25 Aug

A Marketer’s Guide to Starting an E-mail Newsletter Campaign


An internet marketing director shares insider tips, best practices and what to avoid when starting an e-mail newsletter for your company or small business.

It’s no secret that companies large and small are tightening their belts nowadays. When it comes to marketing, executives are demanding immediate results and long-term benefits all while reducing staff and budgets. Quite frankly, the calling card of the next-generation marketer will be uber-efficiency.

A Marketer's Guide to Starting an E-mail Newsletter Campaign 2

Social Network Marketing

There is no shortage of private presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. True Goliath-sized corporate enterprises such as Bank of America, PepsiCo, Target, and Wal-Mart establish communications through more conversational social networking messaging. After all, these companies have loud voices, and often-times they’re able to market their products or services directly to customers on a medium that the customers are comfortable on.

Marketing through a social media website can have its drawbacks. For starters, your company better be ready to respond to criticism in complete transparency. If a customer is unsatisfied, they won’t hesitate to head to your Facebook page and post a complaint where thousands of other potential or past customers can see it. Secondly, with many users on Facebook having hundreds, if not thousands of friends, all while following maybe 300 profiles on Twitter, it’s easy for a message to get lost in the shuffle. That’s why within my first month as a marketing coordinator, I designed and maintained pages on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and immediately synergized those communications with an opt-in e-mail program. This way, if my company’s customers were simply more comfortable browsing through a social networking forum, there were buttons right there in the message’s body that directed them to our Facebook, Twitter or our MySpace.

Return on Investment

As I mentioned, the next-generation marketer is uber-efficient and able to reign in the biggest return on investment. If you work in digital marketing, you know the ins-and-outs of search engine optimization, or SEO, including utilizing keywords, inward links, and paid text advertisements. Even with high organic search engine rankings, marketers are on average looking to bring in 80% of their company’s income through returning customers. Not only is e-mail marketing an effective tool to keep customers coming back by informing them of upcoming events, sales or promotions, e-mail marketing nearly doubles the ROI of text click advertising.

According to a 2009 study by the Direct Marketing Association, for every $1 spent, e-mail marketing brought in an ROI of $43.62 while every $1 spent on SEO produced $21.85.

Starting an E-Mail Marketing Campaign

Adding e-mail communications to your marketing plan is an easier undertaking than it may appear. Even for the internet and HTML novice, companies such as Constant Contact, and for the slightly-more advanced, Exact Target, enable marketers and small business owners to compose professional communications in a manner that is time-efficient. Before composing your first message, get an idea as to a customer’s expectations regarding the content and frequency of communications.

Opting-In and Segmenting Messages

Regardless of the method, you choose to send your messages to remember one thing: a customer voluntarily agrees to receive your communications, and you must cherish that opportunity and that relationship. There are practices that beginners or even ignorant marketers make that can cause a large amount of those customers to cease receiving e-mail communications.

First, only e-mail past or prospective customers that authorize receiving marketing e-mails. If your website has an e-store, enable customers upon checking out to receive your company’s e-newsletter and emphasize the happenings you will be conveying – be it sales, new arrivals or gift-giving guides during the holidays. In my experience, I’ve offered new subscribers to our e-mail program a 10% off coupon for their next order. There is an incentive right off the bat. Often times if a person receives an e-mail they don’t believe they signed up for they’ll be quick to mark it as spam, which hurts deliverability. Also, a high spam rate can cause you to be flagged by the service that sends your e-mails, in which case they may suspend your business’s account.

Secondly, segment your e-mails as much as possible. In my first marketing position, I worked for a company that sold sports memorabilia, and when I was composing a sale of our basketball items, I would always send those communications to customers who had previously purchased basketball items, or who listed they would like to receive promotions regarding basketball items when opting in. Sending uninteresting or unappealing messages to customers will cause them to opt-out and lead to low click-through rates. It was one of the first things I learned as a marketer and I keep it in mind to this day: always try to maintain a 1:1 relationship with your customer.

Note: the prototypical example of a company that does not segment its e-mail communications is Overstock.com. When I purchased a messenger bag for my laptop back in November of 2010, I opted into their e-mail program. Five to six times a week, one of Overstock’s marketing e-mails comes to my inbox proclaiming “HALF-OFF ALL BLINDS AND AREA RUGS”. Short of fabric, I can’t find any connection between a messenger bag and area rugs, which leads me to my next area.

Take It Easy With CAPS LOCK

I refer to subject lines that are typed in all capitals as ‘screamers’ because when I read something typed with the caps lock on, it’s the equivalent of listening to someone talk to me through a loudspeaker. Don’t do it. Not to mention, we’ve all had at least one boss or easily-flustered HR rep that would send out office-wide e-mails regarding a “MEETING IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM AT 3:30”. Don’t scream at your customers, and don’t conjure up bad memories. In addition to the tiny personal traumas these subject lines might cause, they reduce deliverability because often times servers automatically flag them as spam. As mentioned, having more than 8% of your messages being flagged as spam will get you in trouble with your messaging intermediary.

Be Compelling

Provide those that receive your messages with good content that will make them want to keep reading, or learn more about a product or service. Remember, the name of the game here is click-throughs. What that means is we want a prospective customer to open the e-mail and eventually click-through the message to visit the website. But where do we want these customers clicking-through to?


Landing Pages and Consistency

If you’re highlighting a specific service, page or product through your marketing e-mail, make sure that when customers click-through these messages, they arrive on the page that is relevant to the message. An example would be if you owned a bakery and wanted to advertise a special on wedding cakes, when the customer clicks through to come to the website, have the link embedded in the e-mail direct them to the page dedicated to wedding cakes. If the customer reading your message wants to learn more about wedding cakes, so they click-through to the only land on the front or main page of your website, you’re adding unnecessary steps to conversion, or sale.

Also, ensure that the messaging on your website, the landing page, and the e-mail communication are all consistent. If your e-mail stated there was a 10% sell-off all wedding cakes, then the messaging disappears when the customer arrives at the landing page, there is a disconnect, and a disadvantage when trying to secure a conversion. The only exemption here would be when you advertise a sale strictly to your e-mail-receiving customers. For a case like this, include a coupon code in the body of the e-mail.

For example, “To redeem your exclusive 10% off coupon, enter the code BELLS at checkout”.A Marketer's Guide to Starting an E-mail Newsletter Campaign


Note: This only works if your e-store supports coupon codes. Also, most do, if your website doesn’t, ask your HR manager to arrange a meeting using one of her screaming subject line e-mails.

Be Upfront and Respect Unsubscribe Requests Immediately

Do not spam your customers. Ensure that every e-mail communication has dialogue that allows customers to easily unsubscribe from receiving such e-mails. Complying with such requests is one of the provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act passed back in 2003, which mandates all opt-out requests be completed within 10 business days.

Complying with other regulations in the CAN-SPAM act also mandates that every advertisement is clearly labeled as such and that your business’s physical address is located somewhere inside the e-mail. Be upfront with your customers and don’t use misleading messages in your subject lines. Respecting the wishes and meeting the needs of your customer can lead to a long and valuable symbiotic relationship.

Read More
14 Apr

Why Classical Music Transcends Time

Many people the world over love and revere the work of the great classical composers. They find joy in the works of Handel and Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. To others just the sound of the names of these great composers makes them turn their ears off. Many think Classical equals boring, however, there are reasons that classical music is considered classic and will last for all time.

Beethoven is now on your smartphoneHave you ever sat down to watch a movie and turned the sound off? Even with no words being spoken you miss out. You find that the movie does not have the same emotional hold on you. The music prods the story along. Sometimes it will make you sit at the edge of your seat in suspense, at other times cheer for the hero’s triumph, or weep for his loss. It is a fundamental building block to a great movie. It is an element frequently overlooked by the moviegoer. We cheer for the actors, the director, the set, the lights, the makeup and the CGI animation, but rarely do we walk out and say “so what did you think of that score?” When a composer has done his or her job on a movie score, it will simply enhance the other features in the movie.

You may think to yourself “what does this have to do with classical music?”. The answer? Everything. In order to make a musical piece work, you have to have a knowledge of how music itself works. As a music major, I have learned a lot about classical music and how important it is in the music scene today. One definition of the word classic is serving as a standard, model, or guide. Classical music is, quite often, a model for composers today. For example, in music theory class we studied about Bach. Bach had a way of writing pieces that take you on a journey as you listen. Bach’s music became a form for other composers to fill out. Ever hear of a Fugue? Well, Bach did it first, and Bach did it right. There are now rules and forms to writing music that did not exist before his time. You may not know them or understand them, but most people with any sort of a musical ear will be able to tell the difference between a piece that follows a proper chord progression and one that doesn’t.

Then there is Beethoven who was losing his hearing by his early twenties. He struggled and toiled over his music, but after his ninth symphony, nobody else wrote another symphony for years because of how great it was. Music like that never dies. To those who think that classical music is dead, you have my sympathy. You are going to miss out on some wonderful things if you choose to never listen to classical music. Just try to block out all the influence of the great composers; but keep in mind the next time you hear your child singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ that it is Mozart you’re listening to.

Read More
4 Mar

6 of The Best WP SEO Tools & Plugins

In today’s world almost all internet traffic begins with a search engine and most of the searchers don’t go past the first page of results. Search engines being the main source of traffic for content sites, it is important for you to optimize your content. This will ensure it ranks higher in the search results.

However, this does not mean that you should stuff your content with keywords and forget about your readers. No, you need to keep your content user-friendly and aimed at helping your readers.

Now, you may be wondering how to make your content user-friendly as well as SEO-friendly. This can easily be achieved by utilizing some of the tools that will optimize your content on search engines.

Also, note that you need to make sure that your website’s load time is optimized. You can do this by running a speed test to analyze your site’s performance and get tips on how to make it faster. This can be achieved by using an online speed test tool.

Here are a few SEO tools and plugins

  1. Google Analytics by Monster Insights

Using google analytics to track data on how visitors and search engines view your site is very important. This helps you improve your site’s SEO, make better business decisions and create marketing strategies that convert.

Tracking data in digital marketingWhen using WordPress, monster insight is the best google analytics plugin to use. It is very user-friendly and is more powerful. The best thing about this is that you do not need to hover around from your site to Google Analytics.

It is all there on your WordPress dashboard. You get to see what keywords people are using when they find your site. This will help you determine what your visitors are looking for and do more of that.

  1. Google keyword planner

Since stuffing your content with a lot of keywords is not an SEO tactic anymore, you need to adopt the strategic use of keywords. Google keyword planner is a great tool that helps you find new keywords for your business.

You can search for words, phrases, and URLs related to your business then you’ll see the top keyword with average monthly searches on google. It also shows the historical data associated with those keywords to help you know how popular they are.

The best part apart from the immense value it offers, is that is is a free tool. All you need is an Adwords account which is also free.

  1. Yoast SEO

This is the best reviewed and most downloaded SEO plugin for WordPress. The best part is that it is free so you don’t have to worry about breaking your budget.

It helps you analyze how well each post and page is optimized for the search engine depending on the keywords you are targeting. It also allows you to set canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content and add titles and meta tags for your site.

Using Yoast also gives you the advantage of checking every content you write and show you how it looks from readability and SEO point of view. This will help you create better content.

  1. SEMRush

SEMRush is a great tool because it helps you analyze your marketing effort and compare them to your competitors. This will help you gather important insights that may improve your marketing strategy.

It also helps you see what organic keywords your site is ranking for, the performance of your advertising and where your backlinks come from. Interestingly, with this tool, you can also view all this information with regards to your competitor’s website. This helps you improve your strategies and even borrow some of the techniques that are working for them to ensure your site stands out.

  1. Broken Link Checker

As your website grows and you continue putting out more content it may become difficult to keep up with the management of your blog. This is where this tool comes in handy.

Broken link checker is a WordPress plugin that monitors your posts, pages, comments and other content for broken links and missing images. Broken links create a really bad impression among your site’s visitors and also harms your SEO. This is because search engines always look at and follow your links.

If a broken link is found, it will notify you on your WordPress dashboard or through email allowing you to go in and fix those links. This tool is not only great for SEO but also making your site more user-friendly.

  1. SEO Quake

This is a browser addon designed to help you get SEO insights with a simple mouse click. You can install it on Mozilla Firefox, google chrome and opera to see a huge selection of SEO parameters for any web page. The parameters include page rank, Google index, and Alexa ranking.

It also reports the nofollow links and keyword density for various phrases. You can also compare your statistics against those of your competitors. The best part is that it is free and provides great benefits for your site.

  1. LinkPatrol

It helps you “find, fix and get control of the links on your website.” It is very useful because it helps to track your outgoing links and makes it easy to clean up outdated ones.

It delivers link reports and allows you to easily delete broken or spammy links. It is important for anyone serious with their SEO to ensure they invest in this tool. It will save you a lot of hustle and assure your credibility to your site visitors. Nobody wants to follow links that are spammy or broken.

Due to the constant search engine algorithm changes, you cannot expect to perfect your SEO formula. However, by using these tools, you can create a search engine friendly site that can help boost your rankings.

In case all this is too much for you as you start out, you can always turn to NYC SEO specialists for your company. This is to ensure you get started on the right note and learn from them as you grow.

Read More
20 Feb

The Crooning Beginnings of Jazz Pianist Tom Waits

Tom Waits’ cult appeal owes much to his unusual instruments (ranging from accordions and bassoons to scrap metal and giant rattling seedpods). He is also celebrated for composing in a quirky mix of rock, blues, folk, Caribbean rhythms, European cabaret and other genres. His experimentalism is now so synonymous with his name that many listeners – fans included – would never even suspect that Tom Waits was once known for sentimental piano ballads.

The Waitsian style we’re used to first graced the artist’s output with Swordfishtrombones (1983) – his eighth studio album. It was such a departure from his seven previous efforts that it prompted Asylum, his seventies label, to turn it down with a warning: “not only will you lose the audience that you have, you won’t gain a new one,” reports Mojo (#162, 2007). Could the difference be that shocking?

Yes, it could.

Tom Waits on the keyboardThe Piano Has Been Drinking

A glance through his seventies career highlights reveals what fans expected from Tom Waits: slow ballads about broken-hearted working-class alcoholics. Since his debut, the staples of his repertoire were variations on romantic longing and rejection, like “Martha,” “Rosie” and “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night.”

That melancholic piano was never far away. His raspy voice was the only noise in his songs – melodies were clean, even elegant. Crooner Jazz was a clear reference: “Eggs and Sausage” and “On a Foggy Night” echo the charming simplicity of “Fever,” “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and other fifties standards.

As Waits’ vocal delivery became increasingly exaggerated in its mock-drunkenness, his melancholia gained a humorous, ironic quality. By his third record, he was not afraid to work a few bars of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” into his introductory banter to “Better off Without a Wife.” At first glance, Nighthawks at the Diner resembles a stand-up act, so interspersed it is with witty babble.

The piano ballad format was already showing signs of exhaustion: Waits could no longer take it seriously. He plunged into a lampooning stance, rather than becoming a parody of himself.

First Attempts at Reinvention

That growing irreverence was his first consistent effort to move away from the ballad format. It soon led him to a seedy sort of Beatnik jazz, yielding spoken-word cuts like “Small Change” and “The One That Got Away.” The On the Road-inspired “Jack and Neal” made that influence explicit. But sax and drugs were not enough to appease Waits’ yearnings: he needed to break with jazz entirely.

A noticeable departure came with 1978’s Blue Valentine, which greatly emphasized strings (as in the languid title track). Bluesy guitars made the shuffles “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard” and “$29.00” sound like Howlin’ Wolf or Sonny Boy Williamson fan favorites. The album’s oddest cut, the cinematic “Red Shoes by the Drugstore,” would prove extremely foreshadowing of his new directions, becoming a standard at Waits’ concerts for another decade.

Heartattack and Vine, his 1980 follow-up, featured atmospheric string arrangements in songs like “On the Nickel.” They signaled the consummate maturity of the new Tom Waits: the ballad had been reinvented, freed from its jazzy constraints. “Jersey Girl,” later a hit for Bruce Springsteen, became a lingering example of Waits’ post-jazz sentimentality. Parallelly, the title track and other uptempo, guitar-driven numbers amplified hints of much noise to come.

Challenging Music for Listeners and Performers

There is no clear separation between the bohemian who slurred “The Piano Has Been Drinking” and the mad professor who smashed a chest of drawers for percussion in “Singapore.” “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” from 1976, could easily fit Frank’s Wild Years, while odd instruments can be attested since his first album, with something called a “celeste” providing the introduction and coda for “Ice Cream Man.”

Waits’ development is more organic than that. Suffice it to say that the press release for 2004’s Real Gone trumpeted it as his first piano-free record. It took him thirty years to get there.

Nevertheless, Waits’ piano-driven tracks had unique qualities largely unheard in his later records. “New Coat of Paint,” “Eggs and Sausage” and “Wrong Side of the Road” might be the most accessible jazz you’ll hear between the heyday of the crooners in the fifties and the new wave of piano divas like Diana Krall and Norah Jones. It’s easy to forget there’s more to jazz than manic improvisations a la Coltrane.

Asylum would have plenty of reasons to regret dropping Waits: Swordfishtrombones quickly became a critical hit, paving the way for the massive acclaim that would follow Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years, culminating with a Grammy for 1992’s frantic Bone Machine.

Still, the minimal attention generally paid to Waits’ quieter period gives one pause to wonder. Perhaps Asylum’s prophecy came half-true: while Swordfishtrombones effectively repositioned Tom Waits as an avant-garde genius, it may have sentenced his jazz age to remote obscurity.

Read More
3 Jan

Get Your Way Around a Better Headshot

Actors’ headshot is their first impression and point of contact in the world of acting. It’s more like a signature that helps you put forward your acting application and network in the acting industry. However, half of the time the headshots are either too overly done or makes an actor look very timid.

Most of the beginner actors are scared of their stills clicked. They get too nervous and are not able to portray their true skills in front of the camera for headshots. There are a lot of ways that you can implement to improvise your headshot shoot. This post will take you through some of the important tips by the exponent of theatre acting, Lee Strassberg on how to improve your headshot shoot and just be yourself during the process.

Making an impressionCalm down and loosen up

Initially, actors tend to get too tensed up while giving the head shot. Try and take a deep breath and loosen up your body and the face muscles. There are some good exercises to loosen up face muscles to get started. In fact, try to think about something else while you are there in front of the camera so that you can ease down yourself and give up your nervousness.

Your posture

A wrong or a bad posture can easily ruin up your photo shoot.  For instance, if you have a slouched up style of sitting or your head is sunk into your shoulders, your stills won’t look good. The perfect thing to rectify this would be to try out some yoga poses or your go-to Alexander posture.

Try to play a bit

Although you are physically still but internally you need to portray yourself as a quirky and funky person. When you are still mentally as well, the picture will be pretty boring and monotonous. For this purpose, just play a bit in your head and get some cool, fun headships that will engage the audience as well.

Be natural

If you have a really jazzed up look, there will be a lot of distractions in your photo shoot.  So it is important to step away from clothes that are full of bling and makeup that is too bold. Just be as natural as you can and be simple. This way you will be able to portray your true features, and you will be able to entice the audience with your good looking features in the photograph.

Know your face angles

If before stepping up on the stage you rehearse your lines and try to tweak up your performance a bit, then do the same thing here as well before getting ready for the headshot practice a bit in front of the mirror. Try to know your face, figure out the perfect angles of your face. Gain some confidence and then kill it in front of the camera.

Tyra popularizing smizeTry to connect with the audience

When you are giving a still, there is no audience. But when you are on stage for a drama, you have the audience to connect with, and you look straight into their eyes to connect with them and engage them. Similarly, when you are in the photo shoot try to connect with the photographer and wrap him up in your thoughts. Just try looking straight into the camera lens, right in the middle. You will be able to give a bang on the shot.

Nothing is wrong in the way you are doing it

There are different kinds of photographers in the industry, and all of them have different ways and tactics for getting a perfect headshot still. Some of them will engage you in a conversation, and some of them will ask you to just play around with things. Remember that, there are different ways of getting a perfect shot. So, none of the ways of taking a still is wrong; it is just that your photographer is using a different way.

Try communicating with your eyes

When you are in front of the camera, and you are thinking about something, don’t just focus on one thought. Keep on thinking about numerous things. This way if there is a little tweak in your thought, you will be giving a little change in your expression in your still as well. This way there will be a minor difference of expression in front of the camera screen.

Try to review your shots

Most of the times, the photographers tend to give you some notes on the improvisation process of your headshot.  But you won’t be able to understand those tips perfectly if you do not take a look at your pictures yourself. So, during the breaks, make it a point to take a glimpse of your shots and review them so that you can improvise in your rest of the shoot.

Always listen to your photographer

While you are going for a photo shoot, you will always have something in your head or a perfect shot and numerous other ways to quirk up your photo shoot. But remember that the photographer is the audience here. The photographer actually knows the right and wrong in the still. So, if the photographer is telling you that something in the shot is not working for you, then do listen to the photographer and try to implement that in your shoot.

Unveiling the truth behind your headshots

The best thing that your photographer can do to you is, to be honest with you regarding your performance. If a photographer is able to tell you nitty gritty in your shots and can tell you to rectify them, then that is the best thing. It is always good to know where you are going wrong and how can you rectify that. The photographer plays the most important role in this process. It is good to be critical rather than faking things in front of you.

In a nutshell, it is always good to take some advice from the photographer and understand the context behind the photo shoot. This way you will be able to give out a better performance in front of the camera and implement these tips in your next photo shoot.  For young actors looking to join the acting school in New York and wish to ace the method acting skills, check out different acting programs and courses at NewYork Method Acting.

Pick your best headshot and apply for the auditions at the school. A good headshot will open up doors of great opportunities for you and will help you out in bagging the perfect opportunity for your career. So be ready to portray your best in front of the camera and catch up on some future golden prospects.

Read More
4 Dec

Music When at Work

Category:MusicTag: , , , :

If it is to be a given that listening to music at work is allowed, then I have to say that it can be a handy tool along with a way to make the day pass. I, personally, make perfect use of music at work and am grateful for the ability to make it part of my workday.

For disclosure, I think that it is essential to know that my job is one of great responsibilities and multi-tasking is redefined. I manage three departments, and I am also the program manager for the single most significant contract in the company. Some people in similar situations feel the need to resort to high amounts of caffeine or other stimulants to get through a typical day. I find that I can utilize music to keep my mind right during the day.

Studies show that music improves concentrationWhat the type of music listened to is most important. Some people are content to have the lite FM station going all day with Phil Collins and Michael Bolton to fill a need to only have something in the background. Some people can have a personal music system strapped to their hip with their entire music catalog at their fingertips as their mood changes during the day. For some people, it is a matter of volume that gives them what they need from music. If the volume is below the sound of their work, they are struggling to hear and thus creating a distraction.

My music needs at work change at any given time during the day. I start out most mornings with Metal Rock Gods Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, or Nine Inch Nails at a volume just above the sound of my work because I am usually alone in the morning for the first 45 minutes. The attitude and driving double bass of a band like this gets me in a high powered mood to get me the energy I need to do pre-game prep for my three departments. I have found that I am not getting as much done to get these departments lined up for the day with other less hard-driven bands.

Around 8 AM I am no longer alone, and so the volume goes down, but the content is the same. Disturbed will usually last until just after 9 AM when I find myself changing gears and needing to have deeper thinking capabilities. The bands I rely on for this would be the likes of Maroon 5 and Dave Mathews Band. These groups give me the amount of background noise with just enough thought-provoking groove to keep me focused on getting reports done and get pre-afternoon prep done.

The entire afternoon will be spent with modern rock bands such as The Used, Brand New, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy. Not demean their talent in any way, but these groups have just enough motivation that serves as adequate background noise for the afternoon. These particular bands pose enough tracks that a random mix of all their CD’s will last the five-hour stretch to quitting time.

One form or another, I have music on at my desk all day every day with the constant changes of content and volume contingent upon given situations. There are the times when the ultimate concentration is required which depending on the reason for the level of consistency will bring about bands like Peter Gabriel and Sting. Not only are they effective at any volume, but their music is also personally motivating given their level of accomplishment in music.

The only time there will be no music to be heard at my desk is when there is an impromptu meeting held at my office or the dreaded utterance of the words, “we have a problem.” Those words usually bring about the horrifying sound of silence at any desk. The sudden presence of your boss at your desk is also a music killer.

I honestly believe that the true answer to this debate lies in what music means to you outside of work. I have a great love of music and play drums, so I bring a different set of circumstances to the debate than someone who merely enjoys music but thinks that an arpeggio is a great place to get Italian food.

Read More
26 Oct

Learning by Ear – Learning Music Isn’t as Easy

Music is one of the world’s simplest languages to learn. It looks very technical and obscure to many people but provides years of enrichment once learned. Many people even learn the very basic rudiments of music in general music classes in elementary school and then pick up the finer points later in life as a hobby or second career.

In many ways, music is one of few subjects that can be taught and learned in school or by yourself. Often, children learn to read the notes on the staff by studying an instrument or joining a chorus in school. However, childhood is not the only time to learn music. Some people try out several instruments on their way through school, while others may take a music appreciation class and find that they enjoy listening to the masterworks. This enjoyment sometimes leads the formerly passive listener to jump from attending concerts to finding a local teacher from whom to learn to play a favorite instrument. In this case, a good teacher can show a student who may know how to read a small amount of music and teach him or her by way of relating new notes to the old ones how to read even more, a great way for an older student to learn piano.

Any instrument will take time to masterMany resources exist for those who wish to learn music. Some can learn it by ear, taking what they have heard on the radio or a recording and then playing it on a guitar or piano almost right away. Many of these people memorize their music and perhaps come back to learning to read it later.. The guitarists who do this often begin by learning which chords relate to what chord symbols on the sheet music, then some choose to learn the actual notes while others learn a guitar-specific form of music called TAB where each line of a musical staff corresponds to a certain string on the guitar.

Visual learners often choose to learn many things, including musical notation, by starting with a book or computer program. Printed guides can be found in the bookstore for those with any level of musical expertise, from absolute beginners and those with passing curiosity to someone who needs to fill in gaps in a prior education. Such guides often teach by way of showing the relationships between various notes and chords, so an instrument on which to try the theories presented is helpful, but not required. Some books and websites begin by presenting the material from a mathematical perspective, while others start right off with the music itself, so anyone with interest can find a way to start.

One can always choose to learn enough basics to sing in a local choir or continue into composing and arranging his or her music. Computers can help in this regard when certain instruments may not be available since the programs used in music can duplicate the sounds of many instruments. As with other languages of the world, some people choose to follow all of the rules in creating and playing music, while others only learn the rules to break them and have truly original ways of sharing how they feel with others. Once the language of music is learned, the person had a beautiful, artistic means for communicating with the world.

Read More
24 Sep

Norman Brown Captures New Takes on Sources of His Inspiration

The multi-talented Grammy award winner records for the Peak Records label and has earned an international following of loyal fans who share his passion for great music and performing before live audiences. With the release of Sending My Love, Brown continues to make his presence felt on the jazz scene in the post – Smooth Jazz Movement. This inspired program of nine original songs reflects his uplifting influence on contemporary jazz.

American jazz guitarist Norman BrownAbout the Songs and on Sending My Love

Norman Brown’s superb guitar playing and quasi-instrumental vocalizing techniques have generated critical acclaim and commercial success for his much-beloved recipe of sounds. The songs are a stylistic mix of instrumental and vocal compositions that feature a wide array of contemporary jazz musicians. Longtime collaborators making contributions include drummer Teddy Campbell, bassist Alex Al, drummer Teddy Campbell, rhythm guitarist Jubu, Herman Jackson, and percussionist Kevin Ricard.

Among the songs included are Kenny Loggins’ iconic “Celebrate Me Home” which features Brown’s daughter Rochella Brown serving up her soulful vocals as well as the Grammy-winning choral ensemble called Sounds of Blackness. The song is dedicated to another of Brown’s daughters who are serving in Iraq. “Play Time,” and “Special Moments” offers listeners two different sides of Norman’s exemplary guitarist expertise. The former has an uptempo Latin flavor the incites you to dance while the latter has a mellow, laid-back sound that invites you to relax with that special someone.

“I’m Pouring My Heart Out” and “One Last Goodbye” are both showcases for the talents of producer/songwriters The Bizness, Melvin Moore III, and Floyd E. Bentley III. These songs feature soothing, soulful vocals and heartwrenching lyrics that should appeal to the romantic nature of Brown’s fans. Brown anticipates a broader appeal by adding these youthful collaborators, and in turn, their distinct efforts have become significant events on this recording.

Although Norman Brown’s compositions works traverse jazz, pop, and funk idioms, it is his smooth, mellow guitar work that appeals most to his fans. The centerpiece and title track of the recording are “Sending My Love.” This song features Brown signature musical dialogue that emphasizes his harmonic and melo-rhythmic approach to a song as well as his artistic maturity.

About Norman Brown, The Musician

Born in Shreveport and raised in Kansas City, Norman Brown first began playing guitar at the age of 8! Initially inspired by the legendary Jimi Hendrix’s mind-bending rock sounds, Brown later discovered the cool sounds of mellow jazzman Wes Montgomery. After moving to Los Angeles, he attended and then graduated from the Musicians Institute where he also taught guitar for several years.

After playing the club scene in Los Angeles for a while, Brown was noticed by scouts for the MoJazz Record label and signed to the division of Motown Records. In 1992, his debut Just Between Us gained full recognition, but it was his follow up titled After The Storm that becomes his first certified- gold record. Brown moved over to Warner Brothers where he teamed up with hit-making producer Paul Brown. They offered the world Celebration, and in 2003 they won their Grammy award for Just Chillin’ in the Best Pop Instrumental category.

In 2005, West Coast Coolin’ featured Brown’s vocals and went on to become a major seller for the guitarist. Now with Peak Records since 2007’s smash hit Stay With Me, Brown is building on the musical foundation he laid with that record. With Sending My Love he is sure to garner even more fans due to the inspired performances of his core group and guest artists, but most of all because of his smooth, mellow sounds emanating from his guitar and vocals.

Read More
25 Apr

Demystifying Jazz Bands

Modern jazz bands come in many different sizes and styles. Each variation is dependent on several factors, the most important being the type of music being played and the venue in which the performance takes place. Smaller jazz bands called combos. Ordinarily witnessed in nightclubs, jazz clubs, and other similarly confined spaces, combos are composed of 3 to 5 musicians. Larger full-size jazz bands are widely involved in extended venues and traditional dancehall-style gatherings. Again, the question of what defines a jazz band depends mainly on where and what the group is playing.

Combo Groups

The smaller jazz band combo groups are often made up of 3 to 7 musicians. An often mainstay in the group, an acoustic bass player provides the jazzed up low tones. However, the remaining members are required in any premutation. A bass, sax, and piano trio might work well with some small jazz bands. In others, the bass, a trumpet, and a drum set player may be included in the foray. The beauty of such small jazz band ensembles is that the musicians tend to do almost all of their music from memory, improvising their rhythms and melodies on the spot. When the musicians of a jazz combo work well together and are sufficiently talented, they can perform an entire evening’s show and have it never be exactly the same on any two nights. Other musicians may often “sit in” on the performance, adding their improvised melodies to the music, creating even more variations in the size and makeup of the jazz band combo.

Big Bands

Although there are other variations on the jazz band combo instrumentation the more widely recognized jazz band ensemble is the full big band style jazz band. Made up of a much larger contingent of musicians, the traditional big band is made up of up to 5 saxophones (2 alto saxes, two tenor saxes, and baritone sax), 4 or 5 trombones (one of which is often a bass trombone), and 4 or 5 trumpets. Complementing the brass and woodwinds is a rhythm section consisting of a drum set player, pianist, acoustic or electric bass player, and an acoustic or electric guitar player. As with the jazz combo, the instrumentation of a full-size jazz band may vary based on the music. Many of the early jazz bands employed clarinetists instead of the full contingent of saxes.


The many different variations of jazz band styles and instrumentations are one of the many things that make jazz band music so exciting and fun to listen to. No other mainstream music form is so dependent on improvisation and personal interpretation. That simple distinction is what has helped make jazz band music become an integrated part of music education programs in all 50 states and around the world.

Read More
19 Mar

Common Wedding Music Mistakes

Choosing your wedding music playlist can be a headache given that there are so many songs to choose from. For sure, you and your partner have lots of ideas in mind, and it can be difficult to determine from the wide array of music selections. It can be even more challenging if you and your partner have different music preferences. How then do you unite the two?

Wedding songs get the guests on their feetNo couple would want their wedding to be a flop. Of course, every couple would want their wedding to be memorable and something that guests will remember fondly. But no matter how much you prepare, there still are things that you may miss, and some things that may not work out in the end. It can be frustrating, given that you have given a lot of time and effort into making the event perfect.

One of the things that many couples make a mistake is with their wedding music. It sounds simple, but it is surprising that many couples make tragic mistakes when it comes to their music, making the event far from what everybody’s expecting. But when you think about it, how can you go wrong with something as simple as music? Well, it happens, and it may be because of the many other preparations that couples have to think about. The choice of music is usually put on the last priority; but not surprisingly, music makes a big difference in making or breaking a wedding event.

Many times, avoiding mistakes is made easier when you are reminded of what to and not to do. You may think of something as “normal,” but in reality, is something that can fail in your event. So, to further help you avoid mistakes, here are the common wedding mistakes that couples must avoid at all costs:

1. Thinking that recorded music does the trick

Sorry to break it to you: but any recorded music just won’t do the cut when it comes to your wedding celebration. It sounds cheap, and it does not get to complement the event in the way that you like. Playing recorded music instead of a DJ or band is much like having a house party for a group of 20. For sure, you don’t want the quality of your wedding to be compromised just because of your choice. You must make sure that the music that you play can give justice to your wedding, and your music can be the perfect complement to your event.

live band for your receptionYou must throw away recorded music as one of your options. Your choice must be either with a band or DJ, depending on your event’s theme, your preference as a couple, and budget. If you are living in New Jersey, a good choice would be Around Town Entertainment (http://aroundtownent.com/new-jersey-wedding-bands/) as it allows you to enjoy music from a well-acclaimed band while not pushing out a lot from your wedding budget. When choosing the band or DJ to play for your event, read testimonials and ask for past clients’ opinion. You must not let false advertising get to you and sway your decision into choosing one music band over another. Remember, live music is crucial to making your event lively and memorable. If you think a DJ or band is out of your budget, think twice, because it is essential for you to have live music for your wedding. You can adjust your budget on other add-ons to your event because recorded music will never do the cut for your wedding.

2. Not checking with the ceremony’s officiant

You may think that since it is the modern age, you can play whatever music you like for your wedding. However, tradition remains when it comes to ceremonies, especially when the wedding is being done in a church or place of worship. It can be offending to the officiant if you choose to play modern renditions of songs you like because it is expected that you will abide by the church’s rules.

Before you play “Perfect” or “Yellow” in the church, make sure that you’ve checked with the officiant. If he/she gives you a signal, then, by all means, play the songs that you’ve asked permission in. If the officiant says “No,” then respect the decision and do not keep on crying over something that is beyond your control.

3. Sticking to one genre

Sticking to one music genre for the entire wedding can be incredibly boring to guests. If you choose to play rock or ballad songs, guests may find it irritating and might even drive them out of the venue. It is understandable that you may only have one genre that you like. But you have to mix it up for your guests to enjoy the party. Do not make the event all about you; instead, think of ways to liven up the party for everybody to enjoy.

You don’t have to ruin your wedding just because of poor music choices. Make sure that you avoid these mistakes, so you, your partner, and guests end up having fun at the party.

Read More

“Alan Baylock has achieved a goal that many artists aspire to, but often fail to reach: he has developed his own distinct sound as a composer. His writing is fresh, and is imbued with a great sense of spirit and fun.”
– Gordon Goodwin (Grammy & Emmy award winning composer/bandleader)

Profile Pic Alan

“Baylock goes beyond the pale and creates moods and textures which challenge a big band to be on their best behavior. I have the highest regard for his writing.” – David Liebman