May 2 2015

ASCAP Expo 2015: Day Three

Daniel Lee James

On to the third and last day…

Music Publishing for Film, TV, Etc 


Ron Broitman (warner), Rachel Jacobson (songs), Gary Miller (universal), Alexia Baum (universal)

What makes a song syncable?   Gary says it’s intangible.  Advice, don’t make songs that come from personal experience.  If writing about love, don’t put in context of romantic love (e.g. all you need is love).  If your songs have “swagger”, it helps.  Alexia… “Happy” is the most syncable song on the planet.  The most usable songs are the ones that are the most general.  Rachel…  there are songs that are just anomalies and will sync no matter what, but echos that keeping things general is good.  Ron… not every song gets sync’d.   Gary…  some songs work great on radio and not in syncs.  And some of the works being used are really really old (e.g. from the 30’s).  “whoa’s and hey’s” are good 😉 Ron…  has to work toward a specific visual, and so that factors in greatly.   “Anatomy of a sync song” 3-pager run-down.  Will know within a minute of listening whether a song is syncable.   And they have SOOOO much material coming in.  Even though it is intangible, there are some rules of thumb.

How do you work with your songwriters?  Rachel is pretty hands-on.  Catalog of 7000 songs, which is a small catalog.  Want all songs to be making money all the time.  Some artists who just drop their songs off and go tour.  Others will want to specifically target TV or film.  Regardless, will provide productive feedback if asked.

Work for hire?  Alexia…  catalog is 95% score, which is always work-for-hire, which means the studio hires composers and then keep ownership of the works.  Songs, however, it’s a little crazier… universal doesn’t have song writers.  They don’t own the songs.  Producers/directors make a plan and identify what kind of songs they need.  They try to retain some rights or a piece of the music–if it is written for the project.  In the case of Frozen, the production company pushes to own the music 100%.  Pre-existing published music is another story.  Rachel generally keeps publishing rights for those people signed with them, though will let work-for-hire happen.

It’s all a relationships business.  Building trust and familiarity..

How should average joe in the audience approach licensing situations?  Ron… it’s a global marketplace.  The world is wide open.  These license companies are competing with indies, etc.  Rachel…  everything is online.  Read up on the show and director.  Reference something they used in the past.  Gary…  cream rises to the top.  Supervisor just might see your work on a blog and BOOM you’re in.  Just know that there is a STAGGERING amount of material that comes in.  Only send music when it is in the hole.  And a lot of first chances are last chances.  Alexia…  be aggressive, find a person in your corner.  If there’s something coming up and you think there’s a creative fit, then work it.  Ron…  reach out, form a relationship, find out how they organize their catalog, what they listen for, etc.  Gary… If you end up getting there, make sure your submissions are tagged with your contact information.

Metadata?  Alexia… try to be specific.  Don’t just say “orchestral”.  Male or female voice?  Fast or slow?  Types of instruments?  All information to make your work searchable.

Systems for organizing data?  Rachel…  extensive use of data systems at her office.  Short time windows typically, so be ready for anything that comes up.  E.g. be able to get in quick contact with your co-writers.  Pre-clear as much as possible so that when things come up, there’s no delay.  Delay = you getting skipped.

Approach to pitching?   Rachel…  depends, but do need to be pro-active either reacting to feeds or calling to find out what’s up.  Alexia focuses on trailer, etc opportunities.  But likewise pro-active.  Can’t wait for opportunities.  Gary and Ron have large staffs to work on these things…   Gary… there are no rules.  Finds his time is best spent on 1-1 dialogs.  Might send out a blast once or twice a month.  Then get general blast from show supervisor.  Pitching scene specific usage.  Ron…  some supervisors have pretty fixed ideas, others open to ideas.   It’s really about access and relationships.  Alexia…   people sometimes ask for “something BIG!!”, so yeah.

Some supervisors will not accept physical CD’s (straight to the trash).  New computers don’t even have CD drives.  So digital submissions are becoming more of the standard now.  Ron…  two bins story.  One bin she listens to, one she doesn’t.  Criteria?  Do I know them?  Are they nicely produced or hand-written?  So a big aspect is the presentation.

Good moments?  Alexia on “Happy”, had challenges getting it listened to.  Tried to sell it and drove up the price because the *knew* it was going to be great for placement.  Ended up being great of course.  Rachel…  for “Empire” they want all new music; not pre-existing.  For Courtney Love, they went to one of their writers, gave the show the song.  The soundtrack sold 300k.  Ron handles Led Zeppelin’s catalog.  Big fan, and have been able to sync successfully.  Regardless, satisfying when you can sync an unknown.

Economics of it?  Alexia…  can be pretty flexible trying to bring value to songwriters and client.  Case by case.  Some people in the audience have had music sync’d; not all paid, but seemed like their was at least some benefit.  Gary…  a 30 sec background sync is probably not going to be worth doing for free / for exposure, vs a song in the forefront of an emotional scene.  Alexia…  precedents for particular artists factors in to pricing.  Ron…  budget has something to do with it too.  E.g. won’t send “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons if the budget is low.

Average fees for, e.g. TV, indie vs major.  Ron… $2500-$10000 for up and coming artists.  cable $0-$6000.  Alexia’s tend to be higher: $20k-$25k.  E.g. simpsons placement $25k-$30k as an aside.  Rachel…  a charting song $15k-$20k. $7.5-$10 cable.  Ron…  $100K can happen.

Film (aside from free film festival works)? Ron…  $75k for a recent project.  great time for indie films.  Alexia…  obviously have a lot of “top of the line” works.  Rachel…  major $40k – $300k.

Commercials?  Ron…  all over the map.  $1K-$xxxx.

Rachel…  it’s not all about what’s popular right now.  Right music for the right placement.

Bonuses?  Step deals?  “Garden State” was one of the last good step deals.  However, some successes have limited lifespan in terms of production company still being around or not.

All… generally in the business of getting music used.

Video games?  Not really viable right now.  $1500 aside seems to be the standard.  Rachel… Lorde thinks video games are her demographic, so not that concerned about the licensing fee because it’s hitting her audience.   Usually one-time buy-outs; e.g. for Grand Theft Auto.

In a meeting with a supervisor, what do you bring?    Gary…  have 3 best ready to go that hits the verse/chorus, etc.  USB format, phone, etc fine.  Be respectful of their time.  Genre doesn’t impact price; e.g. country music, while big, doesn’t really connect on TV.

How to increase your odds to be sync’d?  Like asking how to win the lottery.  It’s all a crap shoot.

What are good publications to monitor? is a good resource.  hollywood reporter, imdb, etc.  But no one good place to go to find it.  Mostly because supervisors are bombarded as it is, so they’re not going to publicly advertise.  DON’T pay for that information from anyone who claims to have it.  (NOTE TO SELF: talk to supervisors, film companies in Austin)

Gary…  covers.  Great new covers of songs have potential for getting your foot in the door.


Washington DC: New Laws and Copyright

ASCAP has been very involved in activities in Washington DC to help make it possible for music makers to be able to make a day to day living.

1 million streams on pandora earns the artist $90, which is, of course, ridiculous.

Streaming is the future of music, it’s kinda undeniable.  So asking the Dept of Justice to make changes that will enable sustainable income for music makers.  The companies that are making billions on the backs of creators are the ones who need to be made accountable.  Change away from a system that compels us to give away our music.

Recording artists make 14x more than publishers and writers right now.  Section 114i is hurting our ability to make a change, but recent activity in Washington is working toward getting around that, among other issues.

Aloe Blacc, Doug Collins (rep. GA), Hakeem Jeffries (rep. NY).

Aloe…  has been pretty active.  Having a baby kinda woke him up about it; wanting to be able to support his family as a songwriter, etc.  “Wake Me Up” for Avicii: 168 millon streams yields $12k, of which his cut is $4k.  And thought…  that’s not going be enough to support his family.

Doug…  involved in government of a state with so many musicians, sees the effect of the changes in the marketplace, and fully supports making it a fair marketplace.  Introduced the songwriter’s equity act.  Took a lot of flack and heat at the time.

Hakeem…  represents Brooklyn, as a very diverse district with a major presence and history of artists; e.g. Spike Lee, B.I.G., etc.  Songwriters there are very important.

Paul…   we don’t want to deny the technology.  We love it.  Just want it to be fair to all involved.

Aloe…  loves the technology, sure.  Big companies know how the laws work.  Songwriters know how songs work.  So the songwriters get exploited by the big companies.   Can we name names?

Doug…  taking heat for these things has a root cause in there being money to be had.  Copyright office formed in 1897, and some of the rules around today were written in the early 1900’s.  His professions have all involved what comes between his ears and mouth, as lawyer and military chaplain.  If he has been able to make a gainful living doing those things, then musicians should be able to as well.

Hakeem…  Winston Churchill: “Do you have enemies?  Good, that means you have stood up for something or someone at some point in your life.”   Sides are taken.  You have to match intensity at the very least.  We in the audience can work our own congressmen and representatives.  (NOTE TO SELF:  actually contact Austin city and Texas government).

Can hash: #songwriterequityact.

And there’s:  #standwithsongwriters.

Paul gave Aloe Blacc a nice plug suggesting he would be great for the ASCAP board and might make a great ASCAP president someday.

Aloe…  nobody starts at the top.  Was just the songwriter for Avicii.  Didn’t earn anything from SoundExchange.  Only really earns from royalties.  Draws analogy with other corporate jobs; e.g.  performer = sales, songwriter = developer.   Need the song to begin with.  (NOTE HERE:  being a person who has been a part of that corporate world and well aware of the discrepancies between developers and sales people, the analogy is reasonable, but slightly worrisome in the sense of be-careful-what-you-wish-for.  there are very few developer-salespeople in the corporate world).

Doug…  take the time to write a personal letter or have an in-person chat or speak in an open government forum, etc.  WE ARE THE VOICE.  If we don’t exercise our voice, we won’t be heard.

Hakeem…  has been brought to attention of congress that copyright law in general needs to be revisited, with songwriter act related topics at the top of the list.  Value of music is transcendent.  People understand the value, regardless of genre grew up listening to.  There’s political power and value to the music.  Words 50 years ago, for much music, are still applicable today.

435 representatives + 100 senators to convince.  Use social media.  Write a letter.  Stay focused as a songwriter in your activities.

The vision is that the laws change, and then services like Spotify and Pandora will have to negotiate payment.  We are not against Spotify and Pandora, per se, we want to them to be successful, BUT we just want to be able to negotiate fair payment.   An alternative voice in the audience suggested that Spotify and Pandora should already be interested in being fair to begin with.

Doug…  government is in the way right now, and is actually supporting the Spotify/Pandora taking-advantage-of-writers problem.  These companies are benefitting from the way the laws are currently structured.

Hakeem…   Doug is from one of the most conservative districts in the country.  Hakeem from one of the most progressive.  BUT, they’re both working together on this.

Suggestion made for someone to hold events, make a documentary, etc.

Good question from lawyer in the audience…  how can a songwriter negotiate more pay from their publisher who is processing the money.  So there’s a go-between that the songwriter has to go through.  Hakeem…  songwriter rate is artificially low.   Law prohibits consideration of things like how much artists make off a songwriter’s songs.  This is part of the reason why lawmakers can make a fair change:  they are legally prohibited from being able to include relevant information in their considerations.  ASCAP is out of balance with other PRO’s around the globe.


Finishing with Ableton Live

Showed live recording of a groove in Ableton. Using live guitar, bass, push controller beat building, etc.  Slid in some pre-fab percussion elements.  Played the push controller like a keyboard at one point (which was slightly odd).  But groovy.

Did it all in arrangement view (not clip view).  Had all the empty tracks pre-created, though didn’t really need to (can just press apple-D as you go).  Uses Ampli-Tube a lot.  Duplicates some tracks, usu. guitar, and pans them hard left/right.  Separates kick and snare to diff tracks so can mix differently.  Quantize is easy (shift-apple-u).  Pulled in clips recorded from friends.  Easy to warp anything that gets pulled in.  Uses “complex” to do warping.  Uses a lot of his own samples.

Showed a little trick of taking a cymbal sample, doubling it over and reversing the first one to create a “riser” effect.


Economics of a Hit Songwriter


Savan Kotecha has written songs for Ariana Grande, One Direction, Maroon 5, etc etc.

When he started out it was a lot more expensive to make a song.  His father sent him a bill for $28K at one point (expenses from 16 to 27), including rental of equipment, trips to Nashville.  Got ripped off in a deal in Nashville signing a deal that took 100% of his publishing.  From Austin, Texas, apparently.  Would sneak into SXSW and hand out demo tapes.  If he got kicked out, he’d change clothes and do it again.  Spent a bit of time skipping school to do this stuff.  Got a book from B&N with list of publishers and sent tapes to all these.  Would use lunch money to send out demo tapes.  Started eventually getting some positive responses.  E.g. pay $3000 to play in front of music industry professionals.  Did it, got a little lucky.  Had a lawyer friend in NY who helped out.  First publishing deal… lawyer fee was half the advance.  Dad gave him 2 years.  Upper middle class parents were able to help him out.  Would sit at home and write songs.  Went to Sweden, broke, at the age of 19, as part of his first publishing deal…

BMG publishing deal, in the time of Backstreet Boys and Brittney Spears.  Only did work with Jive Records.  Sent to Sweden, where the writers are; plus Sweden really really support and valorize music.  2 weeks turned into 13 years (though did visit the states after the first 4 years).

First A&R was with Simon Cowell.  Was really scary.  When pop died in the states (turned into hip hop and alt rock).  X Factor 2010…  called in to be a vocal coach / mentor.  Met One Direction, which convinced him to stay.

Invested a bit of money and time in himself.

Different ways to write songs…  want to be able to do it on purpose.  Nowadays, you are not going to get paid unless you are consistent.  His generation invested in writers, and they would let you fail a lot.  That doesn’t happen anymore.  Did spend a bit of time writing a song a day, so that’s where he came from.  Learn what works by listening to great songs.  Day after day they would go over the best songs ever and then re-arrange them.  Common thread is melody.  Melody is timeless.  Greatest songs ever have great melody.

“Problem” recorded his inspiration on his phone while on an airplane (played the recording).  Stressed importance of collaborative now.  Like with the phone capture, didn’t have a pre-chorus, which a collaborator friend came up with.

Challenge working with new artists who are getting signed with big $, is adjusting to them without losing quality.

Alway try to find people who are better than you.  Got lucky to work with Max Martin.  It’s like playing on Michael Jordan’s team.

Chris Rock reference…  common negative trap to say things like “man, my stuff’s better than that”.  Bad attitude.  Better attitude is to never think that you are better than anyone else.   Nowadays there’s a lot of pressure for publishers to find the “best” songs.  There was a song he and his collabs had that was going to be cut by Rhianna.  Didn’t happen at the last minute.  They put out a different song his collaborators thought “what?!?”   Easy to fall into that trap.  New song writers should learn from the songs that are out there rather than being negative about them.

Again, was fortunate enough to be getting into the industry when companies had money to spend on songwriters.  Felt a responsibility to be the mentor and pass the baton on.  But it’s hard to say how much longer it’s going to last.  People don’t seem to really know that the writers exist; seems like people think that Brittney just shows up in a studio with a band and she just sings, boom badabing.  Pop stars kinda don’t want the public to know the writers exist, because the artists are afraid to mar their image or cause problems with their endorsements and such.  So the artists aren’t going to fight for the writers.  So we have to fight for ourselves.

Note that labels are looking online, audiences are looking online.  The music is what it is and will strike a chord or not.  E.g. Lorde claims to not have done any marketing; it just happened.  Suggestion is that a great song will grow.  A lot of people hustle on the street and network.  But the people who are really making it in the industry are spending their time in the studio.  Craft First.

Person from audience pointed out that legally there are either strong clients with weak cases or weak clients with strong cases.  We are the latter, so it would be great to be able to get high caliber celebrities to help.

We seem to be the only industry that no one expects to get rich.  Nobody tells McDonald’s they make too much money.


Writer’s Jam


Aloe Blacc – sang “Need a Dollar” with help from guitarist.

Andrew Bird – sang “Give it Away” with fiddle, alternating between strumming and bowing
Andrea Martin – sang “It will All Get Better with Time (?)”.  Holy crap she can sing.
Ashley Gorley – sang a song Luke Bryan performed  “Crash My Party Anytime (?)”
Aloe Blacc – sang “I’m the Man” and Gorley mentions afterward that the song plays at his kids baseball field all the freaking time.  Aloe gave a little bit of back story, mentioning that he was rapping back in the 90s, but stopped around 2005.  Started liking other types of music; e.g. “Your Song” by Elton John.
Andrew Bird – sang “Fake Palindromes”, citing some boredom and reading in lobotomy back in 2004 as inspiration.
Andrea Martin – sang “What’s in Gonna Be?”  written for En Vogue and told a little bit of the story behind it.  Apparently En Vogue didn’t like the song at first, but one of singers hadn’t gotten to solo before and came back asking about it.  Ended up being the biggest hit they’d ever done, and Andrea had the satisfaction of putting that back in the face of the two lead singers who had poopoo’d the song before.
Ashley Gorley – sang “Better than I Used to Be (?)”.  Was a blind write with Brian Simpson 10 years ago.  Wanted to make the point that you never know what connections will work, and that you should not forget about those connections.
Aloe Blacc – sang “Wake Me Up” written for Avicii.  Worked with Gorley in Nashville and shared an old idea.  Suggested always bringing 100% to the table, and be open to making yourself vulnerable for sharing.
Andrew Bird – sang  a new song.  Mentioned a lot of internal voices guiding, and not so much collaboration in general.
Andrea Martin – sang “Kills Me”, which she claims to have written in 5 minutes to get it over with, and added a bunch of oooohs to fill in the gaps.  Pretty killer singer… the lady can sing.
Ashley Gorley – tried to clean the palate after Andrea’s performance.  Told the backstory for the next song, which was based partially on a real life experience 3-4 years ago.  Had two kids at home and a spastic dog while a contractor was fixing something at the house.  Contractor, however, was not bothered by it, mentioned kids of his own, and suggested he would miss all this chaos.  IMPORTANTLY, and incidentally, suggested that you be brave and DARE TO SUCK.  Sang “You’re Going to Miss This”
ALL – The last song, led by Aloe was Bill Whithers’ “Lean on me”.  Everybody sang.


And thus ended the expo.





May 1 2015

ASCAP Expo 2015: Day Two

Daniel Lee James

On to day two…

Prior to my one-on-one session below, which I stressed out a little over, there wasn’t much going on with the festival this morning, presumably because of how late things went last night.  Along the way, I met a very nice jazz singer from California, named Rita Oliver, who had many sweet and comforting stories of faith to share.  One of her stories was about how she chose to not have her leg amputated, and got through it.  At any rate, very sweet lady who has been enjoying some success with a CD she put together last year.


One on One Session

The idea here is that you sit at a table for a pre-scheduled 15 chat with a person from the industry, be it an A&R person, a producer, a publisher, whoever.  It’s set up as a sort of lottery.

My assigned person was a representative from a licensing and placement firm.  I prepared songs I had been working in my home studio that covered a variety of genres; one prog, one pop, one sappy ballad, and one straight up rock tune.  Told him I have a prog rock band in Austin.  Told him about the Voyager Music Festival coming up, etc.

He listened to portions of 4 of the tracks, seemed to like the pop tune, which surprised me a little since my little sappy ballad got the best response at home in general.

We chatted some about it and such, but the gist of what I got was that if I wanted to get the attention of any publisher or licenser, then, aside from straight-up serendipity or knowing someone in the industry already, I should have 15-20 well-produced in-the-studio cuts of pop songs that are cleanly targeted to a particular artist or set of very very similar like artists.   E.g.  pick a popular artist like Katie Perry…  write, record and submit 15 well produced song specifically targeted to her voice and image.

And that was it, really.  Hard to not be a little cynical about it, being the sort of musician who creates proggy, non-mainstream stuff.  See the next session…  it kinda ended up being a sort of extension of this one-on-one.


Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting

(came in a little late after my one-on-one session)

Ralph Murphy on stage talking about being successful as a songwriter.   Got a number 1 hit at the age of 21.  Had been trying since the age of 11.  Has written a LOT of songs for women singers.  Has been able to make a decent living at, and maybe have a hit every 3 years.  Back in his time, if you didn’t have a hit by 21, you were pretty much toast.

Largely: give people what they want.  Study all of what is popular.   Acknowledged that he hates 95% of the music he studies.  And all those basic song structures are the same.

Always goes for the gold.  Hates being #2 on the charts.

All the #1 hit stars right now have a lot in common.  On every one of them, a production company will spend $1.1 million.

Music earns money…  for the user.  If you are in a restaurant and you hear jazz music, you will spend 1/3 more.  If classical, you will drink less.  If no music, you will eat, and then leave.  Walmart has their own station, and keep the BPM’s at walking pace, etc.  There’s a LONG list of businesses and events that make lots of money from YOUR work.

Who are songwriters?  There’s a common psychological profile.  But nobody really cares about that.  What you need to do is get over yourself.  And there’s a profile for the relatable elements / human factor represented in the song; e.g. not over 40 with kids implied by the subject.

Whining, preaching or venting doesn’t work unless accompanied by humor or detail.

When someone loves a song, it means they identified with it in some way.  So who is your audience?  What are they doing when they hear your music?

“Shake it off”, “Happy”, both 160 BPM, fast.  Audience is most likely dancing when they hear it.

When you fish, do you think like a fisherman or like the fish?  Do you want to catch a fish?  THINK LIKE THE FISH.

Singer/songwriters are special needs people.  Constantly being lied to; e.g. with all the complements, etc that you hear from your audience.  What you need to be is a stand-alone songwriter.  Breaking in is hard…  people are pre-disposed to hate you because you are not known or already familiar.

Why you will get the call…

  • word choice.  If you wouldn’t say it, you wouldn’t sing it.
  • listener expectation.  don’t assume they know what’s in your head.
  • structure.  typical pop.  ABABCAB
  • resist temptation.  don’t whine or portray a loser.  nobody wants that.  in pop, they’re all winners, golden.  loser will always be someone else.
  • judgmental listener.  expect to be judged.

Your job is to give the listener themselves, not you.

Example:  Bruno Mars, makes extensive use of “you” as a trigger word.  Which draws in and is almost always a woman.

Pronouns…  the little big words.  Play the “you” card.  (played some popular examples).

How do you begin?

  • create an expectation.  Lead them to the title, otherwise you are wasting time.  (gave examples, including “Happy” and a bit of country, for the love of the common structure)
  • song title.  (numerous examples of current popular titles)
  • song as a script.  make that singer look good to women who are pre-disposed to hate that person
  • connect to the listener.  easy to sing.
  • enhancing the artist’s image.  artists are alway trying to piss on themselves; don’t give them that.  have that singer sing I love YOU, not I love HER.
  • detail.  detail is essential.  focus on what dialog you would expect women to have.  contrasted it with men.  women want to know details.   e.g. after break up, lunch between women conversation vs after break up, lunch between men conversation.  first is detailed, latter is terse “have a beer”.   (gave many examples, including some Taylor Swift, John Legend)
  • rhyme scheme.  change it up according to verse to bridge to chorus.

The world doesn’t need a good song.  It needs a “wow, play that again” song.

Accessibility / ease of singing.  Sad when you exclude the listener from being able to sing your tune.  Your job is to write everybody’s song.  Back to referencing “Happy”.  Lot of monosyllabic words (even singing non mono as if mono).

Questions to ask yourself:

  • can most people relate?
  • is it a fresh approach?
  • is it believable?
  • are there too many themes?
  • are there details that don’t lead to the hook?
  • is it conversational?  is the language out of date?
  • is it poetry?  (needs to be conversational, NOT poetry)
  • (avoid writers assumptions…  remember, they are pre-disposed to hate you, and will change stations with malice)

A song is a linear literal conversation between two people.

(plug for his book on all this here)

The Six Forms.

  • First form:  verse – refrain/chorus – bridge – refrain/chorus – out  (e.g. “left my heart in san francisco”… started off in verse leading up to the rest of the song being about san francisco.  also “rudolf the red nosed reindeer”  *trivia: rudolf did not exist before this song*)
  • Second form:  verse – opt verse – chorus – verse – chorus – instrumental – chorus(es) – out (cited some billboard stats, noting how many country songs used the 2nd form–avg 20%… note that all hit the title within 60 seconds, hit “you” within 17 seconds, etc)
  • Third form:  verse – opt vverse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge/middle eight – opt instr – chorus(es) – out (e.g. “Happy”)
  • Fourth form:  verse – opt verse – pre/bridge (UK) – chorus – verse – pre/bridge (UK) – chorus – bridge(US)/middle eight (UK) – chorus(es) – out  (80% pop songs use this form)
  • Fifth form:  verse – verse – bridge (what if?) – verse (“Yesterday”, “I Hold On”)
  • Sixth form:  chorus – verse – chorus – instrumental – bridge – chorus – etc (Passenger’s “Let it go”)


  • too much melody / too little melody  (too much melody — not enough story)
  • words that don’t fit (take weeks to find the right word if need be)
  • contrived rhymes
  • an unexplained item (if you have a gun in act 1, you better fire it before the end of the play)
  • changing rhyme scheme verse to verse
  • changing pronouns
  • too many ideas
  • creating an expectation
  • mixing forms
  • not changing rhyme scheme
  • repetitive words
  • (missed one)

Song checklist

  • 60 secs to first use of title?
  • does it explain the premise?
  • does it establish structure?
  • does it invite the listener?
  • what will a distracted woman at the worst time of day think of the singer?
  • is the singer’s role portrayed consisted consisted with the artists image?
  • ear catching detail?
  • hook/title properly set up?
  • hook/title memorable properly set up with complementary melody?
  • language consistent with the character and setting?  (example of setting constraints for irish singer in ireland)

Book signing afterwards

Multi-Genre Feedback Panel with Darrell Brown

Thought it would be interesting to see what these feedback panels are like.


Lady I walked in on was playing and singing a country tune.  Wasn’t bad, even if it was about a betrayal.  Apparently, it’s not based on a true story.  Feedback from the Darrell sitting next to her:  it felt very songwritery.  Didn’t feel honest.  Thinking of who would sing it, business-wise, there are maybe 3 singers; e.g. Miranda Lambert?  However, those female celeb singers would want it a little different.   Would want it to have some more weight to the “drunken night”.  Would need it to collapse in a domino effect… e.g. lead to a boyfriend getting punched, etc.  Make it have lasted 7 years or so.  More story.  (note 85 guy and 6 girl artists to write to in the business).

Guy who wrote “Everything is Awesome” was in audience.  His feedback:  lose specificity of the first part of the verse.   There were other suggestions from the audience on how to change certain aspects of the song.  E.g. the drunken night being the story about how she met her husband, etc.

Also, she has a recording, but having some challenges with publishers.


“Renaissance Woman” song.  Generally good feedback, aside from the title being a mouthful.

A FEW OTHERS…  including one rather good hip hop artist.


So I noticed that there was an open call for people to put their names into a hat to get feedback on the spot.

So I put my name in the hat.

And I got called up.

Had a hard time deciding which song to put before the review, and ended up choosing my sappy love ballad.  Feedback:  chorus sounded a little too much like “this is christmas” by John Lennon, but had nice key change transition.  Would like to hear the chorus start off with “Your Love is a Gift” and then play with the chummy bar chant tunage.  The verse sounded a little too predictable to one person.

I was nervous and short for words.  Anyway, so it goes.  But I was bold enough to do it at least.


Bill Whithers Interviewed by Aloe Blacc

This may or not be a repeat of what I wrote about the last time I saw him talk.  So it could be the case that I just listen without blogging, and just refer to the last posting 😉

Well, ok, I sat and just listened, and it was nonetheless entertaining, like Cosby without the scandal.  Bill poked a bit of fun at Aloe and messed with the crowd some.  Apparently not in favor of ignorance, be it religious or whatever.   Generally suggested putting yourself out there, and the world will let you know, but by that stretch, you never know what’s going to catch and what’s not; e.g. “Louie Louie”… what the hell does that mean anyway?

Afterwards found myself feeling pretty exhausted, and, hrm, looks like the new Avengers movie is playing at the IMAX down the block…   maybe a good opportunity to unwind.


Semi-Random Thoughts

Common themes…

You know it when you see it and hear it.  If it’s something special, there is an inherent sense you get.  You carry that conviction with you through the gauntlet of rejection.


Find your team.

It’s like winning the lottery.  But you can’t win if you don’t step up to bat.


Post Note

Avengers was in IMAX “laser” 3D, and was awesome!

Apr 30 2015

ASCAP EXPO 2015: Day One

Daniel Lee James


And so begins my first day at the ASCAP Expo 2015 in Hollywood, CA…

Note: For the most part I’m blogging the below as things are happening, so there’s a good chance some of the grammar is a little bit off.


I’ve met a number of interesting songwriters this morning, and it’s interesting to note that a few of them are country artists hailing from California, which I think is a little like being (hint: me) a progressive rock musician in Austin, Texas.  So I have been recommending to a number of them to take a look at the market in Austin.


Kickoff – Paul Williams & Co 

Paul Williams* gave a very good speech about working to enable songwriters to make a decent living doing what they love to do.  Drawing attention to Pandora and other services that are simply not paying anything close to being able to support the simplest necessities, even for hit writers, to which he exclaims, “That’s bullshit!”.  ASCAP has been sending people to Washington to work toward making it possible for songwriters to make a living.

Things ASCAP is working on:

  • timely negotiation of license disputes
  • providing all rights necessary for digital services to operate
  • right to license works to interactive services with no regulation

New coalition (MIC), which includes Amazon, Google, NPR, Pandora, has been formed in opposition, which is not helping.

Paper worth reading: “Copyright in the Music Marketplace”.  Also #songwriterequityact, #standwithsongwriters.

Two copyrights:  musical compositions earn FAR LESS than the recording of the composition (14x as much).  Trying to establish a fair-rate.  ASCAP calls for you to get involved!

Beth Matthews, CEO, then spoke.  Message: All creators should get fair market value for their work.  The world needs music, it needs art.  ASCAP does not take a profit.  12.6% operating cost.  The rest goes to songwriters and publishers ($883 million in royalties), which is the highest such payout in history.  Growth involved covering TV agreements, restaurants/bars/grills, etc.  Processed 500 billion performances, using new tech innovations to help manage all that “big” data.

ASCAP helps to bridge the gaps between the following:

  • 500k members
  • 10 million works
  • 700k licenses (venues, TV, streaming)
  • billions of music listeners

Membership services at ASCAP include a variety of workshops, showcases and outreach programs to help songwriters of all ages and genres that lead to various publications and opportunities.

Generally speaking, ASCAP members have dominated the charts, grammy’s, etc this year.

In-Q came up on the stage.  Poet and songwriter.  He pulled off some pretty darn good slam poetry around the subject of doing.


Ingrid Michaelson

I’m a fan.  And incidentally, or not so incidentally, this lady sings the song that my wife and I used for our recessional at our wedding: “The Way I Am”.  So, yeah, I’m a fan.

She talked about growing up in a family of experimental musicians, and how it gave her a great sense of acceptance and an anything goes sort of approach.

First “real” song was a sad one about the towers, in a transition from acting to music.  MySpace had a hand in getting her discovered and onto “Gray’s Anatomy”.  Melodic influences from theater, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby.

(performed “The Way I Am” solo)

Doesn’t like to count her first album, and nobody bought it really. Chose to work with co-writers on her last album; e.g. “Girls Chase Boys” was pretty collaborative. Generally tries to write without reference to what she thinks other people might think. Also generally doesn’t really feel like she has a soapbox or an agenda, but doesn’t go the other way, either, trying to have no agenda; what comes out comes out. People interpret what they will (some hear “girls chase boys” as “all the pokemon in the western world”). Stressed importance of finding competent, honest people who like you, your music and will work with you. Also stressed importance of just sticking to it, because there will be ups and downs (cited a few times her audience had been just whoever her mom invited). For her in particular, it’s always been about a small, slow progression of growth over time, and it’s not easy.

Doesn’t like to count her first album, and nobody bought it really.  Chose to work with co-writers on her last album; e.g. “Girls Chase Boys” was pretty collaborative.  Generally tries to write without reference to what she thinks other people might think.

(performed a brand new song, and requested suggestions on what to title it)

(performed girls chase boys)

Opened up to questions… Never taken classes on songwriting. Has had a few horrible collaborations. Listen to your inner voice. Developing trust in her team took some work, but was liberating to not have to muck with the business side of things. Prior to having a team, just played in Manhattan and Staten Island; focused on making music, entered into SonicBids, etc. It was really hard, and had many moments of frustration. Licensing to an agency was kind of what helped her get in. Noted that YouTube at the time she started was just starting as well. Nowadays, however, it’s a bit more saturated. Pointed out the psychological effect of repeated hearings of a song leading to people liking it more. Some difficulty writing choruses vs verses. When writing and stumped, but in love with what you’ve come up with already… open it up with someone you trust. After getting some placement, was able to start her own label, Cabin24.

Panel Talk w/ Richard Marx, et al.

Claudia Brandt from Argentina, immigrated to the states and got deals within a few months.

Toby Gad from Germany, where his family had a rather redundant Dixie Land jazz band.  Immigrated to NY.  Stressed importance of choosing the right place for your career.  Almost moved into violent hood, but saw enough in time to land in Manhattan.

No I.D. from Chicago.  Tough place, but strikes an environment for creativity that balances between being pushed and being boxed in.

Deborah Lurie came into music by way of theater.  Music always tied to visual art for her.  Has an interesting attribute of seeing colors with pitches, so has developed ability to identify pitches.

Richard Marx knew from a young age that he wanted to be in music.  When 16 recorded a bunch of songs and gave the tape to a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who knew the Commodores.  Weeks later he gets a call from Lionel Ritchie.  Moved to LA later.  Lionel Ritchie let him sing a little bit of background for him.  Started writing for musicians, singing background vocals, recording demo records, etc…  all to avoid getting a job outside of the music industry.  However, today, times are way different now.  So much harder now to do what he did.

No ID goes day by day, treating every day like he hasn’t done anything.  Can’t judge a person’s potential on first sight or first listen.  When started hip hop , it wasn’t a big thing or business.  The minute you’re looking back, you’re not looking forward.  Try to keep the perspective that you’re no one at any moment (read: as in, no better or worse than anyone else in the room).  So even if someone’s mom brings you a tape of their kid, don’t ignore it (cited Kanye).  You never know.  It’s up to you, really.

Claudia applauds co-writing, and by way of doing so expanding your horizons as you may not be able to do on your own.  Learn from others by working with them.

Toby can be a little tough on himself and others in the studio.  Believes the whole song has to be something you feel with your gut all the way through at every moment.

Richard wrote probably 80% of his own catalog, but has collaborated a bit regardless.  Goes into a collaboration with 2-3 parts of a song to work with.  Sometimes it works out alright, sometimes you might want to strangle your cowriter.  Loved working with Luther Vandross; no gray area really working with him…  didn’t write in the same room, and just did a sort of back and forth.  No point in saying “that’s not how I would sing it”, if you’re not going to be singing it.

Deborah has done quite a bit of collaboration.  Probably 12 collaborations with Danny Elfman.  Joss Whedon apparently wrote his own score, which she ended up helping with.  Usually in the case of film, you are necessarily collaborating to drive the vision of the director.  Toughest thing for her is to own a solo project.

No ID working with strong-minded collaborators…  “it’s all psychology”.  Referred to Quincy Jones, his book, etc.  Lines between producer, composer, etc have blended in today’s age of technology.  At base, you are working with humans.  Information is so disposable.  No story?  No song?  No connection.  Have to develop (“score”) the story of the person.  Music is a universal melody / emotion.

When starting out in NY, Toby put posters on traffic signs asking for singers to write with and produce.  Found best voices in churches and open mics.  Has a set of mentors and first-to-hears he runs music across to get comfort level.  Important to create an environment of peers you trust and are proud of working with.

Claudia is a trustee/member/etc of various music organization who are trying to help songwriters and musicians to get fairly paid.  Encourages us all to get involved.

Toby on the state of music…  surround yourself with people who do what they do best, and ASCAP can be one of those “friends”.  However, has been a little sheltered from what’s been happening in the field.

No ID believes that opportunity is at an all-time high.  Millions of songs and lots of choice available everywhere now, which he sees as good for creativity.  Now is the time to re-assess what it is.  The album doesn’t really exist anymore.  Product and performance are wide-open now.  What’s a master recording now?  Tech companies are the new record companies taking advantage of artists.  And it’s all messed up.  Music gets up to these sites for free, but all the companies use that music to make money.  Hope is that someone in the crowd here today is going to create something?  Why is vinyl coming back?  Because people want to have that tangible experience.  Regardless… it’s wide open and we can make it whatever we want it to be now.

Deborah on state of music…  this is going to be seen in the future as a really really weird time in the domain of music.  Humbling.  Sees the silver lining to be that the people who are pursuing music are the people who are obsessed and really love it…  that it is more about the music and less about getting rich or famous.

Richard has kids in the family business.  Three sons pursuing music.  His father was a jazz pianist who recorded jingles, etc.  He and his dad couldn’t wait to go to work in the morning.  Worked ok for those generations.  This generation?  Nowadays, his kids have to work other jobs on top of their music careers, which sucks.  It used to be viable.  Went from vinyl, to smaller CD to what it is now:  invisible.  You can’t see it.  And so now it seems analogous with how people seem to value the music these days.  Good news is that it is up to us to affect change.  We can band together and make a change.  Bad news is that we don’t know shit, and it’s going to take a real commitment from those of us who can affect change.  This takes away from what we do.  Write a song or go to Washington?  Going back, though…  when he was experiencing his success, he would think to himself “I would do this for no money”.  Stressing that it has to be about the love of being an artist.


Claudia on the road to success…  you sometimes sign poor deals along the way, but they nevertheless may be necessary steps to get you to your goal.

No ID stresses the importance of having other people you trust involved.  E.g. Michael Jackson panicking and going to Quincy Jones who called in everyone he knows.

Toby thinks you do your best work when you are doubting yourself.  E.g. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” took 5 years to be heard.  Time and persistence more valuable than money.

Panel of Hit Songwriters

Kevin Kadish had record deal at 25, but it didn’t work out.  So started writing a producing for other artists.  About 5 years ago started out on own with focus on self.

Greg Kurstin started playing piano around 5 yrs old (Bird and the Bee guy)…  eventually got signed to David Byrne’s label.  Joined Beck’s band.  Eventually moved on to other deals.

Willie Larsen worked as DJ in scandanavia, norway for a while.  Eventually progressed to here and now.

Jessie Shatkin started out as a DJ when 12, making beats for friend rappers.  Went to NYU, did film & tv.  10 years later back in LA.  Introduced to Greg.  Wasn’t particularly well trained as a musician or production.  Eventually turned into a publishing deal.

Sevyn Streeter signed to Atlantic & CBD (Chris Brown).  Was in two girl groups leading up to this solo deal.  Suggests taking advantage of your opportunities.  Constantly working balancing between songs to keep and songs to sell, but it is nice to hear great singers belt the hell out of your song.  Has great team to work with.

Kevin, re Meghan Trainor…  met her through a friend.  Set up as a typical writing session.  Hadn’t met her before, except for a demo, nice voice.  Both were sick of “chasing cuts”, didn’t want to try to sound like something else, and both loved the 50’s.  Decided to make a 50’s CD with old school hip hop.  First song was “All About that Bass”.  “Title” and “Credit” also done that day.  She didn’t have a deal at the time.  He then went off to produce another rock band.  Got call later about “All About that Bass” being signed.  Pretty much just mastered the original recording.  Song was already climbing the charts, and they only had 3 songs.

William…  met all in Oslo, all from there.  They wanted to do a documentary for their media school.  He heard them and thought “whoa”.  Part of recording done in Bogota, with hippos walking about outside.  Mixed styles from there with their hip hop electronic stylings.

Greg on Pink, Katie Perry, Lana del Rey, etc…   always trying to keep their sound intact, but the process is different for each of them; some more organic than others.  Tries to prep things so that the singer could burp over the tracks and still sound good.  Depends on the artist.  Kinda leaning to prepare less nowadays to give more opportunity to be involved in the creation of the track. (but still keeps those good tracks just in case).

Jesse on Sia’s “Chandelier”…   Sia’s really fast, so there’s a lot of keeping up.  She also typically knows what she wants.  This song was kind of a jam session, piano and bells just kinda turned into a chorus.  Worked really hard on making a track from it.  Did a bit after that via email.

Sevyn on “The Way”…  initially didn’t write it for Ariana Grande, but for Jordan Sparks.  Sevyn is a melody person, first.  Wasn’t really familiar with Ariana at the time (even though she had 20 million twitter followers at the time). When she heard the track, thought it was awesome performance.

Kevin on songwriting…  listen to your songs like you are playing them for somebody else.  E.g. those moments when you get uncomfortable when someone hears one part of your song.  Hard to do, but should do that before you play for others.  Better to have 1 amazing song than 10 shitty ones.  Don’t force your process on someone else.  Mraz has his own approach to adapt to.

Greg on songwriting…  always be listening.  Keep an open mind.  If you’re too fixated on an idea, you will miss “hearing” an idea or noticing a left turn.

William on songwriting…  echoing the same…  keep an open mind.  The vibe of the day: go with the vibe.  How are people feeling that day in the studio.  Don’t discuss it too much.  Jam it out.  Basically brainstorm, take a break, and revisit.

Sevyn on songwriting… don’t ignore the voices inside your head.  Your thought process may not always be logical…  embrace that and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Some of the best stuff comes from those voices in your head that may seem crazy.  Those things that might make you seem crazy also make you beautiful.

Jesse on songwriting…  last in line, wasn’t sure what he could add to what everyone else said.  Pay attention to the magic.  If it’s not there, then move on.  It’s all about what feels good vs. what we should be doing.  Even if it’s odd or doesn’t end up in the song.  All about the emotion.

On the state of the industry…

Kevin…  save your money.  If you make any, save it.  We’re in uncharted territory.  When the NFL started, they played for the love of the game.  Now they’re broke (?)  Hope it gets figured out sooner than later.  They say it’s an old man’s game, but he’s 43 and just got the biggest hit in his career.  Needs to be value put on our work.   Regardless… don’t model your careers after us.  In his case, he didn’t really leave himself a plan b or an escape route.  Didn’t get publishing deal till 30 yrs old.  Got Willie and Mraz right out the gate, but then dropped out.  Just keep working and never quit.

William…  advocate of streaming.  Roots of streaming in Sweden.  Can’t sell out.  No distribution.  Charts should reflect more about what people actually listen to and how long they listen to it.

Sevyn…  agrees streaming is where things are heading.  Needs to be more quality music.  We can help by making the best possible music we can make.

Jesse…  started of cleaning toilets in the studio, but kept with it, kept learning.  Thought he was already making hits early on, but wasn’t really.  Just didn’t quit though, kept going.

On favorite works…

Sevyn… favorite song wrote was first placement, “You Had Three Times”, because it was the first time someone gave him a shot.  License plate says “You Had Three Times” because that song paid for her first car.

Jesse…  Chandelier.  Second favorite: “DooDoo”.

William…  depends on mood.  Like asking who is

Greg…  Bird and the Bee song (grr missed name).  “The… fear”, too.

Kevin…  song he wrote about a friend’s wife’s still birth.  Still makes him cry.   But also likes “All About that Bass” too.


Sia’s pretty cut and dry (“um, we were done 5 minutes ago”).   Greg and Jesse can get pretty obsessed, regardless.  Greg likes to have some ideas or a song title to prime the pump.

Sevyn…  what would she wish she had known back when?:  how special she was.  Many moments felt like she wasn’t good enough.  You’re special and your time will come.  On other topics…  likes to work with whoever’s dope.   Doesn’t really look at things as potential hits; more like how a song fits with the artist’s story.

All…  your album should tell your story and not be all over the place.

On negativity…

Greg got a lot of criticisms in general.  Just knew that he was just driven, so didn’t let it stop him.  Used it to help drive himself.  Didn’t really leave himself an option.

Kevin.  Have a fundamental belief in yourself.  Everyone has opinions.  What you are doing is right for you right now, right?  Music is an amazing hobby, but it’s really really hard to make it in the business as a living.  It more or less has to be who you are.

Butting heads with people not on the same page, but stuck?  Sevyn…  that’s part of collaboration.  Attitude: if it sticks it sticks, if not, then move on.  Make it a conversation.

Kevin: Something to say about paying your dues to get where the panelists are.  The panelists aren’t particularly special; they’ve just been doing it longer.

William…  find the people you can work with, etc.

Richard Marx, The Man

A few stats, for you lovers of this former mullet-toting pop sensation from the 80’s…

  • To this day, he is the only male artist in history to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 on the Billboard charts.
  • He holds the honor of being one of a handful of artists who have had a number one hit in each of the past four decades.
  • He’s been co-writing hits with NSYNC, Luther Vandross, Keith Urban, Josh Groban, etc.

(performed “Endless Summer Nights” on acoustic guitar)

Admits that he has the luxury of having enjoyed a bit of success at a time when the environment for music was better.  Suggests that in any case–don’t do it for the fortune or fame; especially the way things are now.

After LA, went back to Chicago, started his own studio, did a lot of work.  However, started to feel a bit stale feeling isolated, and realized that there was something to being surrounded by industry in environments where things are really happening; e.g. LA, Nashville.

Vandross became a good friend a long time before the big hit came out.  Had helped Marx when his father died, though Vandross himself never really knew his own father.  Then Vandross came up with the idea for the song based on memories, and thus the collaboration happened.

Wrote for Daisy Fuentes, who is not a songwriter, but found that it forced him to bend the rules and think a little differently, which reinforced idea in him that it is good to collaborate with people who are vastly different from you… to get you out of your comfort zones and to help yourself to always be learning.  Sometimes the most disappointing collaborations are the ones you think are going to be no-brainers; e.g. when you have a lot in common already or it looks good on paper.

Importantly…  make collaborations about serving the song.

Story about artist he and Vince Gill collaborated with.  Beautiful voice, etc.  A week later, the artist called admitting she loved the song they created, but didn’t feel like she was right for it, showing a bit of maturity.  Next day Vince Gill called asking if he could cut the song.  Sometimes it all just happens or doesn’t.

Incidentally, the recent Thicke ruling is total BS.  The jury should have been educated on copyright law more.

NSYNC collaboration…  Inspiration for the song came from a wedding he attended, where the wedding band was awesome but completely ignored.  Ran off, wrote the song and then let it drop.  Got a call later from an agent asking if he might have something NSYNC could use.  Gave it, recorded it, became a hit.

Richard’s father was probably one of the 3 most successful jingle writers in the country, and his mom was the singer on most of it.  So grew up in music environment, and set out to be in music, with no plan B whatsoever.

Retold story of 4 songs on tape sent to the Commodores, and the call from Lionel Ritchie.  However, noted that inside, he KNEW Lionel was going to call him (as a matter of belief, the Secret style).  Been reading a precursor to the Secret called “As a Man Thinketh”.  It’s about what you think, though what you believe to be may not take the exact form of what you envision.

Doesn’t schedule writing…  just writes when he feel like it.   And feels like writing all the time.

When writing “Hold on to the Night”, was listening to Peter Gabriel’s “So”, and was wholly inspired.  Loved the “space” in the music, and tried to make his song Gabriel-ish.  Studio didn’t like it, Marx didn’t care, and the song still went to #1.

Father played him “Still Crazy” by Paul Simon:  that’s what inspired him to be a songwriter.  Kenny Loggins was his inspiration for singing.

Trend for demo submission in Nashville right now are bare bones; just guitar & voice or piano & voice.  But this is just a current trend.  In 2 years it will probably be different.

BIG NOTE:  Don’t write using any instrument, as it will be limited by your capability to play that instrument.  First hear it in your head.

Never recorded a song he wouldn’t sing for the rest of his life.

Prefers organic introductions vs. just getting random CD’s.

(performed one of his new songs)

Climate was different in the 80’s when he was getting his start; the opportunities he had then are gone now.

On self-doubt.  Went through 4 years of rejection on songs that became #1 hits.  Was told point blank by a mentor that he was not an artist and that he should stop trying.  Work up the next morning and said “Your f***ing wrong.”

Has gone through the full process of song creation countless times, and the feeling when he hears that recording is always satisfying.  It has become a need to have that feeling over and over again–of that moment, regardless of the commercial success.

Read and find poetry in everything to stay inspired.

(sang “Right Here Waiting”)



* Yes, the guy who wrote “The Rainbow Connection” for Kermit the Frog.  This is his 4th year as the president of ASCAP.

Mar 5 2012

Cherrywood Pics

Daniel Lee James

Our band played this last Friday at Cherrywood Coffeehouse in Austin, Texas.  It was on the outdoor stage.  The weather was perfect and the big wall behind us ended up being a perfect backdrop for some old timey movie action as we played.   Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to see us!  And special thanks to David Gottlieb for taking some great shots of the band!

Feb 2 2012

Playing at Lucky Lounge

Daniel Lee James

Last night at Lucky Lounge was a good night.  Clay was on fire with his guitar.  I think his new nickname is going to be Master Shredder.  And we’re all thankful that John’s father’s bypass operation went well and he was able to make it.  Everybody rocked out and had fun!

Jan 19 2012

Upcoming Gig at Lucky Lounge in Austin, TX! 2/1 9pm

Daniel Lee James

Come and rock out with us at the Lucky Lounge!

The Daniel Lee James Band will be playing songs from the album Love and Armor along with some new songs that are in the works for the next one.
The Mighty Renegades will be performing a variety of rock and alternative cover tunes.

Hope to see you there!

Jan 6 2012

Things in the works…

Daniel Lee James

A few things are in the works now…

  • We’ve been writing new music, and it’s all heading in the progressive rock direction, which we’re all enjoying quite a bit.  We’re hoping to have enough material for an April 2012 release, as time may allow.
  • We’re in talks with a number of venues in downtown Austin for gigs in January and February.  We’ll post dates as soon as we know more.

Check back for updates!  Thanks!


Nov 2 2011

Iguana Grill – Nov 18th at 7pm


Come see us live at the Iguana Grill

Friday Nov 18, 2011 @ 7pm

2900 Ranch Road 620 N, Austin, TX

(512) 266-8439 () ‎ ·

Jun 28 2011

Kick Butt & Iguana Grill

Daniel Lee James

We had a fun show Saturday at Kick Butt!  Fosskit No. 5 opened up, sounded great, and did I mention they’re a nice bunch of fellows?

We have another show coming up this Thursday at 7pm at Iguana Grill @ 2900 Ranch Road 620 N, Austin, TX 78734.  Come out and enjoy a great view of the water, good Tex-Mex cuisine, and our music as the sun sets!  Hope to see you there!

May 27 2011

2011 ASG Symposium Summary…

Daniel Lee James

I still have notes from the symposium that I haven’t transferred yet, though I will at some point.  In the meantime, though, I figured I’d go ahead an put out my own summary.

Firstly, and this may be a limitation in my perception and the people I hang around with, but Austin’s sound is predominantly Americana, country, rockabilly, or classic garage rock…  and most of the artists and industry people I ran into fell into those genres.  I didn’t see any hip hop, limited amounts of what would qualify as pop, no rap, no R&B, no jazz, etc, etc.  So I felt a little on the outside, and, honestly, I didn’t recognize a single song played in the opening showcase.  That’s not to say that I didn’t like what I heard, cause there were some really good artists there.  It just wasn’t in the spaces I usually occupy.

I found myself wondering where all the Austin celebrities were.  When I went to the ASCAP Expo last year, there was Quincy Jones, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, Bill Withers and others all telling stories that really inspired.  The thing is, though, that right here in Austin we have our own share of people who could have come out to represent, but they didn’t.  Like Bob Schneider, Shawn Colvin, Fastball, or Spoon.

However, all in all, I did find it educational, especially the feedback I got from producers and publishers, and I do think it’s good encourage and be encouraged by others in this field.  We need all the help we can get.  I picked up new-to-me information regarding booking and SXSW, among other things.  So all in all, even feeling a little bit on the outside, I would definitely recommend this conference and would go again.