There’s a method to my madness. I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades helping composers and songwriters do what they do, as a music publisher, an attorney at BMI and now, as a lawyer in private practice. And I’ve done my best to keep up with all the changes that the digital revolution has wrought, from sites to sell sheet music and CDs to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking arenas, to the sites that help keep track every kind of statistic through nifty analytics.
But, it’s one thing to know what composers and songwriters go through and tell them how about the various tools available to them. It’s another thing to actually do it yourself. So, I decided the best way to really understand and to advise clients was to become one. From doing the recording and the video to the inevitable viral release to having the means to connect with and market to both of my fans. And all because I hate sending Christmas cards!
Let me explain. The song I’m about to release to the world is a little ditty called “Let’s Have a Jewish Christmas.” It’s destined to become a holiday classic, right up there with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” I assayed the role of DIY musician from start to finish – attempting to do for myself all the things I’ve either advised others to do – or had a staff of people to do it for me. OK, I did hire some elves along the way, but more on that in our next installment….
The first thing I did was to call up my friend, Dean, to line up some studio musicians to record two tracks: the Christmas song and one other. As a fellow musician, I assured Dean I’d pay the musicians “scale” for the recording. Easier said than done. Have any of you tried going to the AFofM site to figure out what “scale” is for an individual track to be released as a download? Well, I’m a lawyer in the music biz and I couldn’t figure it out! Dean, who’s been a member of Local 802 for more years than he’d care to admit and who rehearses his big band at the union hall, couldn’t figure it out, either! So, after a collective shrug we just agreed upon a number that we thought reasonably approximated “scale” and left it at that.
Now, as a lawyer, I always advise clients to make sure everybody understands everything up front and to get it in writing, even if it’s just scribbled on a napkin. Naturally, based upon Dean’s assuring me that “everything would be OK with the guys,” I acted like a musician and ignored my own wise counsel.
For those of you who’ve never experienced the joy of being in a recording studio it’s simultaneously exhilarating, scary, tedious, frustrating — and fun. Especially as the artist, songwriter, producer and label all rolled into one. Yes, folks, you can have total artistic control – as long as you’re signing the checks.
We recorded two songs, with five musicians: me on piano and vocals, along with a reeds, trumpet, bass and drums. And we recorded the songs live. Even so, it took nearly three hours to record six minutes of music and another three and change to mix and master the tracks. And that’s actually moving at a brisk pace. We recorded about a half dozen takes each and then did some overdubbing and punches – – and had doughnuts and coffee. And as fun as working with good musicians is, I actually had an even better time after I sent the boys on their way and I was just working with my recording engineer, Jim, cutting and pasting among different takes and cleaning things up while trading Monty Python quotes.
After my hired hands left, I realized I had this freshly tuned grand piano at my disposal that sounded really great. So, as label and producer, I authorized myself to record a pretty ballad with just me singing to my piano accompaniment. And I did it live, one take, no punch. Another three minutes of music recorded in…. three minutes! I felt like a pro!
However, having a freshly burned master in my hand was just the beginning of my very odd Odyssey. After all, what’s a track without a video and I still had no online infrastructure to capitalize on the notoriety that’s sure to come my way…..
Next: making the video….