Songmine: Looking at the 80’s Part Two by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Looking at the 80's Part Two by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-026-002 Document/Digital File, “Looking at the 80’s Part Two”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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Looking At The 80’s by John Braheny


Last issue I wrote about the effect of audio-visual technology on performers. There are some products and developments we can look forward to in the 80’s that will influence both our time and ability to be creative.Mass manufacture of miniature electronic circuitry has given us progressively more compact and less expensive toys. We see capitalism at its best in the intense competition to bring us the smallest, most versatile, high performance, reasonably priced electronic gadgetry the world has seen,and it’s only beginning.Here are some more innovations:

Personal computers — Fifteen years ago if someone said they had their own computer at home I would have visualized an enormous machine costing a million dollars with lots of people feeding it programs and data. Now you can go to Radio Shack and get one the size of a typewriter for $600.00 (last time I looked) and the competition among manufacturers is heavy. People are now learning computer programming like they learned to type and are turning out lots of valuable programs (software) for every conceivable use. Among the musicians developing computer programs is Jim Gordon who will be interviewed at the Songwriters Showcase on February 6. Jim has created a program to help in composing film scores which does the conversions from feet and frames to seconds and computes click track timing and bars of music necessary. He’s also created one to figure out recording budgets. If you can’t type and have difficulty in math it will save you hours of work. There is a music writing program available that plays the notes as you press the typewriter-styled keys so you can hear and see the note simultaneously. This would allow writers to store melodies they create — a definite advantage if you’re a terrible singer. There is another side benefit to this type of program. As you continue to use it you gradually learn to write the music yourself and don’t have to wait to get to your computer.The range of possibilities for useful programs is limited only by your imagination and programming skill.

Communications Satellites — More and more companies are either putting in orbit their own satellites or leasing access to existing ones. There is now some controversy brewing about some cable TV stations who, by virtue to their access to satellites, can beam their shows over half the earth. This is upsetting to the major networks because it’s possible for a little station somewhere in Iowa to reach as many people as NBC. They can also do it very cheaply and the cost of both the earth stations and satellites is dropping fast. There is fantastic potential for performers because there are so many unused cable channels available and therefore plenty of opportunity for new and established artists to be heard and seen. It would be possible to have a new talent channel that would continuously showcase new acts. Imagine calling a booking agent in Chicago or Podunk and saying, “I’ll be in your area in a couple of months and I’d like to play your circuit. I’ll be on the talent network at 2 p.m. your time. Have a look and call me back.” On the other end the booker checks out your show or, if he’s busy, he sets up his programmable video cassette recorder to tape it automatically, then he shows it to club owners to get you gigs in his area. You can see the possibilities are mind-boggling. Plays and musical theatre pieces could find backers and producers; songwriters and publishers could pitch songs; producers could shop acts; etc., etc.

There’s much more to these new developments than I have space to deal with here. If you’re interested I’d like to recommend a book called “The Wired Society—A Challenge for Tomorrow” by the world’s foremost systems author, James Martin. It’s a brilliant and visionary book that explores the future ramifications of the telecommunications revolution. After reading it your mind will be buzzing with ways these changes will benefit you as a performer. It will make you look forward to the 80’s with hope and excitement!

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.

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