Tip Jar: Singer-Songwriter Sequestering Suggestions

Millions of Americans at some point will be more or less returning to a more or less normal life––you know, work, school, shopping, etc. And in addition to the obvious re-adjustments everyone is going to have to make, the number one question you’re going to have to deal with in conversations with everyone you meet will be: “So, how did you keep busy during the sequestering?” And you’re going to need an answer. One that you’d better start formulating now.

If you happen to be an aspiring singer-songwriter, problem solved. You can accomplish something that will benefit and enhance your career for years to come. No, not practicing your same favorite 10 songs over and over again. No, not wandering off into the Hollywood Hills in order to “find yourself” or the like. You could be reading books and blogs that would perhaps leave you better informed and prepared for the ever-changing musical climate.

And here they are, my Big Six. The first two cover most of what might come at you from the outside world that you could do something about. Then the second two cover the two things that are going on inside your head that are keeping you from getting anything done. And the last two are very specific to singer-songwriters and the art of entertainment as well as what I consider to be THE definitive book on songwriters and songwriting.

Donald S. Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business, 10th Ed.

At almost 500 pages and now in its newly updated 10th edition, this book is the recognized standard of the industry. It covers all the salient areas you will need to know to be pro-active on certain things and not get ambushed on others. But don’t be intimidated by Don’s years in the entertainment legal profession. The book is written in an easy, understandable style––no baffling legalese.

Randall Wixen’s The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing, 3rd Ed.

This 200-pager is what I consider to be the best book on publishing. Randall lays out some advice and opinions that you wouldn’t normally find in a music business text. There are numerous other books on publishing that may be larger and so, you would think, contain more information. Nope. I’ve read them. This is the only one you’ll need.

Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth

This is the follow-up to Eckhart’s breakthrough book The Power of Now. Here he reasons that creativity can only be imagined in the moment and, in order to be there, one must push aside the Ego (which lives in the past and the future) and focus on the Self and be in the Moment, the Now. Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying, “A wake-up call for the entire planet. [A New Earth] helps us stop creating our own suffering and obsessing over the past and what the future might be, and to put ourselves in the now.” 

Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art

This book addresses the internal conflicts that you experience in your creative process and your frustrations with getting anything started or done. Its solutions are both spiritual and practical. Pressfield’s overview: “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us––our Egos. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and you can conquer Resistance.” Steven is a screenwriter and so the book focuses on the creative process that all songwriters face daily.

How could I make a list books of advice and tips without including one of my own? The NEW Singer/Songwriter Rule Book: 101 Ways To Help You Improve Your Chances Of Success is available at Amazon in digital and print. Shameless plug.

The last category is books specific to songwriting. Could there be more books written on any subject that is almost entirely reliant on inspiration––something so ephemeral and fleeting? In an attempt to save you a lot of time, I’ve read quite a number of them and found gems of advice in each. In fact, I’ve assembled 365 of those gems into a daily Twitter feed that you can take advantage of. Follow @larryfromohio and every morning some insight into the process and minds of famous singer-songwriters will drop into your Twitter feed. Think of it as a jolt to get those creative juices flowing. That and coffee, of course.

But there is one book on songwriting that stands out above them all––Jimmy Webb’s Tunesmith. Jimmy is one SERIOUS songwriter and has seen it all. As a result, this book is for other SERIOUS songwriters. At 400+ pages, it goes into depth about the mental and psychological stages one has to go through just to get to the point of being able to create songs that resonate. The chapters on lyrics and rhyming, as well as his in-depth approach to melody and chord progressions, rival any college course on the subject.

Rounding out the list of reading matter you could consume with your trusty laptop would be the plethora of blogs and email blasts regarding music and the music business. Again, I’ve vetted the majority of what’s out there and whittled it down to this list. After all, if you did nothing else but read about songwriting, when would you find the time to actually DO something about it?

So, in alphabetical order:

ASCAP DAILY BRIEF – Compiled by ASCAP Board member, music publisher and songwriter Dean Kay, this daily email cuts through the media clutter to bring you links to the most relevant news and commentary regarding the rapidly evolving music industry. ascap.com/email

HYPEBOT.COM – Hypebot is the leading music industry and technology news aggregator and blog hotspot published by Skyline Artists Agency head guy Bruce Houghton. Anyone can contribute to their Music Think Tank page for all to see. hypebot.com

THE LEFSETZ LETTER is the blog of the music industry and has been for decades. Bob Lefsetz is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about popular music, the music biz and the people who run it, the media and everything else in this internet-centric world we live in. Bob has a fan base that numbers in the tens of thousands. By distributing his thoughts in email form, every reader can easily reply to him with support or to take issue. lefsetz.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1

Okay, so there you go. These reading suggestions should keep you busy, informed and inspired to come out of this thing way better prepared for what’s coming than you were going in.

Larry Butler