OnSong: All You Need is a Tip Jar

If you know me or have been following me, you know I’m a kool-aid drinker for Apple. I am most definitely a mac fanboy. To be truthful, I really believe they’ve earned their spot in my hall of undulation, along with Key Lime Pie, YouVersion.com, WordPress and MOTU Digital Performer.

Due to my job situation, I’ve been without an iPad since the first of the year. I honestly didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I have a new iPad now (version not-called 3) and it’s most certainly nice to have it back. It makes information so much more accessible and I’m looking forward to using it in my new position at work (more on that in a future post).

OnSong AppThere is one app that I’ve realized I could not really replace without an iPad, and it’s a great app for live musicians… especially solo artists or small acoustic groups. It’s called OnSong. This cheap little app (only $7.99) is the perfect songbook and chart folder replacement. You can download the lyrics and chords to just about any song you can find online, or simply enter your own. Once you’ve got your library built up, it’s all available at the swipe of a finger on your iPad.

You can set up playlists or set lists. Set the length of the song and hit the play button just as you start the song and the lyrics will automatically scroll for you as you go. Are you using special lighting? Change the appearance of the song from black words on white background to white words on black background so it won’t light you up. Need to practice? Link a song from your song library that will launch when you hit the start button. You can play along and follow the lyrics as you go. Maybe you’ve got accompaniment tracks? Link those up with your audio out. Now you’ve got a confidence monitor and a track player all in one.

There are many more features that you can check out. One I really like is the ability to sync your set list with the other members of your band (as long as they have OnSong). Everyone can see the same charts moving together in unison. This thing will even project lyrics for your audience if you wish.

I would venture to say that, as a musician, this is probably the most important app I own. Pair that with a good iPad stand, like this one here, and you’re good to go for a night of music.

All you need now is a tip jar. 5 stars. Go get it.

Marketing Your Music

Ariel HyattAfter spending many years in the music industry, I am continually amazed at how much things have changed. Almost everything I did as an executive at a music label in the late ’90’s can now be done with the help of 2 or 3 websites. The Rise of the Independents is well under way, which I think is a great thing.

There have been a number of articles written over the past few months about independent artists and what they should, and can, do to help kick off their career. Here is a great article, the first in a series of three, that includes a wealth of information. If you are an aspiring artist, or even an artist that’s been around a while making it on your own, this is a wonderful step-by-step guide for marketing your music.

In this first article, Ariel Hyatt from Ariel Publicity talks about several important areas:

  1. Digital distribution vs physical media
  2. Your online presence with your website, Facebook and YouTube (by the way, did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine at this point?)
  3. Techniques for gathering email addresses
  4. Newsletters
  5. Touring and timing
  6. Merchandising and how to deal with the new digital paradigm at a live event

This is well worth your time to read and I would suggest subscribing. Enjoy and keep making good music.

Marketing Plan Tactics For Independent Musicians – Part 1 of 3: New Album Preparations

I’m No Itzhak Perlman, But I Ain’t Nero Either

The FiddlerIt’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to spread my wings and fly. Granted, I may only be a couple of feet off the ground, but it feels good.

I am, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, referring to the closet full of instruments that have gone largely untouched for 30 years. All through high school and into college, I had the opportunity to learn and play several instruments (mostly strings). Throughout college I had the musical outlets available to continue playing and improving on these tools.

Once I finished college, the chances to play diminished and my chops started disappearing. Any musician reading this will understand. It’s a painful progression backwards. You see others play and you hear music on the radio and you know, without a doubt, you could do that. Or at least, you used to be able to do that. Something inside you wants out again. There’s a little musical Mr. Hyde running loose inside you that wants to emerge and wreak havoc.

Nice havoc. The good kind.

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Acappella Memories: Kathisophobia or I’ll Stand, Thank You

Acappella: The CollectionAs I mentioned in my last Acappella post, I performed over 1,400 concerts in the space of 11 years. That does not take into account church service performances, radio stations, bookstores or mission trips. I couldn’t even begin to remember even 1/3 of those. That said, there are a few that stand out with vivid recollection. South Bend, Indiana is one of those.

The South Bend / Elkhart / Goshen area was a good place for Acappella and AVB. Both groups appeared there many times. Radio airplay was good to us as well. We consistently charted quite high in that local market. AVB’s The Victim stayed #1 for months in 1989-90. Needless to say, we were in that area annually for a concert.

Sometime in the 90’s, around 1998 I believe, we released a “best of” album called The Collection. There were far too many songs requested for the album. As it was, we included 17 and the CD was full. As a means to include more songs and pay homage to some of the older tunes, we put together a medley. It was just short of 12 minutes and covered many tunes. We then worked up a slightly edited version of the medley and added it to our concert repertoire. To make the presentation of the medley more intimate (and give us a slight break), we used tall stools for the medley.

You can probably guess what’s coming.

As I recall, it was the late Spring of 1999 and we were singing at the ELCO Theater in Elkhart (now renovated and called the Lerner). The house was full with just short of 3,000 people. The concert was going very well and we were in our 2nd set, after intermission and nearing the end. It was time for the medley and we pulled up our stools and started in.

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Amazing Virtual Choir

I found this song on Spotify a while back. I love it. This evening, I was walking through the room and my daughter was listening to it online… on YouTube. What??

If you like amazing choral music, you’ll love this. If you like tech-oriented mash-ups, you’ll love this. If you like them both, this video will blow you away. Enjoy.

What Can’t A Cappella Groups Do?

Deke SharonDeke Sharon posted this article this morning. I don’t usually reblog someone’s work on the same day they post, but this one is really good. You can see the original article at this link. If you are a singer in the a cappella genre and don’t follow Deke or CASA, you’re missing out. They are great supporters of a cappella and have done much to advance the art. With full kudos to Deke, here is his article:


I just got off the phone with a friend who has a well known a cappella group (which shall remain nameless) that just got new management. Great new management.

However, like many managers, this person doesn’t really know what to do with a cappella. “What can an a cappella group do?”

What can we do?!? What CAN’T we do?

Opening For Other Acts

There is no better opening act than an a cappella group. Why? No instruments means no load in and no space needed on stage. Just float out in front of the band’s set up, do your thing, and the headliner doesn’t have to worry about your production value or sound upstaging their set, and yet they know the audience will love it. Comedians are risky (too racy? too corny?), a cappella is perfect. Doesn’t usually pay that well, but you make lots of new fans, sell albums in the lobby at intermission, and see the world. A great way to fill in off days in your home town (establish a relationship with local theaters, stadiums and promoters), and a great way to get you on a plane to new regions, where you can make…

Television or Radio Appearances

Slip on stage and slip off stage. A love song for Valentine’s Day, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on opening day, “When The Saints go Marching In” for Mardi Gras. There’s a song for almost every holiday, and a pre-existing arrangement if you don’t have time to pull one together yourselves. And while you’re there, giving the morning show or cable access arts program a nice five minute segment, you’re also promoting the rest of your gigs. No pay, but excellent audio and video promotion you can cut into your promo video and splash all over our social media sites. Along the same lines, there are always…

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Beatbox Madness

Beatboxing has been around for a while. Many people think we were one of the first to introduce the concept, but it’s been around much longer than Acappella or AVB. The streets of New York and Philadelphia were rocking to the vocal beat for years before mainstream music adopted it. Today’s young artists are pushing it even further. Witness the following:

Kevin Olusola is the amazing beatbox master for the Show-Off winning group Pentatonix. Not many people realize that he was a member of the Contemporary Christian group Gungor (remember the song “Beautiful Things?). They were opening for David Crowder Band while the Sing-Off was airing. Anyway… Kevin was the beatboxing cellist. Watch this and be amazed:

But wait! There’s more! Ever heard of Annie Wu? Neither had I.

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Should You Buy Professional Arrangements?

sheet music chopinI ran across a blog entry by Mike Chin, co-founder of The A Cappella Blog, and it raised a good question. I thought I might pass it along. It seems to be a pretty hot topic in collegiate a cappella, especially in light of the hit TV show The Sing-Off. I haven’t heard as much about it in the Christian a cappella ranks, but I know it’s present. I’ve dealt with it myself over the years.

He states, “There’s an established market for the sale of professionally written a cappella arrangements. With this in mind, it is best for your group to buy arrangements rather than trying to compose your own?” He goes on to point out dissenting viewpoints.

Buy It Quickly and Move Forward

There’s a pretty good argument for buying an existing arrangement or contracting someone to knock it out for you. As more people come into the a cappella fold every year, the number of arrangers and arrangements increases making songs more available and more affordable. Pay for it and get it done quickly. You’ll save countless hours of energy trying to work out the arrangement that will pay off in a perfected performance.

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Water from the Well

In 1989, we (Acappella) released the album Growing Up in the Lord. It was originally intended to be a children’s album, but as the production continued it became clear to us that it would be much more. Consequently, it ended up somewhat of a hybrid (in my opinion). Not to say that it was a poor album… far from it. It remains a favorite of many people, even though I believe it is out of print.

One of the lasting favorite songs from the album is the song Water from the Well. It featured a solo by Keith’s daughter, Kimberly. She did a great job on it, especially at the tender age of 5 (I think). As the tour began (actually, it never ended… but that’s another story) we started adding songs from the album to the concert set. Water from the Well seemed a natural addition.

The trouble was, how do we handle the kid’s solo part? Wayburn’s oldest son, Brent, could handle it and he toured with us, as did all the families. We decided to take it just a little bigger. If you saw our concert during this time period, you know what I’m talking about. 30 minutes into the 1st set, we just paused everything and invited all the kids ages 3 through the 3rd grade up to the stage to sing this song with us.

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Imagine If The Counter Went Away

This is a great article that came from Bryan Farrish at Radio-Media.com. It’s brings a little clarity and insight into social media and self-promotion for an artist. This is definitely worth taking the time to read. Thanks Bryan…

Radio Compared To YouTube and MySpace: Imagine If The Counter Went Away

The hypnotic effect of YouTube, MySpace, and any other similar site where you upload your music, is one thing: The Counter. Without the counter, these sites would have no more use to you than your phone number listing in the phone book. Why does the counter matter so much?

Psychologically, it has to do with the “media effect”, which is explained in mass media studies (especially Marshall McLuhan’s book called “Understanding Media”). But you don’t have to understand psychology to understand how the “counter” is misleading you and other artists. Imagine for a second, that all counters were removed forever. No more counters, ever again. Never will you be able to tell how many people “heard” your song. Wow.

What then would you focus on? How would you judge your success? What would you brag about? How would your goals change? How would you compare one song against another? This was what life was like before the “counter”. Back then, you actually had to make things happen, instead of looking at a counter that said things happened. And the way you made things happen was mostly by phone, in-person, and maybe fax. Today, email has replaced fax, but two things have stood the test of time: Phone and in-person contacts.

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