The 23rd Hour Blog

Great American Song Contest Finalist! 


We just learned that our song "Let a Day Together Be Christmas" is among the top 10 finalists for the Great American Song Contest in their Special Category (Holiday). A few months ago, Sherry's song "Heads Up" was also announced as a semi-finalist in the rock category for the International Songwriting Competition. These aren't fancy awards, but they are little signs that we're heading in the right direction. It's hard to evaluate one's own art objectively, so little wins like these are welcome positive reinforcements! Time to celebrate with a glass of wine :)

How COVID-19 can help you as an artist. 

Gigs are being cancelled, the future seems uncertain, there’s a lot to cause anxiety right now if you’re an artist. But have you seen the videos that have been circulating from Italy lately? In this time of crisis, it is music that is keeping the Italians connected at a distance.

This pandemic will have horrible ramifications for many of us, but it is also a reminder to the world that art is valuable. Your art. Your music. It’s powerful stuff. That’s what people cling to when everything else is up in the air. They come together and sing and hope for better days ahead.

Many of my friends have started live streaming on Facebook and Instagram. Some include Venmo/Paypal links as digital tip jars. Some just do it for fun. You can too. It might be good therapy for both you and your audience.

Some of my artist friends are getting even more creative and offering to read/sing to children. Some are creating mantra songs. Some are writing funny PSA spoofs. Some are writing songs about the virus.

This too shall pass (if we all abide by social distancing and hand hygiene protocols). But not without a spurt of creative output. People are sick of hearing about the virus or the elections 24/7. Give them something else to take their minds off of current events. Take them on a journey to a positive place of hope and compassion. Doing so will remind your audience how magical music can be, and how much it should be valued. So…

What will you do provide relief through your art?

How COVID-19 can help you as an artist. was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Use our card designs this holiday season! 

Every year, we like to design our own holiday cards to send to colleagues, friends & family. This year, we're happy to announce that the card designs are included in every purchase of our latest holiday EP. We have three designs this year, all inspired from our original holiday songs, and you get all three of them for FREE when you get the EP! If you don't want to buy the EP, you can still buy the cards. You get all three for just $1.00. We will donate the revenue from the cards at the end of the year. 



Head to If you buy the EP "Home for the Holidays", it will be among your bonus files. If you prefer to buy the cards only, scroll a little further down and you'll see the option to buy the cards. 



We've set it up to be as simple as possible. The PDFs you will receive will have two identical cards on each page. All you have to do is print, separate, write & send!



The designs will print beautifully on standard US letter size paper.



You can use any paper type you prefer. You can get card paper from your favorite office supply stores. We personally prefer to buy the type that is pre-perforated so that the cards separate with just a gentle pull. No need for scissors! You can get them from Amazon and they come with envelopes too!


Note: We are part of Amazon's affiliates program. Should you click and buy this item, we would receive a small referral commission at no extra cost to you. 


Our New Christmas Album is Out! 


Each year, we pledge to begin work on our Christmas songs early. Each year, we fall short of our goal and find ourselves in an all-too-familiar predicament, working through the Thanksgiving weekend to put the finishing touches on our latest musical creations. (This year had a bit of twist in the culinary department: Chinese takeout on Turkey Day.) 

The challenge, of course, is finding inspiration to write about snow and eggnog and presents under Der Tannebaum when it’s a balmy 90 degrees Fahrenheit in downtown Los Angeles. 

Nonetheless, we did it! And our latest album “Home for the Holidays” is available for downloading at (streaming will be available Dec. 10 or thereabouts). 

As always, we have included some classics and are introducing some new original tunes. 

“Get Me Home for the Holidays” was co-written with Caley Rose, another resident of the greater L.A. basin.

Songwriting is a craft, like any other. It requires practice, diligence, the ability to review and edit your work objectively. And sometimes, a song just seems to fall from the sky. I believe the entire co-writing process on this number was about 2 hours.  It began with a guitar riff from George (our usual starting point), and the lyrics and melody just seemed to fall in place. 

For recording, Caley also takes the lead on the vocals, with Sherry adding harmonies. Sherry and George performed and arranged all the instrumentation (both real and virtual instruments). And Sherry produced this masterpiece, which includes 85 separate tracks. We figure she spent 100 hours in the process. Much of this was a learning curve for her, with many lessons learned. But she is now a bonafide L.A. record producer.

Sometime during the summer, Sherry and George were kicking around some ideas for another original song. We love the slow, melancholic ballads and decided to try our hand at crafting one of these. 

The end result is “Christmas Feels Lost Without You.” 

Once again, the arrangement was by George, based on a guitar riff he had kicking around, and Sherry handled all the production. She put all her learnings from the work on “Get Me Home for the Holidays” to practice, and, thankfully, she was able to polish this one off in far less time. 

“O Holy Night” is a classic hymn performed in a late-night jazz cabaret style, with just George on piano and Sherry on vocals. 

For “Ave Maria,” we stuck to the traditional Schubert melody and style. This number also includes just George on classical guitar and Sherry’s mellifluous voice. 

If you’ve been following our music for the past two years, you’ll recognize “Let A Day Together Be Christmas” and “Have You Noticed the Season?” These tracks are remastered as part of this package. 

We would like to thank Caley Rose for her contributions to our new offering. 

And, as always, a shout out to our friends at StudioPros for mastering our tracks. We’ve been working with Kati O”Toole and the gang at StudioPros for many years now. Kati handles our frantic last-minute requests with aplomb and she and the team always come through for us.


How to get people to pre-save your song on Spotify. 

How to encourage people to pre-save your song on Spotify.

I recently was complimented by other artists about a post I made on facebook for our upcoming release’ pre-save campaign because it made them actually want to click that link. One asked me if she could copy what I wrote.

I realized during that conversation that many musicians don’t actually know why pre-save campaigns exist and why people should care about it.

Below is the post I made on facebook. You can copy it for your own campaign if you like. You don’t have to give us credit, but adding a song of ours to your playlist would be amazing. Further down, I explain the whole algorithm thing and why pre-saves and pre-orders help indie artists.

What I wrote (go ahead and copy it)

In this “algo-driven” world, every pre-save and pre-order counts.

That’s because on release day, you’ll get the download or it will be added to your library.

This tells “the algorithms” that the song might be worth showing to more people via their playlists.

Maybe we’ll get a cup of coffee’s worth of royalties.

So please click below? :-)

Sidelines Aren't for You by 23rd Hour

Why it works

Most people don’t know how streaming works, and how user behavior drives the algorithms that ultimately decide how many new listeners will be shown your song in their customized playlists. Just telling them to pre-save often annoys them more than anything because… Why should they pre-save it when they won’t be able to hear it until it’s out anyway?

What you really want to do is give them context as to why it’s important to you, and how a small action that is of little cost to them, could make a huge difference for the artists they like, especially indie ones like you.

What’s the fuss about algorithms anyway?

Imagine you’re designing Spotify. Your goal is to suggest songs for your listeners that they will enjoy to keep them listening. If you suggest songs that are too different from their taste, they’ll think you’re an idiot and move to Apple Music or another competitor! No pressure…

To complicate things, your platform is receiving 1000 new songs per hour from indie artists and majors. That’s 168,000 new songs a week on top of the existing catalog of almost all songs ever recorded! How do you decide what goes on Spotify’s curated playlists, what goes into various users’ “Discover Weekly” or “Release Radar”, and what doesn’t go anywhere?

You can rely on humans to curate playlists to certain extent. All streaming services have staff playlist curators who tend to their high profile playlists. But humans are slow. There’s only so many songs they could go through before the next #NewMusicFriday and there’s no way you can have enough of staff to listen to 168,000 new songs in a week and classify them into the right playlists. You need a better strategy that will both be easier on your staff and more rewarding for your listener.

This is where “the algorithms” come in. If you collect some data about each listener, you can create a profile for that particular listener’s taste, take note of the songs they skip, songs they like, songs they put on repeat, and then make an educated guess as to what new music you can present them that they will love. So if the algorithm notices that I have a healthy number of Mauritian artists on heavy rotation, it might put a new release by another local artist on my radar. Makes sense right? They help me discover my new favorite artist, and I happily keep paying them $9.99 a month.

The problem with indie music is that there is often not enough listener data for the algorithms to know where your music would fit best. I suspect that eventually they will get better at analyzing the music itself and rely less on heuristics like “listeners who like this artist also like artist X, so let’s show this song to artist X’s fans too”. I’m over-simplifying here, but you get the idea.

Another way they use data is to gauge popularity of a song. If a growing number of people are listening to a song and not skipping it, there’s a pretty good chance that song is very catchy and will keep listeners engaged. It’s in Spotify’s best interest to serve that to people who like that kind of music and keep them listening on Spotify.

Why pre-saves and pre-orders matter

Especially if you have a small following, it would benefit you to use pre-save/pre-order campaigns. Here’s why.

Let’s say you run a pre-order campaign and you get 100 friends to pre-order it. This actually means that the minute your song actually goes live, you’ve already sold 100 copies.

In contrast, let’s say you didn’t have the pre-order campaign but instead just told your friends that the song is coming out on a certain day. Assuming the same 100 friends intend to buy your song, there’s a good chance some of them will get it on release day, and some of them will get around to it the next day, week, month or year.

Now for the basic math. What would give an impression of more momentum: 100 downloads in 1 day or 100 in 100 days? You can bet the algorithm is more impressed with 100 downloads on day one.

The same concept applies for pre-saves. If 100 people have pre-saved your song, it will be added to their library on release day, and increase the chances of them listening to 30s of it. Not only does that get you a streaming royalty, but it also tells the algorithm that people care about the song you just released and that it might be worth showing to more listeners. That is why you need to use pre-save/pre-order campaigns

Here is my template once again:

In this “algo-driven” world, every pre-save and pre-order counts.
That’s because on release day, you’ll get the download or it will be added to your library.
This tells “the algorithms” that the song might be worth showing to more people via their playlists.
Maybe we’ll get a cup of coffee’s worth of royalties.
So please click below? :-)

You can use it as a guide to write your own, or you can just copy my exact words if you like. I hope you found this helpful.

Oh and if you did, do us a solid and pre-save/pre-order? It would mean the world if you could click below and add “Sidelines Aren’t for You” to your library.

Sidelines Aren't for You by 23rd Hour

Thank you!

How to get people to pre-save your song on Spotify. was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The right way to quit your day job to pursue your passion 

I left my high paying, very cool tech job to spend a year doing something else I love: music. Some found my decision inspiring, bold. Others were a bit befuddled but wished me well. Many expressed gratitude for my contributions and especially for the way I handled my exit. One manager said he has never seen such a smooth transition. I was surprised to find out that what I did isn’t the default. So, I thought I would share how I think you too can leave your day job gracefully and pursue your passion.

Spoiler alert: this is no shortcut scheme.

Save up some money

It took me about five years of full time work to be able to take one year off. I have to admit I am extremely lucky that my second passion (programming) is a rather lucrative one, but it doesn’t have to be one year. Depending on how much you can earn and save, you can take 3 months off, or 6, 12, or forever. Ideally, if you can make some money doing what you love during that time, it will help you last a little longer. But for that, you’ll need the next point.

Practice saying no to yourself

I don’t allow myself to impulse-buy much. When I buy clothes online, I preset a budget limit to how much I’m allowed to spend ($100), and can’t buy more clothes for at least 6 months. I’m not stingy at all. If I’m going out, I’ll go to a nice place, but I’ll go less often. Having to choose what to delete from the cart is an exercise in self-managing. When you have no boss, no rigid routine and accompanying paycheck, you need to be able to manage yourself to last as long as you can. If you can’t do that, it will be hard to resist the temptation of just having fun and not really advancing your goals.

Run towards your goal

“It’s better to run toward something than it is to run away from something” — from one of the many podcast interviews I’ve listened to in the last year.

In other words, don’t quit because you hate the job. Quit because you found something you’re so driven about that it keeps you up at night, gets you out of bed every morning and makes you feel alive. Quit because you know specifically what you want to do and you need time to do it. Quit because you believe in yourself. If you quit because of this inner passion, rather than because of outer grievances, you will have a much more graceful exit and it will feel great.

Plan your exit

How much money will you need for housing, healthcare, travel, whatever gear or other expenditure your passion project requires? Have your ducks in a row, know what the consequences will be, have your back up plans figured out. Do you have to move somewhere cheaper? Do you have to apply for new insurance? Check the prices, eligibility, availability of all of these. If your phone is paid for by the company, make sure to add that to your budget. Realistically, how long can you last on the money you’ve saved? Half that is a good goal. So if you’ve saved enough to theoretically last a year, give yourself six months, then re-evaluate whether you can last a full year or need to find a new job.

Give at least 2 weeks notice

I announced the big news right before the winter break, giving a desired end date of Jan 15. I offered to stay a few more days if they felt it was needed and they asked for 19th. People were a little surprised but understood and wished me well. They also thanked me for telling them in advance and giving them the opportunity to prepare for this change.

Find new homes for your projects

When I got back after the winter break, my immediate supervisor was away on vacation. After consulting with her boss and his boss, I started transitioning things over to whoever we agreed would be most appropriate for the task. Some were easy, some took weeks of negotiation, but overall, by the time my manager was back, everything had been transitioned with clear documentation on where the project was, what the outstanding items were (if any), and who the contact person would be moving forward. The goal for me was to make sure that my manager wouldn’t have to worry about the transition at all except for the paperwork and hiring someone else eventually.

Train your replacement

I wanted to train those taking over one of the more involved project and make sure they had the chance to ask me any questions before I leave. My plan was to walk them through the project step-by-step. However, since the negotiations took a few weeks, I was only able to briefly go over the process in an hour-long meeting. Still better than nothing I suppose. If you have the opportunity to do so, train your replacement before you leave.

Be gracious

Be thankful for the opportunity. After all, without this day job, you wouldn’t be able to afford your passion time off! The least you can do is be gracious, respectful and do your best to make your exit as smooth and pleasant as possible. Leaving on a high note never hurts. Multiple people have said they would love to hear from me if I ever want to go back into the field. Mission accomplished!

Keep in touch

It never hurts.

Be adaptable

You might need to move to a smaller place, sell some of your belongings, change your lifestyle. We did. Was it easy? Not exactly. But because we have a clear goal, we don’t let anything else distract us. We can and will adapt.

That’s all folks!

If you do decide to embark on this crazy voyage like me, please do say hello.

Thank you for making music sustainability an integral part of your company vision. 

Thank you for making music sustainability an integral part of your company vision. It is imperative for us creatives to do our due diligence and carefully vet our distribution channels, making sure we are not shooting ourselves in the foot in the long run. Your article does a great job explaining why we have good reason to stand our ground when it comes to the value of our art.

Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition 

Wrap Your Head Around Backups — Musicians Edition

You know you need it but just the thought of it is so… boring. I get it. I get that feeling too and I’m a techie! That said, if making music is your business, then you have to set yourself up for success by being prepared as much as possible. Here’s how to do it.

The gist is, you want

  • a setup that makes sense for your work
  • a physical backup (or two) — this would be the fastest recovery method
  • a cloud backup — slower than physical, but good to have in case your physical backup is also lost.
  • a workflow that will allow you to focus on music, not backups!

The Setup

Here are a few types of files you might primarily be concerned about

  • Your “finished products”: releases, artwork, and any other accompanying document. You need to be able to access those from anywhere, quickly. For that, I recommend saving them to a synchronized cloud storage service like DropBox, Box, iCloud, GoogleDrive so that you can get to them from any of your devices anytime. I personally use DropBox, which is $9.99/month for 1TB
  • Your recording projects such as Logic Pro X or ProTools sessions. Depending on how much you’ve got, it may or may not make sense to have it all in Dropbox. I personally save the recent ones/the ones I’m currently working on in Dropbox for easier collaboration. If you are very prolific and are running out of space to store them, you could move those to an external drive. Let’s call this your archive drive. You may have multiple ones.
  • Your sample libraries and loops such as EastWest, Ivory or ThatSound. These easily take up a lot of storage. Left on your main computer, you will quickly find your system slowed down to a crawl due to lack of space. It would make more sense to move those to a separate drive. I am moving all of mine to a 4TB external drive that I call the sample library drive:

Physical Backup + Cloud Backup service

Dropbox and similar services only provide a convenient way to access particular files (that are in the Dropbox folder). It does not store all your other stuff such as app data, mail, downloads, documents, etc. For that, you want a true backup system. Preferably, you want both a physical and cloud backup for extra protection.

Physical Backup

First let’s talk physical backup. If you’re a Mac user, you already have the most intuitive backup system at your fingertips: Time Machine. If you’re on Windows, perhaps Genie might be a comparable alternative. If you’re on Linux, you probably don’t need my help ;-)

Time Machine basically stores a copy of your system and files and allows you to “go back in time” by restoring your system with all its files exactly as it was at a particular point in the past. Let’s say you installed some new software that completely screwed things up, you can just go back and pretend it never happened. How far back you can go depends on how much storage space you have for the backups. Time Machine will do an initial full backup (which may take an entire day), then incrementally save the changes you make. It’s very easy to set up. You can also encrypt the backup.

There is one catch. Time Machine backups are not bootable. If your computer’s main drive is completely fried, you need to be able to boot from something before you can restore from Time Machine. For this reason, it is also advisable to have a bootable backup of your main drive. This would especially come in handy when you’re on deadline. You can do so using Carbon Copy Clone ($39.99) or using the Mac’s free Disk Utility to do it manually. CCC allows you to schedule it and make automatic incremental backups, which is nice.

Cloud Backup

Why do you need this? Well, let’s say someone broke into your house and stole both your computer and your backup drive. Then what?

I am currently researching options. Here are a few:

BackBlaze offers unlimited storage, advanced security features, they’ll send you a hard drive anywhere in the world for free if you need to restore your data. It has a 15-day trial and then it’s about $5/month per device. It works with both Mac & Windows.

Synchronize! Pro is the only one that offers a bootable backup. It seems to also offer unlimited storage and archiving capabilities to free up space on your drive. Unfortunately it does not support versions of Mac OS more recent than 10.10. We are currently on 10.14 so that’s a problem in the long run if the software is going to be discontinued. It works on Mac only.

CrashPlan keeps your deleted files forever, has unlimited storage, advanced security features. It is used by many large corporations so it is unlikely to go away soon. However it is the most expensive option I found so far. It offers a free month trial then is $10/month per device for the small business option. It works on both Mac & Windows.

Final Thoughts

Arguably, the online backup systems could be a replacement for the physical backups. The only caveat is that, when on deadline, you want to be able to get your stuff fast.

Remember, you want a “set it and forget it” system so that you can do it once, then go back to way more interesting tasks like making music :-)

The tips were compiled from a forum discussion I had with a few other ladies (and gents) in the biz. Thanks to Patti Boss, Carla Kay Barlow, Anne House, Michelle Lockey, Bill Lefler for sharing their strategies with me.

Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why Crazy Rich Asians Gives Me Hope 

I recently attended a party where I found myself chatting with two lovely caucasian ladies. Another couple joined the conversation, and we went through the usual “what do you do?” and “what’s next?”. One of the ladies had worked at the same company as I did for a number of years. Both go to church a few blocks from our previous home. It’s a small world.

Then, I happened to mention that I’m considering a move to Nashville. I fell in love with the city the day I first set foot there. There is no other place like it. Music is just everywhere. It’s not pretentious, it’s reasonably priced. There’s only a few drawbacks: not a huge variety of Asian food, the weather, and… once you get outside of Nashville, it’s a different demographic. I mentioned that the couple of times I’ve been there, I was often the only Asian person in the room, and it felt a little weird. I felt like an outsider, and I felt that my experience didn’t matter. And that was in Nashville. I’m not sure how welcome I would be outside of Nashville as a progressive, Asian, artistic immigrant.

At that point, my fellow alum interjected. “Wait a minute, I’m from Tennessee…

Oops. I hope I didn’t offend the lady.

I invited her to tell me more about how it is to live in Tennessee. She said I’m right about Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville being very different from the small towns in between. Then, she whispered something to her friend and they promptly turned their backs and left without another word to the rest of us. So much for God’s word on tolerance? The couple and I gave each other a baffled look, and could only shrug and laugh. I felt bad but also incredulous. I would have apologized for the offense given the chance, but it seemed my interlocutor had no interest in breathing the same air if it could at all be avoided. Oh well.

But here’s the point.

These ladies were offended by the fact that I dared to say I felt uncomfortable as a minority, thereby reinforcing the feeling that my experience as a minority doesn’t matter. Especially if it doesn’t make the “majority” feel good about themselves. They don’t have to acknowledge it. They can simply dismiss it and go on with their lives.

Crazy Asians

For so long, the Asian American community has struggled both to fit in and to stand out. I have been told since I was a little girl that I will never, ever make it in western pop music because I’m Asian. It doesn’t matter how talented I am or how hard I work at it. I just don’t look like the rest of them. My own family told me this!

Now, before you judge them for not being supportive, consider this: Caucasians in America never have to say to their kids “your dreams will never come true because you’re white, and that’s just the sad truth”. These parents might have 99 other reasons to discourage kids from an artistic career path but “race” isn’t one of them.

And this is why Crazy Rich Asians means so much for Asian Americans, especially Asian American creatives:

  • It has broken the glass ceiling for future generations of Asian American actors. It is a big budget, big studio rom-com. The success of the movie shows that, contrary to Hollywood lore, there is in fact demand for ethnic leads telling ethnic stories.
  • It’s hard to explain why but it makes me feel at least acknowledged. Before this, I’ve never gone to a movie theater and seen people who look like me on the screen. Not in lead roles in a Hollywood romantic comedy. Definitely not telling our stories as Asian Americans, trying to balance fitting in and preserving our cultural heritage. It always felt like we weren’t an important enough demographic to accurately represent in American media.
  • It humanized us in a way that only movies can. The Asian cast was not there just to play stereotypical roles. It showed that we’re not just kung fu masters, or tiger moms, or math nerds. We’re people, with dreams, heartaches, and the universal apprehension of in-laws :)
  • It gives me hope that perhaps my family was wrong about needing a different skin tone, eye color, and face shape to succeed in music nowadays. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the movie was Kina Grannis’ cameo. I’ve been watching her videos since the early days on YouTube and I was just happy to see how far she’s gone.
  • May I point out that the music was amazing? Loved all the Mandarin covers of jazz standards and pop classics. It helped reinforce the fact that we are really a diverse bunch with different personalities, tastes and talents. I did not understand a word, but I really enjoyed the music. Hats of to music supervisor Gabe Hilfer for that.
  • Last but not least, it was really cool to find out that the director (Jon M. Chu) is none other than the son of our favorite Chinese restaurant owner and chef. Chef Chu must be very, very proud.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Also, in your opinion, what would have been the most appropriate response to the ladies I encountered at the party? Was I wrong to say how I felt?

Let me know in the comments below!


We love writing! Not just songs, but also little anecdotes, stories, reflections that hopefully provide a glimpse into our quirky artistic path. Somehow these unlikely bedfellows, two "perfect strangers" from across the globe found each other in California and turned out to be artistic soulmates. 

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