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how to make great cover songs

For a lot of musicians, there’s a bit of a love/hate relationship going on with cover songs. On one side of the equation, it’s fun and insightful to cover other people’s songs. And if you pick the right song, fans will really go crazy when they hear a classic tune.

On the other side, covers can be downright frustrating. Especially in the early stages of a music career, venues want mostly cover sets, and the covers you release online can seem to get more attention than your originals. It can make you feel underappreciated, almost like the industry is pushing you into a cover band box. Tributes “R” Us.

So that leads to today’s topic… How to make great cover songs. AND how to use covers to actually raise awareness for your ORIGINAL music.

To show you how to make cover songs and turn them into musical expressions and tools that help you grow your audience and raise awareness for your originals, we’re hosting a free webinar. Daniel Roberts and I will be walking through 5 essential “Ninja Skills” that you can use to adapt cover songs to your own unique style and make a mark on the cover song world.

Click here to sign up for free (choose the date and time that works for you).

In the mean time, here are some Cover Song Basics and best practices you can start using right now:

1. Make it Your Own

What’s the best way to get people who hear your covers into your original music? Put your own unique spin on every song you cover. That means bending the songs stylistically to fit with the kind of music you play and write. Sometimes that will mean a few minor tweaks or just adding your own color. Sometimes it’s a total genre switch and completely different instrumentation.

Not only does this make you stand out from the multitude of cover songs flooding the internet and venues, it also makes the transition to your original music a lot smoother. In a way, listeners have already gotten a little taste of your original sound by listening to your cover rendition. They’ll have a much better sense of what you’re all about as an artist and will be much more comfortable when you move to the original song.

We’ll be really drilling down into this point in the free webinar, so make sure you join us live for more awesome tips!

2. Focus on Subscribers Over Views

There’s this fascination with “viral” videos in the music industry. But a ton of views on a cover aren’t worth much on YouTube unless you can get in touch with those people again. We’ve seen a lot of musicians hit it with a crazy viral video only to release an original music video on deaf ears.

So instead of thinking, “How can I get 10,000 views,” get yourself in the mindset of, “How can I get as many viewers as possible to subscribe?” Setting up suggested videos or playlists on your YouTube channel can be a great way to get people to continue watching, which increases the chance they’ll actually subscribe.

This goes for your live shows too. If you are forced into doing cover sets, think about ways you can connect with those people again. Maybe it’s a contest where they have to follow you on Facebook to enter. Or even a USB stick that you hand out for free with a recording of one of your original songs and your social media channels written out on it.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Call to Actions

And that leads us into the next point – utilizing call to actions. So what exactly is a call to action? It’s basically just you directly asking your viewers or listeners to take some further action. Maybe it’s watching another video, or subscribing to your channel, or entering your contest, or clicking the link in your description box.

If you’ve never done this before, it can definitely feel a little awkward and even pushy at first. BUT it’s been proven time and time again that directly asking people to do something increases the chance that they will.

If you’re releasing covers on YouTube, you can easily use “cards” to suggest other videos your viewers can watch next. As you upload your video, you’ll be able to add cards in the “Cards” tab across the top of the upload screen. Use cards to suggest other cover songs or even original songs when people reach the end of your videos.

If you’re doing a cover gig in a venue, it’s pretty easy to add little call to actions as you talk to the audience. Ask them to follow you on Facebook for more covers and originals, or to see photos that you posted from the show.

Ask fans to visit a certain URL where they can get a few songs in exchange for an email address. Try giving them a cover and an original to introduce them to your own music. If you’re really savvy, give out little download cards so they don’t even have to memorize the URL.

 

As you can see, cover songs can be an extremely valuable part of your approach. And on top of that, they can really help you grow your audience and get more fans.

If you want more ideas of how to make cover songs your own, I hope you’ll join Daniel Roberts and I in a free webinar. Click here to register for free and learn the 5 essential “ninja skills” that every musician needs.

AGENDA:

Here are a few things you’ll learn during the webinar:

  1. SUBDIVISION & GROOVE – Rhythmically drop into any musical context and make people dance.
  2. SCALES & TONALITY – Immediately know where the “right” notes are before ever playing a new song.
  3. HARMONIC FUNCTION – Be able to understand and play chord progressions after only hearing them once.
  4. MODES – Find the best notes to play over any chord to make your melodies stronger and more memorable.
  5. VOICE LEADING – Create smooth chord progressions and riffs that don’t get in the way of other parts.

 

New Artist Model member Angèlia Grace

New Artist Model member Angèlia Grace

By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath
Sponsored by the New Artist ModelTurn your passion for music into a rewarding career

Breaking into the world of independent music can be tough. But it looks like vocalist Angelia Grace might just have it covered.

The gifted soprano is “covering” music from some of the most famous movies in the world. Her YouTube videos have earned her hundreds of thousands of fans since she began posting in 2012.

Her performances include selections from the soundtracks for Superman, Inception and Interstellar composed by Hans Zimmer. She also covers music from The Revenant created by Ryuici Sakamoto, Jurassic Park by John Williams and other films.  Angelia Grace’s videos have been viewed more than 394,000 times.

While most musicians perform music and sing lyrics when “covering” a song, this artist brings a unique style to the task. Angelia Grace’s soundtrack covers include the original recording of the music, and she sings along to these instrumental selections using beautiful tones and sounds — not lyrics. She calls it “singing without words.”

“I had never heard about a ‘cover strategy’ before. I found out about it from Dave Kusek at the New Artist Model,” she says.  “This is where my combination of abstract music and soundtracks came from.”

“On YouTube, people are just really honest and tell you their reactions. I always want to take this as really valuable feedback,” Angelia Grace says, adding that she is working to create a new music video each week. “I ask fans which soundtrack they want me to do next. I want them to feel like they are co-creators. That relationship is so incredible.”

Born in Moscow and raised in the Netherlands, Angelia Grace is now living in Ireland.  She is hard at work on Crystal Voices, an album of original songs with lyrics, due to be released later this year. “Soundtrack covers are a great way to exercise my vocal potential,” says the artist who plays piano and flute.  “But people want a story,”

Angelia Grace also plans to release another album called Shine which will feature “soundtrack-like” music. Previous releases include Angelic Healing Sleep (2013), Angelic Tones (2014) and Asatoma (2015).

In addition to performing, working on her Youtube videos and writing her albums, Angelia Grace maintains her own artist website at http://angeliamusic.com/

She also studies voice with Frank Merriman and Edwin Williamson at Dublin’s Bel Canto School of Music, a place that has helped launch the careers of many musicians including Sinead O’Connor.  

While most of Angelia Grace’s performances appear online, she is beginning to weave more live appearances into her schedule including dates at festivals in Holland.

In 2015, she performed at the Marowa Leadership Conference, a spiritual retreat for business managers held in Nagoya, Japan. Angelia got the gig through connections on Facebook.  

“If Facebook didn’t exist I wouldn’t have gotten to Japan,” according to the musician, adding that she “friended” people from Japan who were connected to an artist friend of hers. “One of them contacted me asking if I could show them around because they were coming to the Netherlands. We skyped to get to know one another better. She learned I am a singer and asked me to be part of this three day spiritual event. All of my travel expenses were covered and I was paid to perform.”

Angelia Grace has a manager in the Netherlands but is extremely involved in the business side of her career. She uses Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about her music and stay in touch with fans.  

She has more than 4000 Youtube subscribers, over 1100 likes on Facebook and 900 people on her mailing list.  Right now, she says, Youtube is her most effective tool.

“The most important skill I’ve learned is the ability to use YouTube as a business tool and training stage,” she says. “It gives you the ability to practice performing without a live audience and get perspective that you can learn from. YouTube is an incredibly important part of my strategy. It is my portfolio.”

Instagram is also becoming an increasingly valuable tool, Angelia says. She likes the fact that her posts automatically go to Facebook and Twitter. And she especially loves what happens when she adds a hashtag to her pictures.   

“They explode online,”  she says, adding that reaching many social media platforms at once is essential.  “As an independent artist, you have to work smart because you have limited time.”

Every day Angelia Grace answers all of the messages she receives from fans, Youtube viewers and producers. She says that New Artist Model has helped her understand the value of constancy and discipline when creating a community. Maintaining relationships is essential, the artist says, so she makes it a point to communicate at least once a week with her followers.

“You have to be out there,” she says, adding that publishing valuable content is key. “If you don’t engage, what’s the point? I am building a relationship with people who will stick with me for years to come. That’s one of the most valuable lessons I learned from Dave.”

Her biggest challenge right now, says Angelia Grace, is learning to create professional working relationships with people who contact her. Often producers and musicians will reach out to discuss the possibility of working together. Ironing out the details can be a challenge, she says.

“It is great to have people praise you for what you do. It is even better to have people pay you for what you do,” she says.

Angelia Grace’s goal is to continue to grow her audience as she moves closer to realizing three of her biggest dreams — working with Hans Zimmer;  being hired in Hollywood to help create iconic soundtracks;  and filling large arenas with fans eager to share in her musical experience.

She expects the strategies she is learning from New Artist Model to continue to be central to her growth as an artist, she says.

New Artist Model is helping me think like an entrepreneur and is helping me with marketing. You don’t have to do what Dave is suggesting, you should want to do it. It’s fun, helps you get closer with your team and fans — the people who believe in you — creating a foundation of support,” she says.

“The New Artist Model is going to change your music career forever. I’m not getting paid to say this! You have to know that this is the best investment you can make for your career. You need to build your career brick by brick. Learn what you need to know so you can be successful. It’s a leap of faith you have to take. The knowledge has given me so much confidence. How much is your dream worth? Priceless.”

Check out Angelia Grace here http://angeliamusic.com/
and here https://www.youtube.com/user/AngeliaCrystalVoice

 

New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com

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There’s been a lot of success stories on YouTube with artists like Karmin, Psy, and Baauer getting seemingly instant popularity with viral videos. Because of this, there’s a lot of misconceptions about YouTube. It’s not a platform for instant fame, and, like many other aspects of the music industry, requires a good deal of dedication and hard work.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start a YouTube strategy today! YouTube is one of those platforms that you can make something really great with a limited budget if you take the time to plan and put in the creative effort.

This article was written by Matt Sandler, musician and founder of ChromatikYou can follow him on Twitter @mattdsandler. This is just a short excerpt. You can check out the full article on Hypebot.

1. YOU NEED TO START

Failure isn’t your biggest obstacle to success, it’s not even starting. Most people talk the talk, but never actually walk the walk. You want a great YouTube presence? Start making videos…today.

I know that there’s a tune you can crush. Maybe it’s Classical Gas, maybe it’sTwinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Perhaps 15 seconds of a popular chart? It doesn’t matter. Spend 30 minutes recording and uploading it to YouTube…today.

Start viewing YouTube as a sandbox for playing, performing, and sharing. Not everything you upload to YouTube needs to be perfect or professional quality initially. We’ll get there. But as a relative unknown in the YouTube ecosystem, you’ll want to just get comfortable with the recording and upload process first.

2. BE PROLIFIC, ON A SCHEDULE

One of the YouTube myths I hear all of the time is – “I just need ONE video to strike it big.”

So what do folks do? Pour a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money into producing an incredible video. Cool. Assuming that you rocked and it miraculously went to the front page of Reddit, you now have 100,000 views and a couple hundred subscribers. Now what? Can you replicate that?

The unfortunate reality is that 100,000 views and a couple hundred subscribers doesn’t get you very far in the YouTube ecosystem. Not to mention, with over 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, there’s a 1/1,000,000 chance of you achieving that result.

The myth is dangerous because it forces you into an assumption that “if you build, they will come.” Which, as many creatives – from musicians to tech startup founders – learn quickly, just isn’t the case.

So let’s focus on starting small and building a community. Without a miracle, the only replicable way I’ve seen to build a successful YouTube channel is by being prolific and regimented with content production. One of my favorites, Gabe Bondoc – now with 272k subscribers and 48 million views! – was phenomenal at this early on.

 

Do you have a YouTube channel? Check out the New Artist Model YouTube channel for tons of interviews with music industry greats.