Tag Archives: Songwriter’s Association of Canada

Ten Things I Learned from the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.

My first published article! It appears (in much shorter form) in SONGWRITERS Magazine (Volume 16 – Reference Edition 2012/2013).

I was invited to submit it based on my experiences of winning the first ever Canadian Social Media Challenge this past winter, which was hosted by the Songwriter’s Association of Canada.

Here is the full-length version:


Last December I arrived home from the bubbling energy burst of my first European tour, when I heard SAC was hosting the first ever Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge. The challenge, based on the book “Music Success in Nine Weeks” by Arial Hyatt, offers a structured way to explore social media and other online activities (in particular, blogging) to engage audiences and grow careers as independent artists. The challenge sounded like the perfect antidote to my post-tour blahs and something to keep me busy over the winter months, so I signed up and cracked open the book to Chapter One: Setting Goals.

An amazing thing happened: as I worked through the weekly assignments I discovered I became more active and interested in clarifying the direction of my career. Instead of grumbly waiting for someone to swoop in and discover me, I knuckled down and got to it myself. Nine weeks later – after delving into a variety of topics such as how to better use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and the trusty homepage – I concluded that marketing with social media was… fun! And also effective as a series of tools to help build a solid, professional foundation for my music.

For this issue of Songwriter’s Magazine, Lily Cheng (who was also one of my fellow blogging buddies) asked me to jot down a few things I learned by doing the challenge. Here are ten of them for your enjoyment, in no particular order.

(1) People love a good story. Talking about what moves you to curiosity about the world is much more engaging than hearing that you just released a new album. Everybody has just released a new album. You, on the other hand, are the only one with cool insights on how to make homemade soap using the flowers you picked by the side of the road. The fact that you made the soap in your tour van while driving to a festival in Kamloops is what makes the story gold. [Woah, that would be neat.]

(2) People also love a good picture. Simple tip: add visuals to your posts wherever possible. But not clip art. That’s just lazy. Check out wikipedia for interesting archival photos. Do word searches on google and see what comes up. Having said that, it is REALLY important that you make sure not to steal someone’s work. You hate it when someone downloads your songs from fileshare, right? Same goes for visual artists. Make it a habit to ensure the image is available for use under a Creative Commons license. [For more info: check out creativecommons.org] Better yet, create your own images, photographs, videos and add those instead.

[Ed. note: Er… um… yeah. I’m breaking my own rule here by not posting any photos in this blog entry. But I’m trying to evoke the feel of print media here.]

(3) When posting an update on your blog or website, remember that some of your readers will be new to you and your music. Every entry you post will be the first thing that someone somewhere somehow stumbled upon while cruising about the web. You don’t have to rehash the minutiae of your birth place and musical upbringing, but it can be a good idea to provide some context for your post. I’m fond of including a one or two sentence summary along with links to previous posts at the bottom of each entry. This helps to familiarize your reader, and discourages them from bouncing away because they are confused.

(4) On the other hand, sometimes brevity is best.

(5) There will be technical difficulties. This will usually happen on the day of an important deadline, ie: your internet will cack out at the exact moment you need to upload one final image before sending out a newsletter to your mailing list about tonight’s last minute show you just got invited to play. Moments like this, I have learned, can provide the perfect opportunity to dig your teeth into larger existential questions of human frailty and frustration. They are also good times to refill your coffee mug and have a quick stretch on the porch.

(6) Your website is your home. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are your local cafes. They are excellent and necessary platforms, and great places to run into fans and friends. But cafes come and go, whereas at the end of the day with any luck your house is still standing. So don’t forget to spend time making your website awesome. Remember, too, to invite people to visit by creating posts on your website, then linking back to them from your status updates and tweets.

(7) Similarly, don’t be shy to ask people who take pictures and videos of you at your shows if you can have digital copies of the files to post on your youtube channel, eg, separate from their posts. As long as you give a person proper credit, they will likely be delighted to be included by name on your team!

(8) Speaking of feeling part of the team, take a moment to remember what it felt like when you fell in love with a favourite artist. You wanted to be connected; you wanted to be involved. Now that you are the artist that people are falling for, enjoy the interactive nature of online media! Let people connect. That’s the social in Social Media.

(9) Oh boy, this is a long list. Did I mention that it can be good to be succinct? For example, there is nothing cheesy about the 15-second pitch. (“Hi, I play [genre of music]. I sound like a cross between [well-known artist] and [well-known artist.]”) Some people feel boxed in by the “sounds like…” stuff, but it goes back to the idea of providing context. Please be more creative than my example, but keep it short and evocative. If you’re not sure what you sound like or what your strengths are as an artist, ask your friends and fans to help you out.

(10) Finally, and perhaps my favourite discovery while doing this blogging challenge: social media can give you an amazing sense of empowerment as an artist. You don’t have to wait for Billboard to write an article about you. If you have something to share, you can put it out there yourself. Create your own narrative as an artist, and maybe one day Billboard will pick up on the buzz. Maybe not. But regardless, you will still be actively engaged in doing your work. This is especially a good lesson for me because I admit that I am an approval junkie. I want people to like me… nay, love me and my music. Who doesn’t? But this desire for approval sometimes causes me to be passive: the hope that a “musical authority” will lift me up and validate my work. The brilliance of social media, and in particular blogging is that it gives you the ability to define your legitimacy as an artist on your own terms.

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If you’d like to read more about the challenge, including my forays into the philosophical, check out my weekly entries from the challenge right here on my blog.

Pop by my website for a visit too: www.karynellis.com.


Karyn Ellis moved from Parkdale (Toronto, Ontario) to the foothills of Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia in the winter of 2011. Now she lives by a river and two creeks writing playful, bittersweet indie-folk songs about every day wonders, beauty and hope.

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Here’s A Pretty Ribbon On That Blogging Challenge Wrap!

I logged in to Facebook early last week to discover the little earth icon in the navigation bar all lit up and a roll of “congratulations” in my newsfeed from fellow bloggers. And that, my friends, is how I found out I won the Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge that I took part in this winter. Woo hoo! Social media in action.

I Never Was a Prom Queen, But…

Image of Two Bathing Beauties With Prize Cup

Imagine the trophy is a dozen roses and the hat is a tiara.

Given my love of all things shiny and my diva-esque nature, I immediately pictured myself among Pageant Queens accepting a bouquet of nailpolish-red roses in my arms, grinning cheek-to-cheek. Less Courtney Love, but still mascara running down my face** as I tearfully accept my sparkling tiara and sash ~ blowing kisses to the countless readers who have made my blog what it is today!! **This from the fact that the challenge was based on the book: Music Success In Nine Weeks!

Hahaha! But seriously, I am super glad I took part in the challenge, and I am honoured to be selected as its winner… thanks Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC) and thanks Ariel Hyatt for putting on this first ever Canadian version of the Music Success In Nine Weeks Blogging Challenge. A most excellent way to spend the start of 2012. And as it turns out I didn’t even have to wear a bathing suit to win the fabulous prizes.

Queen For a Day, But This is No “Royal We” Here

I’d like to send warm fuzzies out to my fellow participants for doing the challenge with me (with a special shout out going to Lily Cheng, who not only blogged with us but also facilitated the challenge. Thanks Lily!) We spent a concentrated nine weeks tackling topics and tasks related to social media. Collectively we set up a pretty substantial Canadian corner of new Facebook & twitter music accounts. We got comfy with Youtube and rss feeds – and then we blogged about it so that our fans could join us on the journey too.

PS Speaking of Youtube, you should totally subscribe to my channel! I started a “Homemade Music Video Project” during the challenge: my goal is to make homemade, no budget videos for all of my songs. Me editing them and everything! (There are three so far and more on the way.) Other fun stuff you can do: sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook. Hurray! Phew… is that… it?

Sixty of us started back in January. Out of that emerged a core group of about twenty singer-songwriters who stayed in to the end, supporting each other through the weekly to-do list. We had (and in fact still have) an active Facebook group where people shared their successes and their challenges of the business and posted information and support for each other. Several genuine friendships started through this challenge that have extended beyond the end date. I still pop into the group quite regularly to see what everyone’s up to and to soak up some extra love when I’m feeling out of sorts with my workload. The DIY model says we are autonomous in exercising creative and administrative control over our work, yes. It is also clear that the “social” in social media truly drives us humans. We need connection and community to thrive.

Vintage Photo of Three Bathing Beauties With Ukelele

Maybe that is one of the reasons blogging is so perfect in this day and age of friends & fans spread out across the globe. An artist’s blog is personal and self-directed and, yet it can be highly interactive too. Online connections are sometimes maligned as shallow, and for sure there can be a Pollyanna-ish-ness that can drive me nuts sometimes. However it seems to me that online relationships when properly nurtured can be pretty darn real too.

The Take Away

As songwriters, we are all-the-time creating narratives for ourselves and others to sing. But when it comes time to write ourselves into the world… that same creative glean can get muddied. (Okay, this might be a “royal we”.) One of the biggest take-aways for me from doing this blogging challenge was the shifting away from an emotional space of passive want: hoping someone will “discover” me [my music] and moving to that of an active space. Blogging is active. It is constructive. It is also relatively inexpensive to do. As a bonus, blogging is creative. You don’t need a record label or Billboard approval to share your thoughts and your work. You just need to trust in the strength of your creativity and your ability to connect. That, and a bit of time to jot it all down.

The Other Take-Aways

… are pretty awesome too! I look forward to talking with Ariel about the ten-week Cyber PR campaign. Can’t wait to find out what’s in store once my music goes out directly to her network of bloggers and podcasters. Will my work connect on that scale too? Thanks, Reverbnation, for their contribution to the amazing prize list, too. And I’ve already had a skype meeting with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle to discuss building a second website for my little indie record label, since I’ve already got www.karynellis.com (come visit!) I’ll let you folks know when the new one is up and running too.

Okay. Now… THAT’S a wrap of the blogging challenge. But, folks, you can be sure my musings will continue on. If you’re reading this somewhere other than on my blog — Letters To My Editor — do pop by for more posts. You can also subscribe while you’re there to get my upcoming posts directly in your inbox.

Till next time!
Karyn

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Missed the original postings? Here is the complete set of links to all nine weeks plus a pre-challenge warm-up:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby
Week 8: How much IS that doggy in the window?
Week 9: And That, Folks, Is A Wrap!

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Interview with Kimi Lyn Smith (Wk 6 – 4 of 4)

I had the pleasure of meeting Kimi Lyn Smith this winter through the Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge. My ears perked up immediately when I heard her song “Only With You” on her website, and I decided to find out more about what she’s up to musically…

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Guitar

KE: I love the song that’s up on your website, “Only With You”. It’s super catchy! I can hear Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall and Fiona Apple for sure. Is that an original tune?

KLS: Thank you so much! Yes, it’s an original, it’s one of my songs that has more of an alternative rock edge to it. Some of my other songs are more acoustic-instrument based and a bit more complex than this one.

KE: And it’s a demo for an upcoming album of yours, right? Tell me more about that project. Where are you recording it? Is it your first album? How can we get a copy?

KLS: Yes, it’s my first album and I’m recording it in my bedroom, but I have musicians based all over the world playing on it too. The wonders of the internet! Making the album is a fun process but it can’t happen overnight, so I plan to release at least one single before the album is complete. I’m still looking for more musicians to play on it, as well as someone to professionally mix and master it. As for getting a copy, anyone who’s interested in knowing about my future releases, including pre-release material like free mp3s, please do sign up for my newsletter via my website.

KE: You mention in your bio that you have done some co-writing. Who have you done that with? How did that/those come about? What was the process like?

KLS: I’m a big fan of co-writing. I love the magic of creating something that you or the other person would not have created on your own. I’ve always been open to collaborating. I even started a monthly co-writing and song feedback event called London Songwriters when I lived in the UK. It’s still going strong under the same format. I’ve met collaborators through that as well as online or down the local pub to write with.

The writing process is different every time, for example, sometimes I’ll sit alone in my room and write music to the lyrics someone has emailed me. Other times I’ll be in a room with one or more people and we’ll discuss the concept before experimenting with the various elements that make up a song. I find it fascinating when people play me a song they’ve finished when I’ve supplied only the lyrics. The beauty of it is that the situation and the outcomes are always variable when you’re writing with other people. I’ll be including at least two of my favourite collaborations on my album.

KE: How does the UK fit into your story…I notice you’re taking pre-orders in pounds!

KLS: After high school I decided to spend “a year” in France. Fast forward through 15 months of baguettes and cheese and I was ready to leave France but not ready to end the adventure. Fast forward through 15 years of living in the UK and I’d had a lot of great experiences and met a heck of a lot of musicians, and I was ready to go home at last. I relocated back to Toronto in 2011, soon after completing a Masters Degree in Songwriting at Bath Spa University.

Photo of Kimi Lyn SmithKE: What is the first cover tune you learned? Do you still play it?

KLS: It was ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ from my late uncle’s Zeppelin guitar tab book. I wasn’t just learning the song, I was also learning the instrument. That song taught me fingerpicking and some chords. Then I discovered drop-D tuning and learned a bunch of Soundgarden and Nirvana songs by ear. After that I just wrote and played my own songs on guitar. No, I never play those cover tunes anymore. At open mics I like to play my own material.

KE: Very cool. So, I met you through an online blogging challenge that’s all about getting our heads around social media as artists. What motivated you to take on this challenge?

KLS: I joined the Songwriters Association of Canada shortly before I got back to TO, to make some contacts on this side of the pond. I found out about the challenge via one of their emailouts. It was coming up to the new year and I liked the idea of getting stuck into something structured to keep me motivated, plus I was keen to meet some fellow Canadian songwriters. I didn’t have huge expectations with regards to learning about social media. I felt I was already pretty savvy, but I was open to learning more – and by Jove, I have!

KE: And how’s the experience going for you so far? Social media: friend or foe?

KLS: I’m loving it. Social media is a wonderful thing. It’s crazy how small the world has become. The challenge is great because apart from meeting likeminded people, I’m learning about new platforms and various tips and tricks that interest me.

KE: One of things you talked about is about changing your stage name. Why did you decide to do that? How’s the new name feeling for you? I have to say I really like the name you picked: Kimi Lyn Smith. It rolls off the tongue!

KLS: I’d been going by Kim Smith but I felt it was too generic, so I decided to start using my full name, Kimi Lyn Smith. Apart from it not being the more common spelling, it’s pretty Google-friendly. It feels good to know I’m the only one out there. And now when I get a Google alert on my name, I know it’s about me and not one of the million other Kim Smiths. I still read the Kim Smith alerts every day though, I find it amusing to see what they’re all up to.

KE: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The practising? The writing? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The organizing? The blogging (lol)?

KLS: I love being a musician, and I surround myself with other musicians, I think this is a pretty common practice. I see myself as a songwriter first and foremost, and a recording artist next. Though I’ve performed somewhat regularly in the past, it’s not something I’ve ever been wholly comfortable with. These days I’ll occasionally hop up onstage at an open mic to play a couple of tunes, but it’s not something I plan in advance. So for me, the best part of being a musician is the creative process. I enjoy writing and practising and recording. I love experimenting with production techniques and effects in Logic Pro. I’m always excited to delve more into the craft of songwriting. I don’t have to worry about getting gigs or compiling set lists or the rigours of touring. As for the blogging, I hope to develop my writing skills over time. My music is a big part of my self-identity and I’m happy being a slave to my creativity.

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Melodica

KE: I see that in addition to singing and guitar, you also play the melodica. Super fun! If you could magically know how to play another dream instrument, what would it be?

KLS: I would love to play the Hang. It’s a UFO-shaped descendent of the steelpan that you play with your hands. It’s a relatively new instrument and they’re really hard to get a hold of. I saw a guy playing one in front of the Abbey in Bath, UK. We had a chat and I bought his CD. I’d like to get my own Hang. I can see myself sitting alone on a grassy hilltop and playing it for hours and hours and just zoning out. Maybe one day!

KE: Sounds neat. I’m going to google it… ! One more question: rainy day or sunny day. Which do you like better and why?

KLS: After living in England for the past 15 years, I’ve got to say sunny. Despite the fact that one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ by Garbage, a little bit of sunshine sure does lift the spirits. And my Hang won’t get all rusty.

KE: Anything else you want to add?

KLS: Thank you Karyn, this has been really fun!

KE: And thank you for you time, Kimi Lyn! Good luck with the new recording. Can’t wait to hear it.

To learn more about Kimi Lyn’s music, VISIT www.kimilyn.com

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