Phil Emery

Phil is a songwriter, composer, guitarist, bass player, keyboardist and a founding member of Toronto's Corporate Punks The Parkdale Hookers. You can find his solo music at his SoundCloud Page. During the day he comes up with big ideas at the Toronto based marketing and creative agency, Focused Creative. You can contact phil at phil(at)

the STR Gang and winners of the Elton John biopic Rocketman ticket contest infront of the movie poster

The STR Gang and winners had a blast at the Rocketman Movie PreScreeing on Wednesday!

We had a blast at the prescreening of the new Elton John bio-pic Rocketman on Wednesday! The winners of our Rocketman Free Ticket Contest and the gang met at a pub before hand and then went to the theatre to catch the invite only event. They had a male chorus singing RocketMan which was pretty cool. Much thanks to the awesome folks at Paramount Pictures for helping us put this together!

Keep an eye open when we do a special “Rocketman Movie” show all about this movie where we all share what we loved about this film (spoiler: everyone actually really liked it – even Michael!)

A great movie and well worth seeing. Get your tickets here:

Creating Lyric Sheets that Don’t Suck

I hope you’re not like me and just keeping all your songs just in your head, It’s a bad habit I’ve developed over the years and one I’m still working against.

I’m especially bad at writing my lyrics down, which is surprising considering how bad I am at writing lyrics. You’d think I would want to capture anything that comes out after many hours of frustrating work.

We get to see a lot of lyrics here at Song Talk Radio. Every guest submits lyrics to us before they appear on the show and we use them as a way of notating what we like, etc. And although everyone seems to have a different approach, they almost all have some critical omissions.

They won’t make you famous if they can’t contact you

The biggest mistake we see is the lack of any kind of contact information on lyric sheets. You never know where your lyrics will wind up (perhaps someone will come across your amazing words in a year or two and want to give you truck-loads of cash, which would suck it they can’t get in touch with you), so you want to make sure that you have all your contact info on the sheet visible – it will also make legal ownership of the song a bit easier to confirm in the future. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you: at one time in the US, if you published a song without a copyright notice, it was considered to be in the Public Domain!)

You’ll obviously want to include your name and/or your band name, a phone number and an email address as everything is done via email these days (even scheduling phone calls!).

Also, include your website if you have one. If you only have a Soundcloud page, simply buy a cheap domain name from one of our favourite domain sellers, and just point your new domain name to your Soundcloud page. If, in the future, you want to use a different service to showcase your work — perhaps you’ll have your own website by then or just offer you music on iTunes — you can change where the domain points to – all your old lyric sheets will remain accurate.

AND, since you now have your own domain name, use your domain’ed email on your lyric sheets (so if you have the “” domain, create an “info” or “” and auto-forward it to your Gmail or present email service. If, in the future, you change from Gmail to some other mail service, just change where your “” email forwards to.

Getting your own domain is super simple and stupid cheap. The company I use for such a thing is They’re based in Toronto, the president is a great songwriter himself,  they are an all-around dependable company and have been around since the 90s’.

Ensuring you get paid

If you’re in Canada, you might as well register your songs with SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada – no, I can’t figure out how they came up with SOCAN either ). Registering your songs is free and is always a good habit to get into, This brings in the next most important part. Read more

How to get noticed: Promotional Artist Tips: Photography

We don’t usually talk about Artist promotion in the Song Talk Radio Newsletter. You can find lots of places on the web that cover that.

But we do see a lot of submissions so we see all the different levels of “promotional” abilities in artists – and some could really use a few pointers.

Don't do this...
Um … don’t do this…

Understanding your target

The people you want to reach in the music or news industries are pretty busy folk. They’re constantly bombarded with random pitches of varying quality. They’re not going to spend 15 mins trying to decipher a vague description or your artist photo to figure out what you do. You need to be clear and grab them quickly – otherwise it’ll just be the circular file cabinet with your submission. They have a ton of other things on their desks.

1) Building your Arsenal

The first step is to spend a bit of time getting some basic marketing pieces together. Once you have it all ready to go, it’s easy to jump on any opportunities that pass your way. Meet a reporter for a local newspaper? Get his email and send them your description and photo when you get home.

These pieces would be

  1. Artist Promotional Photos
  2. Artist Description
  3. Marketing Materials (so printed junk)

Today, we’ll cover Artist photos.

So, where do I get off telling you all this stuff?

I’ve been working in advertising and design for far longer than I’d like to admit, and have worked with countless photographers on countless projects. Some successful, others less than fully, um, “satisfying” lets say. So you’ll get to learn from my mistakes.

It’s the person behind the camera that counts

Technology these days is incredible. The difference between a consumer level camera, pro-sumer and professional camera is less now than its ever been in the past. Ironically, this makes the actual person behind the camera more important now than ever.

Back in the day, there were quite a few photographers that were in fact not very good. But they were cheap, and had some high-end equipment so there was a good-sized market for them: customers needing photography but couldn’t really tell if what they were getting was good or not. I know – I spent countless hours trying to take their out-of-focus, poorly framed work and make it into something usable.

These days, the person behind the camera is key, and believe me, the ones who are great are truly, truly magic.

Read more

The Strange, Strange World of “Sound Alike” Songs

Is providing a needed service while exploring songwriting challenges or is it doing something more insidious? Perhaps taking credit for an established artist’s work? You decide…

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a great conference hosted by the folks at HHB Canada where three top-notch TV and film composers talked about their industry. However, the most interesting take-away for me was my introduction to a service that film and TV folks use, known as “Production Music”.

In my day job as a marketing and advertising guy, I’ve used many a stock music track for videos and presentations when the client doesn’t have the budget for a composer to provide a custom score.

The main difference with this service is that it provides “Sound-Alikes” of popular and recognizable songs and artists, among its more generic offerings.

The service provides music reflecting an “era” or a “mood” or to “sound like” an established artist, when the original TV or film production company doesn’t have the budget to license a track by the original artist. Sometimes the tracks are in the background of a scene.

Take for instance, their version of Queen’s Somebody to love:

The Original:


The Sound Alike: Just Belive


And this could be an unreleased Queen track: Runaway Train on Extrememusic

They really nailed it. The voice, Freddy Mercury’s approach to melody and chord structure. Wow.

Apparently, after production each track is sent down to a Music PhD fellow in LA who gives an opinion on whether or not the track is “too close” to the original. If it is, he provides recommendations and they go back, make the changes and then publish it. The tracks are even registered with CAPAC.

Initially, it’s fascinating. Going through the catalog one can’t help but admire the care and attention that the creators of the tracks go through to match the mood, sound, production styles, arrangements, playing styles, vocal style and even the lyrical approach of the original artists, while using different chords and melodies.

I would imagine it’s a blast to create these tracks, and a great way to really understand how these brilliant writers and performers did what they did.

But after a while, it gets kinda creepy… Read more