The cover of my album, Four on the Floor!

So I don’t think I ever got a moment to blog about it, but a few weeks ago (um, 2010 is passing by way too fast!!!) I did a superfun photo shoot with the amazing and wonderful (and Australian!) Alex Green at his glamorous SoHo apartment, where I did the 12/19 show. We shot three different looks for about 4 hours and got some amazing shots out of it. I have many favorites, but one of the overall best shots is definitely the one you see above, which I ended up using as the cover of my album. I posted it on facebook (friend me here) a couple days ago and people have been loving it. I’m so glad!

Which brings me to my next exciting bit of news, which is that the cover art, and all the art for the hard copy CD and booklet of my album, are now done!!! Once I have a moment to do a final listen-through of all the tracks and final proof of the artwork, it will be time to order HARD COPIES of my album to sell at shows and pass around to industry folk, and put the CD on iTunes, FINALLY. It’s been a year-long journey (woulda been much shorter without a day job, but what can you do), and I am so excited to finally have a finished product to show for all my hard work and banging my head against the wall trying to write great songs (which I TOTALLY have).

I will be continuing to release the album track by track through my website over the next many weeks, and by the time I’m finished, the whole album will be available for purchase on iTunes, which will be so great. I’ll finally have a proper presence there again, and I can’t wait to see the sales and reviews from fans. 🙂

Today, after about a YEAR of having my music in three music libraries/licensing companies, I finally received the letter I’ve always been waiting for: one that said a song of mine had been licensed in someone’s project and I got paid for it!!! I’ve finally popped my licensing cherry and hopefully this will be one of many licensing successes to come. Since I’ve been so busy finding my sound, writing a ton and putting together my CD, I haven’t had a chance to get into really pushing my songs for licensing opportunities (which bring in exposure and money!) just yet, but I’m so glad that something was finally used and paid for, and it is always great to receive unexpected checks in the mail.

The statement wasn’t that detailed and just said that the instrumental for “Chocolate Cake” was used in someone’s “video,” but I really want to track down the person who used it to see the song in action–that would be so cool! I also want to send them a thank you note, haha! I can’t wait to get my new music in the licensing world and see how it does, since it’s so different from the first stuff I put out.

In other news, I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal and get a new song done and ready to release because Reverb Nation is doing another sponsored song promotional campaign and if I get selected, I’ll be in the running to win 500 bucks through getting people to vote for me online, and luckily my friends, family and fans have always been wonderful about voting for me in online competitions, so I really hope I can get enough support to win. $500 would cover a significant portion of the costs to record more material, or it could go towards a PR campaign, which I so desperately need to help kickstart things to the next level.

The longer I do this, the more I realize there really is at least a small part time living to be made at it, through finding paid performances, doing sponsored song programs, singing on other people’s demos, and licensing music, in addition to selling music and merch, and if you’re willing to put a lot of time and effort into it, it can be a significant income. You do have to spend the time hustling, but that time spent will bring in money one way or another. That is a really nice thing to know.

So now I just need to finish recording vocals for my album, make the album art, compile the demo, get hard copies of the demo and the album, rehearse for the show in December, prep for my third show at Spence, and start hitting the blogs hard for publicity etc. The exciting part is about to begin!!

Follow me on Twitter for all the up-to-the-minute-updates: twitter.com/jccassis.

Music! After months of trying to juggle EVERYTHING about my music career at once–songwriting, organizing my band, setting up rehearsals and booking shows, making my website, recording, promotion, etc etc etc, it dawned on me that the key to all of this, the one thing I need above everything else, right now, is as many great recordings of great songs as possible. The single most important thing I should be doing, and should get done as soon as possible, is finish writing and making as many great songs as possible, and put them out for people to hear. No one will care how good my pictures or website or marketing efforts are if my music sucks or isn’t available to hear, but if I have great songs they can listen to and nothing else, those great songs will still make an impression.

So right now, I am doing everything I can to finish my album this month. So far I’ve got 6 recordings out, one more recording ready to go to the studio, two more tracks ready for vocals, and three or four more songs written and ready to be made. The goal is to have all the rest of the tracks for the remaining songs made by 9/10/09, when I go away for a few days, so that when I come back, I can just record the rest of the vocals over the course of about ten days, then take them into the studio to get finished so I can release them. Once allllll the work is done making the songs, I will pick the four best for my demo and get demo cd’s printed up to give out to industry contacts, as well as probably print up full albums to sell and give away at shows. Then I will focus my efforts sharply on publicity and shows, hitting up the music blogs hard, trying to get my songs licensed for use in film and TV, and making music videos. I hope that this will garner some positive press, which will bring more awareness of my music and more fans into the fold. Sitting here thinking about this is making me realize how much time it will all take, which is a little daunting to think about, but hey, every dream worth living takes a lotta lotta work, and I have no way of knowing what will come at the end of all this effort, but the point is that I’m making music I’m really proud of and excited about and I expect it to do really well once it gets out there. All the people I’ve showed it to have really enjoyed it, and I don’t see why bloggers and industry folk should be any different. I’m prepared for some harsh feedback from some people, but mostly I expect positive feedback.

Also, since I specifically started this blog with the intention of shedding light on how things actually happen for me, now might be a good time to mention how my networking is going. I don’t think it’s prudent to name names of people I’m talking about since they’re industry folk and I wouldn’t want to upset them in any way by attributing any comments to them that they didn’t want on a blog, so I’ll have to protect identities here in case things ever develop which would make that necessary. But in short, here are some networking things that have happened recently:

-At a music networking event, I met a lovely music lawyer as well as a fabulous DJ who helps select acts for SXSW, a very important music festival.

-I have a friend who’s signed to a major label and with whom I’m talking at length and in detail about this friend’s experiences in this friend’s position, which is fascinating and helpful.

-Through people being aware that I want to make music my full time career, I have been put in touch with a very successful and sweet music manager, and an awesome producer, and I’ve been hooked up with an awesome paying gig, and invited to do lots of cool shows.

The take home message about all this is:

1. Be as good as you can possibly be at what you do. Do whatever it takes to make your music amazing.

2. Talk about it constantly. Let people know you’re constantly working, producing and moving things forward. Then when they hear of things and people that can help you, they’ll hook you up.

3. People in the music industry are really, really nice and approachable and cool, so don’t be afraid of them or think they’re inaccessible. You just have to approach them the right way and you’ll be all set.

I haven’t entered into any working relationships with these people yet, but as I get ready to take things to the next level once I have my demo and album ready, these will be excellent people to know and talk to, and they could end up being extremely helpful, even pivotal, in my career. So in short, I’m feeling good about how building my contacts in the industry is going, and all it’s taken is some networking, chatting, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and having fun the whole time!

So the last few weeks have been just a tad rough to say the least. First, I finally started recording vocals for the new songs, and then my computer died right in the middle of recording. So I lugged it to the Apple store, who couldn’t help me (can someone explain to my why they don’t do data recovery, especially when they do everything else, and especially when they call their service people “geniuses”?????), so I went to Tekserve, who could help me, as long as I could flush $1300 away in the process. It’s amazing the ways in which money is determined to run screaming from our bank accounts. What is so scary about just staying put, money?!

So anyway, I lugged my seemingly 100lb iMac all around town, finally got a solution for $1300 dollars, and waited two weeks to get my life back. I have not recently been as depressed and bored as I was in that time. And it taught me how important making music is to me. It’s literally something I have to do to have any true excitement and gratification in my life. There is nothing like writing a great song, nothing like seeing it come to life when you record it, and nothing like performing it for people and having them be blown away and tell you they love it. That’s what I love to do. That’s almost all I love to do, especially career-wise. Luckily I realized a few days in (I can be pretty slow about some pretty important things) that I should be using that time to write, and so I wrote three new songs in that time, and now, finally, FINALLY, I have 12 songs for my dance-pop album, Four on the Floor. With the pace at which I was able to work on the last few songs, if I really put my mind to it, I could have the remaining 5 recordings done very soon, and record the vocals quickly too, then it’ll be time to take them to the studio for finishing, and then finally, FINALLYYYYYYY I can start sending it out to bloggers and internet radio and all my profiles and promote it and send it to everyone everywhere and see what kind of a response it gets. And this time around, I really know what I’m doing and what I want to do and who will like it, and that makes all the difference.

For those of you who are fellow artists, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a specific vision for your music about what it is, how it will sound, and who will like it. Once you know those things, you know exactly what to do with it. For example, my music is dance-pop, which means it’s great for any event that would involve dancing or a party, which tells me what kind of venues I should play (i.e. dance clubs, not coffee houses). I know that my music is similar in its aesthetic and appeal to club music of the early 90’s and some of the current electro indie pop, so I’m going to push it to people who like that kind of stuff. Since I know which artists I’m similar to, I should go after their fans, the bloggers who blog about them, and the stations and venues that showcase their music, because they’re the ones who will most likely support my music. So now, instead of thinking about pitching one song to a comedy blog and another to a country blog etc etc etc, I know exactly who to send my music to, and I can be confident that they will probably like it, or at the very least not get mad at me for sending them something totally irrelevant to their tastes. That, in turn, gives me a lot of hope and excitement for the promotional part of my music business, which means I’ll approach it with more confidence and happiness and be more successful at it.

I’ve started compiling a list of blogs I should reach out to for when the record’s done, and I’m really excited for the results I know will come when I reach out to them and follow up continuously until I get a response!