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Desserts

Yesterday I did something I rarely do… I confessed to feeling stressed on Facebook. It was only when I got comments asking why, because my life looks great, that I realized that I keep the irritating times in my life to myself. At least in terms of social networking.

I have had an amazing 3 or 4 years, both musically and personally and I feel very blessed. I have a wonderful family, friends and career for which I am very grateful.

But this doesn’t mean that life doesn’t infuriate me sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t go a little crazy sometimes… I am an ‘artist’ after all 🙂 And now that my official job is a songwriter, there is a pressure to write really good songs. I know that the pressure comes from me, but with this new album I feel like I have stepped into a different league. One where people are writing hit songs all the time and getting ‘cuts’.

In the past I have just written for me and hoped that others would like it. Now I am writing for a publisher. Don’t get me wrong… I have a great publisher, but they are betting on me to come up with the goods and I want to make them proud but I have been feeling like I should be writing and sounding like other, more successful artists.

So last night when I put on Facebook “Stressssed” someone mentioned that it was just ‘desserts’ backwards. After drooling at the thought, something relaxed in me and a very loud thought came into my head.

It is better to be the best version of me than a poor imitation of someone else.

With that in mind, I took a day off writing and tomorrow I am going to do what I do best and write like me.

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Why do songwriting challenges?

Before I was aware of the songwriting challenges out there on the web I set myself my own challenge – write, produce and upload a new song every week to my website for a year. I did this from April 2009 – 2010.

Now this may sound a little extreme but it was an amazing way to practice my writing skills and it gave me an excuse to keep up the contact with my email list. In fact, it was how I created my email list. When I finished I got a lot of people telling me they missed the weekly new song, which was a relief, because you never know when you’re bugging people! In May I released an album with 13 of the best songs called ‘Song of the Week‘, many of which have been placed on TV and Film.

Shortly after I had released the CD I noticed a songwriting challenge called 50 Songs In 90 Days and I thought, “Don’t be silly, that’s impossible”.But I couldn’t stop myself and started writing a whole bunch of new tunes. But it was the school summer holidays and there just wasn’t time to keep it up, what with travelling to the UK and other kids stuff. Although I didn’t come anywhere near to finishing, I did get the bulk of a new album, ‘Treehouse‘, which I released January this year.

So it’s FAWM time – February Album Writing Month. I had no intentions of doing this at all. I had just put out a new album and had broken my collarbone… and where was the time? Well it turns out that just about the only thing I could do with my injury was play the guitar for short periods of time. Housework was completely out of the question so I had extra time. So I started on Feb 1st and am just over half way through and I swear it is keeping me sane. Some songs take a day or two and others like ‘Lemonade’ took an hour to write and record. I just love writing and recording. It’s a good thing my kids are old enough to get their own food!

So why do these challenges? Here are some great reasons:

1. With this much songwriting you can only improve.
2. It gives you an excuse to keep in contact with fans.
3. You are giving fans something new on a regular basis.
4. You improve your recording skills and discover new ways to produce.
5. You end with a large catalogue to draw from, which is especially useful if you are pitching to TV etc.
6. You really learn how to finish songs and move on.
7. It gives you something to tweet,FB etc.
8. It’s fun!

Some great songwriting challenges to check out (and it isn’t too late for FAWM)

FAWM
50/90
RPM Challenge

I hope to see you in the forums on any of these challenges and if you want to follow my progress, please visit my FAWM page – http://fawm.org/fawmers/helenaustin/

Blog Challenge Week 4 – Social Media

I love that the book Music Success in Nine Weeks addresses that musicians HATE this aspect of being a musician. It takes us away from what we love to do… write, make and play music.

But being married to a computer tech guy for 18 years today (that’s right it’s our anniversary and I’m blogging and he’s working… we love each other but we also love our careers too!), I have been forced into Web 2.0. He was the one who made me tweet. “Just try it… you’ll like it” he said. He is like a internet pusher.

But I did try it and liked it enough to keep going, along with facebook, youtube, reverbnation yadda yadda, yadda.

Really I started with youtube a few years ago, which ended up getting me 3/4 million views on a comedy song called the Childbirth Song, that I performed at a concert. I was always very keen to thank everyone who left comments on that and all the other songs I made vids for and posted.

So then came facebook… again I really like to acknowledge all lovely comments. Then there was twitter, then reverbnation, then MySpace, then, then… there are only so many hours in the day to reply.

But then I read and liked the the way the book describes this all as watering your social media garden. It somehow makes it less daunting Although I am well known for being a terrible gardener, I have managed to grow some tomatoes as well as get new followers on twitter this year!

There is SO much to the social media thing that blogging about it starts my head spinning. It’s one of those things you just have to do little by little and only look at the trees and not the whole forest otherwise you could implode.

So I will keep watering. Most sites will get tended to regularly, some will wither and some will got thrown into the garbage.

If you want to find me on the internet at the places that are blooming (other than this blog!) here’s a list of the places that I regularly update and interact with.

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

It’s also important to spend some time away from a screen, so I’m off to watch Star Wars for the 56th time with my son! 🙂

Why I don’t have an iPhone… yet.

Just some thoughts on being continually plugged in….

My husband has an iPhone. In fact he got one the day they were released. Same with the iPad.

Now, while I LOVE his iPhone (not so much his iPad), I think it’s wise that I don’t get one. I find that I spend so much time in front of a screen either recording, marketing, emailing, video editing etc etc and I need to take a forced break at some point. Releasing a new CD will do that.

Without an iPhone when I leave the house, I get the occasional blissful hour, not knowing who is doing what or who is trying to contact me.

Now I’m not a strong person. If I am with my husband I can’t resist taking his phone and checking messages, looking at twitter, facebook. He tries to stop me but eventually he relents (because he’s nice!)

So, as much as I should have an iPhone, I am going to continue, for now, without one… until my husband needs a new one… will I be able to resist taking over his old one. We shall see 🙂

You wait for a bus and 6 come at once…

Last September, when both my kids were finally in school full time, I decided to embark on the career I had secretly been hoping for, for a very long time. I have been writing songs since I was a teen and had dipped my toe into the musical waters many times but never dared to get in. But last year I decided it was time to put on the goggles and dive in.

So everyday I wrote, recorded, facebooked, youtubed, twittered, myspaced, submitted, submitted, submitted my songs to anyone who would listen to them.

I felt like I was on the right track because it wasn’t long before I had signed some non-exclusive publishing agreements. But around the new year I started working closely with pigFACTORY publishers, who wanted some of my songs exclusively. I didn’t know if this would be a temporary death sentence for my songs or the start of something good.

Fortunately it was the latter. While they were pitching my songs I was still writing, recording, facebooking… well you get the picture.

So after a year of seriously pushing my music, this week a whole truck load of good stuff arrived.

I was in the final 4 for the Singer/Songwriter Awards, placed 3rd and 5th in the International Indie Songwriting Contest,had manyof my songs hit the homepage of The Sixty One, had 2 songs delivered to the important people at some major cable networks, got an instrumental placed in a USA regional ad and have just found out that my song ‘Perfect Girl’ has been placed in a new MTV show.

I am hoping that this is not ‘just a good week’ but the start of some momentum.

I work REALLY hard at this (ask my family!) and I want to thank all the good wishes from my youtube subs, facebook friends and fans and the patient people who let me into their inbox each week with my Song of the Week.

But I especially want to thank my publishers, Keatly Halderman and the guys from pigFACTORY, for having so much faith in my music and keeping me sane.

It has been a good week.