Size does NOT matter: The REAL secret of great musicianship with Meghan Trainor


by Kate Beaudoin & Jessica Brandon

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

How did Meghan Trainor do it? It’s been a year since pop singer Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with, “All About That Bass.” Within the year of the video’s release, it racked up an impressive 1 Billion views on YouTube. Before long, the single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for nine weeks (also hit #1 in 58 different countries) and helped Trainor’s debut album, Title, debut No.1 on the Billboard 200 charts. The media has written that Trainor came from nowhere, but did you know she was discovered in IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) in 2009 and won Best Female Artist with an acoustic song “Waterfalls”? And she became one of the most-talked-about artists of the year. And she did it all on the mantel of empowerment — at least, that’s what she’d have you believe.


“All About That Bass” was so successful in large part due to the idea that it was the new feminist anthem; after all, 2014 was the year of the booty and empowerment was in. But to those who read between the lines of Trainor’s clever marketing ploy, it’s clear as day that “All About That Bass” is as far from a feminist anthem as they come. Trainor’s problematic stance extends far beyond that single. By simultaneously claiming a feminist mantle and advocating an anti-feminist agenda, Trainor has become a threat to all the gains that pop music has made in feminism recently.

What the lyrics are really saying. The messages in Trainor’s songs are often ostensibly about encouraging healthy self-confidence. “I hope [‘All About That Bass’] helps girls love themselves more, because they’re adorable. Women too,” Trainor told Glamour. The issue, however, is that those supposedly empowering lyrics encourage impressionable girls to be happy with themselves only when men deem them acceptable. People criticized “All About That Bass” for its skinny-shaming, but even more concerning is that Trainor claims your worth comes from what men think of you.

“Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” Trainor sings, explaining why it’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch.” It’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch,” but only because some boys prefer you that way.

The crown jewel of Trainor’s anti-feminism is easily “Dear Future Husband.” When the video for “Dear Future Husband” hit YouTube in March, many rightly claimed that her message was sexist. Trainor’s lyrics advocate outdated gender roles (“Cause if you’ll treat me right / I’ll be the perfect wife / Buying groceries”), seeking self-worth based on men’s opinions (“If you wanna get that special lovin’ / Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night”) and, of course, confirming the idea that all women are crazy, emotional creatures (“You gotta know how to treat me like a lady / Even when I’m acting crazy”). But those who defended Trainor claimed that it was just a song and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

“I don’t believe I was [being sexist],” she told MTV. “I think I was just writing my song to my future husband out there, wherever he is. He’s chilling right now, taking a minute getting ready for me; it’s going to be great.”

He’s getting ready — doing crunches and 200 pound dead lifts so he’s ready to be strong enough to impress Trainor!


For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com


MUSICIAN EXPERT: Overcoming Performance Anxiety


MUSICIAN EXPERT: Overcoming Performance Anxiety

by Tom Stein

Fear Is Natural

Musician Performance Anxiety

Musician Performance Anxiety

An annoying part of our human nature seems to focus our thoughts obsessively on all the things that could possibly go wrong in our daily activities. Of course, this becomes more severe when we have to do a performance, an interview, or otherwise engage in an activity that is supposed to lead to a desired outcome that will represent our success. We tend to focus on all the “what-ifs” in these stressful situations, and the danger is that by being nervous we actually increase the chance of the undesired outcomes occurring.

This vexing situation will be familiar to anyone suffering from performance anxiety, or “stage fright”, as it is known in the entertainment field. How do you avoid being your own worst enemy, and contributing to an increased likelihood of failure in these demanding situations? We can use the much-studied phenomenon of performance anxiety, and some of the useful techniques for combating it, in just about any area of our lives prone to inducing stress or nervousness.

Overcome Your Performance Anxiety

When it comes to overcoming performance anxiety, we will need to convert potentially harmful negative thoughts and energies into a constructive positive result, and this is indeed possible. I have developed some techniques that may help you in this regard. These techniques, while simple, do require you to gain a sharp awareness of your thought processes, and to monitor thoughts as they enter your consciousness. These simple and basic techniques for turning anxiety into positive results will take a little time and practice to learn to implement and to get used to them, but once you have gained the techniques, you will use them automatically and forever. And the best part about all of this is that they really work.

Meta cognition

As humans, we are supposedly the only animals on the planet that have the ability to think about our thinking. Whether or not this is true, meta cognition, as this practice is called, does give us the ability to apply reason to the thoughts we are subjected to at any time. Thoughts just occur, it often seems, as if coming at us out of nowhere.

The average human thinks 50,000 discreet thoughts each day. While many of these thoughts might be repetitive, others may be situational, or occur in response to external stimuli. One effect of this constant barrage of streaming thoughts is that we can become confused, or lose track of what’s happening in the moment. We might feel sadness when thinking about something bad that happened in the past, or fearful of something that might happen in the future. Fortunately, meta cognition, or the ability to think about our thoughts and thinking, can be a very powerful tool.

Keep Things In The Moment

This constant stream of thoughts that has the tendency to lead us into worrying about the future, and what may or may not happen, eventually brings on feelings of fear and anxiety. Although it is important to think ahead and plan for future contingencies, if we are living in the past or the future we are ignoring the present, and this is potentially harmful. When we notice ourselves being yanked out of the moment by fear, we should become aware and use our reason to pull ourselves up short.

The goal is to get back into the current moment, which in reality is the only place anything can happen. Once we have learned to notice the situation where we are feeling anxious or stressed, we could use a little prepared phrase to get out of that loop, such as “FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real”. A short prayer can work too, whether or not you are religious. What we should do is offer some kind of a small self-affirmation of our self-worth when we are feeling anxious, sad, or otherwise getting pulled out of the reality of the moment by troubling emotions.

One Good Turn Deserves Another

Have you ever seen a dog about to lie down? Sometimes they will turn around and around again in a circle, and keep turning for what seems a long time before finally plopping down on the ground. It seems as if the dog is repeating a behavior because it feels good knowing it worked in the past. When we see this we always say jokingly “one good turn deserves another”. It is just a silly saying, and can have different meanings, but my point is that there is comfort in repetition.

Don’t Compare Your Insides To Someone Else’s Outsides

Probably you have enjoyed many successes in your life, big and small. You have also likely suffered through mistakes and failures, also big and small. This is true of everyone, without exception. The worse thing you can do is to compare your insides with someone else’s outside. The only person you should make any comparisons to is yourself. A mistake people make is looking at others who are further along the road to success, and assuming that they will not have the same amount of success, or that success is not for them. Always remember that for anyone who is successful at doing anything, there was a time when they couldn’t do it.

Visualize Your Past Successes

When you are aware that you are experiencing performance anxiety, for whatever reason, you should reign in your thoughts and begin to control them, This is where the necessary techniques, time and practice come in to play that I mentioned previously. As soon as you are aware, and after bringing yourself up short, the next step to this process is to think about similar situations from the past that you have faced, and came through successfully. Try to recall that you were also nervous then, but everything ultimately turned out okay, or better than okay.

For example, if I am playing a concert for a group of people and I’m nervous whether they will like it, I call to mind a time, usually fairly recent, that I gave a performance and the audience loved it! Remembering that specific previous success makes it a bit easier to walk out in front of a new crowd, and give it my all with some certainty that they will like what I do. Mike Ditka, the Super Bowl winning NFL coach once famously said that the first step in winning was to believe that you are worthy. So, all ingrained and automatically expressed vestiges of the mentality of “I’m not good enough” must be balanced with thoughts about the possibility or likelihood of success. Successful people seem to be good at combating self-doubt.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Humans seem to be conditioned to living in groups, for whatever reason. We are predisposed to working in teams. When your success is crucial to the success of the team, it becomes all the more important not to allow performance anxiety to get in the way. Most people have similar feelings and experiences as they go through life, and everyone is human. Make sure to encourage success in your teammates, and look for ways to help them succeed with their own challenges. They will value you more as a team member for this, and rush to your aid when they see you are similarly struggling. When you help someone else succeed, the universe tends to find ways to repay you for your kindness.

Law Of Attraction

There are many that believe we tend to attract to ourselves what we focus on. If we focus on our fear and anxiety, it is likely to increase. One thing that can work well is to focus your thoughts elsewhere by using visualization techniques. When you feel the anxiety coming on, you could create a mental picture of the upcoming performance being completed. Look at your watch and tell yourself that it will all be over by the time the hands of the clock have moved a certain distance.

You could also picture a peaceful scene from your childhood, a lovely beach or park you enjoy frequenting, a favorite pet, or the face of a loved one. It is recommended to take a few deep breaths, exhale completely, stretch lightly, or move around a bit while you visualize, to help the nervous energy to dissipate. Alternatively, you could sit quietly with your eyes closed for a minute while focusing your thoughts elsewhere.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

A wise friend once told me: “Don’t take yourself too seriously, no one else does.” A favorite aunt use to say: “Who will care in 100 years from now?” These comments are reminders that usually our mistakes are more noticeable to ourselves than to others. And in the worse case scenarios, like a figure skater after a fall, we will pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and continue moving forward in our lives.

Success Is Peace Of Mind

John Wooden, the late famous college basketball coach, talked about success being the peace of mind that comes from the satisfaction of knowing that we did our best to be our best, under the circumstances. Looking back at previous mistakes, we can ask ourselves if we were doing our best. The answer will always be “yes”, because we know in our heart that if we could have done better, we would have. Mistakes are a necessary part of growth because they teach us what not to do.

It helps to remember that we are actually where we are because of decisions we made. We came to this point as a result of doing what we wanted to do. Why should we let a little normal anxiety or tension get in the way? We are learning to harness the energy and turn it around for a positive outcome.

Don’t Be Fooled By Randomness

People often tend to ascribe their failure or success to their own efforts more than reality warrants. There is always a randomness factor, and even if we do all the right things, we can fail. Conversely, even if we don’t do the right things, we can have success. The ancient wisdom texts of the Upanishads tell us that we do not control the results of our actions. All we can control is our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Lastly, never forget that your self-worth is not attached to your achievements, or lack thereof. Failing at something does not make you a bad person, and success doesn’t guarantee you anything, either. Use the techniques I’ve outlined to combat your performance anxiety next time you are facing a difficult or demanding task.

Tom Stein is a visionary musical entrepreneur, music producer, artist development consultant, arranger, and performer on electric bass, voice and guitar. He teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston and is the founder of Music Connectivity, a cultural diplomacy firm. www.tomstein.com

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com


Top 7 Essentials For Setting Up a Home Recording Studio


Top 7 Essentials For Setting Up a Home Recording Studio

by Jessica Brandon & Jake Weston

How to set up a Home Recording Studio on a budget

How to set up a Home Recording Studio on a budget

Are you a musician looking to record at home on a budget? You will need recording equipment. What type of music gear you will need to get started will vary based on the type of recording you plan to do from home. For example, if you only plan to record demos and rough tracks, you will need less equipment than if you were trying to record radio ready tracks. Another thought is how much you plan to record at one time, one or two tracks and adding vocals in layers requires less equipment than if you plan to do more than two tracks or recording a full band.

  1. Computer

The computer is the biggest expenditure by far and most important thing you will need. If you are a Mac user, and you are on a budget, go with a Mac Mini or Macbook Pro. If you are a PC user and you are on a budget, go with an HP computer.

  1. DAW/Audio Interface Combination

The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer. The Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your music gear. Presonus Studio One is a entry-level budget recommended gear. Other budget conscious interface include: Avid Fast Track or Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (around $200).

Most computers nowadays come with some basic form of recording software, but that isn’t going to be quite enough for those wishing to make some money from recording. Rather than spending money on professional recording software many professionals use Audacity, which is available to download for free. Audacity has an amazing array of features and capabilities for the price, which, as I mentioned in case you missed it, is FREE. I would also suggest adding a program called Reaper for $60 (unless and until you start making 10-20 thousand clams a year using it. Then you are asked to spring for the commercial license for $220).

  1. Microphone (or microphones)
Lewitt Microphone

Lewitt Microphone

To start out – especially if you have a very small budget – I recommend the Shure SM57, which you may buy for just $99.00. I would recommend the Lewitt USB microphone if you have a higher budget. Again, if you’re planning to record a band, you’ll need more mics and a larger interface capable of recording several sources at once.

  1. Headphones

In the very beginning, all you really need is one. For beginners on a tight budget, there’s no safer bet than the AKG K240.

  1. Studio Monitors

For beginners on a tight budget, there’s no safer bet than the KRK Rokit 5 G3

If your mixing room is a bedroom, as it is for most home recordists, just know that what you hear is already mangled in several ways. You can improve that situation, if you have really good speakers, but it isn’t easy.

  1. XLR Cables

This is another thing you need for recording studio accessories – XLR Cable

One day, your studio will have a TONS of different cables…

But for now, you only need 3:

~1 long XLR cable for your mic, and…

~2 short ones for your monitors

  1. A Mic Stand

While many beginners assume that all mic stands are the same. The truth is that a solid mic stand is one of the most worthwhile investments a new home studio can make.


So, in order to outfit yourself with the basic home recording studio equipment, you’ll need the following:


~Digital Work Station (DAW) Software/Audio Interface Combo


~Studio Monitors

~One Set of Headphones

~A Few Cables

~One Mic Stand


No matter what equipment you purchase the most important thing to remember is that knowledge of the key audio fundamentals is far more useful than expensive equipment. If you lack basic knowledge you will always end up with poor sounding audio, no matter how expensive the equipment is. Remember this mantra: knowledge trumps gear. There are many people making crappy recordings every day with really expensive gear. But if you have some basic knowledge, you can make great recordings with very modest equipment. Therefore, never let an employee talk you into the most expensive equipment in the store, in most cases the $50 USB microphone will provide you with the professional sounding results.

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com


IAMA Podcast 2015

Acoustic Music Radio

Acoustic Music Radio

Song list on this radio program:

“A Bakers Dozen” by Muriel Anderson
“Waterfalls” by Meghan Trainor
“Crayon Days” by Carl Wockner
“Wonderland” by Downhill Bluegrass Band
“Hearts” by JoJo Worthington
“From Joe To Betsy” by Jared Mahone
“Hurry Home” by Zane Williams


7 Ways to Improve Your Live Performances


7 Ways to Improve Your Live Performances

by Bruce Wawrzyniak

IAMA Winners Downhill Bluegrass Band  performing live on stage

IAMA Winners Downhill Bluegrass Band performing live on stage

Booking the shows, playing the shows, promoting your live dates, keeping up your website and social media, and writing and rehearsing. These are all a regular part of the schedule that a singer/songwriter keeps. But where in there is time left – or where in there are you making time – to evaluate the end product?

You’ve got the songs written, and certainly those are the key. Not only because without songs to sing you’d be on stage in front of mic like a stand-up comedian, but, because you can be real good at booking yourself, but if the songs don’t move anyone, no one is going to attend all those shows you so successfully scheduled yourself for.

Here are some tips on making sure that once you step into the spotlight, the people stay – and listen.

  1. Arrange to have a couple of your live shows filmed. Yes, it’s great content for YouTube and/or your website, but more importantly, this is for your own internal review. You know how you sound on-stage, but do you know how you look? This doesn’t have to be a huge production or a new line item in your music budget. Even if you just put a camera on a tripod and leave it there, get some footage you can watch. I’m not a big advocate for video off of a smartphone, but to just have something for your own study, that will even suffice so you can see what the audience members are seeing.
  2. Don’t do your entire show sitting down. Singer/songwriters face enough stereotypes (see the aforementioned stand-up comedians). Don’t add to it by sitting on a stool for two whole hours. (Dare I say don’t even bring a stool at all?!) Stand up, move around, and give the audience a reason to not nod off or look down into their phones. If you don’t look interested, why would they want to give you their undivided attention?
  3. Be very strategic about your set list. I’m amazed at people who tell me, “I don’t do a set list. I just play what I feel in the moment.” And thus they play four ballads in a row and start losing audience members to sadness or disinterest or fatigue. Mix up the ballads and the mid-tempo and the up-tempo songs. Plus, during the booking process, ensure that you can play all originals. If they want a mix of cover songs, have a good combination that will keep people interested when you start playing a song of yours that you want them to know.
  4. Be a good storyteller. There’s a huge difference between saying, “Here’s a song I wrote about my first car,” and painting a picture of what the make and model was along with the color, any defects, the reason it had meaning to you, and why it made enough of an impression on you to actually write a song about it. Imagine going to a songwriters festival and just playing your songs without any explanation or setup. The stories behind them would be noticeable by their absence.
  5. You don’t know what the audience members are each going through, good or bad. Hopefully you are playing shows where they’re paying to see you. That in itself should be a big reminder that they’ve made a conscious choice to hear you add to their celebration or help them with their current plight. There should be no cruise control setting in your act. Play every time like it’s your first show and your last show.
  6. Pick one table or audience section to play to and draw them in. Then move on to the next table or section. And so on. Don’t play just to the person or people right in the front. The guy at the back deserves to hear you just as much and he could very well end up being that “you never know who might be in the crowd” person.
  7. The devil is in the details, as they say. Practice good mic technique. Befriend the sound tech. Have your guitar in tune so you’re not adjusting on the fly during your very first song. Don’t close your eyes the whole time you’re singing. These are all a part of the equation that add up to a live performance you can be proud of at the end of the night.

As they say, wash, rinse, repeat. Use the above as a checklist and/or create a Live Show checklist so that you are ready each time you take the stage, and leave the audience members applauding and wondering when and where they can see you perform next.


Bruce Wawrzyniak is the president of Tampa, Florida-based Now Hear This, Inc., which specializes in management, promotion, and booking for musicians. He is the host of the weekly show, “Now Hear This Entertainment,” which has gotten listeners in 80-plus countries around the world. He writes a weekly blog at www.NowHearThis.biz and is the author of “Bruce’s Bonus Book: A Collection of Tips for Up-And-Coming Entertainers.” He is a regular attendee of songwriters festivals and served as a speaker at a Young Songwriters Workshop in Nashville. Look for him as a panelist at a major music conference in the southeast later this year.

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:



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