So for the last 8 weeks I’ve been in the Songwriters Hall of Fame song workshop and it has been a total blast. I’m SO glad I did it and I strongly recommend it to all you songwriters out there. You have to audition to get in so the quality of the other participants is high, the leader of the workshop, Peter Bliss, is wonderful, and the experience has just been really helpful and enriching. I’ve really loved it.

One thing that was a little tough about the workshop in the beginning was my songs weren’t getting quite as good of a reception with the industry folk as I thought they might, but of course this taught me what I need to work on to be more successful, which is the most important thing.

But tonight, I played one of the forthcoming songs from my album, Four on the Floor, called “My Ex is Delicious,” a super fun Britney-esque pop ditty about not being able to let go of an ex flame. I’m really proud of it and think it’s awesome so I was really excited to share it with the class, and sure enough, everyone really loved it and the feeling was unanimous among the leader and classmates that the song is a hit. Finally! It was such a wonderful feeling to hear them say that. I loved it. I can’t wait to get the recording done so you all can hear what I mean, and I really can’t wait to try to find a way to send it to Britney Spears’ people to see if I can get them to listen and pass it on to her. I think it could really work for her, and of course that would be such an enormous thrill. So yay.

So far the workshop seemed to be most enthusiastic about My Ex is Delicious, Hold for Your Lovin’ and Dance Dance Dance, so I think those three will definitely be on my demo. I’m so glad I finally have a better idea of what should be on there. Now I just need to figure out what the fourth song on there will be, and then I can print it up and start passing it around!

For the last many weeks, I’ve been working on writing and recording the rest of the tracks for my upcoming debut album, “Four on the Floor.” I want to have at least 12 tracks on the album, and of course I want them to be as good as they can possibly be since I’ll be starting to push this material to bloggers and other press and internet radio and potential and existing fans etc etc, so I’m taking my time and trying to make it perfect while also hurrying and trying to get it out so I can start promoting it and hopefully start seeing the fruits of that promotion.

Right now, as you know, I’ve got six tracks finished and posted on jccassis.com (click on “music”). I have one more track that’s ready to be finished in the studio but there was a technical snafu I have to go back and fix. Then there are three tracks that are ready for vocals, one track I’m not sure about, and two songs I’ve written but not started the recordings for. So I’ve got to decide what to do with the track I’m not sure about, record vocals for all 6 songs that don’t have them recorded yet, and make tracks for two more songs. That’s a fair amount of work, but if I’m diligent about it I should be able to get it done over the next couple of weeks. Then it will be time to take everything to the studio to be mixed and mastered, then FINALLY the album will be done, I’ll cull a demo from it, and start sending them both out into the world. Of course I’ve also got to make album art for it and get some hard copies printed up to give out and sell, but at least all the creative work will be done for a while.

Happily, I’m VERY inspired to write these days so I’m confident I will continue to come out with new material a fair amount even when this album is finished and released, but my goals for right now are 1) to have a demo to give to industry contacts, 2) to have an album to send to reviewers/bloggers/give to potential fans/sell at shows/be my presence on iTunes and all other digital retailers, and 3) be finished with this album so I can spend the vast majority of the next few months promoting the hell out of it and hopefully get somewhere with it. It will be a LOT of work. I’ve got to get it all over internet radio, try to get it licensed for use in film & TV, get as much press for it as possible, make music videos for some of the songs, try to make as many new fans as possible through social networks and shows, and on and on and on. But I can’t start any of this until the album is done, so that’s what I’m trying to make happen right now. Once it’s done though, I hope I can count on you to help me get the word out! ๐Ÿ™‚

p.s. I also got accepted into a songwriting workshop at the Songwriters Hall of Fame starting next week, so I’m hoping that will give me even more insight into writing hit songs as well as get me connected to some great industry contacts. Lady Gaga met her producer through a Songwriters Hall of Fame showcase event the story goes, so I can’t help but be a little excited about what opportunities this might bring about for me… ๐Ÿ™‚ The first assignment is to write a song for an artist of your choosing that a publisher or record label would want, so of course I picked Britney Spears, and the song I wrote is REALLY good and REALLY in her style so I REALLY hope they like it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

So the show at the Dance Parade After Party in Tompkins Square Park really kicked ass. It was my first one with just me, backing tracks, and backup dancers and was so much fun. Also it was the first show in a long time that I didn’t have to bring the damn crowd, which was so great. There were about 200 people crowded right around the stage watching and more standing around the park listening, so that was awesome. The sound system was great and the dancing went great and I really held it down. Through it, I met a few DJ’s who all said they’d like to work/perform with me and/or spin my stuff in clubs, so that is totally awesome. I’ll finally get the club play I’ve been dreaming of!!

Couple tips:
1. It definitely helps to have an identifiable genre/sound that you belong to. Though I’m specifically going for dance-pop since I want mainstream success, my music is similar to some House music, and people kept coming up to me after the Dance Parade show saying “So you’re a house artist, right? I love house music. I’m a house DJ, you should come play at this club…” etc etc. When I was doing other types of music and trying to figure out what direction to go, no one ever said, “So you’re a country/pop/comedy/dance artist? You should come play at my country/pop/comedy/dance show…” because no one has multi-genre shows and opportunities for the most part. Each genre has its own world and its own path to success. Singer-songwriters have the coffeehouses, college circuit, songwriter groups, rock clubs, etc, dance artists have djs, producers, club performances, etc, rap artists have battles, mixtapes, etc etc. So picking your genre will make it much easier to see the path you have to travel. Now that I know I’m doing dance-pop/house, I know I need to pursue DJs and producers who will play and improve upon my tracks and spread them around, and I need to perform in straight and gay dance clubs, not coffeehouses etc. Makes things a lot clearer and when you know what you have to do, it’s a lot easier to get it done.

2. At an AIMP song pitching event, one of the record label A&R guys explained that a hit song is really just a series of hooks. A great hook for the verse, a great hook for the prechorus, and then a series of a great hook, an even better hook, and the biggest and best hook comprising the chorus. Then, the bridge should be even better than the rest of the song. This is so true. Think of a hit song on top 40 radio right now, and it’s likely it will fit into that mold. Now that I know that, I think it will help me make sure my songs are hit material.

P.S. I’m getting a wee bit sick of doing all this self promotion, which is a hazard of this job that I never thought of before. It gets sort of boring and annoying to have your life be about you you you all the time. That makes me laugh though. And the simple fact is, if I don’t do it, no one else will, and it’s required for getting anywhere in music, and I am determined to be successful at this, so that’s life I guess. And now, back to twitter/myspace/facebook/thesixtyone/gmail. Barf.

Whoa, such busy times these are! Here’s what I’m working on:

1. Switching PRO’s. SESAC will actually help further my career with actual support and connections and opportunities. ASCAP is better for people who are already connected and making gobs of money than for people who need all the help they can get from all possible sources. Hoping this will lead to some great doors opening. It sure helped the woman who wrote “Womanizer!”

2. Trying to finish another new song by this weekend so I can give it to the band to learn before Wednesday’s rehearsal. Lyrics and melody are done but making the backing track takes mad time and thought.

3. Prepping for tomorrow’s show at the 2009 Dance Parade in Tompkins Square Park (on at 5:55pm tomorrow at the Main Stage). Just had a dance rehearsal with my childhood friend Yvonne, whom I’ve known since I was 7 and who’s now a pro dancer, and her fab friend Shyrelle. They are both amazing dancers. Was great to dance and learn choreography again. You know, I can really move. ๐Ÿ™‚ Made me want to get in way better shape, because there’s nothing more demanding of stamina than dancing and singing and entertaining all at once.

4. Collabing. Gotta write songs for two tracks from a fab woman I met at the ASCAP conference, had a remix made of “Everybody’s Crazy In New York” by DJ Identity and am waiting for two more remixes of my songs, one coming from Germany and the other from England. That happened from Myspace friending. It really does work! Also writing with the producer I sang for for the AIMP song pitching event.

5. Still myspace friending as much as possible every day I can, up to over 9,000 friends now. Almost at the original goal of 10,000 set both to get new listeners and create the impression that my stuff is worth listening to because a lot of other people are listening to it, which is true. People are really loving the music and I’m getting about 150 plays a day. 50 times what I got when I wasn’t using myspace often.

6. Studying music internet marketing and going to revamp my operations to be more effective.

7. Made a music video for “Can’t Stop (Remix)” which people have been loving. So proud of it. Check it at youtube.com/jccassis

8. Gotta record vocals for “Obsessed” and “Hands Off,” the two totally kick ass new songs I finished about a week ago. Time flies.

On the horizon:

1. New music videos, especially for “Everybody’s Crazy in New York”

2. New songs. I’m in a writing frenzy and having monthly shows is making me want to have new material at every single show.

3. Street performances, hopefully in Union Square, during the summer. Hopefully both full band and me with tracks and dancers. Can’t wait for that. Will be such a challenge, will improve my live show, grow my audience, and make some change. So so so exciting.

4. Almost ready for seeking out gay dance club gigs. Got a connection at Webster Hall, but not sure if that’s the right place to start off, rather than go when I’ve got a bigger following. But they have a small basement space that could be perfect. Still, I know that Therapy in Hell’s Kitchen has live shows, and that is a medium sized gay bar, so I should prolly see if I can start there and at similar small gay venues to have more intimate shows and get out there and meet/make fans. My music seems to strike a chord with gay men, which is exactly what I wanted, so I need to go to them and show them what I’m doing and see if they like it enough to start helping to build me up to where I want to go. If you can get a strong gay following, it can really grow from there. See Bette Midler, Madonna, Lady Gaga, etc etc etc.

Non-music:

Am looking into getting Invisalign to straighten out my teeth. Sick of taking pics that are ruined because the angle makes me look like I’ve been punched in the mouth one too many times. Need teeth that can be photographed from any angle and look good.

1000 business cards arrived today. Went through 500 really fast last time, wonder how long it will take to run out of these guys. Prepared to hand out a LOT of them tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚