LA Take 2 – Day 15 – Red Carpet

This was my last day in LA and although I am little sad to leave I am so excited about getting home to my family.

I spent the morning having brunch with my publisher’s wife and cute little boy, which was lovely. And then back to the hotel to pack. I am not a tidy person so it took some time to gather everything up and cram it into a suitcase that seemed more than big enough when I left 2 weeks ago.

Packing was courtesy of the following chocolate…

So it seem that choosing a dress for an awards show with a red carpet is not as easy and carefree as it sounds… no really. I hd a choice of three and went with the white dress but, as were going out for mexican beforehand… I was smart enough to take one of the black ones with me… just in case there was a salsa disaster.

The evening was a great success… mexican food and many margaritas followed by a quick red carpet followed by en early win of Best Alternative Female. So Cool!

Then we headed back to a mexican favourite, El Carmen, for more tequilas and food. I had the best time and will really miss these guys.

LA Take 2 – Day 6 – Joe is back

Today we really got into Anytime Soon and and the was some really crazy stuff going on. I love watching Bleu work his magic and having Joe back really adds to that magic. I learned about Mellotron today… apparently they were the first sampler, using actual taped sounds of different instruments and when you held a note down the tape would run out, rewind and then continue. It makes everything sound cool. I love it!

I keep trying to get candid photos on Bleu but this is pretty much what Joe and I see everyday. He’s in the zone.

Keatly, my pigFactory publisher, stopped by today and we all headed down the road to have what Bleu says are ‘ literally the BEST fish tacos EVER’. As usual, he was right and here is me and Keatly about to enjoy them.

Back at the studio we had a stand-up bass player coming in and there is nothing quite like the sound of real stand-up bass… gorgeous! Thanks Nate Light!

Our final thing of the day was starting Floating Away and Bleu added some guitar… really nice to have someone else’s guitar on the album. This meant that Joe was in charge of the recording… you can almost see the terror on his face 🙂

Joe’s in-laws were in town (whom I loved partly because they thought I was 18… I’ll live on that for weeks!) so we went out for chinese and I ordered the tangerine chicken because it’s what Sheldon always orders on The Big Bang Theory and I was curious as to what it tasted like. The guys bought the weirdest sharing drink… it had a weird name but can’t remember it now… but it came with very long straws and has a ridiculous amount of alcohol… hic.

7 Steps to Prepare for a Music Publisher

I’ve had songs with several publishers, from large instrumental libraries to publishers promising me Coke ads. I now write exclusively for pigFactory and get songs regularly placed in ads and on TV and movies (click here for a list of my placements).

I get quite a few emails asking me either how to find a publisher or how to know if someone who has contacted them is legitimate, so I assembled this list of ideas to explore:

1. Is your music ready?

This is so important. You need to critically listen to your music and ask yourself if it can realisitically be placed. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to include your music in a playlist with other successful music in your genre to see how it flows, both in sound quality and writing. If it sticks out like a sore thumb, focus on getting your music to a place where is stands the best chance of getting placements. You only get one chance to make a first impression!

2. Educate yourself!

It’s natural to get excited by the first publisher you encounter, but you could end up learning the hard way if you sign an agreement before learning the rules. It’s far better, if a little painful, to educate yourself in the field of publishing first. I recommend reading The New Songwriter’s Guide to Music Publishing by Randy Poe. It’s a lot to take in, but well worth your time. There are many other great books out there including Robin Fredrick’s Shortcut books – a great education in writing.

3. Google is your friend.

I’m always surprised when I get emails asking me things that are so easily found by using Google. Whether you’re looking for a publisher or want to know more about a specific one, Google them. But you have to look at all the info critically. If I believed everything I read on the internet I would never have ended up using Taxi which, by the way, is a great way to find a publisher. Other places that publishers put out a call for music on are Sonicbids, Broadjam and ReverbNation. There are others and these are all easily googleable.

4. Pick up the phone.

If you find yourself in the position of considering a certain publisher, talk to them. You can glean so much more from an actual conversation than from an email. This is the person who may be controlling your music, so it’s extremely important to have more than just a text relationship with them. Fifteen minutes on the phone can give you a feel for the person and company.

5. Use your gut.

Instincts are there for a reason. If you really want to sign an agreement but just don’t feel right about it, listen to that voice. These agreements can last a long time so it is worth holding out for the right person/company.

6. One song, one publisher.

Don’t sign the same song with more than one publisher, even if it’s a non-exclusive agreement. Music supervisors don’t like that. I have been told by both publishers and supervisors that if they get the same song from more than one publisher, they will not only pass on the song, but blacklist the songwriter (see #2). You can avoid this by writing a lot and having a bunch of songs to sign with different publishers to test the waters. I did this for a while before signing an exclusive agreement.

7. Find a lawyer.

If you find yourself with a contract to sign, find a good music lawyer. A recommendation is the best way to go. It may be expensive initially, but will most likely save you money and heartache down the line. It also gives you peace of mind because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall asleep reading the contract and may miss something.

Connecting with a publisher is a lot of hard work, but for those of us who are driven to make music, it’s worth it. Good luck!


Most things in life need good timing, whether it be love, investing or, in my case at this point, music.

And it was time to get back to saying yes to things… I recently said yes to my publisher, pigFactory when asked to work exclusively with them, said yes to working with a producer on my new album and then yes to making a more serious album and moving away from my jolly songs.

When my publisher suggested getting a producer on my new album it was a no brainer. I was already feeling like I had reached my limit (or at least a plateau) on my producing skills and was thinking of maybe finding a producer, so it was great timing.

We looked at several producers who were all very skilled but one stood out and when I spoke to him I knew that he would be able to produce what I heard in my head… and then some. His name is Bleu and has a huge body of work both as a singer/songwriter and a producer. (click for discography) Luckily he had time available to start recording with me in early 2012.

Then it was time to start looking at songs. Everyone knows I have a lot of upbeat, jolly songs, but I had just started writing more serious stuff as a bit of a backlash to writing about sunshine and loveliness. My timing couldn’t have been better and it is time for a more grown-up album.

So I started writing (I never really stopped, but you know what I mean) and it was really great to be writing about deeper things. I obviously have a dark side 🙂

With everything in place I am off to LA in Feb to start recording this new album. I am so excited and am really looking forward to handing over some of the creative reigns to Bleu. After being a one stop shop for so long it’s really nice to have the company of a great producer and a fantastic publisher.

This isn’t the end of happy songs… I will also be putting out a kid’s album that will have no end of jolliness 🙂

2010 – an interesting year!

2010 started with a flurry of placements, which continued throughout the year and I was still in full swing writing my Song of the Week. While still reeling from the death of a close friend, a lot of the later Song of the Week songs touched on mortality from different angles, but I ended the project with a song for my amazingly supportive husband!

Song of the week ended in early April and I rewarded myself and family with a trip to Disneyland. While there I got my first network TV placement on Ghost Whisperer.

May 20th I released 13 of the Song of the Week songs on an album and simply called it Song of the Week. I then started the whole marketing thing all over again but it was fun having a whole load of new, beautifully mastered songs to give to my wonderful publishers.

June was a sad month. I lost my Mum while, ironically, while playing the Relay for Life song at our local relay.It was her favourite song of mine and she had been battling cancer for many years.

July is one of my fave months because I get to be mainstage MC with Todd Butler at Vancouver Island Musicfest. We also got to play songs together too, which lead to us doing gig together in November just for the fun of it! July also saw me attempt the 50 songs in 90 days challenge which I failed miserably, but I got a new album out of it (see Dec).

August was New York month. Getting to see a movie my songs were in, playing a gig and lots of shopping and eating with a good friend… what more could a girl want? I was also mid blog challenge for the book Music Success In Nine Weeks, which challenged some of my thoughts on music marketing.

September got me 2 ads and an album release in South Korea. My husband wants me to get a tour there… he loves the food! October I headed south of the border again, this time to Delaware for the DBMC where I made lots of new friends and got to sing lots too! We also started rehearsal for Voices Three, a big concert with Sue Pyper and Judy Wing to raise money for hospice.

November started with the Taxi Road Rally where I learned a ton and finally got to meet both of my lovely publishers who just as wonderful as I had suspected they would be. I also wrote my first serious article about music licensing after being asked so many times about how I got my music onto TV etc. It was a cathartic thing to write, reflecting on the madness of the intense single mindedness that is my life (until kids need feeding and taxiing).

So we’re at the end of December. I have a new album, Treehouse, that I am releasing on Jan 1st 2011 (tomorrow) along with a wonderful video that my talented 13 year old created for the title track. The songs will be on itunes and the vid on YouTube.

After an interesting year I have an interesting story for the end of the year that has nothing to do with music (although may affect my playing anything short term) …

Yesterday while skiing (my fave thing to do with my family) I was taken out by another skier getting some big air on a black run. After being taken down the mountain on a stretcher, had my clothes cut off me and sent to the hospital for xrays, I now have a fractured collar bone and lots of nice drugs to see me into 2011 (so please excuse any typos!).

There are some people I want thank for 2010 – pigFactory and Crucial, my wonderful publishers. Thanks for all the placements. Hans Dekline, the masterful masterer and Brian Hazard for asking me to write the licensing article. I love both of your fb comments and musings… always entertaining! To Jon Ostrow of Mic Control for his support of indie musicians and me! And to everyone who reads anything I write, listens to my songs, comments on my postings and generally makes me feel like I am on the right track. Every little word helps!

Here’s to a fantastic 2011. I hope it brings you great things!

A week in the life of…

This week was a microcosm of my life. I live in a very small town and it constantly astounds me how many different musical genres I get to play in, just locally. Here was my week…

Monday started with making lunches for my sons elementary school and ended with a rehearsal for the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra, where I play flute. We are rehearsing tunes from the movies for a January Concert… some of which are REALLY hard! My piccolo lips need some training to hit those really high notes.

Tuesday was a lunchtime Rotary concert with Voices Three (see Wednesday) and the evening was Fiddlejam. A bunch of fiddle players, along with guitars, mandolins and a whole bunch of other instruments, get together to play fiddle music and its wonderful to see my 13 and 8 year olds playing alongside all ages up to 98 year old. I play piano for them while trying to stop my son from poking other kids with his bow. This is why mothers are multitaskers!

Wednesday is Voices Three night rehearsal. This is the 4th year that we have put on this concert at the Sid Williams Theatre to raise money for the Hospice Society. Voices Three is Sue Pyper, Judy Wing and myself, along with Bruce Wing, Jim Stepan and uber fiddler Trent Freeman on back-up. Each week we eat lasagna, drink wine and then rehearse our tunes for the concert. This week was my house and we were feeling adventurous so my daughter made pasta from scratch and we had a home made one!

Thursday I could relax, because the artwork for my new album has finally gone to the CD duplicators and I now just have to wait for the fruits of my labor in a shiny package. I also spent Thursday doing paperwork, signing the new songs from my new album with my publishers and sorting out the instrumental versions.

Friday morning I slept. That’s because I knew I had a late gig with Time Well Wasted, a 13 piece R&B, disco soul band. I am one of the 3 lead vocalists, along with Sue Medley and Charity Munroe. we have a blast singing songs from Stevie Wonder to Tower of Power to Eurythmics.

Saturday morning was junk food breakfast, taking my son to a violin lesson, taking my daughter and friend to the mall then watching my son do a gym class. I haven’t written a song in a while so Sat night I wrote and recorded a new song…. with a glass of wine in hand, of course!

I have an extremely full life and am truly grateful for it. If I’m not too tired I will take the kids skiing today and then it will all start again tomorrow.

From BC to LA with Taxi.

This year has been the year of conferences for me and last weekend was the biggest I have been to so far.

In case you don’t know – Taxi is an independent A&R company and as a member you can submit your songs to be screened and then possibly forwarded to publishers, producers, music supervisors and ad agencies.

As a member you also get to attend their annual Road Rally for FREE… that’s right… no money!

So, as a 3 year member I thought it was time I took advantage of this, so I booked my ticket and hotel and flew off to hot, sunny LA for 4 days. Leaving BC in 5 degrees and arriving in LA at 90 degrees in Uggs and a wool coat was not the best decision, but thankfully I never left the air conditioned hotel.

I knew that around 2000 people usually attend the Road Rally. The other conferences I had attended I had some friends or points of contact so this time I knew that I was going to be entering a sea of musicians where I knew no one. This was daunting but I just told myself to breathe and relax and smile.

I needn’t have worried. Within hours of arriving and wandering aimlessly I suddenly hear “Hey, it’s Helen Austin, we love your stuff”. I look around a guy is introducing himself to me as Michael Laskow… only the owner and founder of Taxi. How cool was that! Then a few minutes later, the same thing happened again and it was Craig and Carl, a couple of lovely Taxi staff members. I had forgotten that they have the advantage of knowing what I look like from my Taxi profile and it turns out that, thanks to Karen McKinnon, I look a lot like my photos! This served me well at the mentor lunches where the Taxi screeners easily remembered me and my music.

Hooray! I have new friends. It just snowballed from there, meeting all sorts of new people, but somehow I always end up hanging out with sound guys and techies… must be something to do with the husband techie thing!

Next, I sign up for the open mic and play When We Were Young and got a lovely response, but before I could leave the stage, Carl, the MC, grabbed me and started telling the audience about my high ratio of Taxi forwards and how they were doing a class because of that the next day called ‘How to get more Taxi forwards’ (I found out later that they played my music in the panel as examples). Now I am just grinning from ear to ear thinking “I love this rally’!

I get an early night because Friday is a big day. The week before I had gotten selected to be one of the 4 songwriters to play a tune to be ‘Pimped’ by ASCAP’s Ralph Murphy, a man with hundreds of hits under his belt!

Friday morning was the start of the panels and it was opened with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Michael Lloyd, a guy who has done it all for 6 decades. This guy looks like he’s still in his 20’s and has the most amazing amount generosity and humility. It was an inspiration to hear him speak about the business!

After attending many of the very informative panels it was time to get pimped!

I chose When We Were Young and arrogantly went in thinking that this is my best song, what could he possibly change. Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. I think it was hard for all 4 of us to be told that our ‘babies’ weren’t up to scratch but with a little change here and a big change there they would be good. I decided to do as I was told, not resist and went away to make the changes. We had until Sunday morning to rewrite and it was already late Friday afternoon.

I made some more friends and got to say hi to Ariel Hyatt and Carla Lynn Hall from CyberPR. What lovely ladies they are!! And very smart!

Friday evening I finally got to meet one of my publishers, Keatly Halderman, co founder of pigFactory publishing. We had a great dinner and very interesting talk about my career and they are very interested in having my whole catalogue of songs which left my head spinning for the rest of the evening.

Saturday was packed with more amazing panels and lots of chances to get my music played in front of some really big guns, but hundreds of musicians put their CDs into the drop boxes and it’s just luck if you get picked. I didn’t get picked, but felt I had already had plenty of luck so far so that was okay. Saturday evening I finally got to meet up with Hans DeKline, who does all my mastering. I made him stand in line for an hour so I could get a spot in the final open mic, which he very graciously did. We had a great time chatting and it’s always nice to finally put a face to a name and a facebook conversation!

Sunday morning it was time to present my new version of When We Were Young. While making the changes I kept thinking that it was all wrong and that those changes were taking away the heart and pathos of the song. But when I performed it, the new changes came to life and it was worth it just to see Ralph Murphy beaming when I had finished. We were both very happy with the results.

One of the Sunday panels had Tanvi Patel from Crucial Publishing. Crucial is my other publisher, which has gotten me placements but has thousands of songs and many artists, so I didn’t have the same personal relationship with them as I did with pigFactory. Well that’s changed. When I met Tanvi she was immediately enthusiastic about my music. We ended up having lunch and discussing my career and she hated the idea of losing any of my songs. I told her it would have been much easier if she had been stand-offish and dismissive, but she wasn’t. I asked her lots of hard questions and we had a lovely lunch. I can’t tell you how wanted I feel by both my publishers. I really am a lucky girl!

So what have I come away with from the Rally?

First of all, I have come away with a beautiful new Blue Blueberry microphone courtesy of West L.A. Music.

I have a whole heap of new friends both Taxi staff and Taxi members.

I have more knowledge than I can fit into my brain right now… which is why I have a computer.

But most of all I have come away knowing that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. Knowing that is everything.

Thank you Taxi for providing such a great service and for really caring about your members… and for the FREE Road Rally.

I will be back next year and recommend to anyone who wants to seriously further their music career go too!

And here’s a pic of Michael Laskow at the end of it all still smiling and having time for everyone! Michael, you put on a great event!

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.