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[Songwriting Expert Advice] Writing and Placing Christmas & Holiday Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @01:20 PM

[Songwriting Expert Advice] Writing and Placing Christmas and Holiday Songs
by Jason Blume
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Imagine receiving airplay and earning income from a song year after year and having that same song be recorded by multiple artists over a span of decades. That is what can happen with a holiday-themed song. For many songwriters and music publishers, landing a holiday recording that becomes the next “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” or “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” is the greatest gift they could hope for.

While Christmas is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think about holiday songs, there have been successful songs that relate to other holidays, as well. It would hardly be New Year’s Eve without Auld Lang Syne, and there are Valentine’s Day songs, songs played on Cinco de Mayo, Chanukah favorites, and St. Patrick’s Day songs, such as those recorded by the Irish Rovers and other artists from the Emerald Isle. There are also songs that are associated with patriotic holidays, and of course, birthday songs.

Michael Jackson’s recording of “Thriller” is sure to be heard toward the end of every October, as is “The Time Warp,” from the soundtrack of “The Rocky Horror Show.” But the song most closely associated with Halloween is the “The Monster Mash” (written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi and recorded by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers). Peaking at #1 when it was released in 1962, the song has charted three subsequent times since its initial release and has been covered by artists including Sha Na Na and the Beach Boys, continuing to generate income for decades.

Trivia buffs might enjoy knowing that legendary songwriter and recording artist Leon Russell played piano on the original recording of “The Monster Mash.” Other Halloween perennials include Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween” (from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” (Zevon, Leroy Marinell, Robert Wachtel).

Lee Greenwood’s signature song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” (written and performed by Greenwood) was first released in 1984, peaking at #7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart. Greenwood’s recording of the song was re-released and gained a bigger audience during the Gulf War and following 9/11. The recording charted a second time, reaching #16 on the Billboard Pop chart and #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart, amassing sales of more than one million copies.

American Idol’s Season 2 finalists recorded a cover version of “God Bless the U.S.A.” that reached #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and was certified “Gold” for selling more than 500,000 copies. Numerous artists, including Beyoncé, have released or performed versions of the song, establishing it as a true holiday standard, and Greenwood’s version receives extensive airplay and live performances during every patriotic holiday, such as Veteran’s Day, the 4th of July, and Memorial Day, as well as at political rallies. Miley’s Cyrus’ recording of “Party in the U.S.A.” (written by Claude Kelly, Dr. Luke and Jessie J) is likely to receive airplay on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve for many years to come.

Some radio stations alter their formats and play only Christmas music from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Billboard magazine lists the popularity of Christmas songs on a U.S. Holiday Song chart. Songs on these playlists can generate royalties for their writers and publishers for a lifetime, but there is a benefit for the recording artists, as well.

Artists who record the first version of a holiday song that becomes a standard ensure that they will receive annual airplay, and remain in the public consciousness for years–possibly even decades–after their non-holiday releases are no longer included on current playlists. These artists can extend their careers and earn musical immortality by doing annual Christmas concerts and by performing the song closely associated with them on holiday television shows.

Perennial chestnuts such as “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls” have been part of the Christmas soundtrack for decades, but more recently, songs such as Faith Hill’s recording of “Where Are You Christmas,” Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Alabama’s “Christmas in Dixie,” and Elvis’ rendition of “Santa Claus is Back in Town” can be found on Christmas playlists throughout the world.

I spoke with Justin Wilde, owner of Christmas and Holiday Music which is the number one music publisher of original Christmas, Chanukah, Halloween, and other holiday songs. Wilde’s company represents more than 240 songwriters and has secured holiday releases with artists including Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Anita Baker, Toby Keith, Ray Charles, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Mathis and many more, as well as a long list of television and film placements.

Wilde stated that it has always been difficult to get Christmas and other holiday songs recorded because only a small percentage of releases fall into these categories. Most of the songs on Christmas albums are artists’ versions of standards. In some instances, there are no new, original songs included at all. Typically there are not more than two or three original songs included, and with the advent of more artists writing or co-writing the few original songs on their holiday releases, securing these recordings has become even more daunting.

When asked what writers and publishers can do to increase their odds, Wilde responded, “To maximize your chances of a placement, write mid- or up-tempo songs. There are probably ten ballads out there for every mid-tempo song.” While he acknowledges that he has placed a small number of sad holiday songs, he stressed that most listeners don’t purchase or listen to Christmas songs to hear sad messages, such as “My baby left and I’m feeling so blue” or songs about the homeless. Positive, happy songs tend to be easier for him to place. He added, “Appeal to your listeners’ senses with lyrics they can see, taste, and smell. Include at least one great, fresh, original line in each verse.” He also mentioned that in terms of genres, country music typically has the most artists releasing Christmas releases, followed by pop and R&B. So those writing and representing songs in those styles will have the most opportunities to secure placements.

With there being so few slots for original holiday songs, it becomes even more important for writers to find fresh, unique angles and imagery to separate their work from the pack. For example, if you rely solely on cliché Christmas images such as the stockings hung by the fire, the presents under the tree, the carolers, and decorations, it is unlikely that your song will compel an artist to bump his or her own song from the album in order to include yours. Avoiding references to specific geographic locations and keeping your lyrics gender neutral (when applicable) expands the number of casting possibilities.

Hit songwriter and publisher Steve Leslie of SNG Music also stressed the importance of finding fresh, new images to include in holiday songs. In his song “Candy Cane Christmas,” (written by Steve Leslie, Frank Rogers and Darius Rucker, and recorded by Darius Rucker) the lyric includes references to tiny little boots covered in snow, apple cider warming on the stove, and kids twisting like little tops in their beds.

“It’s easy to write trite, but that’s not what we want,” said Leslie. He continued, “We need a new twist on an old theme. For ‘Candy Cane Christmas,’ Frank Rogers (who produced the song) wanted an idea that would be about a physical object, like a Christmas tree or silver bells, but something that hadn’t been done before. I Googled ‘Christmas objects.’ As I looked down the list I saw “candy cane” and I liked the alliteration of ‘Candy Cane Christmas,’ and the payoff line, ‘sweet as it can be,’ knocked it out of the park.”

Legendary songwriter and songwriting educator Marty Panzer (collaborator on many of Barry Manilow’s biggest hits, Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years,” and more than 100 Disney placements) echoed the importance of bringing a unique element to songs for the holiday market, as well as to all songs. Panzer shared, “It was Barry Manilow’s idea to write “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” (written by Marty Panzer and Barry Manilow/recorded by Manilow) for his Uris Theatre run, which was being recorded for his first Live album. We wrote the song on Monday… it was orchestrated on Tuesday… and recorded on Wednesday.

As with all songs we wrote together or separately, the most important point, was to write something that hadn’t been said before. Though New Year’s Eve is generally thought of as a celebration of the coming new year, it is for many, if not most, a time of introspection and looking back over the year (or years) that have passed. It’s often a time of regret, anxiety, and an acute sense of loneliness. There was no song we knew of that addressed any of that.”

Panzer continued, “Barry wanted to write a song of comfort and encouragement for those people who were possibly hurting on New Year’s Eve, more than they were celebrating. Happily, “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” turned out to be just that song. Its uniqueness, Barry’s extraordinarily warm and moving performance, and the grace of God, have made it a perennial at radio, where it’s gotten great airplay, for all these years. Barry Manilow Live was Barry’s first Number 1 album. ‘It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve’ was the only single from the album. Barry performed the song on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve TV special, for probably the next 10 years.”

When asked whether there are special melodic considerations for holiday songs, Justin Wilde stated, “Melodic simplicity is probably more important for a holiday song than for a non-seasonal recording. You probably want something the average person can hum along with, not something that only a professional singer can sing. For example, songs with a two-octave range or octave interval jumps that are so challenging, vocally, that you’re not going to hear it by carolers or in school productions.” He suggested, “Write those Great American Songbook-style songs that stand the test of time and work in various genres. Songs that can be arranged and recorded in a variety of styles–as opposed to songs that rely primarily on a current-sounding musical track to hook the listeners–will have the best chance of becoming a perennial favorite.

Wilde added, “If I listen to your song three times and I can’t sing back at least half the melody, it’s not a song that can be a standard.” He stated that the repetition of a short (i.e., two to six note) melodic or rhythmic motif helps a melody to be memorable. By weaving the rhythm or the interval established in that melodic phrase throughout the fabric of the song, the melody becomes embedded in the listeners’ brains.

A technique sometimes used in holiday songs is to weave in melodic snippets of classic holiday songs that are in the public domain. An excellent example of this can be found in Barry Manilow’s “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” (written by Manilow and Marty Panzer), which includes melodic phrases of “Auld Lang Syne.”

When asked what the biggest mistake is writers make when writing the Christmas and holiday songs they submit to him, Wilde stated, “Failing to workshop a song; not getting professional feedback and failing to rewrite their song before demoing it.” When asked about placing Christmas and other holiday-oriented songs in television shows and movies, Wilde shared, “For holiday-themed television and movies, songs are like audio props or set decorations. For example, when you open on a Christmas episode on TV you want to see Christmas trees or decorated shopping malls that tell you that it’s Christmastime. Songs for Christmas episodes have the same function. They need to help establish that this is a Christmas episode. If it’s an original song the public will not recognize it as a Christmas song unless the lyric includes many mentions of Christmas and Christmas images upfront and throughout.”

The first step in pitching holiday songs is to learn which recording artists, and film and television productions, are seeking this type of material. This information can be gleaned from tip sheets (such as RowFax, for those who are focused on the Nashville market) and through establishing relationships with A & R executives and music producers, as well as film and TV music supervisors. While Justin Wilde’s Christmas and Holiday Music publishing company specializes in holiday songs, any successful publisher should have the necessary contacts to learn which artists are looking for holiday songs, and should have access to the decision makers.

Traditionally, the best time to pitch Christmas music has been from January through July, with most artists’ holiday projects being finished by or before mid-August. This was necessary to allow sufficient time for physical product to be pressed, album covers to be designed, and copies to be shipped to distributors and placed in stores. But in today’s world of digital releases, artists who are releasing material only in a digital format might record and release a holiday single only a few weeks prior to the holiday.

Whether your goal is to write and place the next holiday standard or to have a non-seasonal smash hit, the keys to success remain a combination of exceptional, fresh melodies and lyrics with persistence. Justin Wilde estimates that he pitched one particular song more than 2,000 times over a period of twelve years before finding it a home with an artist.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and hits and happiness in the coming year!

 

[Reprinted with permission by BMI (Broadcast Music Inc)]
 

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50 million copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Azar, and John Berry. After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s online interactive critiques and webinars, latest books, instructional audio recordings, and workshops, visit www.jasonblume.com

Information on the Inaugural Christmas Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/xmas


 
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(EXPERT MUSICIAN ADVICE) Find & Work with Music Attorneys

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @01:03 PM

(EXPERT MUSICIAN ADVICE) Find & Work with Music Attorneys

By Glenn Litwak

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This article on music attorneys will discuss principles that apply whether you are a recording artist, songwriter, music producer, manager, independent record label or music publisher.

  1. What do music attorneys do?
    Music attorneys generally fall into two categories: litigators or transactional attorneys. Litigators are hired to represent individuals and companies involved in the music business in court, arbitration and mediation. For instance, if you are owed money on a contract or you have a copyright infringement case.

Transactional attorneys prepare and negotiate music industry contracts. Some examples: recording, music publishing and songwriter contracts, management or music producer agreements, and touring and merchandising agreements. Some music lawyers do both litigation and transaction work, but most are one or the other.

A few music attorneys may be willing to “shop” an artist, meaning they will look for a recording or music publishing agreement for you and, if they are successful, they will take a percentage of what you get (generally five percent). In my experience, it is very difficult to find a music lawyer willing to do this if you are a new artist.

 

  1. Do you need a music attorney?
    How do you know if you need a music lawyer? If you are sued or someone is threatening to sue you or you need to sue someone to collect money, then you will need a music litigator. And you would need one if you are going to be involved in an arbitration or mediation. You would retain a transactional music lawyer to give you legal advice or to prepare and/or negotiate a music industry contract.
  1. What to look for in a music attorney
    Let’s say you are a new up-and-coming artist. You have built a nice social networking presence; you are doing bigger and bigger shows and have even started licensing your music for film and TV. You have finally been offered a deal with an independent record label. What type of experience and qualifications would you look for in a music attorney? First of all, you need to find someone who has recent experience in negotiating the type of deal you are being offered. Secondly, find someone you are comfortable with and feel you can trust and communicate with. Thirdly, research the background of the lawyer: How long has he or she has been a music lawyer, who has he or she represented, has he or she spoken at music industry conferences, etc. And you should look into the lawyer’s reputation for honesty and integrity.
  1. How do you find one?
    Most of the music attorneys are in New York and Los Angeles, but you can also find them in places like San Francisco, Nashville, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis and Toronto. One of the best ways to find a music lawyer is by referrals from friends and relatives or from people you trust in the music business. You can also research music attorneys online. Check out Music Connection’s Directory of Music Attorneys.
  1. Attorney fee agreements
    Entering into a written attorney/client fee agreement is important. In fact, in California it is required if the anticipated legal fees are over $1,000 or if the matter will be taken by the attorney on a contingency (percentage) basis. The fee agreement will spell out what the attorney will be working on, how the fees are calculated and what will be expected of you i.e., cooperation, communication.

Music attorneys are paid in several different ways:
A. By the hour: Under this arrangement, the attorney will bill you by the hour (or part of an hour), with an upfront deposit (retainer)

  1. Flat fee: This would be, for example, where the attorney bills you a flat fee of $5,000 to negotiate a recording agreement with a major label.
  2. Percentage: Music lawyers generally charge 5% when they are willing to work on a percentage. It is more likely an attorney will agree to this with an established artist or producer. Or if a new artist has a deal on the table that looks like it will close and substantial money will be due when the deal closes. But if for any reason the deal does not close, the attorney is paid nothing! This may be a good deal for the artist who does not have the money to pay the lawyer up front.
  1. Working with a music attorney
    Once you find a music lawyer you should try and give him all the information and documents he or she needs. This means giving your lawyer the good as well as the bad news about your matter. And you should decide how you will communicate. Nowadays, most of the communication is by email, text and telephone. You can agree that you will be copied on all communications sent and received by the attorney on your case.
  1. Terminating a music attorney
    When you have retained an attorney you may generally fire him or her whenever you want. You can terminate your music attorney for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason. But you will be liable for the attorney fees up to the date of discharge. If you decide on termination you should do it in writing and make arrangements to pick up your file.

 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be specific legal advice for any particular situation. You should retain an experienced music attorney to advise you about any specific matter.

 

Reprinted with permission by Music Connection Magazine.

 

GLENN LITWAK is a veteran music and entertainment attorney based in Santa Monica, CA. He has represented platinum-selling recording artists, Grammy-winning music producers and hit songwriters as well as management and production companies, managers, music publishers and independent record labels. Litwak is also a frequent speaker at music industry conferences around the country such as SXSW (South by Southwest) and the Billboard Music in Film and TV Conference. See glennlitwak.com.

 

Enter the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter



 
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Songwriting Expert Advice: Writing Songs to Pitch

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 @12:15 PM

Songwriting Expert Advice: Writing Songs to Pitch

by Anika Paris
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Award-winning songwriter and instructor Anika Paris gets right to the bottom line when it comes to setting your sights and crafting your songs to pitch to publishers and film & television music supervisors. Here are some great do’s and don’ts...

1. Defining Your Goals—what kind of songs are you pitching?
It all begins with a song, and a great song should be able to stand on its own. What creates that pure and unexplainable “magic” that resonates with audiences? And how can we get those songs working for us, heard on TV, in ads, in films, on famous artists’ records and over the radio?

There’s no secret ingredient on how to write the perfect song, it’s often timing and luck. But, we do have control over defining our goals when pitching songs. Whether you are writing songs in hopes of a publishing deal, or representing yourself with songs to pitch directly to music supervisors, sync houses and ad agencies, having clarity on the kind of writer you are and where your songs fit is key. You must pick and choose writing styles to match which avenue you decide to take when pitching your music; whether as an artist, a songwriter, writing for TV commercials or for film. Let your contacts know where you envision your songs, and whether you are a one-stop shop. The more prepared you are, the more seriously you’ll be taken.

2. When Writing as the Artist, be current with a twist.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” There should always be something definitively unique about your songs, so your voice and style stand out. Everyone is looking for the next craze of music. A “sound-a-like” with non-descript vocals can become dated and get lost in the pile. Be relevant, but hone your own artistic signature.

3. When Writing for Another Artist, uncover something personal.
Listen to the artist you are pitching to, and make sure your song matches their style, their vocal range and timbre. To be clever, read articles, Google them and try to find out what the artist may be going through in their personal life and write about it. Record labels will mention song styles the artist is looking for, but rarely a subject matter or lyrical content. So, touching upon something personal can only help. After all, you are competing with producers and top liners who write directly with that artist.

In addition, make sure to have a great production and write as radio ready as possible.

4. When Writing for TV/Film, familiarize and customize.
Getting a song licensed to television and film is mostly up to a music supervisor. However, a publisher can pitch on your behalf. Pull something from your catalogue that may fit a specific storyline of a show you’re watching, or go ahead and write something for a show to send in. Make sure to identify the current sound they are using before writing something that doesn’t fit. For example: Grey’s Anatomy often features ethereal ballads and love songs, versus something featured on HBO like Bloodline, which gravitates more toward quirky underground songs. When it comes to songs for films, it’s unknown territory. But independent films, versus blockbusters, often choose unknown artists over big names, because the budgets are smaller and the music palettes broader.

5. When Writing for Commercials, investigate products and brands.
There is definitely a formula for big box stores and major brands. Cathy Heller, songwriter and founder of Catch the Moon Music, has a lot of experience and placements. Some of her clients include giants like Walmart, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and many more.

“It’s all about the vibe,” she says. “80% of the time they want music that is feel good, happy, playful and lyrically about being young, free and on the go. But, be sure to marry that with a hip, indie, fashion forward vibe, so you’re not just writing a jingle but a great standalone song. The other 20% of the time, there will be brands that have a different sonic palette. For example, Subaru gravitates more toward a Boniver and Lexi Murdock sound. Something slow, moody and melancholy. So, be sure to research brands before submitting.”

Furthermore, songs should have variation and dynamics, so there is plenty of room for dialogue if needed, and a production that builds up to the chorus.

6. One-Stop Shop, get everything in the clear.
One-Stop Shop means you’re legally setup to send your songs out without potential complications. You need to complete the following:

• Writers/Publishers Shares: Register all your songs with either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. Make sure all writers splits are documented and agreed upon.

• Master/Producer Rights: Establish and negotiate Master ownership with your producer.

• Control: Get all creators on your team to give you control for songs to pitch.

7. Getting Past the Gatekeeper, personal relationships are key.
Breaking down the industry wall is overwhelming, and unsolicited emails often go unanswered. But, there’s always six degrees of separation, somebody knows somebody, who knows somebody.

So, exhaust all your resources to find a connection to an in-house person. Because personal relationships are always best. I worked for two celebrities, and I was the “gatekeeper.” I only let people through who bonded with me. I suggest you call before emailing to make sure they are accepting new material, and ask what format of music they prefer. And, whoever answers the phone, get their name, establish a connection.

Create a good email signature with a picture, keep it brief and specify why you’re sending your music. Don’t send 30 songs! Send your top three, and let them know there’s more. Michael Eames of PEN Music Group says: “I get so many emails with attachments. I prefer streaming links. I usually write back that I’m very busy, and that they should follow up with me in a couple of weeks. That eliminates those who are not serious. Most don’t write back. But those that do, I will listen to their work.”

Remember, it’s still a two-way street—music publishers, supervisors and ad agencies need music as much as songwriters need them.
 
(Permission reprint by Music Connection magazine)
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ANIKA PARIS is a published songwriter with Universal/Polygram and has had songs featured in major motion pictures via Miramax, Century Fox 21, Lionsgate, Universal Pictures and on HBO's Sex in the City,Desperate Housewives,American Idol, MTV, Oprah's OWN and many more. She is a coauthor of the book Five Star Music Makeover published by Hal Leonard Inc. See: www.anikaparismusic.com

Information on the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Songwriting Tip: Melody Is Like A Fingerprint or Signature

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Melody Is Like A Fingerprint or Signature

by Harriet Schock

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In my songwriting course, I cover melody and chords as well as lyrics. I’ve learned so much about songwriters this way. Melodies don’t always reflect the actual personality of the composer the way handwriting might, but it certainly stays within a certain box with his or her name on it. Some songwriters in their melodies stay very step-wise, using notes that are close to each other most of the time and with a lot of rhythmic repetition. Some love leaps of a particular nature leading to an unexpected chord. Some composers write the melody over the chords but think of the chords before the melody. Some add chords after the melody is written. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out one’s on chronology since the chords and melody affect each other so intimately. One thing I’ve noticed for sure: If a writer can’t hear chords and pick out other people’s chords by ear, his/her chords will sound arbitrary and will have to be “thought out” rather than “heard” when he or she is composing a melody.

There are signature sounds to certain songwriters. I’ve discussed before the way Richard Rogers used non-chordal tones, often outside the scale, referred to as “the Rogers wrong note.” It’s what we wait for. Non-chordal tones in melodies are frequently the best part, but it still has to have an inevitability to it in its entirety, not sound like the chord was pulled out of a bag or placed there because it had a note in common with the melody.

Now let’s take the example of collaborations. I used to think that when part of a lyric was written first and the composer was brought in to write the melody afterward, that the lyricist had dictated the rhythm of that melody. But I’ve noticed that so many different rhythms of melody can result from the very same lyric, I no longer think that. I do believe, though, that the second verse should be written to the melody the composer writes. Counting syllables never works well because it’s really beats that must be counted and accents followed for the prosody to be right. It’s just much easier to write the second (and third) verses to the melody. That’s what we do when we start a song writing melody and lyrics together. It always amuses me when a songwriter will say “I just write melody and lyrics at the same time, so I can’t write lyrics to an existing melody.” I always remind them that yes, they write the 2nd verse lyric to an existing melody. They have to admit that it’s true.

Try discovering the melodic fingerprint of certain composers. Some are quite versatile and it might be hard to know, especially in the beginning when they’re still searching for their styles. But after a few decades of writing, it’s interesting to listen to a lot of one great composer’s melodies and discovering his or her fingerprint or signature. And if you’re still looking for your style, it might be advisable to play their songs by ear. It could beneficially affect your own compositions in the future and one of those swirls you become known for might have come from some great composer’s thumb.

 

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), and her new up coming book, her songwriting classes, online courses and consultation, go towww.harrietschock.com

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Songwriting in Nashville

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 @07:00 AM


Songwriting in Nashville

By Jason Blume

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When I first came to Nashville, the joke at demo sessions used to be, “Which melody do y’all want? Number 3 or number 4?” The implication was that country melodies were all alike -- and only the lyric mattered. Now, the lyrics still have to overflow with details, pictures, and unique angles--but that won’t matter if they’re not attached to a killer, fresh, instantly memorable, hook-laden MELODY!

As part of my most recent webinar (in addition to the song critiques) I identified the melodic tools used in some of the biggest current hits. It really hammered home for me that “outside” songs (not written by the artist or co-producer) have to have EXCEPTIONAL melodies and rhythms.

For the people who complain that country music today is crap and that it ain’t country anymore … I have two things to say:

1) Music in every genre changes and evolves (thankfully!). Motown, the Beatles, Aretha, Sinatra, are all amazing and have all had their time of ruling the radio airwaves--but we can’t get those kinds of songs recorded by today’s artists. So, why should country music stay frozen in time? I LOVE the old country standards, but if I want a successful career, I can’t write songs that would have been appropriate for Hank, Patsy, Jones, Johnny, or anybody else who is dead, and expect today’s artists to record them; and

2) If you think today’s songs are poorly written or just cranked out crap, try writing “I Drive Your Truck,” “Drink a Beer” or “The House That Built Me,” or melodies as fresh and instantly memorable as those in “Came Here to Forget” (Blake Shelton); “Somewhere On a Beach” (Dierks Bentley); and “Church Bells” (Carrie Underwood) -- ALL OF WHICH WERE WRITTEN BY OUTSIDE WRITERS -- NOT THE ARTISTS.

Another issue came up during the webinar …

When I critique songs I frequently ask, “Who do you hear this song for?” You should always be prepared to answer that. A publisher will almost definitely ask that question. If you cannot come up with a list of artists who are currently having hits and do not write their own material exclusively, then you are probably not writing material that targets the current market. This is a business, and part of our job is to be aware of the kind of material being recorded by artists who are currently on the radio--and do not write all of their own songs. We need to write for those artists’ future albums – – not rehash what they’ve already done. Our ticket to success is to give them material that will deliver them to the next level.

Sometimes, I hear songs that are truly terrific--songs that I love--but they are not the kinds of songs publishers can pitch and earn money from. In some cases, it’s because these are “singer/songwriter” songs--the kinds of songs that performing writers write for themselves. In other instances, they might sound like they’re from a different era. I spent years writing both of those kinds of songs and bitterly complaining (while working hideous temp jobs) that my songs were “better than the crap on the radio.” I desperately wanted a publishing deal, but I wasn’t writing the kind of songs a publisher could place. The turning point came when I accepted that if I wanted to write for catharsis that was fine. But if I wanted to earn a living as a songwriter, I needed to write songs with lyrics and melodies that would compel an artist (or publisher or record label exec) to choose my song over a thousand others (including those written by the current hit-makers, as well as the artist and the producer). I still needed to write from my heart--but I needed to also target my listeners’ hearts.

It takes EXCEPTIONAL songs to break through--and those songs must have outlets in the current market. Publishers and other music industry pros are starving for those songs, but they have no need for perfectly crafted, predictable ones. One of the things I love so much about teaching songwriting is that so many of the skills we need to take our songs to that next level are learnable--and that amazing songs really can change lives.

 

Now, time for the sales pitch. July dates for interactive song critique webinars are now posted on my website. The webinars combine in-depth critiques of a song from every participant, lessons, and topics such as “what publishers want”; “how to take a lyric to the next level”; and “how to pitch songs,” as well as Q&A. Note: Every session has filled up--and half the attendees are “repeat offenders.”

http://www.jasonblume.com/song-critique-webinars.html



Jason Blume is the author of This Business of Songwriting and 6 Steps to Songwriting Success (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, etc. Jason’s songs have been included in films and TV shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Assassination Games,”, etc. A regular contributor to BMI’s MusicWorld magazine, he presented a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and teaches songwriting throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Bermuda, and Jamaica. After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s latest books, online classes, instructional audio CDs, and workshops visit www.jasonblume.com.


To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, songwrite, Recording, song demo, Jason Blume, song structure, demo recording, writing hit songs, Honing Your Craft, demo sessions

Songwriting Tip: You Signed a Deal You Shouldn’t Have. Now What?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 07, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: You Signed a Deal You Shouldn’t Have. Now What?

by Erin M. Jacobson

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You signed a deal without having a lawyer review it or you didn’t listen to your lawyer’s music industry advice when (s)he told you not to sign. Several months later, you realize that you probably shouldn’t have signed that deal. Maybe you find that your vision isn’t quite in sync with the other party, maybe they haven’t followed through on the promises they made you or maybe they just turned out to be bad people. Now that you have already committed yourself to this agreement, what are your options?

Here’s some music industry advice: your first step is to contact an attorney. If you did not previously have an attorney review the deal, you need to have an experienced music attorney review it to assess the obligations of each party and whether there are any provisions that would allow you to get out of the contract. If you previously had an attorney review the deal, have that person review it again for the same reasons. It is possible the situation may be remedied by one of the following options:

  1. Contract Termination
    Sometimes contracts have clauses in them that allow for the parties to terminate the contract. These provisions are often tied to certain circumstances, which may be beneficial to you or may complicate matters depending on whether those circumstances have been met.

Another option is having a conversation with the other party where hopefully both of you can come to a mutual agreement to go separate ways. In the alternative, the parties may agree to terminate the contract albeit on not so amicable terms. In this case there will probably be some sort of termination and settlement agreement, where the terminating party might be subject to a penalty or payment to get out of the deal.

  1. Renegotiation
    If you still want to work with the other party but under changed circumstances, another option is seeing if the other party is open to renegotiating some terms of the contract. In reality, a renegotiation in this situation should only be to correct or improve the current problems, not to try to get better terms just because you want more than to what you previously agreed.

Your relationship with the other party and status in the industry both greatly affect a potential renegotiation. If you are a new artist without a proven track record or previously established track record, you are really at the mercy of the company as to whether they will agree to a renegotiation.

Having greater leverage and/or a good relationship with the company will greatly help you here.

  1. Litigation
    If you’ve tried both of the above options and neither have worked, you may want to consider litigation––i.e. suing the other party to get out of the contract. Although you may be prepared to or actually file a lawsuit, many of these matters do settle out of court, usually saving you a lot of time and expense. Once again, this scenario will probably be subject to a termination and settlement agreement and may come with penalties. However, this is sometimes much easier and faster than litigation, which can be lengthy and very expensive.

 

If you decide to pursue the litigation route, you should make an informed decision based on the time and expense involved.

Further, while some attorneys will take a case on contingency (meaning that they only get paid if they win your case) and get a percentage of your recovery from the case, most attorneys do not and will require an hourly rate and an upfront retainer.

Be respectful of the attorney’s policies and don’t try to persuade him or her to take the case.

The moral of the story is to always have an attorney review a contract before you sign it and carefully consider your attorney’s music industry advice.

The ultimate decision whether to sign is yours, but it is much more difficult to change or terminate a contract after signature than negotiate or walk away from a deal before it is signed.

Don’t sign any deal just because you are excited to have been offered one. Careful consideration of whether this is the right deal for you may save you a lot of future grief.

 

Disclaimer: The content contained in this article is not legal music industry advice and does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

[Reprint Permission granted by Music Connection magazine]

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ERIN M. JACOBSON
 (themusicindustrylawyer.com) is a practicing music attorney, experienced deal negotiator and seasoned advisor of intellectual property rights who protects Grammy and Emmy Award winners to independent artists and music companies. Jacobson also owns Indie Artist Resource (indieartistresource.com), the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection offering template contracts and other services meeting the unique needs of independent musicians.

  

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Contract Termination, Music Publishing Deal, Renegotiation, Music Publishing Contract, Record Contract, Litigation

How To Overcome The Fear Of Sharing Your Musical Creations

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 31, 2016 @07:00 AM

How To Overcome The Fear Of Sharing Your Musical Creations
by Robert Menne
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Whether you are interested in writing songs as a hobby or want to turn it into a career, you will need to share your work with others. While this may seem daunting, using tricks that have worked for countless others provides a great foundation for facing your fear. Otherwise, your creations will sit tucked away in a drawer, silent.

Building confidence is essential if you are going to have success. Even if you have no desire nor intent to make a career from your songwriting, there are many avenues available to you for enjoying your tunes and sharing them with your friends, family and even people online. As an added bonus, learning to walk through your fears is a valuable tool that can be useful in virtually every aspect of your life.

Confidence-building exercises and workshops are a great method for strengthening your self-esteem. After all, even if a person does not like your song, it does not mean they don't like you or that you are unworthy in any way. Know, deep in your being, that your self-worth is not dependent on others and you will have the confidence you need to prevent negative remarks from ripping at your heart.

When introducing your songs to others, consider the source when they provide feedback. Ask listeners to be honest and to give you constructive criticism. Realize though that people closest to you may have a difficult time finding fault or things they don't like about a song.

One of the best ways to grow your songwriting skills and find others who can give you more accurate criticism is to join a songwriting group or workshop in your area. Interacting with others who enjoy the same craft can be a source of inspiration and you can learn more about the creative process behind professional songwriting.

Of course, confidence without the skill to back it up is not beneficial. You can learn some of the tools you need at your local musician's workshop, depending on what is offered in your community. However, the greater your understanding of the song creating process, the better your work will be, and you will generate confidence at the same time.

Learning music theory is a good start. Many songwriters also learn how to play the piano, which is quite useful when writing a song. Basic music theory is essential for many reasons. You will learn which keys are good for uplifting tunes and the ones you can use to create an emotional and sad song.

Additionally, a good theory course will teach you about melody, choruses and much more. You can take courses at your local community college to gain these skills. Alternatively, you can find a free or fee-based online class though you will need to research the quality and reputation of the site to ensure the lessons are accurate.

Everyone has a creative nature and you can express yours through music whether you want to focus on pop love ballads, heavy metal or techno tunes. When you ask other musicians for constructive feedback, pay attention to their comments. Rather than feeling defensive or tossing the piece, think about the validity of their response and whether or not you need to alter the song. Even professionals with years of experience edit their songs repeatedly before finalizing them. You can certainly do the same.

If you plan to perform the piece, either live or on video, make sure you know it well enough to recite in your sleep. The words and melody should roll naturally from your mouth, drawing listeners into the story your song tells. You will be more at ease and the music can shine for itself.

All artists have a fear of people negatively judging their works, you are not alone! However, if you learn the basics of songwriting and esteem building techniques, you can overcome the fear of sharing. The more you share your tunes and learn about your craft, the easier it will be. Eventually, the butterflies in your stomach will be just another part of sharing a new song and not the debilitating monsters they are now!

Robert Menne writes and plays music in his spare time. He runs a site freesongs.us that shares the latest tips and advice about guitars and guitar playing, as well as the best video guitar lessons to help you learn to play guitar.

  

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Building confidence, Fear Of Sharing Your Music

5 Things I’ve Learned About Making Music For Film

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 24, 2016 @07:00 AM

5 Things I’ve Learned About Making Music For Film
By Ed Gerrard

EdGerrard.jpg

A film music supervisor wears many hats. The job involves working with the director and producers to secure numerous legal music licenses needed for music placement. You’re also involved with picking and creating new songs for use in key moments of a film. Perhaps my favorite job as a music supervisor is working with the composer on the film score that, in many cases, can make or break a film’s success and enhance the audience’s experience. Here are five things I’ve learned about making music for film.

1. Listen
Before you write a note of music, pay attention. A director will describe the feeling of the journey for the characters and the emotion of the film that they want the audience to experience. It’s the music’s job to take people there. Listen closely and take direction. That’s why they are called directors!

2. Know Your Audience
There are many different styles of films, from romantic comedies to super herofilled action epics. The audiences that these films are made for vary from middle-aged couples to teenagers and even young children. Each audience reacts differently and at different times to what they are seeing and hearing on the screen. Remember that the music must reflect this.

3. Create and Connect Themes
Several themes are required within any single movie, potentially including ones for love, hero, villain, chase, tension, and more. Sometimes you need to “sell” these themes in as little as 30 seconds or less. Linking themes together and making them connect is the key to an effective score.

4. More Is Less
The last thing a director wants is a score that competes with a film’s dialog. Whether a movie calls for a big orchestral score or a simple piano melody, the music must support the dialog and not overwhelm it. It must appear that the words are floating over the music, not drowning in it.

5. Enjoy the Process
Too many movies these days have sterile, boring scores. It often seems like composers are disinterested and simply going through the motions of making music for film. (And sometimes it is the movies themselves that are not very good)! Remember that music is the one thing that can make a horrible movie watchable. So create and have fun with the challenge of putting music to picture. Learning your craft is the first step toward winning that Oscar!

[Reprint permission by Keyboard Magazine]


In a career spanning more than a quarter century, Ed Gerrard has managed numerous Grammy winning artists and supervised the music for 20-plus films and television series, including the new Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, which stars Don Cheadle and features a score by Robert Glasper. Ed Gerrard is known for his music work in Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000). Find out more at
www.impactartist.com

 

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, music supervisor, collaborations, Writing Music for film and TV, film scoring

How to Write A Hit Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 16, 2016 @07:22 AM

How to Write a Hit Song

by Shelly Peiken
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I WISH I knew. If I had the answer I would have written a whole lot more. Anybody who tells you there’s a formula...like always have the title in the first line of the hook or always get to the chorus in thirty-seven seconds, is probably describing a winning scenario that works sometimes, but I assure you, no formula will work every time. As for me, as soon as I think I’ve found the perfect cocktail, somebody hides my vodka.
 Having said that...I have picked up some songwriting tips from partners and colleagues that have resonated with me over the years. Such as...

Stay True
—I was on a songwriting panel with Kara (“American Idol”) DioGuardi, and she said something that was quite matter-of-fact. Let me Karaphrase: “If it doesn’t feel inspired going in, it won’t feel inspired coming out.” Sometimes the simplest ideas go under-appreciated. How many times have I been complicit in finishing a song I wasn’t “feeling,” so as not to be the stick-in-the-mud or disappoint my co-writer? The answer is: a lot more than I’d like to admit. Even though sometimes those songs manage to get recorded, more often than not, they don’t, and then I fail with something I didn’t believe in in the first place.

  • Walk Away
—When you’re stuck...take a walk! This can be more visually stimulating in a city; however, there are other ways to clear your head. Here in L.A., we drive to a place where we can walk. Or we sit by a pool; there are so many pools. 


  • Separate
—Dan James, Leah Haywood and I had bits and pieces of a puzzle that we just couldn’t seem to put together. Dan left the studio for a coffee and a smoke and as soon as he came back in, he spewed a whole hook. Just like that—as effortless as a fart. After all that constipation, Leah and I looked at each other—WTF, Dan? And... did somebody get that? 
Songwriter Michelle Lewis excuses herself to “powder her nose.” She always comes back with a clever line; I know it has nothing to do with her nose. She just needs a little space. 


  • Double Down
—When I first worked with Albert Hammond, Sr., he suggested using the same exact line back to back. I said, “Albert...Umm...you just used that line.” And he said, “So what? Did it feel good?” It did. He said, “ Then don’t worry.” 


  • Be Ready
—Though your mobile device with its Voice Memo App is most likely by your side 24/7, sometimes it’s just nice to feel a pen glide around on paper. So keep a pad of Post-it notes on the piano, under your pillow, in your closet, in your sock drawer, in the spice cabinet, by your toothbrush, the kitchen sink, in your man-purse, the glove compartment, the bathroom, your gym locker—you get the idea— because you never know when an idea is going to tap you on the shoulder. You can swear you’ll remember it, but you won’t. 


  • Work It Out
—Get that blood closer to your brain. Good things happen when your heart beats faster. 


  • Leave Room to Pace—
Get out from behind the computer. Staring at a screen can hold you hostage. Release yourself. Your mind is freer when it’s not confined. 


  • Keep Going—even when you feel like you’re filling up pages with meaningless gibberish. Often the golden nugget turns up at the very end of the last page of the stuff you thought was nonsense. 


  • Be Disciplined
—Sit at the piano or with that guitar every morning and noodle... even if nothing comes. Eventually something will. 


  • Word Games
—Crossword puzzles let you practice fitting words into limited or specific spaces...twisting and turning concepts around until some- thing clicks—like writing lyrics. Sometimes, just when you’re certain you can go no further, the next day you’ll be crossing the street and voilà...23 Across (or that missing line) becomes obvious. Your brain is working, even when you’re not. 


  • Listen
—Keep your ears open for snippets of conversation that catch your attention—a slur from a drunk in the checkout line, a blurb about the weather on the news, a lament from a tired two-year-old. We hear things selectively for a reason. 


  • Rhyming—
Soft rhymes or sound-alikes are pleasing. They have texture. They are fresh. Exact rhymes can sound stale. A perfect rhyme that’s “ball- park” is not nearly as interesting as a scrappy one that tells the truth. 


  • The More the Merrier—
If you can’t sing, consider writing with someone who can, especially if you are aiming to pitch the song to an artist with a big voice. A singer with range can take you to melodic places you wouldn’t have ventured yourself, simply because...you can’t sing! 


  • Access Your Madness
—Even the most mentally healthy songwriter harbors a bit of emotional dysfunction. This is no time to be sensible. Unleash it. It will serve you well. 


  • Dream It
—When you’re searching for an elusive word or an alternative melodic shape, concentrate on it when you go to bed. What we fall asleep thinking about is often what we dream about. If it comes to you in your sleep, document it as soon as you wake up, because we forget 90% of our dreams within ten minutes of waking. It’s been said that the introduction to “Satisfaction” came to Keith Richards in a dream. Makes me want to take a nap. Yawn. 


  • Set the Mood
—If you want a song to have a certain melancholy feel, listen to another song that has a similar melancholy feel, while you’re working on the new song. I’m not suggesting you rip it off...but use it like Viagra, if you will, to get in the mood. (If you remain inspired for more than four hours, be sure to get medical help right away.) 


  • Keep Perspective—
I’m uncomfortable when a co-writer automatically defers to me. He might think I know better just because I once wrote a big hit. I don’t. Conversely, sometimes I’m writing with someone who just had a hit and I start thinking maybe she knows better. She doesn’t. 


  • Stay Clear
—A lot of great songs have been written under the influence, but be careful. While being high may open your mind and let you see things in a different light, sometimes that heady mist of open-mindedness makes it hard to tell whether you’re really brilliant or just imagining you are.

My apologies to everyone who saw the title of this chapter and thought by reading it they’d know how to write a hit song. It’s just not that simple. If I had to come up with one X factor that I could cite as a characteristic most hit songs have in common (and this excludes hit songs that are put forth by an already well-oiled machine...that is, a recording artist who has so much notoriety and momentum that just about anything he or she releases, as long as it’s “pretty good,” will have a decent shot at succeeding), I would say it would be:

A universal sentiment in a unique frame.

ConfessionsOfASerialSongwriter.jpg

Shelly Peiken is a Hit songwriter who is best known for writing #1 hits "What A Girl Wants" and "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)" by Christina Aguilera, #1 hit "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks, and the Top 20 hit "Almost Doesn't Count" by Brandy. She has also written songs that were recorded by some of the biggest names in music: Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Gladys Knight, Cher, Gloria Gaynor, Samantha Fox, Taylor Dayne, Natalie Cole and many more. She wrote the book "Confessions of a Serial Songwriter” published by BackBeat Books, available on Amazon and at Bookstores near you.

 

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, Britney Spears, How To Write A Hit Song, hit songwriting, Shelly Peiken, Christina Aguilera, Meredith Brooks

Songwriting Radio Podcast, featuring winners of 2015 USA Songwriting Competition

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 12, 2016 @02:52 PM

DistantCousins-3.jpg

(Pictured: Distant Cousins, Top winner of the 2015 USA Songwriting Competition)

Songwriters Radio Program, featuring the best new songwriters of today: Distant Cousins, Akon, Brian McKnight, Willie Nelson, Faith Hill. American Authors, etc. Winners of the 2015 USA Songwriting Competition are featured on this podcast.  

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, collaborations