing engineer (could be the same as the recording engineer) and tell him which songs you want to include.

14. The recording engineer turns the multi-track over to a qualified mixing engineer (again, could be the same guy) ,

15. You use the song list to complete the graphic content of your album package

16. The mixing engineer will EQ, apply light compression, effects, balance all the channels and make a 2 track stereo mix.

17. The mastering engineer (hmmm...same guy?) will raise the volume on the recording to it's optimum level and compress the 'peaks' out. He will apply internal EQ to 'smooth out' the overall sound, recompress, apply small gaps between the songs and provide fade-ins and fade-outs before and after each song.

18. The mastering engineer will hand the final master to you

19. You select a duplication house to send your master to and wait for your product to arrive.

20. Write a press release again and arrange a CD release party.

 Making a Living

Since I started my full time music career, many folks have phoned or written to ask me how to make a living in the music business. I don’t have a hit record, and I don’t make a 6-digit income, but today, young musicians (and their parents) are much more likely to seek advice before leaping off the cliff into financial uncertainty. The internet makes it possible to seek out this advice, and a lot of folks end up on my doorstep because of my association with NSAI and The Houston Fort Bend Songwriters Association (HFBSA).

I would love nothing more than to hand you all the answers and watch all of you get filthy rich (while I sit back and collect a piece of each of you!). But the truth is, I'm not rich either. Far from it. But I *have* been able to figure out how to leave my day gig and still make a decent living.

The best answer I have is to share the story of how I began thinking in this direction. I didn't start out in music. I didn't dream of it as a child, and none of my relatives had any connection to music, with the exception of my grandmother, who was a vaudeville hoofer. I grew up in the oil business in Midland, Texas and stayed in oil until 1996. So let's start there....

Houston, Texas, December 1996 - my first guitar (bear with me:)

My journey into the music business started when I bought a cheap knockoff Ovation guitar as a Christmas gift for myself. I had no designs on a music career back then. I’d learned how to make three chords on my brother’s guitar back in high school, but that was back when bicentennial quarters still had a good amount of shine on them. I figured if I could learn to play Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird”, I could learn anything, so I set out to do just that. I figured the damn thing out in a mere four months. Man my fingers hurt! Lesson Learned: If you play it, it will come...

February 1997- discovering original music

I was working for Amoco Exploration Company at the time, and one of my co-workers (T. Chris Stiteler) was a musician. He invited me to hear him play at a local open mic, so we drove 45 minutes out of town to the Brazos Bottom Grill in Richmond. I didn’t know what an open mic was. I thought we were going to hear comedians.

I didn’t recognize a single song anyone played. It seemed like everyone was bent on playing the “b” side of some obscure artist’s record. The musicianship was better than mine, but not professional caliber either. When I asked what was going on, Chris said, “They wrote these songs – listen to the lyrics”. That shut me up pretty good.

So for the first time, I heard people singing and playing their own original songs. As the evening progressed, I started to appreciate these fearless people who could pull songs out of the ether, and perform them in front of everybody. I decided to pull myself off of the signup list. I didn’t have three songs anyway, and the one I had wasn’t original.

March 1997 - My first song

The next weekend, Chris took me to a meeting of the Fort Bend Songwriters Association (FBSA) where I got to hear more original material. Only this time, the other folks at the meeting offered suggestions to each other so that they could improve their songs. One duo in particular caught my attention. Their song sounded like a Dick Dale/Beach Boys train wreck, but it was catchy, and I was humming the chorus along, but on a high fifth harmony. (something my mom taught me as a kid). One of them heard me.

After the meeting, they invited me to come to their studio and sing all the vocal parts, because most of the critique comments they got were about the weakness of the vocals, not of the song itself. In fact, the demo came out so well, they won “Song of the Year”.

I sang demos for them (The Acme Blues Company) for about 7 months, until I got the nerve to try to write a song of my own. It was called "The Ballad of Wanda Vista" and it won the Folk Category of the FBSA's song contest. I almost didn't write another song out of fear that I couldn't write one that was better! But before “Wanda Vista” was finished, one of the Blues Company's members died. This really upset me, because he was one of my mentors and never got to hear my first song completed. I wrote my second song about him. It was called "A Place In My Heart". That one took the Lyric Category prize at FBSA.

I submitted “The Ballad of Wanda Vista” to the American Songwriter Magazine contest and won a better guitar. One that didn’t hurt to play. Instantly, I was a better player and wrote another song. Then I was voted “Songwriter of the Year”, and I only had three original tunes to my name, and had never played professionally.

January 1998 - getting recorded

I was going to open mics seven nights a week, and dragged my tired ass into work every morning, wondering when my boss would twig to the fact I was using his time to write songs. I felt guilty. I felt like one of those people who tries to hide a drinking habit on the job.

Pretty soon, I started to think about recording what I had written, and met Jack Saunders at the FBSA's Sonny Throckmorton Festival. At that time, he ran a studio in his house (which has since grown and moved to the Garden Oaks area). It was filled with speakers, wires and weird looking microphones, and a big ol’ recording board that looked to me like the cockpit of an airplane. He was a genius on the guitar and bass, and offered to play on the recording. I agreed, because my own lame ability would have taken forever, and I didn’t have money to waste on re-takes. Besides, I could always learn to play better after the recording was done. He found a session drummer, who was a one-take wonder, and we were off and running.

I took the finished product to get it duplicated and found out that the duplication was going to cost more than the recording did. That was when I started to use my business skills in my music life. I had been designing PowerPoint slideshow presentations for years! Why not an album cover? So I did, and the 3-song CD I came up with sold 800 copies from my cubicle at work.

My cottage industry was hard to ignore on the job. Folks were coming by my cube every few minutes and filling my pocket $10 at a time. I played in the cafeteria during lunch and started a music club at work. We had 85 members (mostly geoscientists – NO engineers), and met once a month after work. My job reviews remained high, but I began to think, “This music thing is really getting in the way. Who am I kidding?” I was so unhappy. I couldn’t do my best with anything, because I just didn’t have the time to do both. Something had to give.

June 1999 – Wake Up Call

Amoco was more or less purchased by British Petroleum and had a huge layoff the next month. 1600 people in my building made a macabre scene as they rolled their life’s achievements out the door to the parking garage while news trucks filmed their tearful exodus. But I was not among them. It took me another year to figure out that it wasn’t the music getting in the way of my job - The job was getting in the way of my music.

March 2000 - Turning Point

I quit. No severance, no retirement, no vacation time saved up. When my boss asked why I would leave a perfectly good job to pursue an uncertain future, all I could think to say was, “If you had popped your head into my office and applauded every 3-5 minutes, I might still be here”. My husband and I had just bought a house, and we had two small children, and I had the nerve to try to be a full time songwriter! To this day, I don’t know why puts up with it.

So the first morning of unemployment in more than twenty years found me on the sofa, in tears, wondering what the hell I had done, wondering how I was going to make money as a musician. Then the phone rang. It was Jack. He said, “I heard you were gainfully unemployed! – Congratulations! Wanna learn how to book my band?” I was stunned. I didn’t know anything about the music business. I had never booked a gig for myself, much less book for a successful band like Jack’s. But I needed money right away, and I wanted to stay in the music business.

He gave me his contact database and we talked about how he hated booking, and how I had a knack for talking to people on the phone. In two weeks I had booked about 40 gigs for him, but lots of other bookings were getting away.. he needed to rework his press kit, too, so I set out improving the format and editing old items out and putting his recent achievements in.

April 2000 – diversifying

At that point, I realized I would need to know more about the way clubs and bands interact, so I bought a book called “All Area Access” by Marc Davison. What a great read! All of a sudden, I was organized, and began to recognize that still more of my old business skills could be used in my new music career. But even so, 10% of Jack's gig money wasn’t enough to replace the income I’d lost from my day gig.

As I learned the ins and outs of the booking business, I spent a lot of time around Jack’s studio, and began to assist in a minor way with recording. I brought in a few clients, who each booked album projects, and Jack elevated me to studio manager. (I should take this opportunity to mention that this kind of thing NEVER happens. Most studio interns spend years formatting tape, answering phones and cleaning toilets before they are allowed to touch the soundboard or manage a company. I got away with it because I was in the right place at the right time with the right person. Odds = 1 in 47.3 billion).

The new clients were as green as they could be (Most of them were friends from open mics) and needed help with every aspect of their projects. I began to offer graphic design for their albums, and web design. When they began to book gigs, I helped with that too. When they played the gigs, I helped with sound.

Things really began to take off, but then again, so did my expenses. I was paying $700.00 per month on my cell phone bill alone.

May 2000 - newbie engineer

I started attending the gigs that I was booking for Jack, and began to run sound on his PA system. He had very specific ideas about live sound, and was able to explain them well enough for me to catch on. That's when I realized that he had a burning desire to teach and got the idea for Jack to begin teaching sound classes. Yes, I get a small cut of that income too. I came up with the graphic design for the handouts and organized a syllabus, and Jack came up with the content. The class became a successful part of White Cat Productions, and has sold out every session since we started it. Over the last three years, I believe the bar for sound quality has been raised in Houston.

June 2000 - my first paid performance

I still wasn't making enough money to pay half the bills at home and I was beginning to get frustrated. If my husband was, he never showed it. But I got a phone call from a friend of mine named Joe Ed Davis, who was a member of the FBSA. He had a gig at Diedrich's Coffeehouse that he needed to get out of, and asked if I could cover it. I was still playing open mics, with only had a handful of originals and a few covers. It wasn't enough to play a whole gig. But by this time, another ex-Amoco friend (Gary Taylor) had joined FBSA, and I liked his stuff, so we got together one evening at his place to go over some songs. It turned out we had about 35 songs in common - almost enough for the gig!

So we split $85.00 on a Friday night and had to repeat one song at the very end. We made an incredible $100 in the tip jar! That was my first gig, and Deidrich's became the birthplace of my acoustic duo, Smythe and Taylor. The sad part was that Joe Ed died unexpectedly before he could take the ‘better gig’. That night at Diedrich's felt like a parting gift from our buddy, Joe Ed.

December 2000 – Joined NSAI

I can’t remember how I found the NSAI, but it was most likely from hearing Kim Copeland and Susan Tucker present their seminar for the FBSA. I was very happy with FBSA, but the local group lacked the industry advice that I needed to approach publishers and record labels with my voice or my songs. NSAI didn’t have a chapter in Houston, but I joined anyway and started reading the newsletter.

February 2001 - volunteer work

I didn’t have enough money to commute back and forth to N’Ville, so as soon as it was possible, I started the NSAI Chapter for Houston and became a regional workshop coordinator. I did this because none of the other members in Houston had, and soon found that there were about 100 Houston-based dues-paying members on the roster! I spoke with several of them and discovered that they felt disenfranchised being so far from ‘the scene’, and were interfacing with the NSAI office either by phone or mail – they needed a support group! Our local songwriters group was great at conducting critique sessions, but they lacked the kinds of resources that NSAI offered.

Shortly afterward, I got to produce an extremely cool kickoff show in the Mars Music store with James Dean Hicks, Dana Cooper and Gracie Hollombe. I was overwhelmed at Gracie’s encouragement and her willingness to spend the money to get these fine writers to Houston. We had an excellent turnout and the writers in Houston felt very gratified that Nashville cared about what was happening musically in Houston. It was also valuable to learn that the NSAI office would pay attention to writers who do not live in Nashville. One of the tertiary benefits was that all of a sudden, I was considered a ‘serious player’ in the Houston music scene. Club owners started returning my phone calls, and folks were lining up to record at White Cat.

After a year of running the group, I realized that my own successes were not leaving sufficient time to run the meetings effectively. That’s what you get when you listen to the advice long enough! So I handed it off to my new co-coordinator, Leann Timura who turned out to be a much better coordinator. The group is thriving and has had several group junkets to Nashville for songcamp. Lesson Learned: It pays to give it away!

March 2001 - another hat

As part of my learning curve, I learned to put up webpages and became a webmaster for Smythe and Taylor, Jack Saunders, the FBSA and Trey Clark.

May 2001 - potholes in the roadmap of life

My Amoco health insurance benefits ran out. We missed a house payment and started thinking seriously about filing bankruptcy..

June 2001 - creative financing

My income began to even out a bit, between booking, playing, duplication, sound engineering, printing and studio commissions. I was keeping up with my credit card debt, but the interest was running about 400/month that I would rather have used toward the house note. I was gigging 3-4 times per month on a tiny PA system that I kluged together out of a studio monitor system and a tiny, Mackie 1202 board that I bought from Jack. The new venues were getting bigger and 200 watts wasn't enough to carry a room. I had the space on my credit card to buy a real PA, but that would just get me deeper in the hole, so I did two things: I cashed in my 401K from Amoco and we refinanced our house. Ouch. I don't recommend that any of you should cash in your corporate chips this way, but what the heck, BP had mismanaged my 401K SO badly, that it would never have recovered it's original value in 100 years if it earned 15%.

When the loan went through, we were back to $0 credit card debt and I bought my first decent PA with some money from my 401K. It consisted of a powered mixer, two 12" mains and two 12" monitors. I didn't get the 15" cones at first because I figured if I couldn't lift them onto the poles by myself, I didn't deserve to sing through them. Besides, I thought folks were watching to see if I could 'hump it' like other soundguys. After a few months of this, I finally *was* able to heft those bad boys over my head and bought 15" mains after all.

July 2001 - the rental business

After a few weeks, it occurred to me that I wasn't using my gear every day, but the mortgage interest never took a day off. I needed to make that gear pay for itself! Since the west side of Houston was screaming for live music, I went back to what got me excited in the first place, and started hosting open mics in my neighborhood and running all the sound for Jack so that he didn't have to bring his PA to gigs. He was more than happy to let me schlep the gear around.

The open mic was good for about $125.00 per gig and filled a lot of weekday holes in my schedule. Other bands heard that I was renting my PA for crazy-low rates, so I held my breath and started renting my PA on unbooked nights for $50.00.

August 2001 - Being an 'artist'

Rentals and running sound for other bands made me enough money to catch up on my bills, go back into the studio and record a really good radio-ready CD. I hadn’t written much since the first record, but attending all the open mics around town exposed me to some fantastic unrecognized writers whose material I had been covering at my own gigs. After reading Moses Avalon's book, "Confessions of a Record Producer" I learned enough to draft a simple publishing contract and decided to split the sales of the record right down the middle with the writers in a "record one" deal for the first 500 units. I’ve never regretted that.

September 2001 - The Origin of SoundChick

Around this time I started working sound for the John Evans Band. He had hit the charts with Roger Creager on his original song "Redneck Mother" and John had a nice gig at a new venue downtown. He asked me to run sound for him, and just in time, I bought an old PA that included Subwoofers. They were old and ratty, and had to be re-coned, but I got it done and bought a crossover just in time for the gig.

This was about the time I began to feel like a real sound engineer. Every time John called me on the cell phone, I was usually at Mars or Guitar Center shopping for more gear to make his band sound better. They started calling me 'gearslut', 'soundbitch', and finally 'SoundChick'. I liked the sound of that.

October 2001 - touring with the band

With all of this new gear in hand, I set out with John's band to do a mini-tour of southeast Texas. We drove from Houston to New Braunfels, to Corsicana and back again in a Suburban that he bought from one of his fans. We pulled a 5x8 trailer behind with my rig and the band's gear. They derived great pleasure from blowing out my ears on the way to the gigs by playing Junior Brown and Reverend Horton Heat at levels I'm sure were never achieved in live performance. I was promoted to 'road dog' by the time we left Corsicana. I’m sorry to say that I am bound by solemn oath not to tell the rest of that story, but we had a rip-roaring good time!

I also learned that listening to loud music can make your ears ring for days. Nowadays, I wear hearing protection at my gigs and get my ears candled about every six months or so.

Still October 2001 - taking it on the chin

I decided to take John’s next tour in my own truck so I could listen to David Wilcox tunes and was on the way back to Houston from Beeville when my truck broke down just south of town. I had blown the headgasket, the air conditioning, the transmission AND the radiator. No warning at all, due to a malfunctioning heat gauge. There was oil and coolant smeared down both sides of the jeep, and steam and smoke roiled out of the engine compartment in big, billowy noxious clouds. I was alone and about thirty minutes ahead of the band, so I called AAA on my cell phone and waited for the tow-truck driver to arrive.

The band stopped when they saw me, but I told them to go ahead, since I’d called for a tow into town. When the driver got there, we loaded the truck (with all the gear) onto a his flatbed trailer. When he engaged the winch to pull it up the ramp, all of the gear went *SLAMMMM!!* into the back hatch with such force that I aged six months on the spot. I admitted I was powerless over the situation, and told the driver to drop me off in the parking lot of Blanco's, because we had soundcheck scheduled for 6:00pm. I had a ton of gear on me, and figured there would be enough working to get us through the night. Well, I was wrong.

I lost an amp, a powered mixer and a reverb unit. Clay Farmer bailed me out by bringing his 12-channel Carvin PA head in for the gig. After repairs to my truck and my gear, I finished that week about $3500 in the hole.

BUT-- The gig went off well, and we started on time. Folks, the lesson here is that the show absolutely, positively MUST go on!!

February 2002 – From bad to worse (or Easy Come, Easy Go)

John continued to use me for sound and we got a gig at the Houston Livestock Show Rodeo. That gig went just great, but my entire rig and all of the band's gear was stolen (along with John's trailer) after the gig. We were ALL out of business, but John organized a benefit that got us all back into brand new gear that was better than any of us had ever owned. That was a welcome ending to a very rough few months.

May 2002 - making the big time

After a couple more months, I managed to make enough money to upgrade the rig well enough to do a show for 2000 fans of Rusty Weir. Then I got a little bigger and started managing sound at major outdoor festivals. I was pushing about 15,000 watts to front of house. Not bad, but by this time, I had gotten way off track. I hadn’t written any songs in over a year.

June 2002 - leaving the big time

I got a referral for a major private party in Columbus that had booked a certain very large Texas artist who will remain unnamed. Long story short - I was not happy with him and he was less than thrilled with me. I was 2nd engineer on someone else's rig (tour manager's last minute decision that didn't cost me any pay) and two 15" monitor wedges on the artist couldn't overcome the crazy-hot stage volume of his band. He couldn't hear himself and the amps were flat-out clipping. Mox nix - what can you do?

Decided that I do NOT want to work for folks who don't bother to show up for soundcheck. Also decided to sell my 24-track board and bought a 16-track to make DAMN SURE I couldn't talk myself into doing a show of this size again. Lesson Learned: "Staff" is an infection; and it is possible to grow too fast.

August 2003 – My first Tour

After saturating the Houston market as a performer, it became obvious that we would have to leave town in order to grow and increase record sales. The next largest market for live music is in Austin, so I waited till I could get my family out of town to visit in-laws, and my duo partner could get a week off from work.

Since the inception of our group, we have been setting aside 20% of every gig into a travel fund that we could use for this purpose. (Everyone should do this!) I have just recently returned from my first investigatory tour of Austin and surrounding areas and learned many things. First, getting a paying gig inside of Austin proper (or even signing up for an open mic) is a real challenge if you are not from Austin yourself. Smythe and Taylor are a huge hit in our own backyard, but that means nothing once you leave town.

My advice to the touring newbie is to disregard any published information you find on the web about a particular event or venue and try real hard to get a hold of the host directly. Better, yet, grab the local music scene newspaper and call to make sure the event is still active. The venue managers themselves often do not know the details of their own events. In one case, the venue manager did not know the name of his open mic host!

We did not set out to make money on this trip – we spent the week gathering contact info on venues and meeting member of the Austin Songwriters Group who shared their experiences with us. It led to us booking 4 paying gigs for November and an audition in front of Willie Nelson’s tour manager (who booked us into his venue).

Today, August 25th, 2003

So now I'm making money with several different income streams. Since 1996 I've learned to play guitar, perform, write songs, book a band, manage a recording studio, run sound, rent gear, do graphics, burn CDs, print CDs, design press kits, teach sound, webmaster, teach voice, and run a music office. I've also learned that you can't make a living just singing and playing guitar, unless you have major financial backing.

A good month can net me about $5000. A rotten month looks more like $500. If you can't live with that kind of uncertainty, then you shouldn't be in this business. Lucky Boyd of is very fond of pointing out the ugly truth, and it goes something like this: "There are no health benefits, no vacation, and no retirement benefits. Odds are you'll stay poor throughout your career no matter how good you are".

The good news is that you will always have a crick in your neck from hauling gear, bar patrons will not listen to you play, most (if not all) of your songs will be rejected by Nashville, your diet will suck, your health will fail and you have an excellent chance of getting hooked on alcohol and/or drugs. You might be lucky enough to actually die on stage and become the subject of a badly written folk ballad. So you end up right where you started - at an open mic.

For my part, I'm satisfied to pay the bills. I can't tour for extended periods of time until my kids get older, and I have a ways to go on the guitar before I could be a credible session player. But until I write that hit song, or cut a record that goes platinum, I'm happy and proud to be able to wake up in the morning and know that I am responsible for my own successes and failures. I speak and dress as I wish, I have the coolest job in the known universe, and I get to perform on a regular basis. True, I've learned a lot in a very short time, but I've been blessed with a number of great mentors to shorten the learning curve.

I owe everything I am to Chris Stiteler, Dale Dickerson, Jerry Weatherton, Jack Saunders, Gary Taylor and my Husband, Kenton Smythe. Odd that a group of 6 men would be the driving force behind SoundChick!

Get a mentor - Be a mentor.


No question was submitted for this category - I just felt like writing about managers:

It is THE most-asked question from new artists: “When is it time to a get a manager?”

And the answer?: When you start asking that question.

By asking it you are revealing the need for some help in your career. Up until now, if you've been diligent, you have been doing everything yourself. You've learned to write the songs and sing them, call the clubs, book the studio, record the song, create the artwork, hook up with Internet distributors, call record company A&R people, hustle the CD at gigs, go to other gigs to pass out flyers to promote your gig, and so on. When all of that becomes too much of a chore, you know your “business” has expanded and is overtaking your “art.” It is then that you need some help. But do you need a manager? In the following article, longtime manager Mike Gormley (the Bangles, Lowen & Navarro, Ann McCue) explores this important issue in every detail.

Friends & Family

Because a manager takes a piece of your income, you must be able to afford him or her. If there isn't any income, they are betting on the day when the money will roll in. But they can only do it for free for just so long, and if you don't grow in your career the manager will have to move on. - Gee - that rhymes!!

Simply put, a manager oversees your career. If your career is still just a hobby –– even if it is starting to take over your life or if it is your job, but still local –– hire a friend. Rather than getting tied up with a manager, ask your sister, brother, close buddy or a fan to help out.

That is what worked for Alanis Morissette, who had a solid career going in her native Canada long before she achieved overwhelming worldwide success. In fact, her dad became her manager and he did a good job with Alanis’ career as it existed when she was a preteen and teenager. There came a time, however, when the big move needed to be made, and friends, sister or parents “have to know when to hand over the reins to the artist and her team. But they are the team up to that point,” says Alanis’ father, Alan. “As a parent I was involved in the early stages in finding expressive outlets and educational opportunities for our daughter: e.g. observing other performers; talent showcases (US and Canada); auditions for TV and theater; dance schools, etcetera.”

Alan Morissette even promoted his daughter's records to radio stations in her hometown of Ottawa and got her on the TV show, Star Search, in the US “Once those types of avenues were exhausted, however, we had to find a producer with a track record of thinking out of the box of Canada.”

Alan found someone who introduced them to John Alexander, a musician and native Ottawan who was with MCA Publishing in the US Alexander signed her to a publishing deal and arranged a recording contract with MCA in Canada –– then found her a manager in the US She was 18 years old at this time.

Alan, who now runs Integrity Talent Direction, an artist consultation company that specializes in individual career planning, often talks to young artists early in their careers.

“I strongly stress the need to find a team that has the best interests of the artist at heart. In our case, Alanis had very good intuition as to whom to trust.”

Looking For Signs

Alanis Morissette obviously knew she was ready, and her team of parents and publisher went with her. What signs might you look for? The main indication is when your music is your career –– not necessarily your daily job, the one that is paying the bills at the moment. It's when you are mentally positive that what you have been dreaming about, learning about and have a deep passion for is what you are going to do for a living. It is your complete focus and you simply know your songs are better than anyone else's, or your voice will blow anybody else off the stage, or your musicianship cannot be matched.

You've also introduced yourself to the industry by attending seminars, parties and have had one-on-one contact with professionals who might have shown some interest. You have been making introduction after introduction and, slowly, some doors have been opening.

Sugarcult is a band on Ultimatum Records who are touring (Warped Tour, Blink-182), and airplay and video play on MTV have kept their CD, Start Static, selling since its release in 2001. As Marko 72, guitarist for the band, says, “We have always been focused on managing our band. The industry is now shaped in such a way that bands need to be as self-sufficient as possible to increase their odds of success on any level. We sought management when we felt we needed a boost to reach the proverbial ‘next level.’

“Get your band up-and-running as best you can, then get a manager.”

Task Masters

Before you go looking for a manager, however, you must be sure a manager is what you truly need at the current stage of your career. While it seems crass to think of it this way, your art is a commodity to be sold, and unless you are one of the rare individuals who can efficiently work both sides of the brain, you will need a representative.

When an artist decides their art is no longer a hobby, they have decided to start a business. Maybe it's a small business; perhaps it's on the level of a corner store or a little company with big aspirations. But, it is still a business, even in the earliest stages. You have to work at it from day one and it is a full-time job.

So is writing new songs, producing demos, rehearsing, finding and playing gigs, honing your craft with singing lessons or guitar lessons or just finding time to be by yourself working on whatever your instrument is. Can you be a creative, professional artist and run your business too? Very few can answer yes to that question.

Once the decision is made to take on a manager, you need to realize you are hiring a CEO to take care of the business side while you produce the “product.” In fact, you are part of the product. If you were manufacturing costume jewelry, and the business had reached a point where you didn't have time to make the product anymore, you would need someone to take care of marketing and day-to-day work. You have music to make or the company will go under. So you hire a CEO, a manager.

What's the first thing that should be accomplished? You need to know that you and the manager are in sync. Anne McCue, an independent artist who just released Anne McCue Live: Ballad of an Outlaw Woman and toured through 2002 with Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Heart, and Lowen & Navarro, says, "If someone wants to manage you, check them out. Do they have a drug habit? Have they had experience? What do they want out of it, etcetera. Believe in yourself and expect them to understand you."

That's a good point. You don't want your manager, who will take your art to the marketplace, to misunderstand your work and intentions. If he or she is going to bring your dream to reality, they had better know your dream and all its details. If the manager doesn't get it, your message will not be delivered.

Job Description

While it is difficult to fully explain what a manager does, try this analogy: Let's say someone makes you the manager of a store. You aren't just in charge of the butcher section, or the veggie section, or the deli store. You are manager of the entire store. You oversee everything on a day-to-day basis so the owner is happy and the store is presented to the public correctly.

A music manager is the same, except he or she is overseeing the marketing of an artist's career. The manager needs to keep in touch with the various “departments.” Tasks to deal with include finding you a booking agent, a record deal, getting some press, trying for some radio, finding ways to make your career expand and move forward –– and keeping you advised of everything that is happening. Meanwhile, the day-to-day operation has to stay in order.

Once found, that aforementioned booking agent needs to make sure you are on tour and it is the right tour or date for you. The record company needs to have someone to talk to (they really hate talking to artists about business. Don't ask why, they just do). The manager deals with lawyers, the press, promoters, and club owners/bookers.

When you have dates, the contracts need to looked at and approved, the posters and press kits need to go to the promoter. All the details you used to do are now in the hands of the manager so you are free to write and perform music.

Remember, however, that while your “CEO” is now in charge of the company, it is still your business. The manager is running it on your behalf. Naturally, then, you should talk to the manager every day. And, as McCue puts it, "keep them by your creative side." Make sure that what is happening is what you want. Make sure you are doing dates which provide the correct forum for your music.

The CEO needs to hear from the owner or things won't work. And the owner needs to keep all the machines greased with the substance that started it all: music. New music. Because that's what keeps you and your business going. And, the more music you make and the better it is, the stronger your business.

Finding The Perfect Manager

Now, let's step back to the beginning for a moment. You are at that point where a manager is needed. How do you find the right one?

Start doing research. There are books that list managers and who their clients are. You may know people who have managers. Ask them if their person would be interested, or if that manager knows other managers. Find one who has clients that generally do what you do. If you see yourself as the new Jewel, do not call someone who manages Marilyn Manson.

Like anything else, it is who you know. If “a friend of a friend of your cousin knows the guy who manages so and so,” try to get your music to that person. Although it is possibly obscure, part of the introduction has been made through the friend. A little bit of that door is open. It may not open up any wider, but your chances there are a little better than with a total stranger.

Sugarcult had been researching managers and then one day “a girl at one of our odd bar gigs bought one of our self-burned four-song demo CDs and played it for a friend of hers.” That was Adam Raspler, manager of the band 311 who now manages Sugarcult.

Finding a manager should be a long and involved quest. Getting in the door in the first place can be difficult. Managers get tons of both new and seasoned artists requesting their time constantly. You have to impress them in some way. whether it is with your professionalism, your style or your persistence. Polite persistence. Don't drive them crazy; you will never get in the door that way.

Keep in mind that activity breeds activity. Be visible. While your search is on, play every gig possible, be at every seminar, convention, performance or party you can get to where managers might be in attendance. You might think your music is the greatest that has ever come along, but so does everyone else that a manager meets. It may take time, but try to convey that you are professional and unbelievably talented. That message doesn't get across by just saying so. It may not get across by just playing a CD. Allow some time for the manager of choice to see you perform, hear new music, hear your career philosophy and some part of your life.

I meet with artists several times and hang out as much as possible. It can take months to make the final decision to work together. The fact is, if this deal comes together, you and the manager will be spending anywhere from two years to life with each other. You have to believe the relationship will work.

Anne McCue says, "Find a taskmaster, someone who won't bullshit you. A manager should be able to tell you the truth about what you're doing. You need to find someone whose judgment you trust."

Quality Time

Jim Guerinot, President of Rebel Waltz Inc. and manager of the Offspring, Social Distortion, Beck and No Doubt, got together with the Offspring on a very loose basis and spent a lot of time with the band before actually working with them.

“I was managing Social Distortion and was General Manager of A&M Records at the time,” recalls Guerinot. “I spoke to Dexter Holland, guitarist and vocalist for the band, while I was at A&M. The Offspring had just put out their first record and we would just talk. He would check in periodically and I'd give him a little advice now and then. But I hadn't met him.”

In fact, the first time he went to see the band, “I walked up rather boldly to Dexter and introduced myself. Except it wasn't Dexter. It was the drummer.”

Nevertheless, the foundation had been laid. Based on conversations, Holland obviously trusted Guerinot and when it came time to get a manager, they knew each other. The introduction had already taken place.

“And the timing was right. The Offspring's record had just been added to KROQ,” the trendsetting radio station in L.A. “But Dexter was still carrying around the band's earnings in a briefcase and obviously needed help,” Guerinot says. And he was getting a little tired of doing administration work at A&M. “So after a few months dealing with both Social Distortion and then the Offspring and handling a day job, I moved on to full-time management.”

The timing was right. Jim Guerinot was ready and in a position to help, The Offspring had reached a point where the “job” part of their profession was overwhelming. They found someone they trusted.

Something clicked. The Offspring went on to sell 11 million copies of their first recording and many more since. And Jim Guerinot still manages them.

You'll know when you need a manager. Just be sure about what you want, what you need and what your business requires. Put it all together and the rest is...not easy. But that's another story.


Q. TC: you had responded to a past question regarding microphones recommending the shure sm 57 and also octava condenser mics for lower-budget mic options. I was ready to get the shure 57 but just got and ad from guitar center advertising two octava condensers for $100 (can't remember the model). i am interested in using the mic for home recording. the price seems right on the octava (just a little more than the shure) but want a mic best suited to my music. shure or octava? that is the question.

A. I hope you have your coffee close at hand. We are about to enter the MICROPHONE ZOOOOOONNE!!!! (I am cc'ing Jack on this to make sure I am not missing anything. I know he will whack me with a rolled-up newspaper if I get this one wrong)

The short answer is: Buy the condenser mics. You can stop here if you like, but I'm having fun with the research and digging up packaging and diagrams.

In order to answer your question fully, it is important to understand the difference between a condenser mic and a dynamic mic. The Octava you mentioned is a condenser and the SM57 is a dynamic mic. In fact, I own an Octava myself, as well several of the Shure SM57. I believe the Octava I have is the MK 219.

A dynamic microphone is an iron core surrounded by a coil of copper wire much like an electromagnet. When sound waves hit the core and move it, it causes the core to move within the coil and generates electrical impulses that can be translated into sound when they go through a mic preamplifier. (like those XLR plugs on your mixing board).

A condenser mic is made of two extremely thin, gold-coated membranes which are separated by a thin layer of air. One side is positively charged, the other is negatively charged. When sound pressure hits the diaphragm, the near-impact between the two membranes creates electrical impulses that become translated into sound when they go through a mic preamp.

Generally speaking, dynamic mics are less expensive, are less delicate, handle extreme sound pressure levels better than condenser mics, but don't sound as good as condenser mics. There are many situations in which a dynamic mic is the better choice though. I use them on drums of all types. They are very well-suited for high sound pressure levels. I believe the SM57 to be the best all-purpose mic ever made. In emergencies, it can handle a kick-drum or even a vocal.

  The SoundChick Recommends:

For low budgets:

Dynamic stage mic for vocals- The Shure SM58

Dynamic stage mic for guitar- get a pickup installed!

Condenser studio mic-Octava MK-219

For generous budgets:

Dynamic stage mic for vocals-The Shure SM87-A

Condenser Mic for studio- Neumann U-87

If you are employing dynamic cardiod mics (like the Shure 58) during live performances, when positioning microphones and monitor wedges on-stage be sure that the back of the mic is pointing directly into the speaker cone, in a perpendicular fashion, to take advantage of the cardioid pattern.

Condenser mics are generally richer sounding, and deliver more "detail." But while they sound better, they are also more fragile and prone to distortion if exposed to too much level. Condenser mics often have variable pattern switches on them, allowing you to choose a cardioid pattern (the heart shape), hyper-cardioid, figure eight, or omni pattern. Keep reading if you want a headache.

Cardioid is roughly heart-shaped, with the notch of the heart at the rear of the microphone. In other words, the mic picks up best from the front, with the frequency response tapering off at the sides, and practically no ability to pick up from the rear. This type of pattern is commonly used to eliminate bleed from other instruments. It is also the most frequently used type of polar pattern. The SM57's polar pattern can be viewed at

A polar pattern is the pattern from which a microphone picks up the incoming sound. There are several types of polar patterns including, omni, cardioid, hyper-cardioid, and figure 8.

Omni is omni-directional, meaning the mic picks up sound equally well from all directions.

Hyper-cardioid is very much like cardioid, but with a tighter pattern, eliminating even more bleed from other instruments.Figure 8 means that the mic picks up from two sides. A practical use would be to place a mic in figure 8 between a tom-tom and the cymbal that is above it. In the figure 8 pattern, you would pick up sound from the drum and the cymbal, but not from the tom-tom next to the one you want to pick up, nor from any other instruments off to the sides. For your project, you could use a figure 8 pattern and place it between your mouth and the guitar, ponting at each. Gary and I used this pattern with two mics (one for each of us) when we recorded our submission for the Kerrville Folk Fest. (no, we didn't win!)

Hope this helps. Gimme a call at 832 715 5226 if it didn't.


Q.  I want to solicit your opinion about the logistics of recording a live CD. We did studio productions for our first 2 CDs, but want to record our next one "live" at Anderson Fair in October. We've spoken to Tim Leatherwood over there about him recording the show (or shows) at Anderson Fair on his system, then us taking that basic recording to someone else to mix, master, etc, and he's willing. What are your thoughts about that approach? Do you know anyone who's done this before? Any advice about the process or who to take the basic recording to for final production? I wanted to research a few other options before deciding.

Would appreciate any insight you have. Look forward to hearing from you.

A. Absolutely! In fact, the last person I know of was Davee Bryan on his project, "Ya Had Ta Be There". He recorded with Tim at Anderson Fair. He had Jack Saunders bring in some extremely high end mics just for the show and recorded to hi-8 tape which Jack later mixed and mastered at White Cat. I did his cover art and duplication. Davee stopped by a couple of weeks ago to get a second pressing.

Just make sure that the recording signal is 'pre-fader' so that there are no effects present on the raw tracks. Those are usually added post production. You will need 6 tracks. two for your vocals, two for your guitars and two for the 'room' (gotta get that applause captured!)

Of course recording your show over two or more nights will give you more chances to make that 'magic' that is so important to the project. If you only have one night in which to accomplish this, you may want to explain to the audience that you *are* recording, and for the sake of that recording, it may be necessary to start over on a number or two. If they paid to come see you then they are your fans, and will applaud just as loudly and as genuinely as is it were your first take. Don't forget to get those room mikes just as hot as you can. You may not be the ony ones making memorable moments that night!

 The SoundChick Recommends:

Listen to projects of other musicians and take notes on the sound quality.

Read the credits to see if the project was mastered.

Pop in your CD and check to see if the song volumes are competitive with a big label CD.

Remember that when radio stations broadcast signal to their listeners, they compress it again so that they get as much signal 'throw' as possible.

Too-aggressive mastering may cause your project to sound muddy in combination with the compression that the radio station will add.

 Q. I have recorded three songs with Clyde Sayre for a small project and he has now recommended getting them mastered. don't know if that is something that White Cat Productions offers or not but thought I would check with you and see.

A. Mastering accomplishes several things.

1) It 'optimizes' the signal to noise ratio, and lightly compresses the signal so that you get good 'saturation' without introducing or enhancing background noise already present.

2) In multiple song projects, it 'normalizes' the peak relative volumes of the songs, so that the loudest part of each song competes well with the loudest part of another song, even if the two songs are a real thrash number vs. a ballad.

3) It also introduces 'black' (silence) between your songs, so that one song does not start immediately on the heels of the previous song. Selecting the right amount of 'black' to insert can make the progression between songs on your album project flow more smoothly to the listener. It provides enough time to 'digest' the impact of one song before proceeding to the next. Older projects often used 3-5 seconds, newer records employ 1-2.5 seconds.

4) The mastering process also includes internal EQ adjustments that can do alot to remediate the sound of an inferior recording environment.

5) You can also apply 'crossfades' to the beginning and end of each song, so that each song fades in and out smoothly. These crossfades employ a variety of 'curves', some fading in rapidly, others more slowly.. The curves might be expressed as concave or convex, depending on what is good for the song. You can also assign how much time it takes to fade in or fade out of a song. On multiple song projects, mastering is not optional!

There are several levels of mastering that you can use. The first is digital mastering which White Cat provides. We use an Alesis Masterlink to accomplish this. It is the same mastering I used on my last two projects, and it sounds just great. If you don't believe me, have a listen here. The files are sampled low-res for my dial-up readers, but you'll recognize good mastering when you hear it. The second type of mastering is analog mastering. This is a tape format that some purists regard as superior to digital, and rightly so. Analog mastering comes in 1/2", 1" and 2" formats, 2" being the most expensive and best sounding.

Q. if not, do you have any recommendations for mastering?

A. I recommend White Cat for digital mastering because I am most familiar Jack Saunders' work and his work ethic.

There are several mastering houses that offer analog services, the most notable being Terra Nova studios in Austin, or Sugarhill in Houston. I heard that SonRise Studios here in Houston also has analog mastering.

I do not know the rates associated with analog mastering, but I do know that the tape media alone is extremely expensive and can run up to $1.00 per foot at a 1 : 0.5 speed ratio (what folks used to call 'half speed' mastering). You can re-use mastering tape, but I have an irrational (rationalized?) fear of using old tape for this purpose. After all, you will own the master when it is finished, and you want it to be as clean as possible for analog.

It has been my experience that over the radio, most folks cannot tell an analog master apart from a digital one.

White Cat charges $55.00 per hour for digital mastering. If you intend to sell your product or submit it for airplay, you need mastering - otherwise your songs will not be as uniformly 'loud' as competing songs played next to it. Mastering is not necessary for pitching, as long as the lead vocal can be heard clearly above the instrumentation.

I also need to know if the tape you are submitting is already mixed. If Clyde gave you a CD of your songs, then it is already a mix and only requires mastering. If he has given you a hi-8 tape or an ADAT, then your project will need to be mixed as well, to apply effects, compression, levels, etc... Count on about 3 hours for each song in this case.

Performing (getting started) 

Q.  My daughter is a talented singer in the Houston area. She really hasn't taken it very far, because she is young and still inexperienced. I thought if she was interested in associating herself with the music world here in Houston, She would be able to ask people that have walked the walk.. talked the talk.

Are there places where bands look to find a female vocalist? She needs to know what is best for her and what it actually takes to succeed

A. Wow. Big question!

I can start by saying that everyone needs mentors. I had a vocal mentor, a recording mentor, a songwriting mentor. I found them by hanging out where they do: shows, music stores, recording studios, songwriters associations, etc...

If she wants to search for a band to sing with, she'll need to let them know who she is and what she likes to sing. If you go to GuitarCenter on Westheimer, you will see a bulletin board in the back that is filled with flyers about musicians looking for musicians. She needs a demo recording of her voice to submit to parties that might actually pick up her flyer and call. Her flyer needs to have a picture of her, a phone number and a list of songs she likes or other female vocalists who she might sound like. See the other postings in the store before you make your flyer. See the section on "demos" to get a recommendation for where she might make her audition recording.

For less money, she could go to the mall and just make a karaoke recording. Take it to Church Cassette here in town to get copies made. She'll need about 50. Keep these copies in every car you own just in case!

She will also need a press kit. Section to be added today!!

She can also attend the local songwriter association's meetings to network with songwriters who need vocalists for their recordings. It won't make her famous (necessarily) but it might earn her some money. Most songwriters are willing to pay 50-100 bucks for a good vocalist to sing a song, especially if they think it could be a hit. She will have to learn the song *before* she goes to the studio to sing it.

She can also sing songs at local open mics. If she has a friend who plays guitar or piano, bring em along! She'll feel pretty naked if she's singin tunes a capella! She needs three songs she can sing all the way through. She can bring lyrics with her - remember - its just an open mic - not Nashville Star!! Here is a database of local events. They are held every night of the week all over Houston.

 The SoundChick Recommends:

Debbie Beinhorn is a succesful and talented vocal coach. You can find her at

When you have vocal trouble that stems from laryngitis, take an anti-inflammatory such as Motrin or Aspirin. Tylenol won't work.

Hydrate every single cell in your body with water and breathe steam in the shower, a hot tub or a Salton face steamer (which you can get at Eckerds).

Rest and try not to whisper. Talking is second worst, but light humming is OK after about 6 hours after you begin your therapy.

In extreme cases, when you just CAN'T miss a gig, you can visit your doctor and ask for a corticosteriod shot. Some won't do it, as it is a radical procedure and can create scar tissue too close to your vocal cords.

I've done it, but only for those shows that were potentially 'career-making'.


Q. Should songwriters send their raw songs to record companies? or to publishing companies?

A. If you are submitting your songs 'as a songwriter', then publishers are your target. If you are submitting material 'as an artist' then labels are your target. Of course writers and artists end up using both, but it's where you start that defines which hat you're wearing. Pick a hat and wear it!

Also, the songs you pitch for consideration do not need all the bells and whistles. A simple recording of a great vocal and guitar or piano is just fine, unless the song demands that a 'groove' be defined. (As is the case with Rap/Hip-hop and R&B or orchestral arrangements). If the publisher likes the songs, they will offer to produce it and charge that expense against your first royalties (or not). In any case, never fall for offers from 'songmills' that want to charge you for 'producing' your demo. They'll tell you you have a 'hit on your hands', and that you simply 'must' have better production or Tim McGraw's manager will shit-can it immediately. Hang up the phone and read the answer in the next question!!

Q. This is a multi-part question for the Earthwire program: What is the best way to get an original song to someone who would be in a position to pitch it to performers? Is it best to go to music publishers, or to focus on producers of particular acts that you think might be interested in the song? What's the best way to make contacts?

A. (For the answer to the second part of your question, see the answer in the question above.) Back in the early days of recording, it used to be common for bands and artists to receive songs at the back door of concert venues from fans holding out cassettes and screaming, "Hey man - listen to my songs!" Sometimes the band's manager would take the tapes and sometimes not.

These days, artists and publishers don't dare accept music this way. The risk of copyright infringement lawsuits scares the pants off of them, so you need to reduce the amount of risk they are exposed to in order to get in.

 The SoundChick Recommends:

When you are ready to pitch your song to a publisher for use in commercial radio, edit the intro to no more than 4 bars and eliminate any instrumental solos. They are not interested in how good your band is - they want to hear the SONG!

When you submit your lyric sheet, make sure the words are in ALL CAPS. Don't type the chorus over and over, either. A simple double spaced line with the words "repeat chorus" are sufficient, and will make the visual impact less intimidating.

Is your song over 4 minutes?

Do you get to the chorus in less than a minute?

If this advice sounds formulaic remember, these guidelines are for pitching to radio - not necessarily right for every venue.

When you have completed your demo, send the publisher a postcard with a short intro and questionairre: Say something like:


"Dear so-and-so: My name is (XXXXXX) and I am a singer/songwriter based in the Houston, Texas area. I believe the new song I have written would sound great with (ARTIST) performing it, and I am asking permission to submit this work to your office. Please indicate your response below and return it as soon as you can. I have stamped the other side of this card and return-addressed it for your convenience. If there is a mailcode that needs to be visible on my song submission, please write it in the space indicated.

Regards, Joe Blow.


Yes, please send your demo to me for review at this address_____________________ and write this submission code _______________ on the outside of your envelope.

No, I am not accepting outside material at this time

Try me again later

This way, the ball is in their court, and you have made it as easy as possible for them to accept your song.

Making contacts requires that you attend other artists shows and attend songwriters conferences and do a lot of co-writing. Sometimes your co-writer may have better contacts and more experience than you do. Learn from them.

If you have tapes to hand out, you could try to get one into the hands of the artist's tour bus driver. After all, he decides what they listen to while they are on the road. Another way to get past the publisher is to go through the artist's entertainment attorney. No safer avenue than that for the artist.The Solicited Pitch

The Solicited Pitch happens when you are approached by an agent who has found your stuff on the internet. They want you to grant them a license to publish or re-pitch a song. If they do not offer you money to 'hold' your song - run. If they want to hold it for more than 60 days - run. End of story.

The Unsolicited Pitch

The Unsolicited Pitch happens when you approach an agent to listen to your songs. Money is not discussed until they agree to take your song. There are several avenues for this strategy. I have tried all of these to some extent.

1) THE ABYSS - You post your songs on myspace and spam the music community to listen to it.
2) COLD CALLING - You show up in Nashville and start knocking on doors.
3) THE PANHANDLER - You camp out on BMI's doorstep and play for the receptionist until she assigns you a rep.
4) CASTING THE NET - When you make a daily practice of handing out free samples of your work to anyone willing to listen to it and hope they call you.
5) THE CONTESTANT - You enter songwriting contests and hope that the prizes and exposure are worth more than they entry fee.
6) CATTLE CALL - You attend a songwriting convention or other function where it is expected that paid industry panelists will be reviewing material.
7) THE GENTLEMAN CALLER - You solicit permission in advance by phone or by mail to submit material.
8) TARGETED SCANNING - You subscribe to a reputable tip sheet for songs leads that are provided by publishers
a. THE COIN SORTER - You submit your work for a fee to a screening agency that has requests for specific kinds of material
9) THE NASHVILLE HANDSHAKE - You approach an artist directly to co-write or demo a song.
10) THE END RUN - You provide your songs to the artists' agent, attorney or bus driver.

You need a strategy for each part of the meeting.

Research the opportunity

Find out who the person represents and pick songs that best match his client's voice, image and genre. If the reviewer is a filmmaker, find out what the plot synopsis is for each of the films he is involved in and bring songs that are relevant to the story HE is trying to tell. Put all of your songs on one CD with the song titles and your contact info on the disc face. If you have instrumental mixes, be sure to mention that too.

For radio artists, bring an assortment of tempos, but start the interview with the one that has the best story. Mention which artist of theirs you hear singing the song. It will set them up to hear the song in a specific context, even if the vocalist doesn't sound like them.

The Interview

In either case, don't talk too much before the first song is played. Start with a handshake and something like, "Hello, Mr. _______ - thanks for making time to see me. I thought we'd start with a <genre> themed song I wrote called <song title>."

Refrain from explaining or defending your song because you're afraid they won't 'get it'. If you have to do that, then your song needs to be re-written. Just sit and listen with him without fidgeting too much. They may press the stop button after the first verse or chorus. It doesn't mean they think your song sucks. If your intros are more than about 4 bars, he may stop the song after 10 seconds. Edit your intros and solos!

After each song, listen to the reviewer's feedback carefully. Write down anything they think would make the song stronger. If it's a minor issue, tell them you are willing to re-record it and ask for permission to resubmit it at a later date. If he is open to this idea, find out what you need to write on the envelope so that it doesn't land in the trash as unsolicited material the 2nd time around.

If it is discovered that your material isn't right for his project, do your best to figure out what IS. Likely you have a friend who can help him. Get permission for that friend to interview with him if you're certain they have material that is bang-on right for their needs. At least your relationship with him won't end with the next handshake, and he won't think of you as a waste of time. You will have become a source of new, filtered material. This is called 'leaving the door open".

The Follow-up

Thank him again and follow up with a greeting card. If you re-recorded your song to suit him, you can send it along by mail. If he needs you after that, he'll call you. It is also helpful to include a small picture of yourself on the 2nd submission so that he'll remember who you are.

Press Kits

Q. Hey SoundChick! My band has just hired a booking agent and a manager. I was really stoked that they would work for us, but we're just about tapped out after the CD recording and the retainers and everything. The booking agent wants $400.00 to make a presskit, but will it really make that much difference? I am really bummed out so far because we aren't getting many gigs, and we just don't have another 400.00 to spend. Can I do this myself? What does a press kit look like?

A. Hi! Glad you made it here. Hope you stay awhile. You bring up a number of issues, but the heart of your question is Presskits. We'll hit that first.

Press kits are your booking agent's primary advertising tool. They speak for you when you cannot be there to speak for yourself!! Yes, you need a presskit and it should contain the following basic elements: (how elaborate they are depends on your skill as a graphic artist)

1. A Photo - 8x10 black and white glossies are always appropriate, but did you know that newspaper music editors will always publish a color photo first if given a choice? They want to make a splash too!

2. A Bio - Make your bio interesting. They don't care how many brothers and sisters you have or where you went to school, or that you sang in church choir for 8 years. They want to know *why* you got into the business, who your musical influences are, the number of people in your band (maybe spend a sentence or two on someone other than yourself!). Include any pro experience you have or a list of venues where you have performed. Save newspaper clippings and flyers from every gig you play - even the free ones.

3. A Set List - even if the songs are original or obscure.

4. A Recording - Live recordings are best. Studio recordings often do not accurately depict what your live show is like and lack audience response. You want the venue owner to feel as if he is mere feet from your tip jar, even if he is listening in his car! It doesn't have to be fancy at all. If you have original material in your act point that out. Not every venue wants original material, or at least show them you have the ability to play covers if you get requests. My own kit has a 6-song mix with 3 originals and 3 covers.

Hey! The SoundChick can help you with your live recording! (gratuitous plug)

5. Endorsements/Recommendations - If you can remember to, get each happy venue to write a paragraph or two, mentioning your good qualities , (e.g. on-time, entertaining, ) Include the reviewer's phone number so that they can talk to each other about you! (no doubt they will!)

6. Contact Information - You MUST write your contact information on every page of your press kit - even the disc face and the photo!! These elements get separated when the reviewers listen to them.

7. Your business card - If you print your own, make sure the fonts are not too small!

When you write your press kit elements, think about how the package will 'strike' the reviewer. If you are a punk band, then make your press kit look and feel 'punk'. Use funky type fonts, unique spellings of words (i.e. "NOIZ") and unusual papers. Just don't get too cheeky. If you are a classical pianist, stick with traditional script fonts and white paper. The venue owner wants to know *who* you are and *what* you 'feel' like. Don't mislead him/her with a poorly thought-out press kit.

Don't bother with fancy folders. Especially if the folder is the prettiest part of your kit. I know one club owner who uses the folders in lieu of purchasing his own office supplies. He laughs and laughs about some of the lame kits he gets that come in $8.00 folders.

Most importantly, create an online presskit (you DO have a website, right?). This can save you alot of money in the long run. When your physical presskit is done, save them for submittal to festivals and house concerts and clubs that you have a fair shot at.

If you have uploaded your music to file sharing services or if you have a huge e-mail list, you will eventually get solicitations from DJs overseas that want your presskit. Before you send one out, check to make sure that person actually *has* an internet radio station. Is their name mentioned anywhere on it?

Hundreds of European teens have taken to e-mailing American artists and posing as internet jocks just to get free CDs. Send em your online kit instead if you are unsure of their motives.

Visit to see an online press kit for my duo - Smythe and Taylor.

If you want to see what a great hard-copy press kit looks like, you can e-mail me to order it. Hey, they are not free - they cost me about $6.00 each to make plus postage.  Mine is *very* nice.

Now on to your other issues:

Your booking agent needs your press kit. But he doesn't have to make it for you, and it certainly doesn't cost 400 bucks to put one together. If you have any skill at all with Powerpoint or Photoshop, you can easily do it yourself. In fact, some of the most interesting kits I've seen were creatively handwritten or even painted! Just try to use nice paper and proof it carefully after each addition or change. Your physical kit won't be much different than the online one I mentioned earlier.

Since you haven't gotten many gigs, I wonder at the wisdom of having a manager and a booking agent in the first place. (I don't, and I'm so busy I don't have time to fart!) It may be true that you haven't gotten gigs because of your lack of a promo kit, but they should be able to cajole their club owner friends into trying you out anyway. This does not speak well of his/her network. Same goes for your manager.

My advice to new artists is to walk a mile in these shoes first. Learn how to book. Learn how to manage your band's issues and assets. Do the homework, Do the math. Assign roles to everyone in the band.

The most outgoing member should be the booking agent, not necessarily the lead singer. The most introverted should be the manager. The gearhead needs to run sound. Don't do it all yourself. This kind of delegation can make you a more coherent team as a band! I know that many artists are not good businesspeople, and don't want to be, but if you have at least tried to do these jobs, you will be better able to recognize a good agent/manager when you meet one. I have seen too many bands sign 'in perpetuity' contracts with agents that do absolutely nothing for them!

Hope this helps!


Q. If the publisher gets 50% of the royalties and since Jen is self-published, it's my understanding that she's got to sign up with BMI or ASCAP as both writer and publisher. To me it looked like while BMI was free for the writer, it was $100 for the publisher to join. Seems steep, when we're probably not going to be seeing royalties for awhile. So perhaps the question is, is the publisher part retro-active? ie if 2-3 years from now, we're starting see royalties, can we go to BMI and get the back-due, publisher royalties? ie only sign up for publisher after we start seeing royalties? That's why I was wondering if it's a good idea to put a "publishing company" on the CD, even if we're not signed up with BMI as one, something to make it easier to retroactively claim the publisher royalties?

What did you do? Jen says you're signed up as BMI, did you also sign up as publisher?

A.The royalties are not retroactive in any case (I have already asked that question, too)

As of right now, 95% of my sales are at the edge of the stage. I get everything anyway.

If you do join as a publisher, don't forget to get her the assumed name filing at the county courthouse. That way, she can still collect checks written to JEN RATHBUN MUSIC without having to incorporate. You *will* have to set up a seperate bank account in this case.

Q. I have a talent for editing MIDI music.  I have created a Professional CD based on other people's midi's. I have redone the music into an arrangement of my liking and I would like to sell this CD.

First off, I am not for stealing other people's work - this is why I am asking these questions....

What shall I do if the contact info is out of date?? What shall I do if there is no contact info? Is it safe to assume the song was released as public domain?

In short, I want to be able to use someone else's music although the arrangement is my own original work. I have created a CD, but before I even think about getting it published I want to make sure I am in the green. I don't believe in stealing music.

A. I want to congratulate you on your principles. Most folks today think nothing of ripping off the songwriters for their own gain.. Here's your answer...

Even if the record company has closed and everyone on the record is dead, you probably still have to pay royalties. The song does not become public domain until 95 years after the death of the songwriter. To Go to and click on the 'mechanical licensing' link. Then select the 'limited quantity licensing' link if you intend to release fewer than 2500 copies. Then select the 'song search' link. Then select the 'statutory mechanical rate' link. Write down the rate that applies to your song length. and hit 'back' and fill out the song title

When your list pops up, select the version that you are covering. There will probably be several identical titles, so pick the one with your artist's name on it. Repeat this process for each of the songs you are covering.

The current statutory rate for a typical song under 5 minutes is about 8 cents. You have to purchase licenses for at least 500 copies. (Even if you only burn 100). That means that you will pay $40.00 minimum for each song you cover. This may affect how many songs you decide to place on your CD, as well as how many you decide to manufacture. You have to pay in advance of your release.

Congratulations! Now you know everything you need in order to produce a CD of cover material.

Q. I wrote a set of lyrics for a song with a cowriter friend of mine, oh, probably a little over a year ago. I had written most of the lyrics and the cowriters share tended to be mostly, "what if you used this word", or "this line could be stronger." But I'm glad to share credits, that's not the problem.

The cowriter, at the time, had many more contacts than me and was sending it around to melody writers to see if we could get any bites. We didn't and time passed and I revisited the lyrics a time or two and continued to rewrite a line here and there. I have tried to contact the cowriter on more than 3 occasions over the past year to see if they wanted to do anything with the song and as of today have heard nothing from them.

The last time I wrote to them I said that I would like to send it to a few of the contacts that I have made and see if I could get a demo of the song made. If they wanted to help out that was fine and if they wanted out that was fine too, but still no response. I feel that the lyrics are mine to do with as I please, but I want to do the right thing. What is the proper time limit, number of times to try to contact on something like this (is there one?) and am I on the right track for this type of situation?

A.Your situation is not hopeless. Far from it.

You don't need your co-writer's permission to get a demo made or to pitch it to publisher, and there is no time limit. Either of you may pitch the song as long as you continue to honor the co-writing credits. Since he did not compose the music portion, you would have a 25/75 split in your favor, should you ever receive a royalty from it. The credits would read, "Greatest Tune in the World" by (words Author (just call it you and him)) and (music composer) call this you)). The credits look like 50/50, but since you also wrote lyrics, you should get a portion of that too.

In the future, when you co-write a song, you should sign a co-writers agreement, so that these issues don't get in the way of the song's success. You can find a good one in John Braheny's book, "The Craft and Business of Songwriting" available on

You should also go ahead and copyright the song along with his last known contact information. Use form PA located at the copyright office link at

good luck!!

Q. I want to record a song that I didn't write. Is it true I don't have to worry about royalties to the songwriter if it is older than 20 years? Or if I make less than 10,000 copies?

A. I've been dyin' for someone to ask me this question!!

I believe the time limit your are refferring to is a reference to 'public domain'. A song is considered public domain 70 years after the death of the writer! Until then you are required to pay royalties for its use. Even for ONE copy. However, this is not expensive. If the song is listed in the database at the Harry Fox Agency, you can pay it online. You must pay an $0.081 (eight point one cents) royalty for every copy of a song on every CD you BURN - it is not based on actual sales. e.g. - if you have burned 500 copies of a record with one cover tune on it, (assuming the rest are your original compositions), you would owe Harry Fox $40.50. Not bad... Harry Fox will see that the money is distributed to the publisiher (minus their adminstrative fee.)

If your own music is being covered or parodied, you may want to register your works with Harry Fox so you can get YOUR money too. Otherwise folks who want to pay you can't find you. Make it easy for them.

Alternately, you can contact the publisher for payment information, but they will bog you down in paperwork amd make you wait forever if you are not brining the 10,000 copies you mentioned. If you get caught distributing cover music, the fines are up to $10,000 PER COPY you have distributed that they can find.


Recording acoustic guitars

Q. I got myself a little vs-880 ex recorder and am trying to use the octava(?) mics for guitar with mixed results- any guidance for mic placement to the instrument as when i plug straight into the unit sounds phony yet when micing guitar tone is muddy/flat any help is of course much thanks!

A.   Here's my favorite answer to that question -

You are probably getting the 'muddy' sound due to the mic being placed too close to the sound hole. Answer - don't use the sound hole as the primary source. Knowing what I know about your playing, I would suggest you place the condenser mic perpendicular to the neck and about 8 inches out from the 12th fret.

or if you have the time/space/inclination...

Use your ear as if it were a microphone and have Gary or someone play the guitar. Move your head around until you find the best sound at close range. (about 6-8 inches) this can be very useful. If possible, have two helpers. One to play the guitar, one to move the mic around it until you (monitoring at the board) get what you want.

Hope this helps

Q.  I want to start recording our gigs off the tape output on the PA head and was wondering if you had any recommendations. I was leaning toward a mini-disc recorder so I would be in the digital domain and could import the files into my Pro Tools rig to massage them. I am, however, not seeing a whole lot of mini-disc recorders around these days; are they about to go the way of the 8-track?

What would the Soundchick recommend for a two channel recorder?

A. The minidisks are certainly cheaper, but DATs (digital audio tape) are also falling in price. I have a Sony DAT that I bought a couple of years ago that has always been very dependable. Most studios have no trouble importing data, and the tapes are less likely to be damaged in transit as often happens to CDRs.

The thing to remember is that your final format will be a 16-bit file. Mini-discs can only record a few minutes of music at 16-bit resolution, and even less at higher resolution. DAT tapes can be up to 2 hours long, allowing you to capture much more of your performance without having to stop between songs and insert blank media.

Still, an inexpensive CD recorder can be rack-mounted, and will give you excellent results. the CD format is even more widely accepted than DAT.

One more thing - If you want to record the best live gig, don't forget to place a microphone in an area that will capture some of the audience participation. A dry board mix won't sound very dynamic on the CD. You'll want to relive the appluase, too, not just the performacne.


I haven't yet written the article on the purposes of showcasing. Come back soon


Q. Our band is starting to gig more often and it's time to get the mixing board off the stage. I was on the Sound Chick website and I thought I remembered a place to ask questions there, but I couldn't find it. I want to purchase a snake (12 ch, 50 ft) and was wondering if that is something that can be safely purchased used or are they usually used up by the time someone parts with them. Don't you have a used gear forum, or does that only happen from time to time?

A. I have two used snakes that are fine, but you should test it before you buy it.

Bring a microphone, 1 mic cable, 1 speaker, 1 speaker cord, 1 instrument cable, your guitar and your PA head to the seller and do the following:

1. Plug the first 8 male channels of the snake into your pa head in the numbered order.
2. Plug your microphone into channel 1 of the female end of the snake
3. Hook up your pa and turn it on - pull up ch. 1
4. Yell very loudly into the mic, "Is this thing on!?!"
5. If you hear a decent signal, plug the mic into channel 2 of the female end of the snake and repeat step # 4, etc etc etc until you have established that all channels are functioning properly.

When you are finished with the XLR channels, test the 1/4" returns
6. Plug the first 1/4" male return into your PA head .
7. Plug channel 'a' of the female end of the snake into your guitar with an instrument cable and turn up the gain on your guitar, pull up the corresponding channel on the PA head.
8. Smack your guitar over the top of your PA head until you hear a nice crunching sound through the speakers.
9. Repeat for returns b through d.

New 100' 16x4 snakes can be had for less than $300.00, so a 50' 12ch snake should be had for around 200.00 new. I'd pay up to 150.00 for a good used one.

Hope you had fun (I hope you know I was kidding about the guitar smacking thing...)


(My analysis of Ralph Murphy's article published at His text is in tan, mine in black.

You are the smallest business in America. Your product is a vital part of many of the largest businesses in the world (radio, TV, film, restaurants, clubs, hotels, supermarkets, etc.). The only reason they use your product is to make money. They grudgingly pay you a small portion of what you earn them, and you must raise a family, pay bills and create more product on that money. Demos are not cheap; opportunities to pitch your work are few. It is a shame that royalty structures are so poorly distributed. In 1901, a songwriter made $0.01 for each copy of his sheetmusic. Today, we are paid $0.02. How do we change this? Gotta write your senator or make an appointment to talk with them. Write letters to your local newspaper's editorial section, or join NSAI.

This article is researched knowing that as a creator you write what you want, about what you want, how you choose to write it. However, when you have completed your song, you MUST change hats and become a small business person who understands what big business wants. This statement is the very reason I started We must wear more than one hat in order to make a living!

I am constantly asked why, when doing my research, I only check out the songs that get to #1 on the charts. I am reminded that there are many wonderful songs that only go Top 5 or even Top 10. Well, back in the early '70s, my first Country hit ("Good Enough To Be Your Wife" by Jeannie C. Riley) went to #2 and sat under "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson for a while before slipping back down the charts. Consoled by friends (who put another drink on my tab) that #2 was just as good as #1, I was haunted by the wise words of an old dogsled driver I used to know, "If you ain't the lead dog, the view never changes." So with those thoughts in mind, let's look at what worked for radio at #1 in Country music in the year 2002.

Here are the #1 Songs for 2002 (Billboard magazine Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2002):

 Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) Alan Jackson  Alan Jackson
 Good Morning Beautiful  Steve Holy  Zack Lyle, Todd Cerney
 Bring On The Rain  Jo Dee Messina  Billy Montana, Helen Darling
 The Cowboy In Me  Tim McGraw  Craig Wiseman, Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson
 The Long Goodbye  Brooks & Dunn  Paul Brady, Ronan Keating
 Blessed  Martina McBride  Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges, Brett James
 Breathe In, I Breathe Out  Chris Cagle  Chris Cagle, Jon Robbin
 My List  Toby Keith  Rand Bishop, Tim James
 Drive (For Daddy Gene)  Alan Jackson  Alan Jackson
 Living And Living Well  George Strait  Tony Martin, Mark Nesler, Tom Shapiro
 I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)  Brad Paisley  Brad Paisley, Frank Rogers
 Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue  Toby Keith  Toby Keith
 The Good Stuff  Kenny Chesney  Jim Collins, Craig Wiseman
 Unbroken  Tim McGraw  Holly Lamar, Annie Roboff
 I Miss My Friend  Darryl Worley  Tony Martin, Mark Nesler, Tom Shapiro
 Beautiful Mess  Diamond Rio  Sonny LeMaire, Clay Mills, Shane Minor
 Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo   Tracy Byrd  Casey Beathard, Michael Heeney, Marla Cannon-Goodman
 Somebody Like You  Keith Urban  Keith Urban, John Shanks
 These Days  Rascal Flatts Stephen Paul Robson, Jeffrey Steele, Danny Mark Wells
 Who's Your Daddy?  Toby Keith  Toby Keith
 She'll Leave You With A Smile  George Strait  Odie Blackmon, Jay Knowles

Anything in common?

About the only thing that all 21 #1s had in common was the time signature (all were 4/4). I guess that means not a lot of people are waltzing out there - at least not during "drive time." Something else these songs had in common was their race to the first use of the title. 19 of 21 used the title within the first 60 seconds (including intro!). Another thing in common was that all the songs were co-written except where the artist was a sole writer, as in the case of Alan Jackson (who don' need no steenkin' co-writer!) and Toby Keith, (who by being so offensive to women and to the left wing that he can't get a co-writer).

While we're on the topic of title use, let's check out the number of repetitions of the title. The variance (including fades) went from 1.5 repetitions ("These Days" - Robson/Steele/Wells) to 14 repetitions ("Blessed" - James/Lindsey/Verges) with 8 of 21 having five or fewer repetitions, 9 of 21 having six to 10 repetitions and 4 of 21 having 10 or more repetitions of the title. 10 of 21 had five or six repetitions of the title.

Tempo and Intro

Uptempo songs held 12 of the 21 top spots, mid-tempos had 3 of 21 and ballads at 6 of 21. We have been told since the dawn of radio that 13 seconds is the perfect amount of intro. But, among the total of 21 songs that reached #1 in 2002, the length of intro averaged 14.2 seconds. However, if you remove the exceedingly long intros of "Who's Your Daddy" - Keith and "The Long Goodbye" - Brady/Keating, - whose combined intros totaled 57 seconds - the average intro time was... drum roll... ta-da, 13 seconds! This may seem like you have to write 'in a formula', but in reality, the 'formula' is what often gets published, but does not represent what kinds of songs are written by hit writers on a day to day basis. They do not necessarily start out writing this way, but it does represent what the public has come to expect from the momentum and pace of a hit song.

Theme & Person

Love Found "Somebody Like You", "Good Morning Beautiful", "Beautiful Mess"

Love Celebrated "Blessed", "The Good Stuff"

Love Lost "I Miss My Friend", "Bring On The Rain" "She'll leave You With A Smile", "The Long 


Patriotism "Where Were You", "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue"

Drinking and Fishing "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo"  "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' 


Hey, wait a minute. Love found, love celebrated, love lost, patriotism, drinking, fishing, maybe we're getting back to real Country mus... oops, sorry, lost my head there for a minute.

Anyway, the largest percentage of 2002 #1s were about love/relationships. In addition, 16 of all 21 #1s used the first-person pronouns (I, me, you, us) in line with Country songs being conversational and personal. At this point,I notice that Ralph did not categorize the remaining 7 songs. Their category is :

Inspirational "The Cowboy in Me". "I Breathe in I Breathe Out", "My List", "Drive (for Daddy Gene)", "Living and Living Well", "Unbroken" "These Days"

I point this out, becuase many folk songs that are passed up by major artists and publishers fall into this category. That means there is room for 'folkies' in Country music and that's always been the case!

Chart Longevity

Radio's core audience (women 25-40) did allow themselves to be distracted from the love theme for a little patriotism "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue", but only briefly. Both songs were on and off the chart in fewer than 20 weeks. Women also tolerated one of their own finishing second to a bass boat "I'm Gonna Miss Her" and letting a man behave badly "Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo" for 31 weeks, probably secure in the knowledge that after 10 rounds of tequila, the #@*!% would really feel bad. My belief is that male listeners were more responsible for these songs becoming hits. Not because I don't like patriotic songs myself, but because women like to dance, and men who *can* dance enjoy material they can relate to and are much more likely to dance to these numbers. If the women want to dance with a guy in a night club, it's a better icebreaker if you pick a song that you know a guy will like and want to dance to.

The other songs that kept the listeners' attention for 30 or more weeks were all love songs, whether lost, found or celebrated individually or as a family. These 30-plus-week songs totaled 9 of 21. I have a particular probelm with songs staying on the charts this long. It leaves very little room for other good material to be published. I'm sure Ralph feels the same way, but he's addressing reality here, not pipe dreams. Radio stations pick their playlists weekly (on Tuesdays) and only add 17 songs. You could fairly call it "Top 17 Radio".

Song Length

One noteworthy observation is that there was only one #1 single under three minutes ("She'll Leave You With A Smile". In fact, four were four minutes or longer! A full 12 out of 21 #1s on the chart were longer than 3 minutes 30 seconds. Although the dean of Nashville songwriters, Harlan Howard, always said, "Only a dumbass takes more than three minutes to tell anything," in defense of the songwriters, a large number of these songs could have been three minutes or much shorter. Some of the fades were a minute or more in length! Ralph addresses the art of song arrangement - which arguably has more influence on a hit than the actual story delivered by the song itself.

Song Form

Other than the larger number of topics writers were allowed to talk about in 2002, there was other good news. The 6th Form (BABACA) or "Rondeau" reappeared at #1. (The basic Rondeau is Chorus-Verse-Chorus- Instrumental-Bridge-Chorus.) "Good Morning Beautiful" written in Rondeau, held the listener for 26 weeks to get to #1, kept them singing along for six weeks at #1 and entertained them for a further eight weeks after that in its most perfect structure for a whopping 40 weeks on the chart!

Next came good old 2nd Form (ABABAB) (Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Instrumental-Chorus). This form has been used for decades by Country writers, Rockers and Folkies to tell stories because of its flexibility - you can add verses to tell the whole story if you feel you need them. It therefore comes as no surprise that the patriotic themes of "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" and " Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue" were best told without the frills of bridges, middle 8ths, lifts, channels, pre-choruses, etc.

Another solid, well-used form that seldom gets to #1 made three appearances. The 5th Form had its time in the sun, well represented by " Somebody Like You", "The Cowboy In Me" and "She'll Leave You With A Smile". (The 5th Form's major distinction is that there is no chorus (AAA); its verses have an AABA structure with the first or last line of the verse being the title/hook.) What "Somebody" and "Cowboy" shared was the addition of an extra verse. The fun thing in any craft is learning the rules and then breaking them-ask Picasso!

Some of my personal favorite songs are written in 5th Form: "The Song Remembers When," "Brown Eyed Girl," "Somewhere In My Broken Heart" and so many more. I guess they don't fit the needs of the drive-time listener all the time but, hey . . .

The lion's share of #1s were written in drive time's best friends 3rd Form and 4th Form. 3rd Form at its most basic is (AABABCAB) Verse-(Verse Optional) -Chorus -Verse -Chorus -Bridge- Instrumental-Chorus.

4th Form is (ACBACB) Verse-Lift-Chorus-Verse-Lift-Chorus-(Bridge Optional)-Instrumental-(Lift Optional)-Chorus. Just to illustrate, the most pristine examples of these forms are "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" (3rd Form) and "Living And Living Well" (4th Form).

I confess that it's great to see writers stretch and bend these forms. For instance, a couple of the 4th Form songs left out second verses entirely "I'm Gonna Miss Her" and "Who's Your Daddy?", yet still satisfied the listener and allowed the writer some freedom to have fun.

Other items to note

Speaking of fun, HUMOR and IRONY are huge factors in a big radio song. Compound humor and irony with image-inducing detail ("under an old brass paperweight" / "feet on a hardwood floor" / "electric choke"), and you have all these wonderful ear-catching mini-hooks that expertly lead the listener to the real "hook" or logical conclusion. By creating an expectation and then so satisfactorily fulfilling it, the writer delivers.

Your best shot

I could ramble on for pages about how much fun it is to watch writers exercise their craft, but it's time to cut to the chase. Based on last year's numbers, what's your best shot for getting a #1 record this year?

As always, it helps to be the artist or to write with the artist, but considering the fact that two-thirds of the #1s in 2002 were not written or co-written by the artist, roll up your sleeves, look at your work. Start by selecting love songs with an average length of three minutes to three minutes and thirty seconds, leaning toward mid- to up-tempo, in 4/4 time and in 3rd or 4th Form, using conversational first-person lyrics, heavy on humor and irony, packed with ear-catching details. Throw in a 13-second introduction, get your listener to the title in 60 seconds (or less) with the title repeating no more than seven times, and you're in the running!

Remember, when it comes to radio, your job is to hold the listener from the car commercial to the soda jingle through multiple daily repetitions for a minimum of five months (or in the case of "Good Morning Beautiful"- 10 months!). You must create something so simple that the listener gets it immediately yet so complex that it holds his or her attention for a lifetime.

That's the easy part! Now try getting an artist to record it . . .
Songwriting is the reason why many of you are here.  I can't begin to approach the combined wisdom of the folks listed below, but I have met all of them, so you can be sure you'll get the answers you need if you give any of them a try. Much of what I have learned has come from these sources. If the listing is a book, I've read it, if it's a website, I know the author, and if it's an organization, then I'm a member.




All Area Access - Marc Davison

Confessions of a Record Producer - Moses Avalon

The Craft and Business of Songwriting - John Braheny

The Soul of a Writer - Susan Tucker and Linda Lee Strother

The Artist's Way - by Julia Cameron



Houston Fort Bend Songwriters Association

Nashville Songwriters Association

Songwriters Guild of America

Washington Area Musicians Association


Q. I have a Mackie 808s that I run in mono split between the mains and monitors .What speakers would you say would work best for a crowd of 150 people using vocals and the electronic drums in the mix. Thanks

A. It's kinda hard to go wrong here! On a main/monitor mix, The most you can push is 600w to front of house @ 2 ohms. Most speaker-pairs sold today can handle this load even run full-out. I happen to own JBL MP215s which I love, but I have also had good results using my old Yamaha S112IV mains. If your room is large, you can achieve a nice effect by daisy-chaining two pairs of mains in each corner of the room, pointing inward and eliminate the monitors. (Tape your cords down to prevent a tripping hazard, or better yet, buy the rubberbacked carpets sold at restaurant supply stores and lay them over the cords that cross doorways.)

To get the best power, pull out the amp routing switch, so you can have access to all 1200w that the unit offers.

Sorry the response was so late in coming- I was busy at SxSW this week. Does this help?

Q. How did you come to pick the JBL cabs for your rigs? You also mentioned that you were using JBL speaker cabs, but I didn't catch the model number. I've been looking at the Mackie C 300's and Yorkville NX 20's, which are both passive 2-way speakers w/ 12 inch woofers. I've also been looking at the Carvin catalog which speaks in glowing terms of their products, but I've never actually seen anybody using Carvin gear. What's your recommendation? I'd appreciate any input you can give me.

My personal prorities are:
1. Clean, accurate sound at reasonable listening volumes
2. Reliable, quality, dependable, QUIET gear
3. Portability and ease of set-up
4. World peace

A. The JBL cabs I use are the M-Pro 215's. They top out at 1000w and are cheap to fix. They also have the best low and high end response of any passive speaker I have used. Kinda like eating a beefy/crispy taco with your ears! What kind of taco are you putting in your ears? Does it come with hot sauce? Ultimately you will purchase what you can afford, but heck, you won't outgrow these anytime soon. Here's the link to what I use for small shows.

Q. You said you're not a fan of powered monitors: how come?

A. I do not favor powered mains and monitors for two reasons, mostly having to do with the fact that I lack your upper body strength. However, the other reason is that when the amplifiers in these units fail, there is no way to get it going again. Passive speakers can be repaired on the spot if they blow, by replacing a basket or a horn or a relay. As long as your amp is powered up, you should be able to push signal.

Stage Gear

Q. I've been using the boom tripod type mic stands that are light and fold up for easy transport, but they are kind of tippy and take up floor space. Are the round base stands better for live work?

A. The solid round stands are definitely better for a number of reasons - they take a smaller footprint - they don't tip easily, and they are cheaper than tripod stands. has them on for 19.99 - but don't forget to buy the boom extension that goes with it (additional 14.99). The only 'con' is that they don't stack as neatly in the back of your car, and they are heavier.

The best way to know what to buy for your band is to go see a good live show of a touring band. What are they using on stage that you can see? Important items to note are the brand of instrument/microphone cords, amplifiers, incidental stage stands/hardware, road cases, and microphones. Good bands don't use cheesy gear! They know better.

If you have more than a few, I recommend buying a pole bag. Mic stands and speaker poles have a nasty habit of falling off your cart while loading in to a gig.

Talent Buying

Q. I'm not an artist, but I am a big fan of TX indie music. However, I work for the City of xxxx in Parks and Rec and we are putting on a 4th of July Festival and will be looking for talent soon. We know nothing about soliciting talent or how much to budget for. I'm just looking for info, not bids, and was wondering what is the best method to solicit presskits. I really like your straight-forward approach and was hoping you'd help out an amateur from the other side of the contract. I'd appreciate your help.

PS. I deeply regret that since this is a City event we will be looking for the safe artist and not necessarily the most interesting or talented one. Big fan of Hayes, Davin and Ray!

Sincerely, Anonymous Grant Writer

A. Hi Grant! :)

Soliciting Talent
You should decide on the 'flavor' of your event. Will you accept artists of all genres, or are you sticking with Americana/Texas? Once that's decided, you can begin to approach these artists. You can use a booking agent to save labor, or you can do it yourself to save money. When I was a booking agent, and the bands asked me to find venues, I charged the bands 10% and of course the bands built that into their fee to the venue. When venues hired me to find bands, I charged $40.00 per band. I never ever EVER charged both ends against the middle, and you should watch for this by asking the band how much the agent paid them. That math is not hard. You can avoid this by insisting that you pay the band and the agent seperatly yourself. It takes about 3 hours per band in phone time and faxing, e-mailing, confirming, reconfirming, etc.. To see what i tell the bands about booking, read the article at

Serious bands will have a press kit with the elements described at You should ask where they have played before and contact those venues to see if they enjoyed the band. Of course bands will never share 'disaster dates' with you, but give 'em the benefit of the doubt, if they can come up with a couple of rave reviews.

Scheduling Music
Each band will expect to be able to sell merchandise and play a 60 or 90 minute set for a festival. Of course this will depend on the number of acts you have booked to your event. In the line-up, allow 15-20 minutes between bands for load-in and soundcheck. That'll tell you more or less how *many* acts you can book on one stage. If you can rent or borrow backline gear (a drum kit, bass rig and guitar amp), this time can be reduced and the bands might actually reduce their fee for not having to load anything. I can recommend a good backline list if you need one. The gear needs to be as nice as what the players own themselves. It's a matter of respect.

assumption: e.g. "festival music shall begin at noon and end at midnight"

1. Band #1 goes on at noon sharp and plays until 1:30pm
2. DJ spins records while bands change out
3. Band #2 starts at 1:50pm and stops at 3:10pm
4. DJ spins until 3:30pm
5. Band number three starts at 3:50 and so on -so on - so on

The 4th of July weekend is historically a very 'booked' weekend for professional musicians. As a rule, holiday weekends are at a premium. Most professional bands will ask you for 100.00 to 150.00 or more per band member. Amateur bands will charge much less. As a rule, a good duo can reduce your costs and provide a contrast between big showbands. Naturally, you will want to gravitate to smaller bands or lesser-known acts to stretch your entertainment dollar. There are dozens of great unknown bands in the Greater Houston area who will serve you just as well as Davin or Hayes (although if you can get them, you should).

On a schedule like this, you can have as many as 6 or 7 bands. Less if each plays longer. My experience is that bands do not commonly charge by the hour. That means two things: they don't give discounts for short amounts of time, and conversely, will not charge more for additional time. Your event is likely the only gig they will plan for the day unless they play very early (before 4:00pm) and can fit in travel time to another gig. Oh yeah, and if a band comes from far away, they may require gas money or a room.

You are way ahead of the curve in your timing. Most bands are booking May and June right now , so availability will not be a problem in general.

Knowing the dates, performance hours of the festival, size of the expected crowd, and the size of your music budget would be extremely helpful. I know some folks are reluctant to reveal their budgets, but disclosing this info will not change the size of your budget. No one can make you spend more money than you have! Also, don't forget to budget for production. (sound system). The church PA system will not suffice for a show of this sort. Pro musicians want to sound as good as they are, and home stereo speakers just won't do the job. You may have more experience than this, but I thought I would say it, just in case. The budget for your sound will depend on two factors - 1) the size of the crowd you expect and 2) the amount of time the soundman needs to be there. Tip - You can reduce this fee if you can provide a bit of muscle to help load and unload. Expect to pay 500-1000 for a PA that can entertain 1000 people for all day. Be sure to get a list of the sound company's gear to share with the bands, so that they can anticipate their own stage needs. Bands need to provide the soundman with a 'plot' or layout of thier band's physical layout and the kinds of equipment they will be bringing on their own.

I have lots to ask in order to hook you up with whoever you need. If this becomes a pain for you, I can assist with booking acts if needed. Since you found my website, I guess you know I also perform, and have a sound production company (shameless plug).

Thanks and How'dcha find me?

Q. I think that signing up for Taxi and submitting songs to them is a good idea. We're currently on their e-mail list, so we get the weekly(?) mailout of what the music industry is currently looking for. Looks like there's at least some TV / Movie stuff that shows up. Once Jen get's this CD done, we'll probably submit to some of the Taxi listings to see where it leads.

A. Don't join Taxi until you see a listing that is a 'bang-on' description of one of her songs. It's no good to write a song for a specific listing. It will seem too contrite and deliberate to come across well. In any case, I do enjoy their service, even though there are very few listings that suit my material. But $300.00 per year is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, she needs to create (or define) a budget for things like association memberships. I spend about $1000/year on mine, and I need to cut back on a few.


Q. "What are the benefits of joining the union?"

A. It must be stated at the outset that Texas is an open shop state. That means that no one can compel you to join a union.

The musicians union in Houston sets minimum rates for artist compensation based on the length of a gig or recording session. They also provide insurance and health benefits that you can buy at reasonable rates. Best of all, they have access to the only bank in Texas that will loan a musician money to buy an instrument. Funny huh? A regular Joe can get a loan for a piano at his credit union, but if you state on your application that you are a self employed musician, they don't want to see you.

The only 'con' to this is that you must pay dues (about 125 per year) and you have to agree never to play for below the going rate. If you get caught, you can lose all your benefits.

I haven't joined yet, but probably will.

XM Radio

Q. "How do I get my music on XM Radio?"

A. Here is what I recieved from the indiependent music program Director at XM - enjoy!


Thank you for checking out XM Satellite Radio. We have over 10,000 CD's here and another 70-80 new packages coming every day.

Simply put, the music is coming in faster than we can process and listen. So Please send your music to the address below. Please note that we cannot follow up on your submission. it is physically impossible to answer every email and every voicemail asking "where is my CD", or "when will I be played". unfortunately we are receiving SO MANY submissions, that we can only focus on listening and putting the best stuff on. If Your music is selected, YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED.

For more information please visit and click the submission link which will take you here >

We ask that you please bear with us, We are contacting bands and artists as we add them to our play list, Thank you and we look forward to hearing your material.

Please note, we do not accept MP3 files. Submit to this address and please write on the outside of the envelope the genre or classification of your music.

Thank you,

Billy Zero
Program Director
Radio Unsigned XM:52
1500 Eckington Place NE
Washington DC 20002-2194


Q:  Hey TC, I have a question regarding copyright laws and all the information I've been able to find online so far is kind of confusing so I thought you might be able to answer my question.

A while back, a couple of friends and I started working on a sketch comedy video show to post on youtube. We finished our first episode and wanted to use "Soul Finger" by the Bar-Kays as the theme music. I downloaded the form to fill out to get permission to use the recording and our director said he'd go ahead and fax it to the publisher. However, he forgot to do so and went ahead and posted the video on youtube anyway. The video stayed up so we figured there must not be a problem, but after about a month youtube blocked the audio because of that song. We've since written and recorded our own original theme music so that's no longer a problem, but what I wanted to find out was if in the future we want to use a particular song in one of the episodes, what do we need to do to get permission? We will probably record our own versions of the songs and not use the original recordings, and we are not selling DVDs of the show, at least not at this point. All the info I can find regarding cover recordings has been for people planning to sell CDs. If you can enlighten me in any way regarding this subject it would be greatly appreciated.

A:  It is possible to license music for online streaming. has "Soul Finger" listed in their catalog as they are the authorized licensing agent for this piece. It will cost about a dime every time someone listens to it on youtube. It's the same rate as a mechanical license used for physical CDs.

However - even if you get a real DPD license, YouTube may still pull it down. As a free service, they do not have the resources to research the origin of the audio on each video. They have a blanket policy to protect themselves that says - 'if you didn't write it , it aint yours to distribute'. If you click the copyright button and lie to upload it anyway, you're in violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA). I know this is frustrating, since 99% of everything on youtube is pirated. To further complicate things, the original copyright holder will not be aware that you have licensed it, and if he find it up there again, could tell youtube to pull it down again.

The fact that your band is playing the song has no bearing on this policy. The fact that you may never make any money on the recording is also irrelevant. There are two potential copyrights attached to every song - the recording engineer and artist's copyright (only if they filed a form SR) and the PA copyright which is split between the writer and the publisher.

Likely the audio was removed, not because youtube was looking for it, but because the original owner found it and petitioned to have it removed.

The best you can hope for is to license it through Harryfox, contact the publisher to make sure they know the $$ came from you, (Harry Fox will not do this) and then they might be less likely to have it removed again if you put it back up.