Oct 08

“Do Unto Others” Brand New Track from Stephen Jerome Ferguson

We make things so hard sometimes. We spend years trying to figure out ourselves. Why we as a people do the things we do when all we have to do is treat everyone that we come in contact with the same way that we ourselves want to be treated.

We all want to be treated with respect, dignity and love.

This song, this composition of mine is dedicated to the hope that all of us will figure this out one day…

Sep 29

The Artists Intent is the Most Important Thing

Slide2Writing, recording, mastering and producing my own music is easy for me because there is no one to answer to. The only person that I gave to satisfy in every phase of the project, is me. It’s a little different when my services are required by other artists.

Most indie artists approach me to make their music “sound” better. They have listened to the products that I have produced and they want that same type of sound. This is easier said than done.

As a producer, I have to listen to what the artist wants for their music. I don’t want to add too much of myself to the project because that can over shadow the intent of the artist. Communicating with artists can be difficult sometimes because many artists trying to break into music really don’t know how to explain what they are actually looking for.

Most of the time, I try to listen to what the artist has done on their own. If there is a certain song that they want me to work on, I want to hear it as it is right now. After I get a feel for the song, I have to find out from the artist just how much creative freedom I have. Can I arrange the project? Can I change the orchestration? I need to know just how far I can go.Slide3

Most times, I will come up with 2 and sometimes 3 versions of the song and allow the artists to choose how to proceed. Sometimes one of the versions is good and sometimes it’s a combination of versions that the artist likes. I do the different versions because I don’t want to try and explain to an artist what I believe their project should sound like. I want them to hear it. After all, music is still an audible experience.

Sep 12

How to write a press release (and get press)

September 5, 2014

pressreleaseIf you have never received press, there is a very slim chance that you will get an album review in a popular blog or nationally distributed magazine. Your best chance for media coverage is your hometown papers, magazines and blogs or local publications in cities you’re touring to.

The difference between Rolling Stone’s music editorial staff and the La Crosse Tribune music editorial “staff” (person) is one of them has a backlog of tens of thousands of CDs waiting to be reviewed and the other is in constant need of material. Can you guess which is which?

The reason it’s, dare I say, easy to get press when you’re on tour is because local publications are always looking for material – especially the daily papers. Even blogs with a local focus need material. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and the bunch get inundated with more music than they have bandwidth for.

There is a different way to approach local, national, digital and print outlets. You always want to keep in the back of your mind when reaching out to any outlet: “What can I do for them? Why does my story deserve coverage?”

Sometimes just being a touring band playing a reputable venue in their town is enough to get a few paragraphs. Other times you’ll need an interesting story that sets you apart from every other band playing a show in town that night.

Obviously, if you have received zero press, then it may be worth your while to book some shows at well-respected venues in small towns and contact the local newspaper. Chances are, being a touring band in their small town will be enough to get you some ink, and possibly even an included photo.

Save all the early reviews you get. Add the best to your website. If a bigger publication wants to review you, they’ll want to see that you are a band on the rise and have been garnering press wherever you go.

Don’t expect album reviews

They are boring to read by the majority of the public. Very few publications even write them anymore. Yes, I know you’d like every publication to talk about how this new album of yours will be generation defining, but the local newspaper is trying to bring the most interesting story to its readers. And right now it’s that you are going to put on a great show in their town. Notes about your most recent album can be included in your press release – especially if you’re on a tour supporting it – but it doesn’t need to be more than a couple sentences.

The Press Release

The beauty of the digital age is that most publications rarely ask for hard press kits anymore. Some music editors (especially the older ones) do ask for you to mail your CD to them, but many are ok with a BandCamp link. Regardless of how they listen to your music, they all want a press release.

A press release is a one-page, objective (ish) fact sheet illuminating the who/what/where/why/and/when of your event.

Contact Information

Make sure it is very clear who the reviewer should contact. Publicists will brand press releases with their letter-head that has their email and phone number. You should put a contact email at the top and the bottom of the press release.

Title

Every press release should have a title. Put the title in the subject line of your initial email. Titles should be to the point, but exciting enough for a reviewer to look further. “Touring Band To Play Birmingham” is boring. “Red Pills Bring Their Fire/Rock Show To Birmingham” is better. “This Band Lights Stuff On Fire…On Stage” will definitely get a read.

Old school publicists may disagree with the sensationalist approach of the title, but we’ve entered into a new era of press. Upworthy and Buzzfeed are masters at click baiting and are trumping nearly every traditional news outlet’s digital traffic.

Re-Printing Word For Word

Many times a publication will reprint your press release word for word. So make it readable and enticing. I’d say about 20% of my press coverage has been a publication (online or in print) literally reprinting my press release. These sometimes will get added to the digital edition’s calendar or “Upcoming Events” or “What To Do This Weekend” section. Oftentimes the music reviewer runs out of time and needs to fill content. So your press release gets reprinted. If you have a kickass title, people will click through to your What To Do This Weekend press release.

It MUST Be An Event

There’s no use sending a press release to let a reviewer know that you have a 3 month old album out. And, uh, how bout a review? No. The only way you’re going to get press is if you’re pitching an event. A show. A release. The birth of your baby (if you’re a celebrity). A charity event. A Dance Off. The release of a music video. Something newsworthy.

1st Paragraph

Who, what, where, why, when, how much. The facts. This needs to be first so the reviewer (or reader) can easily find this information and they immediately know what this event is.

2nd Paragraph

This is where you list the background of your band, your interesting story and accolades. What makes your band unique? Only include the background info that’s most interesting. 1-2 sentences. Include your most impressive accolades: who have you toured with, opened for, TV shows/movies your songs have been placed in, quotes from celebrities about your band, awards/contests you’ve won, festivals you’ve played. Be careful not to make it seem too braggy. If this press release is sent by you, the reviewer will know you wrote it. Keep it objective(ish).

You can use adjectives, but no superlatives.

3rd Paragraph

Information about the event. Why should they cover this event? What makes it special? If this is a general tour press release, you can discuss the tour here (50 date US tour with stops at local children’s hospitals in 20 cities).

Last couple sentences

Other interesting information. This is your final effort to showcase to the reviewer why she should cover your event or band and to the reader why he should come out to your show, watch your music video, listen to your album.

These are loose paragraph guidelines, but this is the order. And remember, never make it longer than a page. If the reviewer needs more info, she’ll ask.

Never Attach It To An Email

When you contact a reviewer over email the subject line should be your title, you should write a brief personalized, introduction paragraph, link to the album on BandCamp or SoundCloud, a YouTube video, Facebook Page and your website, and explain that you’ve included the press release and promo photo below.

It can be something like:

Hi Kim, Minneapolis based, The Red Pills, are stopping through Denver on October 3rd as part of our 50 date US tour. Our new song, “I Hope I Never Know” was just featured on Parenthood on NCB last week. Let me know if you’d like to setup an interview with the band for a piece in the Denver Post. I’ve included a link to our album, new music video and the press release below. If you like, I can put our vinyl record and/or CD in the mail for your consideration.

Thanks!

New Album: http://linktobandcamp.com
Music Video: http://linktoyoutubevideo.com
Facebook: http://linktofacebook.com
Website: http://linktowebsite.com
Promo Photo: http://LinkToHighResPromoPhotos.com

-Ari Herstand (The Red Pills manager/guitarist)

**Directly below your signature should be the press release beginning with the title. DO NOT ATTACH IT TO THE EMAIL. Do not clutter up their inbox or make them download an attachment. Not a press release, not a promo photo, not a song. If they want a word doc or a promo photo they will respond and ask you to send it over as an attachment. But most want everything contained in the email and want to just copy and paste and click through links. Downloading is too slow, takes up space and is too much work.

No Response Does Not Mean No Coverage

I can’t tell you how many times I have reached out to press outlets with an email very similar to the one above, where I have never received a response, BUT I got either a full preview of my show in the paper/blog or they copy/pasted my press release.

Always check the publication in print and online when you tour through the city. Sometimes their print edition will list show previews which do not make the digital version – and vice versa.

“For Immediate Release”

You see this statement in many press releases sent out by companies announcing things like a new iPhone or what not. However, when you’re contacting music reviewers weeks before your show, you don’t want them to print a show preview in the weekly newspaper a month before your show. So list at the top of the release when you’d like it printed/posted:

“For release the week of October 2nd.”

Lead Time

For local press, contact them about 4 weeks before your show. Many times the music reviewers will have stuff cued up a couple weeks in advance of printing, but sometimes they are scrambling looking for content for this week. Sometimes (depending on how organized they are) they’ll ask you to get back to them a few days before they go to print (or post the blog). If you’re too early (2 months), they’ll ignore it as it’s not pressing, but if you’re too late (less than a week) you may have missed your window and that edition may be already set. If the reviewer only reviews physical CDs (some still do), you need enough time to get it in the mail to her.

If you don’t get a response, follow up a week later. Giving yourself a 4 week window allows for followups. Giving yourself one week does not.

Publication Research

Before contacting the reviewer, make sure you do a bit of research on the publication. Make sure they actually cover Arts and Entertainment. Find out how often (weekly, daily, monthly). And, of course, make sure you get the contact email and name of the music or community events reviewer.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Phone

If you can’t find an email on the website, most likely they’ll have a contact phone number listed. Pick up the damn phone and call and ask. You’ll most likely reach the receptionist. All you need to do is then ask “Hi, I’m looking for Kim Smith’s email.” Yes, learn the name of the music reviewer before calling. This is not tough to find. The receptionist will have this information and gladly give it to you. And if you haven’t gotten an email response from the reviewer, give her a call, ask if she got your press release and if she needs anymore info from you. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to sift your email out of the pile.

Sep 05

Free Downloads from SJF Music Music!

free downloadsFrom me to you. Some FREE MUSIC! Listen or click the link to download the jam you want.

Just my way of saying “Thank You” for all the love and support that you have shown to me.

 

 Just Right click the title to download.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 24

Cause and Effect

I have been thinking about posting this for a long time. Because of it’s subject matter, I didn’t really know how it would be received.

It’s not about my music at all. It’s a social theory that I have been thinking on for a while now.

Watch the video. It only takes 6 minutes of your time but the theories expressed in it may open your eyes.

You know, cause that little light bulb over your head to turn on.

Aug 16

Looking for Artist to Spread a Positive Message

Slide1SJF Music LLC is looking for artists that want to create projects that are uplifting, positive, encouraging and full of the truth. It doesn’t matter what genre.

I will help in any way that I can. I can provide music, arranging, production and help with promotion. goldviolin

For a long time, I have been looking for a way to combine my ministry with my music production service. I looked at many different scenarios and different genres of music. I was completely lost and confused about how to do this so I prayed and asked for guidance from my Father.

First, I had to define just what my ministry is. That was the easy part. My calling is geared to my fellow men. I need to remind my brothers of their true responsibilities based in the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Man was created in the image of God. Man was meant to lead according to the Laws of God. Man was meant to be the teacher, the leader and the one that set the example. This is my ministry. To spread this knowledge to every man. To let them know just who they really are.

_facebook_-339148629The music? Well, I also came to the realization that the genre means nothing. The message is the key. The message needs to be positive, encouraging and truthful. Any genre of music can provide that.

Because this is my ministry, I will not charge anything for any service I provide. The only thing I require is credit for whatever I do for your project. The project belongs to the artist totally and it’s up to you what you want to do with it but if the artists wants to make a donation then I will not turn down a Blessing.

If you are interseted or want more information, email me at stephen@sjfmusic.com

 

Aug 16

Three of my best albums ever on sale now!

new web art

Aug 15

A Reflection of me

stephen1My music has been what it is but a change is coming. Things in my life have changed and you will be able to feel a difference in the music I create and the music I produce for other artists.

I will be graduating from Bible College in May of 2015 and my calling is to bring as many men back to God as I can. I intend to do this in 3 ways. I will lead by example, speak to as many as I can and I intend to use my music to raise awareness to the fact that we (men) have dropped the ball when it comes to leadership in our homes, our communities, our jobs and in God’s Church.

Stay tuned….

Aug 13

Just Listen…

Slide445 years of being in the music industry. Wow, I know some might say that you have been doing this so long, why are you not up there with the likes of Stevie Wonder or Carlos Santana? Well, the truth is there are people that you have never heard of before that has been in this industry longer than I.

I started learning music and learning how to play different instruments at the age of 12. I studied every genre of music I could get my ears on. Gospel, R&B, Jazz, Country and Classical. I learned by listening. I trained my ear to listen to the subtle differences, not just the obvious differences in genres. The skill I developed by learning how to listen started me on my path towards producing my own music.

Producers and engineers can really bring the emotion out in a song. I had the opportunity to hear Prince perform his song “Purple Rain” on a live televised event and I noticed the song just didn’t have the emotional power of the original version done for the movie. The vocals felt flat and I went on a mission to find out why. What I discovered was something small but powerful. The original vocals had echo added. The Television version was missing that. The echo in the first verse made that song powerful and emotional. It made you take notice. When it was missing, the vocals feel flat.

Take a listen to my music. Each instrument has a part to play in the story of the song. Enjoy the beginning, middle and end. All you have to do is listen.

Aug 11

10 was to support your favorite artist that won’t cost you anything.

article3

Are you struggling to support artists that you love? Do you find yourself using the same response every time someone tries to sell you their music?

The truth is we all have moments when we can’t support artists financially. Maybe something unexpected happened. Maybe you are waiting for your next paycheck. Maybe you bought a new toy for your child. Maybe you wanted to show your romantic side by buying roses for your significant other. In this article, I will share with you 10 ways to support artists when you are broke.

1. Leave a comment

Leaving a comment is one of the easiest ways to show support. Take the time out of your busy schedule and leave a comment for your favorite artists. You can leave comments on blogs, iTunes, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc.

2. Video testimonial

Leaving a video testimonial is another way to show support. Recording a video testimonial or review is very simple given the technology that we possess. Record a video talking about the music. Keep it short and share it with the artist or your loved ones.

3. Like or Share

Like the artist’s web content. Actually I want to take it a step further and say share the content. Share, retweet, repost, etc. Get the content in front of people. It’s free.

4. Change your Avi

If the artist has a new album or single out you can show support by changing your Avatar. Changing your Avi is a simple process. All you have to do is find the artwork (Google search), save it and upload it. Bam!

5. Promote

Promoting an artist is easier than you think. All you have to do is track down the link and share it via your Social Media platforms. Add a creative blurb to your link or it might look like spam.

6. Word of Mouth

Remember that your word is valuable. People make decisions based on what their friends and family have to say about a product, service, or — in this case — music. Share the music that you love with those that are close to you.

7. Post content on Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc.

You can post the content on Reddit or Stumbleupon and help the artist receive an uptick in views or plays. Make sure your follow the guidelines of the site though or risk getting banned.

8. Post content on message boards

Post the content on message boards and help spread the word. In order to do this you usually need to register with the site. If this is too much work, try looking for a Facebook group that you can contribute to.

9. Use a Hashtag

Use an established hashtag on Social Media. All you have to do is find the hashtag that the artist is using and use it whenever you talk about their music.

10. Blog About It

One of the best ways to share your thoughts about a single or album is to blog about it. This form of support is very beneficial. It has SEO benefits, Social Media benefits and personal benefits. Share your honest thoughts about the music, and then press Publish. When you are finished you can even contact the artist to notify them of your work.

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