Open mics make lofty promises about what they’re able to offer songwriters of all levels. I’m here to tell you that they’re still a waste of your time.

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza. He is the instructor of the free Soundfly course series called Theory for Producers. He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog, and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

Student-Artist: Alicia Borromeo

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Both the principle producer, Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, and the group have gone to great lengths to make sure no leaks are possible. Firstly, and courageously, they recorded everyone’s tracks to bpm-synced substitute beats (the performers hadn’t even heard the final beats until the record was mixed), deleted the source tracks and final mixes from all known hard-drives, and hid the album in a number of secure institutional locations around the world.

“This adult coloring book features over 20 glorious pages that demonstrate the power and depth of jazz music. Readers and colorists can enjoy a calming sensation while coloring the pages of this book (hopefully, while enjoying their favorite jazz mix).”

Takada’s debut LP has just been rereleased in the US by Palto Flats and in Europe by WRWTFWW Records, pressed to vinyl for only the second time in 34 years, to meet its overwhelming demand. In the years since this record has been streamable online, original copies of the LP have sold for as much as $1,000. Takada, herself, is newly represented internationally and touring festivals to sold-out audiences. I even bought my copy of the LP last week and feel, well, awesome about it!

Talking about money can feel awkward, but it’s an important part of turning your passion into a business. You’ll want to offer either a split from the door take (usually to support acts or all acts when it’s a non-hierarchical bill) or a guarantee (usually to headliners). Here’s a short video explaining how touring bands typically expect to make money on the road, from Soundfly’s free online course, Touring on a Shoestring. 

Check out Soundfly’s free course made in partnership with Carnegie Hall, The West Side Story Companion, to learn more about the history of this work and what makes it so unique.

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It’s an ever-fluctuating continuum. Sometimes an idea will pop into my head completely orchestrated and ready to be written down, and other times it’ll just be a little scrap — something I have to sit down and futz around with for hours before achieving any sense of clarity about what exactly I should do with it. Orchestration has always been my favorite part of the writing process, and I enjoy trying to figure it all out, digging and finding the information already hidden in a piece of musical material that will guide my decisions about how to treat it.

Your booking emails should be simple. I’ve found that a 1000-word email extolling the values of the bands, your booking skills, and how amazing and exciting the show will be often go unread. Talent buyers get hundreds of emails a day so something simple and concise is the way to go. Feel free to use these templates and change them accordingly:

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What better place to look for motivation and inspiration then with a group of songwriters looking for just the same? Reddit offers an incredible forum platform for people to talk about pretty much anything, but their Songwriting subreddit is where the most engaged and thorough writers go to talk shop. You can’t find a truer community anywhere else.

In August 2018, my partner Ken and I left the (expensive) San Francisco Bay Area to live in an RV and tour the country. We book all the shows ourselves and we’ve played to crowds of two and crowds of 200. We’ve gone three weeks straight playing shows every night, and we’ve had RV breakdowns.