Songwriters are notoriously hard to shop for. Unless you’re one of us, shopping for a musician/writer/player is awkward. What the heck do songwriters need? She’s already got a guitar. What now? Here’s a handy list you can send to your loved ones with a bunch of items I’ve personally used and would LOVE getting as Christmas gifts. Behold, The Ultimate Songwriter Gifts List!
Guitar strings $10 – $15
Guitarists ALWAYS need strings. Without exception. Usually at the most inopportune times. Your guitarist will love a little bit of extra security knowing they have an extra pack in their gig bag. I use D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze acoustic strings in a light gauge on my Taylor. They’re really bright and wonderful for fingerpicking. And the coating helps them last a lot longer. If you can determine what type of strings your guitarist prefers, they will love seeing a new set of strings in their stocking!
Picks $5 – $20
Another things that guitarists always need but always seem to lose is picks. They’re like lighters and pens. They are the easiest things in the world to misplace exactly when you need them. You writer will appreciate a grab-bag of picks. They come in light and heavy and everything in between, so unless you know what your guitarist prefers, get them an assortment, like this Fender Premium Picks Sampler (a 24 Pack with Thin, Medium & Heavy Gauges). Extra fun little sidenote – Picks come in every single color, shape, and material out there. Some even have images. These are super fun to toss into a stocking on Christmas eve, just for smiles.
Pick Holder Keychain $2 – $15
My boyfriend has had one of these for years and it has come to both of our rescues many a time. Again – you never need a pick until you NEED one! A Guitar Pick Keychain ensures that you’ll always have a pick if you have your keys!
Moleskin notebooks $10 – $25
The Moleskin has been the classic companion of writers through the ages. Brilliant creators the likes of Hemingway and Picasso carried a Moleskin. These sturdy little notebooks have inspired countless songs, stories, poems, and paintings. Your writer will love being part of a long tradition of Moleskin carriers. This classic black Moleskine Notebook (Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover 5 x 8.25) was my first, and I’ve filled up many since.
Under the Tree
Blue Snowball USB Mic $40 – $50
Blue Microphones Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
I love this little mic. I’ve had my Snowball since college (read: going on 5 or so years!) and it’s still going strong. It’s always there for me when I need to record that idea as it’s coming down the pipes. I’ve taken it on the road with me (not on tour). I use it to record audio separate from my camera for videos. It’s no fuss and works hard for you.
Books $5 – $25
Making Music Make Money: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Music Publisher (Berklee Press)
Out of all the music industry books I’ve read, this one (and one other) made the most sense to me. It outlines exactly what it takes to start your own publishing company. It’s full of incredibly valuable information for songwriters who are looking to self publish, AND for writers who are looking to sign with a publisher. And it’s easily digestable. No crazy legal jargon. Everything is explained.
This Business of Songwriting: Revised 2nd Edition by Jason Blume
This is the other one that made sense to me. Everything you could ever possibly know about being a songwriter in today’s business. Literally everything. It’s an easy and addicting read.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
All artists, no matter what their medium, struggle with the actual act of creating. This little kick in the ass is an amazing guide to getting you back on your feet when you’re in a slump. Every writer needs this in their library.
Excellent Cables $10 – $35
Monster cables are well known for being reliable and high quality. And a nice cable is the kind of thing a player won’t buy for himself when so many other brands are so much cheaper. This Monster Standard 21′ Cable (Straight to Straight 1/4″ plugs) is a perfect stable for the guitarist writer who’s always playing out.
Gifts that Keep on Giving
SonicBids subscription $119.88/year or $12.99/month
SonicBids is a really cool service. It allows musicians and writers to get sought after gigs, interviews, enter in contests, and even pursue licensing opportunities. It’s an excellent way to find new opportunities for your music when you’re in a lull. I’ve had subscriptions on and off and it’s afforded me some really cool opportunities, like submitting to the NSAI/CMT Songwriting Awards (where I placed!). Check it out here.
American Songwriter Subscription 1 Year (6 issues) $19.95, 2 Years (12 issues) $29.95, 3 Years (18 issues) $39.95
American Songwriter Magazine is the premier magazine for all things songwriter. I have a stack of these in my living room. Worth every penny.
Music Row Magazine $159/year, $270 2 years
Music Row Magazine is the ultimate guide to what’s happening in the Nashville music industry. It offers news, happenings, signings, and events. It also comes out with 2 directory issues each year – a publisher directory, and an artist directory. It’s worth the entire subscription just for those 2 issues. You also get access to all of musicrow.com AND more directory listing that live on the website all year round.
RowFax $179/year, $299 2 years
Music Row Magazine also puts of “the” Nashville Pitch Sheet, RowFax. Pitch sheets are listings of who’s looking for music, what kind of music, and who to send it to. This is an invaluable resource for songwriters who are actively pitching their material.
You can also get both Music Row Magazine and RowFax for 1 year for $310.
NSAI, (The Nashville Songwriter’s Association International) offers all sorts of career services to it’s members. They’ve been around since the 60’s, and have advocated for the rights of songwriters in congress for years and years. They also give career mentoring, access to writers rooms in their Nashville location, song critiques, weekly Nashville workshops, Nashville pitch opportunities, and HUNDREDS of online resources. I spend my last 2 years in college educating myself from the seemingly endless NSAI online video archive. Check out NSAI’s website here.
I’ve blogged about her before and I’ll say it again – Sheree Spoltoree of Global Songwriter’s Connection is one of my favorite people in Nashville. She runs GSC which is a smaller, more intimate service like NSAI. GSC offers workshops, career mentoring, song critiques, pitch nights, and a wealth of online information. Sheree is also one of the most well loved, well respected folks in her field and the kind of person who goes above and beyond to help out her writers. Grab a GSC membership here.
You Win Christmas
The industry standard recording software. If you have a writer in your life who has been trying to record their own demos on the likes of Garageband or Audacity, upgrade them and they will love you forever. You can order Pro Tools directly from Avid but I think it’s a little easier go through Sweetwater. (They have fantastic customer service.)
Logic Pro X $199.99
Logic is Apple’s counter to ProTools. Not quite the industry standard, but a lot easier on the waller and less of a learning curve. This was my software of choice in college. Get it in the app store. Or better yet, purchase an app store gift card for your writer and put “For Logic Pro 10″ on the card. ;)
Studio Time $300 – $1000+ per song
Every songwriter needs demos. Every artist needs studio time. Win Christmas forever by investing in their career and sponsoring a song. Or two. Or an album. Get with your writer and ask him or her where they like to record and start the conversation.