Releasing An Album: 4 Ways To Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality

Releasing an album is no small task. So if you feel overwhelmed by the idea, join the club.

But, if you go into it with the right mentality and the right tools, it’s totally doable and affordable. And it can even be super fun.

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This Is Why Genres Are Stupid

In an ideal world, I think genres shouldn’t exist. Here’s why…

musical genres
image via Melodrive

First, genres are just boxes that we shouldn’t try to put music in, like I did with my earlier music.

But secondly, genres are not descriptive. In some cases, they confuse things more than help.

For example, saying a band is a “Folk” band doesn’t tell me anything. That could be Fleet Foxes or Bob Dylan or Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

All very different sounds.

“Rock” music could be Queen or Arcade Fire. “Rap” could be Kanye or John Reuben.

And what the heck is “Alternative”? That tells me nothing about the sonic properties of the music.

I know genres are helpful for finding music that could sound a certain way because they’re one-word categories that give people a very general idea of the music. I’ll give them that.

But when describing your music, don’t just say “Punk rock” or “Folk.”

Instead, I have another idea.

We musicians could say things like “Coldplay is a mini-me of U2” or “Allen Stone is when you combine the voice of Stevie Wonder, the soul of Bill Withers, and the perspective of a grownup millennial.”

Like, this is how I’d probably describe my upcoming album:

“It’s like if Coldplay and Bill Withers taught Ben Kweller how to make music and then 21 Pilots popped into the room, turned some knobs and flipped some switches.”

I think that gives people a much more descriptive idea of what they’re about to hear.

So I guess my point is, don’t think of your music as “this” or “that” genre.

Think outside the boxes. Use descriptions and words that give people a clear idea of what your music sounds like.


With Bandzoogle‘s drag-and-drop website builder and their built-in music player, you can just show people what your music sounds like rather than try to explain what label or genre you “fit” into.  And you can get 30 days free right here.

I use it for my website and it’s great.

How To Avoid These 3 Songwriting Mistakes

I’ve made a lot of songwriting mistakes.

Here’s how I know: I’ve been writing songs since 2005, and I think I’m nearing 100 total completed songs.

And anyone who does anything for a long period of time will make mistakes.

Not only that, but I’ve had lots of professional songwriters and music critics give me feedback on my songs (or should I say bash my songs over the head), thanks to places like NSAI and SubmitHub.

They pointed out my pitfalls.

So here are just three common writing mistakes I’ve made (or almost made) that we all should avoid.

Writing A Song That’s Not Authentic To You

I’m used to be a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and they offer lots of things to help songwriters get better. And one thing they offer are one-on-one mentoring sessions with a pro songwriter.

In one of these mentoring sessions, I asked the pro songwriter about today’s music publishing trends. He said songwriters who get signed to music publishing deals are mostly in country music (and even the number of those deals are declining).

But I don’t write country songs.

I didn’t grow up listening to country music. I grew up listening to Christian hip-hop and playing Jack Johnson songs on the guitar.

So for me to write country songs would be like putting on a mask.

I’d be writing songs that aren’t authentic to my upbringing, my personality, or the reality of my life.

Yeah, I’m not gonna do that. The songs would be terrible and people would see right through it.

Losing Focus

In a NSAI song feedback response, the pro songwriter gave me this tip on my song “Burning Like Chicago“:

“You have such a cool title here but I see no lyric that supports it!! Be writing more to your title.”

Here are the lyrics:

V1
My iron fails to sharpen
my guards have all been shot
and I fully deplore myself
19 years should have been enough
19 years should have taught me well
you would think

CH
I’m burning like Chicago
please put me out
my crimes could fill a prison
my Good could have no worse a posture

V2
If you and I could follow
our second intuition
we could be like a Rubix cube
turn and shift ’til colors meet
fully whole and made complete
only if, only if it were

OUT
If you have a face for me just call me up
and if there is a way to fix me, fix me up
Let the rainstorm be
let it rain on me

This is what I mean by losing focus. Write to your title.

Focus on just one idea for each song and say it in a different way throughout the song.

Writing In Multiple Time Zones

Something else I accidentally do is switch time zones. Meaning I use both the past and present tense without realizing it.

Here’s something a pro songwriter said about “The End Of Tears“:

“Starting out with the ‘I died’ is a bit strange. It’s past tense but within the line, it goes to present tense and then the song goes back and forth.”

Here are the lyrics:

This is the day I died, when the sky is fading away
This is the day that I have lived for all my life

I hope that I have been like the moon shining the sun
my light was not my own, my stars were just a gift

And oh!
Running hurts so we will fly to escape
and when we get back home we will see
the end of tears now

I smell the creep of Death but his smell is sweet to me
after these pilgrim years we will finally see the King

It’s all come back around for the ground has found me twice
my eyes grow weaker still as I look for one last time

Stay in one time zone for the whole song.

Unless you’re writing a song like Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” where your characters pass through time within the song.


I use Evernote to do all of my songwriting. It helps me stay organized, which means I can be more clear-headed for better writing. Oh, and you can get a free month of Evernote Premium right here.

How To Write Songs That Think Outside The Box

There are millions of songwriters out there. So how can you make your songs stand out?

songwriting
photo via Lynda.com

Now, I am in no way claiming that any of my songs think outside the box.

But below are some methods I’ve picked up from other songwriters, and these seem to help with my songwriting.

Write From The Opposite Perspective

I wrote a song called “Step Right, Step Left,” in which it appeared I was scathing somebody else for not speaking their mind or communicating clearly.

“If you’re gonna step right, step right / If you’re gonna step left, step left / I can’t keep up with you, no”

But I realized the song was actually about me. I was scathing me from the point of view of someone else.

Try it — write a song from someone else’s perspective and see what happens.

Write About A Situation In Which You’ve Never Been

Writing about something you have no experience with can easily come off as fake, especially if your listener knows your backstory.

But it’s your job to make it relatable, both to the listener and to yourself.

For example, I can’t really write about a bad breakup because, well, I’ve had one girlfriend/wife in my life. But I can tap into the feeling of tension because (as any married person will tell you) disagreements happen.

So try writing about a foreign situation but find a way to make it relatable to you and the listener.

Become Another Character

Sometimes it’s fun to pretend to be someone else. I mean, actors do it for a living every day.

I’ve written a handful of songs (especially in my earlier days) where I’m singing from the perspective of a character.

I wrote a song called “Northbound Trail” where I’m apparently a slave escaping to the North.

I wrote a song called “Davy Jones” where I’m a third party witnessing Long John Silver challenge Captain Smollet.

I wrote song called “Son of Sin” from the POV of God.

Give it a shot. You might be surprised.

Use Your Second (Or Third) Choice Of Instrument

My first instrument is the acoustic guitar, but I also own a piano, a banjo, an electric guitar, and a ukulele. If I want a change of pace, I’ll go to one of those other instruments.

Doing this can lead to a totally different type of song. A few examples of that:

My point is, you can get a very different song depending on the type of instrument you use.


I love Evernote, the app/website I use for all of my songwriting. Get a free month of Evernote Premium right here.