I’ve been wondering for a while now how those little Explicit or E tags that show up in iTunes. It turns out it’s a relatively simple ID3 tag added to the song, but it does require some setup.
Before getting started
You’re going to need the following software packages installed:
Also, you’ll want to be aware that this tag only works if applied to AAC formatted music. iTunes does not show the icon in iTunes with MP3 formatted music even if the tag is there.
Converting to AAC
If you want to add these tags to your music so that the music shows up as E for explicit or C for clean, you will need to convert your music to the AAC format which produces an .m4a container. How do you convert your MP3s to AAC in iTunes? Here’s how you do it…
- In iTunes go to iTunes menu => Preferences
- Under General, click the Import Settings button
- Change the Import Using drop down to read AAC Encoder.
- Click OK, then click OK again to close preferences.
The above sets your import and conversion settings to AAC.
To convert a song, use these steps:
- Find a song you would like to convert in iTunes
- Click on the song so it is highlighted
- File menu => Convert => AAC Version
- Conversion will start immediately. You will see up and down arrows appear in the status bar at the top.
- When conversion is complete, it will be in the same folder where the original song is located.
- iTunes will also automatically import the song into your library (but not into the any playlists).
- If you wish to find the song, search in the upper right search panel and you will find two of the same songs in your library. One of them is the AAC version, probably the bottom one.
Adding the ID3 Tag
Open up kid3 from your Applications folder (or wherever you put it). Here are the steps…
- In the left panel, navigate to the newly converted AAC song and click highlight it.
- Make sure the Tag 2 is open and you’re seeing the metadata for the track (i.e., Artist, Title, etc)
- Under Tag 2, click the Add button.
- In the Add Frame window and in the Select the Frame ID field, type in Rating (or drop down and select). Click OK
- When the Text panel opens next, add what rating you want from this list:
- 1 = Explicit (E)
- 2 = Clean (C)
- (Meaning… from the above list type in the number ‘1’ or the number ‘2’ only)
- Click OK to finish adding your tag with the rating.
Note that you will need to save your tags and completely quit out of Kid3 before iTunes will play the song. Kid3 leaves the file open after editing preventing iTunes from getting access to it until kid3 is closed.
Open up the Subler app. Perform the following steps:
- File menu => Open…
- Navigate to and select the *.m4a music file, then click Open
- When the metadata area shows up below in the Subler window, click the + at the bottom of the window
- Choose Content Rating from the drop down
- On the highlighted Content Rating line
- Click on None and change it to Explicit or Clean
- Save the file with File menu => Save
Subler does not leave the file open after editing like kid3.
Once finished adding the tag to the file, double click the AAC version of the file in iTunes to begin playing it. iTunes automatically re-reads ID3 tags on play and the ‘E’ or ‘C’ should now appear on the song’s listing.
MP3 versus AAC
I convert all of my music to MP3 for one very good reason… compatibility. If I choose to move out of the Apple camp for another music player, I don’t have to worry about converting all of my music back or in any having any weird AAC incompatibility issues. While I like having these flags on the songs, I prefer compatibility over tying myself to Apple. I started with mp3’s in my library and I’m continuing that trend. It’s not that AAC is a bad format, it just started out badly because Apple had to create their own.
It irks me just a little that iTunes doesn’t respect this tag on MP3 files even though they could. I also don’t relish the thought of having to convert all of my music from mp3 back to AAC. That process is like copying a copy. It will degrade the music even more simply by converting an mp3 to AAC. I also don’t want to dig out all of my CDs and re-import them as AAC. That’s also not an option. It took me several months just to import my collection to mp3. So, I’m not anxious to revisit that process a second time.
For me, I will convert or use this tagging for limited one-off purposes. That is, if the song is truly explicit, I may convert it to AAC just for that song just so I can add that tag. For songs which are not explicit, it’s way too much effort just to add that little C when I already know the song is clean without it.
Please leave a comment below if you found this tutorial helpful.
And the chorus… Wait for it….
Featuring Chad Kroeger
Song to be featured in the game Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
When Lady Gaga hit the scene, like most other early Shock Artists, she pinned herself to the genre of pop music. With songs like Just Dance and Poker Face, she set the tone (or at least we thought) of what she would continue to bring to the table. Let’s explore.
In the early days of Lady Gaga, we saw an artist who, not unlike many past pop artists, turned to shock art antics on the stage. Artists who fit into this same mold include David Bowie, The Tubes, Alice Cooper, Madonna, Prince (for his sexcapades on stage), Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Tool. All of these bands had at least one pop hit.
Gaga has taken this same approach with The Fame. She cleverly uses straightforward pop music to rope in her fans. She then treats them to outrageous shock art antics both on stage and off, such as a raw meat dress and matching purse and hat. Or, her bubble outfit. She’s very good at both revealing parts of her body and covering them at the same time in a shocking way.
Her label hired a top-notch pop producer to produce The Fame as a classic pop album. In fact, the songs were very danceable with straightforward lyrics that most anyone can understand. Songs like Just Dance, Poker Face, Paparazzi and Love Game. She followed this album almost immediately with The Fame Monster and continued along these same lines changing the pop formula and song tone slightly, but retaining the straightforward pop lyrics with Telephone, Bad Romance and Monster. Although, by The Fame Monster, you could see hints of things to come, but it was still fun mostly pop music.
With Born This Way, Lady Gaga took a decidedly different turn. This album saw a drastic change in compositions and lyrics. The music is less straightforward pop delving off into less pop formula at times. She’s now trying to push the envelope of the pop genre both musically and lyrically. Unfortunately, pop music has a very narrow range of formula and the boundaries cannot be pushed, not even by Lady Gaga. If you diverge from this narrow range in the pop genre, you are firmly outside of the genre. Meaning, Born This Way really wasn’t straightforward pop music. At best, it would be considered experimental pop. Born This Way (the album) just didn’t work as pop music as well as The Fame and The Fame Monster (and her charting of tracks from this release proved that).
By this time, though, Gaga had gained a large fanbase because of her two prior releases. Releases that were exceptionally produced and that had mass appeal. With Born This Way, she had to hope her existing fans would accept it. Thankfully, for her, they did. Unfortunately, Born This Way did little to rope in new fans as the appeal of the tracks on Born This Way would be limited.
Tracks such as Judas, Fashion of His Love and Marry The Night took a much more serious and darker tone, something which pop is generally not known for. The lyrics could be interpreted in ways that could be considered problematic by many. Unfortunately, this also means that Gaga has unpinned her roots to pop music with this release. Of course, Born This Way is her ‘second’ official album because The Fame Monster was an extension to The Fame. The fact that this album wasn’t as good follows with most artist’s sophomore releases.
For musical artists to utilize Shock Art properly, it requires grounding one piece of the persona to accepted social norms. For musicians, this means pinning the music and lyrics firmly to a common and popular music genre. Not only does this appear to ground the artist to some semblance of sanity, the shock art can be forgiven because of the quality music behind the shock. The pop genre also, when the music gets airplay, guarantees enough fans to continue to drive the artist forward.
Unfortunately, once Lady Gaga unpinned her music from the straightforward pop genre, she now risks losing everything she’s worked so hard to build. If people don’t listen to the music, the shock art has no place. People don’t go to the shows to see what’s on stage or watch the shock, they go to hear the music. The visuals simply come along as the frame around the music.
When you buy a painting, for example, you find a frame that suits the painting. You don’t buy some random gaudy frame that detracts from the art. You buy a frame that complements it. You buy a frame that guides your eyes into the picture and not to the frame itself. Without good music to back the shows, the only thing left to watch are the meat dresses and gooey concoctions she drapes herself in.
Lady Gaga is releasing her new album ARTPOP on November 11th, 2013. One track has been ‘leaked’ called Burqa. Listening to this track, it’s clear that Gaga is pushing herself even farther away from the pop genre now than ever. Some claim that it’s a ‘club music’, but I don’t hear it. Club music is danceable. Club music has a beat that continues throughout the song. It is a 120-140 beats per minute track that gets people out of their seats and onto the dance floor. With Burqa, much of the song is devoid of beats. The sections that have beats still aren’t danceable.
The songwriting on the track is not pop formula. Most pop formula has a driving beat throughout with occasional breaks to heighten the track. Pop formula is usually ABAB or AABAABB or ABABBB similar. Where A is the straight sung parts of the song and B is the chorus or hook. Listening to Burqa, it’s difficult to find the formula because there’s not a driving beat and the chorus that’s there is not enough to get it stuck in your head. It’s structured, but not in the way that most pop songs are.
The point is that Gaga is now further pulling her music away from the pop genre and placing it into some kind of no-man’s land where it doesn’t fit rock, pop, dance or club. These types of tracks fit in the experimental category. Believe me, there are not many people out there who listen to experimental music. This genre is reserved for eclectic listeners. This is also not the demographic that tends to pay to attend concerts regularly. This is Lady Gaga’s primary mistake.
Gaga is washing herself out at a time when she could be firmly on top. Her label and her producers are not helping her either. They should be guiding her and keeping her on the pop track, but someone is giving her wrong advice (or no advice).
Ms. Germanotta, if you’re reading this, you need to head back to the studio and make sure your music remains firmly as ‘girl dumps guy’, ‘bad girl attitude’ lyrics wrapped in catchy pop tunes. This is the only way to ensure you can continue your rule at the top of pop no matter what you do on stage. The shock art may keep you in the tabloids, but the pop music keeps you on the charts and fans attending your concerts. Without The Pop, you won’t continue to have The Fame.
As a pop star turned Diva during the 80s and 90s, Whitney Houston’s star and talent was immense and rarely faltered. At the height of her recording career, she seemingly could have had whatever she wanted and could have written her own ticket. She had the look, the style, the smile and, most of all, the voice. She had an immensely powerful voice that was at once strong and powerful and sultry and smooth which could easily carry any song she put her mind to performing. She was definitely the Diva in every sense of the word. In her untimely passing on February 11th, 2012, she has left us with a legacy of number 1 hits, but more than the fact that they were number 1’s, they were just plain great songs with soaring powerful, passionate and often amazing vocals. Vocal performances that very few people can actually match and even fewer performers want to perform on the heels of her stellar performances. Despite the fact that I had never purchased a Whitney Houston CD until last week, I had heard most of her songs anyway. There was just no way not to have heard them on the radio, in stores, in restaurants or just generally out and about at her peak. You just couldn’t not hear her songs during her reign as Diva. Last week I purchased her Greatest Hits CD because I had decided I wanted to hear her catalog again as it had been quite a long while. I had no way to know that in less than a week she would be gone and I’d be writing this article.
Fast forward to the 2000s when her veneer starts to crack and her star begins to fade (with fewer and fewer releases). Like many musicians, she had succumbed to her own vices which lead to her down the path of drug and alcohol abuse and that, unfortunately, took a toll on her voice and her body. This may or may not have contributed to her death, but it didn’t help her career in her last decade or her own health. It’s unfortunate too because she could have had a very long, strong and prosperous career if she had been able to get out from under her own vices including her rocky tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown.
Unfortunately, Whitney’s is not the unfamiliar tale in the entertainment industry. A bright shining star with huge talent bringing in a lot of money is always attractive to those who wish to leech from that talent (and money) to keep the party going. Unfortunately, these leeches tend to do things that they think help the star remain a star. In fact, they are actually doing just the opposite by enabling such behaviors as drug and alcohol use. They do these things to help keep the Star ‘happy’, but, in fact these leeches are destroying the person behind the star and then leave the person to fend for themselves after the veneer cracks and the money dries up. After all, these stars are still people just like you and me with insecurities, frailties, personal vices and emotions. They are not just sources of cash or talent. Whitney’s final story is not unfamiliar and yet people are always surprised when a musical artist dies too early in life. It’s a sad refrain that seemingly repeats as often as a pop music hook. However, it’s a refrain that we definitely do not need to hear more than once and Whitney’s death is proof of that.
Even with all of her vices and personal demons, she still managed to release a formidable catalog and rack up a large number of hits. And, that’s no small feat. This is how we should remember Whitney. As the Diva who amassed a large number of hits with her spectacular voice. We must celebrate her career, her talent and most of all her vocals. Let’s remember her as she was, the Diva with soaring high power vocals and not what her vices had led her to become. Even though her life ends both sadly and tragically right before the Grammy’s, she leaves behind a legacy at a poignant time when her career and her talent can be both celebrated and remembered perfectly by everyone. If there is such a thing as a perfect timing, she couldn’t have chosen a more ideal venue for us to celebrate her life, her works and her talent, ironically the evening just before the music industry celebrates the best and most talented musical artists, the Grammy Awards. Whitney definitely stole this show in her final curtain call.
We’ll both remember and miss you Whitney.
While I understand the hype about this series (the competition and all), I don’t really understand why this show continues to exist. Yes, we go through each season and whittle down contestents to the final two. But, after the winner is chosen, then what? Oh yeah, they get a recording contract. What happens after that?
Spotting Commercial Viability
The ‘judges’ (and I use this term loosely) seem to think they know what’s best in the ‘pop music biz’. Frankly, if they could discover real talent, they would be working for a record company locating and signing talent right and left and not hosting a silly variety hour show. But, here we are… and here they are. So, I must honestly question the sincerity and realism of this show. The whole thing is staged, yes, to find someone who can sing. But, it’s really there as a money maker for whomever is producing that show. The underlying values aren’t to get someone signed to a contract. The real point is to put on a show. And, thats what they do, for better or worse.
It’s funny that they pick judges who are has-been recording artsts and supposedly A&R people like Simon Cowell. What’s funny about Simon is that his ability to pick talent has been extremely spotty. For example, he signed and produced Westlife. Westlife is a boyband that’s a meager shadow of N*Sync and The Backstreet Boys at best. What’s even more funny is that THAT is really his BEST claim to talent selection outside of Idol. Every other artist beyond that isn’t even worth mentioning.
So, how do these washed-up has-beens end up judging a show that supposedly prides itself on selecting quality talent? Well, let’s examine Idol more closely.
Since 2002, there has been (in order), Kelly Clarkson, Rubin Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kris Allen (most recently). Arguably, the biggest name to come out of the Idol circle is Kelly Clarkson with Carrie Underwood as a solid second. The rest, well, what about them? They may have produced records, but few appear to be listening. This isn’t a good track record for Idol.
Let’s consider Kelly Clarkson for a moment. Even she has had her ups and downs (mostly downs). While Kelly has a resonably strong voice, the question remains just how commercially viable it is. With a name like American Idol, you’d think that Kelly Clarkson would have taken the pop crown away from the likes of Madonna and Britney. Yet, while Madonna’s star is fading, Britney has taken the crown over and firmly holds it as far as pop acts go. Britney wasn’t even ‘discovered’ on Idol. More than this, Kelly has a stronger voice than Britney, yet you see what that gets you. Kelly isn’t even close to being in Madonna’s league and, while Britney has her own personal issues, her music producers provide a much better music experience than most of Kelly’s efforts.
Outside of these ‘winners’, we also have non-winners like Jennifer Hudson (who’s at least as well known as Kelly Clarkson and she wasn’t even a runner-up) and she’s also an overall more complete ‘star’ than Kelly. Then there’s David Archuletta, Chris Daughtry and Clay Aikin. These four people are the proof that the judges cannot pick winners. In fact, these 4 people should have won Idol, but didn’t. Yet, they are still successful on their own.
Just looking at Idol’s track record, you can see more of the Idol winners have failed to be commercially viable than have been successful (Fantasia who? Jordin who? David who? Rubin who? Taylor who?). The point here, that the judges clearly are not capable of spotting talent. Even when someone has real singing talent, is young and good looking, clearly that’s not everything that’s needed. Otherwise, everyone graduating from Idol would have become an instant success… which, of course, has not happened.
I understand the fervor over this show and I understand that the point in watching is more about the competition than the outcome. But, isn’t the outcome why we come to watch? Don’t we actually expect the winner to become popular, make great music and usurp the pop crown from Britney? After all, that’s what Idol started out promising.
Idol is Flawed
The premise of Idol is flawed. The barometer by which they choose winners is in versatility in singing already commercially successful songs. The real barometer of talent is both in songwriting and performing. Even though someone has a great singing voice, that doesn’t automatically make them a pop sensation. Becoming a ‘Pop Idol’ comes with singing unique new songs. Songs that have not been heard before. Better yet, it proves talent when the person can both write and sing their own music. Artists like Prince and Sarah McLachlan are capable of this. To me, this is talent worth finding. But, today, commercial pop music is more about the look and voice than it is about songwriting. Music producers are far too prone to run to Taxi and buy a song or commission their favorite songwriter to write a song rather than having the singer write something.
For me, Idol would be a much more rounded show if they actually required the singers to also write all of their own material. This would be a lot more time consuming, but requiring this would also show the true talent of the artist. This premise would show a contestant’s ability to write music under pressure and, at the same time, perform that music admirably. Using this model in the show would likely have changed both the contestants in the show and the outcome of the winners. I would also have a lot more respect for the winners of the show. I also believe the winners would have been far more commercially viable as artists than anyone Idol has, so far, produced.
Idol’s days are numbered
We are now going into the 9th season and I believe this show is wearing out its welcome. Talent shows like this do come and go, so I expect this show go packing probably in one to two seasons. If it lasts beyond 10 seasons, I’d be highly surprised. I’m honestly surprised that it has survived this long with its dismal track record of spotting viable commercial talent. Yes, the winners can sing, but can they produce an album that people want? In 8 seasons, I’d say the answer to that question is unequivically no. The spectacle of the live performance is great, but it doesn’t mean the contestant has what it takes to succeed in the music business. Clearly, Idol has failed at it’s primary goal.
As a follow up to this Randosity article, this article will focus on a specific condition when iTunes will corrupt your iPod’s music database… over and over and over.
How it all starts
About a week ago, my iPod became unrecognized by iTunes. Because iTunes cannot ‘recognize’ the iPod, it requests that you restore the iPod using the restore feature. As a result of a domino effect issue, this problem became more and more compounded. Compounded to the point that I was ready to sell the iPod to someone else and get a different solution.
What is the issue exactly?
This issue started right after the first unrecognized error. After the iPod becomes unrecognizable (we’ll get to what that means shortly), I had to restore the iPod to actually use it again. From that point forward, I kept having to restore it about once a day. Mind you, this is the 8GB iPod Touch and not a 60GB iPod. If it had been a 60GB device, I would have sold it no questions asked. I digress. Anyway, the restores kept getting more and more frequent.
- So, I plug the iPod Touch into the computer’s USB port and let iTunes synchronize the touch. The synchronize progresses normally and then ends correctly.
- I unplug the iPod and check it out. Yep, everything is all there.
- I plug it in again and iTunes then syncs again. Except, this time I noticed (or thought I noticed) iTunes synchronizing some music that was already on the iPod. I thought it was weird, but I discounted it.
- I unplug the iPod and check the ‘Music’ app. I see a “There is no music loaded” message…frustrating (note this was the first time it had happened).
- I plug the iPod back into the computer. iTunes says, “This iPod is unrecognized, please restore it”.
- Note that the Touch’s Apps are all still loaded and the iPod works even though iTunes won’t recognize it (and the music is missing).
What does ‘unrecognizable‘ mean exactly in the iTunes?
After poking around on the Internet about any similar type issues, I’ve found others who’ve had similar behavior on their iPods. The base problem that prevents iTunes from ‘recognizing’ the iPod is that the iPod’s music database (iTunesDB) file has become corrupted. Basically, when the iPod’s iTunesDB file becomes corrupted internally, iTunes refuses to recognize the device or work with it forcing the user to do complete restore (even when the unit is STILL functioning).
There are so many problems with this restore process, suffice it to say that Apple is in desperate need of help. Apple has designed the iPod to work under ideal conditions (i.e., never need to restore). However, when it comes time to restore your iPod and because they didn’t really work this all out properly, the restore process is where iTunes fails miserably.
When iTunes needs to restore the unit, it places the iPod into a special restore mode. A mode that appears to make the unit receptive to installation of firmware (a special icon appears). After iTunes extracts and transfers the firmware over to the iPod, the iPod reboots and installs the firmware (all the while iTunes is watching the progress). After the unit has restored the firmware to factory defaults, iTunes allows you to try to restore from a previous backup or set it up as a new iPod. This factory reset process can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes.
iTunes only allows for one (1) stored backup of your iPod at a time. So, if that one (1) backup that iTunes has is corrupted, you’ll waste a ton of time trying to restore only to find that the iPod is still corrupted. So, you’ll have to start the restore completely over again and then set the iPod up as a new device (wasting even more time). This happened to me. I also quickly realized it was simpler (and faster) to avoid using an existing backup and just setting it up from scratch again. Apple really needs to allow iTunes to take multiple backups in dated slots and allow these backups to be stored outside of iTunes in files.
Note, if you choose to set the iPod up from scratch, you will have to completely set up your apps again. For example, settings like your WiFi settings, your email settings and your VPN settings will all have to be manually reconfigured. Any apps that require login and passwords will need to be re-entered.
Restoring your settings and media
If you’ve chosen to restore your iPod’s customization settings from a backup, this process will take between 10-15 minutes to complete. And no, as slow as this process is, it doesn’t restore music, videos or any other media. That still has yet to be done (and comes last). After the settings have been restored, you now have a workable (and very blank) iPod again. So, the next thing iTunes does is sync up the applications, then the music, then everything else. The applications will take anywhere from a few minutes to over ten minutes depending on how many apps you have downloaded. The music restore will take whatever it takes to copy the size of your unit (about 6 gigs takes at least 15-25 minutes). So, an 8GB iPod Touch, it takes probably 15-45 minutes depending. If you’re restoring a fully loaded 32 or 60GB iPod, your rebuild will take a whole lot longer.
The issue I faced, however, is that something kept corrupting the iTunesDB file on the iPod. It was either the iPod’s hardware messing up or iTunes was shuttling something over it shouldn’t have been. I noticed that on a particular CD the artwork kept disappearing in iTunes (it would be there and then it would show the blank icon when I know that the art previously worked). I also noticed that iTunes would randomly transfer this music over even when it already existed on the iPod and had not been changed. I guess it thought something changed about the music file. Anyway, after it transferred that music, I believe this is what corrupted the iPod. Whatever was causing the artwork to disappear must have corrupted an iTunes file which was transferred to the iPod.
The fix for this issue, that I found by trial and error, was to completely delete the entire iTunes music library, podcast library and video library and reimport it. So, I went to the ‘Music’ area and selected everything and pressed delete. Of course, I used ‘Keep Files’ to keep them on the disk. I also made sure to NOT use downloaded artwork on the reimported music as I believe the downloaded artwork database is what is getting corrupted. I don’t know why the corruption happens and the guy at the Genius Bar had also never heard of this.. so much for their Genius. He also offered to replace the iPod Touch just in case the hardware was bad, but I don’t think it is.
Arrgh.. Apple get your ACT together!
iTunes can be a hassle to deal with, as evidenced here. Apple needs to take a long hard look at how this all works and fix these problems. One of the ways to fix this issue is to stop marking the unit as unrecognizable when the iTunesDB is corrupted. Instead, they should simply delete the database and rebuild it. Better yet, they should keep a copy of the iPod’s database on the computer for restoration. Also, if Apple allowed multiple backups stored by date on the computer, it would be far simpler to roll back to a previously KNOWN working configuration. Because of this lack of foresight of Apple and because of the simplistic backup system Apple has implemented, this leads to a complete timewaster in restoration by trial and error.
Since there is no real fix you can do to iTunes itself to manage these limitations, I recommend that you turn off automatic synchronization so you can manually sync the iPod yourself at the time of your choosing. I should also mention that Apple decided to turn off visibility (through a drive letter) into the iTunes library files with the iPod Touch, so you can’t even use a third party utility. I can’t imagine having to go through this restore process on a 60GB or larger iPod. Having to go through it 5 times in 5 days because of iTunes is ludicrous and enough to make anyone want to get away from Apple as fast as possible. Apple, you definitely need to figure out how to deal with this issue!
If you are a songwriter, you want your songs to be heard. However, there are so many web sites and people out there that promise you the world and deliver nothing. This article will discuss songwriting competitions.
Is it a lottery?
Most songwriting competitions charge money for each song entry. Think of the song entry as a form. You might as well have just submitted this form into a barrel. Then, they have judges who are supposed to review the entries and pick winners.
Because listening to a song is based entirely on subjective likes and dislikes, there can be no objective methodologies to pick a winner. Thus, subjective criteria equals random selection. This means that, overall, this is tantamount to pulling a slip of paper from the barrel and choosing winners at random. Because you must pay to enter and because it’s a random selection, it’s a lottery. Don’t fall for lotteries disguised as contests. Worse, there’s no guarantee the judges actually listen to every song submitted anyway… which further makes this a lottery by random selection.
Don’t support pay-for-play competitions
If you are an independent artist, songwriter or musician thinking of entering a songwriting competition, think twice before entering. Many of these competitions are scams. They are there to take your money and leave you high and dry. Instead, use your money to further your career (buy recording equipment, pay for studio time, book gigs to make money). If you really must play the lottery, play the state lottery. It costs less and you have equal odds of winning.
Allegedly, one of the largest ‘competitions’ is the ISC (International Songwriting Competition). They boast industry seasoned judges and lots of impressive things, but overall it’s still a lottery. As far as I know, independent lotteries are still illegal in most states.
What you win
Should you win, let’s put a spotlight on this aspect. If you do enter a competition and by some miracle fluke the judges actually pick your song, what’s next? This is tricky to answer. You need to read the fine print on the competition. You might win a recording contract, but then you might be required to turn over all rights of your music to the contest. Are you willing to part with your music rights just to record or win? These are not necessarily lucrative contracts. On the other hand, you might win a small pittance of cash or some dinky thing and still be required to relinquish your musical rights. You need to read closely to find out what you might be giving up.
Turning over music rights
This is a tricky subject because there’s no right answer. However, consider this. If you’ve written what you consider to be an absolutely fabulous song and other people agree, then you probably do not want to part with the rights to this song. If you turn over all rights for this music to the contest, that means that any money made from that music is no longer yours. If the music, for example, gets licensed to Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears and they turn it into a #1 hit, you still won’t get any money from it. Of course, you can always try to sue, but the contest probably has a reasonably binding contract in place. Thus, you aren’t likely to get very far with a lawsuit.
However, there’s the flip side of that. If you are wanting notoriety, then perhaps it is worth giving up the rights. Meaning, if you’re hungry and willing to lose the rights to one of your songs in order to get your name on the songwriter line that does become a #1 hit, it may actually help your career. That is, of course, assuming the contest has any obligation to put your name on the song as author based on the contest rules.
Furthering your career
If you really want to further your career as a songwriter, you’d probably do better to list your music through an A&R service like Taxi (see below) or another placement service who can get your music out to artists, TV shows, movies or video games. It may cost money to place your music, but it’s not a lottery. It’s more of a ‘music store’ where entertainment industry professionals can find new music for projects.
How about free contests?
By all means, enter as many free contests as you can find. That is, if you can find any. But, ignore contests that charge you money. You have no idea where that money goes… and many charge as much as $25-50 per song! By comparison, you can put an entire CD on iTunes, AmazonMP3 AND Rhapsody for that same $25-35 (the cost of 1 competition entry) using places like CDBaby. So, save your money and invest it into equipment (instruments, recording equipment, computers, etc) or advertising. This will take you a lot further in your career by allowing you to produce your own music. You can self-publish or submit demos right to labels. You can also take out your own personal advertisements for your CD as well.
Careful with your money
Always be careful as there are many musician placement (A&R) services out there that will scam you before they give you any real level of service. Taxi is one of the few that appears to be reputable in this regard, but they will charge you money for each submission on top of a monthly fee (so be cautious even here). Broadjam is another, but they also charge to submit music ($5-15 per song on top of a subscription fee) for placement consideration. When businesses charge you money to submit music for placement, you should be wary. There is no real way to know that they are doing the right thing for you. So, if you submit music without response or get an unexpected (strange) response, don’t spend money for that again.
Bottom line, there are plenty of places out there that can scam you… if it looks like a scam, feels like a scam and acts like a scam, it probably is.