Feb 11 2006

Sonicbids Features A Better World

protest-songsvi-150x150.jpgProtest Songs For A Better World 2006 Submissions are open: Learn More Years with Sonicbids: 2 # of Artists Selected in 2006: 12

1) How many Sonicbids artists did you select?

We selected twelve Sonicbids artists for the compilation CD ‘Protest Songs for a Better World – Volume 1’. Due to the large numbers of high caliber submissions received, we found the evaluation and selection process to be tremendously difficult. However, after much deliberation, our team of judges was able to narrow it down to required twelve tracks

2) What are you looking for in an artist submission?

The motto of A Better World is, ‘We can Use Voice to Change the World, There is magic in our words’. We fulfill our mission by encouraging change in the world through artistic expression. On this project, we are accepting songs on any topic based around a central theme of 'change for improvement'. The tracks we consider cover many related subjects including war, violence, peace, hunger, abuse, violation of rights, injustice, minorities, poverty, prejudice, freedom, homeless, children and more. A portion of our target market is radio and media coverage, so we try to listen through the ears of a program director.

3) What is your review and selection process like? We have a team of judges who are personally selected by me. The only upfront information they get is to ensure they understand the nature of the project, and have a good awareness of the theme. Then they are free to make their own selections. All of our compilation CD’s get good global airplay, so we need to deliver a professional quality album to the media to maintain the high standards of musicality and sonic quality they expect from us. (This is a different criterion than is used to evaluate a festival or performance submission) There are several key stages to our review and selection process.

Every song is listened to several times. The first listen through is a cursory sorting process, and unfortunately most of the submissions don’t make it past this stage. Songs that pass to the next level exhibit common characteristics such as high production value; studio quality mixing and engineering; strong vocals and instrumentation; and overall inspiring musical experience in their presentation. We look for songs that are well written, and prefer an original approach to the theme. Regrettably, most of the submissions are rejected at this stage for reasons of weak or off-pitch vocals, poor musicianship or poor writing, sonically inferior recordings, or just the overall low standards used throughout. Songs without recording or musical flaws are elevated to the next level. At this point, all remaining songs are deemed to be of ‘radio play’ quality. The next stages of evaluation become more subjective, and the judges listen with no pre-conceived ideas other than waiting to be ‘moved’ by the song. (Like the first time you hear the Beatles). When they are ‘touched’ by the song, it is put into the ‘favorite’ category. The attraction may be a musical hook, a haunting lyric, an upbeat or unusual tempo, an emotional magnetism, the spontaneous energy of a live recording, some tight harmonies, a bit of studio polish and more – it’s not always easy to define this step in the evaluation process as it relies on artistic selection and personal preference, rather than a predefined rule set. There are about 25 songs left at this stage – all of which are high quality recordings and worthy candidates – and we have to further narrow the selection down to only twelve. This is the most difficult part of the process. Final selection from this stage is based on criteria such as the overall ability of the song to comply with our theme, as well as many other factors. This is the point in time when we closely scrutinize the lyrics for interpretation of the messages and symbolism, and especially to ensure there is nothing objectionable or offensive. We look for a mix and balance at this point, and some selections are made for reasons of cohesion and coherence to the overall album. We like to put an upbeat catchy song as the first track, and a reflective large lasting production as the last track. We try to ensure no two successive tracks are recorded in the same key, nor are in the same style. For example, if there are some acoustic tracks, we will try to spread out and transition them with other styles. We are conscious to continually introduce new sounds as the album progresses, to maintain high listener interest level so they are more likely hear the album in it’s entirety. There is a large challenge to combine rock, blues, roots, pop, and more on the same record, and present a strong coherent album – and not just a collection of assorted songs. So, the last stage of the selection process may be more related to how each track fits into the big picture, rather than the track on its own merits. We have to look at the goals and the mission at all times when assembling a compilation CD, and always upholds a high quality standard and does our best to keep the vision alive. It’s not an easy undertaking.

4) What can artists do to be better prepared to submit to your opportunity?

Simple – Submit a well-written, well-recorded song with good musicianship and high production value. Then you will get our attention. Many of the reasons songs are rejected are totally correctable by the artist prior to submission. We have received many excellent songs, which we regrettably could not consider for very simple flaws, which should have been edited out at the time of recording. Many times artists send us excellent songs bursting with passion and commitment – you can hear the emotion embedded in the recording. Often, very moving lyrics and beautiful melodies are trapped within an amateur musical production. We can’t consider the song for simple reasons such as the vocal is weak, strained or off key; the guitar is out of tune or guitar playing (or instrumentation) is weak; production value is poor, and more. Often it is apparent the artist hasn’t mastered the song yet, and should spend more time practicing prior to recording. Sometimes we get great songs which have obviously recorded with mundane studio musicians playing routine patterns, rendering the product unexciting and lacking inspiration. Basement recording studios are fine when used properly – we are not suggesting that an artist make a large investment in studio time. You are competing with every musician in the world. If your tune stands out it will be noticed – often the production value make the difference. Great musical artists are not necessarily great studio engineers.

To create a track of the required sonic quality, an inexperienced artist should solicit assistance from an audio engineer and producer with a proven record of accomplishment. A poor quality recording masks a good song. There is no substitute for practice – artists must practice their songs until they are fluid and smooth. Prior to recording, a few weeks of rehearsing the vocals and mastering all the guitar licks can make a world of difference. Sometimes artists submit material above their ability to play. We don’t look for intricacy, speed, or complexity. A simple well-played clean accompaniment is always preferable to a sloppily played complex arrangement. 5) What sets this opportunity apart from other events like it? We are a not for profit organization registered in the province of Ontario, Canada. All of the funds raised through our work go directly into the community, and we partner with such agencies as Earthday, and New Songs for peace. We have recognized the power of artistic expression, and encourage artists to make a difference in the world through their artform. We offer our artists worldwide exposure and open new markets. This is accomplished through global contacts in radio and media established by Brian Gladstone through his own albums releases.

6) What is the importance of this opportunity to an artist’s career?

We like to feel that we have made a positive impact to the artist’s career. Following are a few quotes from artists who have appeared on our compilation CDS. The artists’ own words speak for them selves. “Being on this CD reminded me of my original mission.” "Not only did I receive a great deal of positive feedback as a result of my submission, I also felt I was contributing a positive message to the world". “You’ve got me the first airplay in twenty years” “I've received emails from people around the globe who are enjoying my song "Change My World" and thanking me for participating in the project. It feels good to contribute to a worthwhile effort like this. Thanks for the opportunity.” 7) Little Known Fact About the Promoter or Opportunity: After twenty five years working as a self-educated engineering director and mad scientist, Brian Gladstone walked away from a six-figure salary to intentionally become a starving artist, and then founded ‘The Association of Artists for A Better World’. He is a child of the 1960’s, an attendee of Woodstock, an aging hippie, and a perpetual quixotic dreamer, whose lifestyle and belief system was shaped by a mindset and mentality that is somewhat foreign today. He grew up during the roots revolution, and witnessed first-hand how the power of music can alter the course of history, and turn underground ideas into the policy of a nation. There are so many vital causes and injustices in the world today, and we want to create an avenue for the artists of today to be heard and make a difference.


Member Since: 2003 Hometown: Carlton, Victoria, Australia

Complete Story

Featured on the "Protest Songs For a Better World" 2006 CD. What's the coolest show you've ever played? Here are a couple of memorable ones that come to mind – with a thirty-year span between: When I was in my twenties in the 70s, i was invited to back up Muddy Waters on blues harp in a little club in Boston.


Member Since: 2004 Hometown: Cambridge, MA, USA

Complete Story

Featured on the "Protest Songs For a Better World" 2006 CD. What's the coolest show you've ever played? I think most of the places I've perfomed in have been cool in their own way… a few weeks ago we played as the open mic feature at a gathering where all of the other performers were spoken word folks, (i.e., writers and poets). That was very cool.


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