October 2013

Lyrics vs. Actual Music Debate

Do you ever listen to an album non-stop, back-to-back, quite frankly, a little obsessively?  Why is it that sometimes that album will resonate more with you than any person, website or film?  Is it because it becomes like a friend ready to be there to encourage you or help you weep?  I’m not sure, but I had a debate recently with a friend about what makes an album most poignant with you:  lyrics or music itself.

I’m a lyric nerd.  I cannot help it.  I have close to 8 years of post-secondary in Liberal Arts and English and amazed there aren’t song lyrics covering my entire body at this point, though the first would most definitely be a Gaslight Anthem line.

Does that mean I can’t appreciate intricate keys or the talent required to make your fingers fly over the fretboard (or strings in your teeth while you play backwards)?  Hell no.  I get it.  Lyrics have this really cool universal quality if you speak that language.  Sometimes I’ll miss out on some rap songs, or I’ll embarrassingly be caught singing along to a clients’ song with the wrong words.  (Yes, that happened last week.)

The lyric versus music debate continues on and will forever be a point of contention between music fans.  As a student of poetry and art, I can’t help but be drawn to a story by Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan of Stars.  But I don’t speak Icelandic and absolutely love what Sigor Ros does in terms of vocals.  I doubt I’ll ever learn Icelandic, though would be quick to look out for real fairies if I ever visited, but those vocals are second only to what Sigor Ros does with those layers and layers of instrumentation.

You don’t have to play a particular instrument to be able to appreciate the years of training and just skill involved in learning a new melody or technique.  I will never be able to comprehend the intricacies of Colin Stetson’s live show, but being able to sit back and listen is just as pleasurable.  Watching the faces of musicians scrunch up and drops of sweat splash their instruments as they’re playing so hard or so emotionally-invested in the delivery can say more than a simple, “ooo” or “baby” lyric. 

It’s been years since I’ve picked up a guitar and even more so since my mother has lamented the fact that I’ve not used my Royal Music Conservatory training.  That doesn’t discount my love for music, but excuse me, I must get back to alternating listening the lyrics, then music of the Daughter album for the millionth time this weekend. 

I hope if you’re reading this you too want to create an album that transcends the debate of lyrics over music.  Send me an email and let me know an album you’ve been listening to obsessively.  samantha@yourockred.com

Reminder- you can always creep what I’ve been listening to in the YouRockRed office by checking out our Rdio page

How to Write a Band Biography

As a journalist I’ve received thousands of band biographies.  Some of my favourites have been done by fellow music journalists (the David Byrne St. Vincent one made me happy to sign their name signed at the end).  For the most part though, a band biography and subsequent press release are best left to the professionals or at least someone OUTSIDE the band to edit it.

Some basics that should be included:

-          When the band was founded

-          Full names of the members (or at least full stage names) and what they play

-          Hometown (I love seeing that a band is from Tweed, as it separates you from all the other Toronto bands)

-          Accomplishments (awards, who you’ve opened for)

-          Showcase highlights (SXSW, NXNE, Bluesfest)

-          Tour history- or where you’re headed

-          Short press quotes` (1-2 sentences)

-          list where you’ve been  featured (NPR, CBC, Le Voir)

-          Important people associated with you e.g. producer extraordinaire loves you – as a journalist we want to see what makes you different

-          What your songs and music are about in a very CONCISE manner

-          Influences or how you got into music e.g. “After stumbling Kurt Cobain was given a bootleg tape of The Doughboys he began to rethink melodies…” or “After singer X’s mother died of cancer, her songwriting took an introspective turn and she began to explore new themes of morality and fear in her lyric writing that is heard in the new urgency of singer X’s guitar playing.”

-          Links to all of your social media and websites with links to where we can hear your music

-          Link to a high resolution downloadable photo (do NOT mass email giant files like this as journalists and promoters won’t even open it)

-          Contact information!!

All of this should be contained in no more than 3 paragraphs unless you are The National, but even then, they definitely have a 1 paragraph go-to.

Your biography should be something that promoters can copy and paste to your event listing that tells your future audience exactly who you are, not who you’re trying to be.

What should NOT be included:

-          Cliches!

-          Lies (journalists are VERY good at Googling to find out that you haven’t won an award or played on Conan.)

-          Avoid grand statements, e.g. My band is breaking new ground, their sound is incomparable, well I need to know if you sound like the Stills or The Clash,

YouRockRed is happy to help you write YOUR band biography or edit your current one.  Pricing starts at just $50 for editing services and $150 for full band biographies.  YouRockRed bios have helped clients across North American and Europe- they’ve even been translated into Greek! 

Send us an email today and let’s talk about your kick-ass band bio that’ll break down doors for future gigs.

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Ottawa Polaris Party Re-cap

The music conference talk that inspired Ottawa's first Polaris Screening with CBC personality Alan Neal, founder Steve Jordan and respected local journalists

The music conference talk that inspired Ottawa’s first Polaris Screening with CBC personality Alan Neal, founder Steve Jordan and respected local journalists

So I attended an industry-only salon talk on the Polaris Music Prize barely two weeks ago on a Wednesday night.  It was so enlightening and just downright fascinating hearing from the Jurors and founder Steve Jordan their insight on how the process works and why the award is so important.  As I was biking home much later than expected after this talk at the NAC I thought to myself, why don’t we have a live screening in Ottawa?  Toronto has one at the Drake that’s popular and I’m tired of yelling at my laptop and passively aggressively tweeting whenever my favourite band doesn’t win so I should do this.

By Thursday afternoon I had a venue booked, Babylon, and host for the audio visual component, Jackpine.  By Friday I had major media calling me to cover the event. By Friday afternoon I had a pile of limited edition Polaris coloured 7″ vinyl and t-shirts that had been donated by Compact Music.  On Saturday morning I had been emailed by the founder telling me that YouRockRed had his “full blessing” for the event.

Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and know that what you’re doing has not only appeal, but sense of purpose for the collective (in this case Canadian music fans).  Plus, hosts Shad and Kathleen Edwards gave a major shout out to our event on the ACTUAL Broadcast!

I’ve been event managing since I was 17 but I have never thrown together a show in less than three days.  We arranged all the couches at Babylon so that it was like a friends living room that we were all watching together.  I went to the dollar store and picked up some cute snack boxes for people to put their munchies into.  It’s the small things like that that make a difference, I find.  The place quickly filled up with people who had learned of the event via social media or radio and everyone had a great time.

We wound up with coverage in Ottawa Magazine, Ottawa Citizen, CBC Bandwidth, Ottawa Morning CBC, CBC TV News 11 p.m., CKCU and half a dozen local blogs.

citizenpolaris coverage

media coverage!

polaris screening ladies

Happy audience members.