Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tip: The Dos and Don’ts of Co-Writing

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 @06:09 PM

The Dos and Don’ts of Co-Writing

by Cliff Goldmacher

 

The top winning song of the 2013 USA Songwriting Competition was written by six different songwriters. Collaboration on writing songs have been around for years. Cliff talks about the dos and don’ts of co-writing. 

Songwriting

Looking back over twenty years to my first songwriting efforts, I remember my creative process as so personal and fragile that I was dead certain I would never open it up to another songwriter. This would have seemed like co-painting or more like co-dating...just not going to happen. However, two things DID happen. One, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, the co-writing capital of the world, and, two, I wrote a lot more songs which stopped me from thinking of each of my song children as untouchable and precious. Ultimately, I simply wanted to create more and better songs and co-writing became a big part of the process. Over the years, I’ve experienced (sometimes the hard way) a few of the big “dos” and “don’ts” of co-writing and thought I’d cover a few.

 

Dos

  1. Decide in advance if you’re going to bring ideas or start “cold”

There are advantages to both approaches. If you’re new to the co-writing process or possibly a little nervous about how your upcoming session will go, preparing in advance with anything from a list of song titles to lyrical and/or musical hooks can go a long way towards a smooth-running session. However, as a more experienced writer, I go into sessions with younger artists without preparing ideas because I anticipate that our initial discussions and time spent getting to know each other will provide the material for our collaboration. All this to say, there is no “right” way to do this.

 

  1. Show up on time and ready to work

I know we’re all artists and we’re all supposed to be flaky, creative types but you’re now writing to hopefully generate income from your music so it’s also a business. Treat it that way. You wouldn’t show up late for work or cancel because you didn’t feel like going so don’t do it with your co-writing sessions either. Showing respect for the process and your collaborator goes a long way towards setting the tone for a productive co-write.

 

  1. Make a plan on how you’ll both promote the song

The reality of the music business is that collaboration doesn’t end with the finished song. There will be subsequent discussions about demo costs, pitch opportunities and any one of a number of other details. What this really means is that in order to make yourself an “attractive” co-writer, you should remember to bring as much to the table as possible. This could mean bringing an industry connection or pitch opportunity or even having a recording studio where you and your co-writer can do the demo for free. It’s helpful to remember that the actual co-write is easy/fun part and it’s all the other parts of the process that ultimately make for a successful collaboration. Truly successful collaborations often extend beyond just writing the song.

 

  1. Discuss percentages for each co-writer

After writing close to a thousand songs, my assumption is that all my “from-scratch” collaborations are even splits. This means 50/50 if there are two of us, 33/33/33 if there are three of us, etc. I consider it bad karma (and frankly exhausting) to count words or try and figure out who created what when the song is done and then try to adjust percentages. Just know that some days you’ll contribute more and some days your co-writer(s) will and that it all evens out in the end. If the song is brought to you mostly (or even partially) finished, then be clear on what the split will be in advance so there isn’t a misunderstanding later on. It’s simply better to just deal with this stuff. Also, it’s considered bad form when discussing your collaborations later to state that you “really wrote most of it” or any variation thereof. The bottom line is that without your collaborator the song wouldn’t be the same song that it is no matter what was directly or indirectly contributed.

 

Don’ts

Putting the business aside again for a moment, the collaborative process, at its root, is about trust and chemistry. The following “don’ts” are suggestions about how to avoid damaging or compromising that trust.

 

  1. Don’t ever criticize a co-writer’s suggestion

This is the ultimate vibe killer. There is vulnerability in trusting someone with your ideas and it only takes one “that sounds stupid” or “that’s a bad idea” to kill the goodwill that should be part of the process. This is not to say that you won’t hear (and suggest) dumb things in the process of a co-write. It happens all the time but it’s enough for you to simply say you’d rather keep looking for another idea or try something else at that point in the song. There’s no percentage in saying someone’s idea is “bad” or “wrong.” First of all, this is art and it’s subjective but more importantly (and I’ve seen this more times than I can count) you could crush an admittedly weak idea that was only going to be a stepping stone towards a truly great one. Be patient with your collaborator and yourself and you’ll be amazed at the results.

 

  1. Don’t insist on one of your ideas if your co-writer doesn’t seem interested in it

You may be in the middle of a co-write and come up with a snippet of lyric or melody that you absolutely love but for some reason your co-writer just doesn’t get it. My suggestion is to make your best case for it and if your co-writer doesn’t like it, let it go. It’s that simple. There are too many ways to write a song to derail the process over a simple disagreement. The key to collaboration is making sure you’re both on board with an idea before moving forward. That being said, if you feel your collaborator consistently doesn’t like ideas that you feel are strong, there’s no rule that says you have to keep writing with this person.

 

  1. Don’t edit too harshly early on in the session

There’s real value in keeping a co-write moving along. Squeezing too hard on a single line or section of the song too early in the process can take all the creative energy out of a session. Better to either keep in a “good enough” line with the understanding you’ll come back to it when you begin to review what you’ve written or take a break if the line just isn’t coming. There will always be time for editing but I’d suggest not going too deep on that front at the expense of getting the shape and form of the song together first.

 

 

  1. Don’t push too hard to collaborate with a more established/successful songwriter

As songwriters, we all know who the hot/marquis writers are. We hear their songs on the radio, meet them at music conferences and, in some cases, came up with them from when they were “nobody.” The unwritten rule I’ve observed is that it’s better to be asked to co-write by a more established/successful writer than it is to ask them to co-write yourself. If your personality is such that you just can’t wait for that to happen, my recommendation is that you should ask once, politely and don’t take it personally if the writer isn’t interested or doesn’t have time. It’s abundantly clear what you, as the less experienced/successful writer, stand to gain from the collaboration but it’s up to the more successful writer to decide if your talent, motivation and, yes, connections warrant them taking the time to collaborate with you. It’s simply the law of the jungle. Hopefully, you’ll be in a position to write with a less experienced/successful writer yourself one day and you’ll treat that writer exactly as you’d hope to be treated yourself.

 

Conclusion

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of co-writing rules but simply a few guidelines to help those new to the game to understand it a bit better. The best kinds of co-writes are the ones where both collaborators feel like they’ve written something better than either could have written alone.

Good luck!

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. Go to http://www.educatedsongwriter.com/webinar/ for the latest schedule. Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos. You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.  Facebook: www.facebook.com/EducatedSongwriter  Twitter: edusongwriter

 For more information on the 19th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net


Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, hit song, co-writing, Cliff Goldmacher

Top 10 Songs Remembering John F Kennedy

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 @09:42 AM

By Jessica Brandon

Top 10 Songs Remembering John F Kennedy

Where were you on November 22, 1963? I wished I can say where I was, but I wasn't born yet. However, In remembrance of the sad day 50 years ago when John F. Kennedy was assasinated, here's a look at 10 Songs remembering John F. Kennedy, some songs are also honoring the late president:

 

"Life in a Northern Town" - Dream Academy (1985)

 

"The Day John Kennedy Died" - Lou Reed (1982)

 

"Sympathy for the Devil" - The Rolling Stones (1968)

 

"He Was a Friend of Mine" - The Byrds (1965)

 

Bob Dylan, 'Chimes of Freedom'

 

 

 

"Civil War" - Guns N' Roses (1990)

 

"Brain of J" - Pearl Jam (1998)

 

"Born in the 50's" - The Police (1978)

 

Otis Spann, 'Sad Day in Texas'

 

The Beach Boys, 'Warmth of the Sun'

 

Do you have a song Remembering John F Kennedy? If so, we would like to hear from you, please post your YouTube or Soundcloud URL in the comment box.

 

For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, Bob Dylan, John F Kennedy, jfk, Dream Academy, songs about jfk, The Beach Boys, Otis Spann, Pearl Jam, Lou Reed, jfk songs, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Guns N' Roses

Songwriters For Typhoon Haiyan Survivors

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 @02:49 PM

Songwriters For Typhoon Haiyan Survivors

The world's leading Songwriting Competition - USA Songwriting Competition launched a campaign "Songwriters For Super Typhoon Haiyan" on Saturday. Millions of people in the Philippines need our help. The massive storm has caused catastrophic damage throughout the island nation.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and are in urgent need of food, water and shelter.

USA Songwriting Competition and Mercy Corps has launched immediate relief efforts to help meet these critical humanitarian needs of survivors and is accepting donations to help survivors.

Let's join us in supporting this important work. Together, we can help families devastated by this disaster survive and rebuild their lives. Information:
http://www.mercycorps.org/people/usasong/philippines

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Typhoon Haiyan, Survivors

Music Industry's Top 10 Music Colleges

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Nov 05, 2013 @12:08 PM

The Hollywood Reporter released a ranking of America's 10 Best Music Schools last week based on a survey of academic and entertainment insiders - including composers, arrangers, music supervisors, editors and engineers. In reverse order, they are:


10. Royal College Of Music (London, UK)
The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire established by royal charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, England. The college regularly ranks as one of the world's leading conservatoires.
Notable Alumni: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Julian Bream (One of the Greatest Classical Guitarist of all time), James Horner (Composer for "Titantic"), Gustav Holst, L.A. Philharmonic CEO Deborah Borda

9. CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS (Valencia)
The California Institute of the Arts, colloquially called CalArts, is a university located in Valencia, in Los Angeles County, California. It was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specifically for students of both the visual and the performing arts. It is authorized by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) to grant Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in the visual, performing, and as of 1994, literary arts. The Herb Alpert School of Music was accredited in 2009 to grant a Doctor of Musical Arts.
The school was founded and created by Walt Disney in the early 1960s and staffed by a diverse array of professionals. The institute was started as Disney's dream of an interdisciplinary "Caltech of the arts." CalArts provides a collaborative environment for a diversity of artists. Students are free to develop their own work (over which they retain control and copyright) in a workshop atmosphere, as respected members of a community of artists in which authority is constantly tested and where teaching works through persuasion rather than coercion. Intercultural exchange among artists helps in practicing and understanding of the art making process in the broadest context possible.
Notable Alumni: Jeremy Wall (of Spyro Gyra), Ravi Coltrane, The Airborne Toxic Event's Noah Harmon

8. NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC (Boston)
The New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest independent school of music in the United States.[3]
The conservatory, located on Huntington Avenue of the Arts near Boston Symphony Hall, is home each year to 750 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies along with 1400 more in its Preparatory School as well as the School of Continuing Education. At the collegiate level, NEC offers the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts, as well as the Undergraduate Diploma, Graduate Diploma, and Artist Diploma. Also offered are five-year joint double-degree programs with Harvard University and Tufts University.
Notable Alumni: Neal E. Boyd (Top winner of "America's Got Talent), Cecil Taylor, Sarah Caldwell

7. CURTIS INSTITUTE OF MUSIC (Philadelphia, PA)
All students attend on full scholarship and admission is extremely competitive in the Curtis Institute of Music. It is a conservatory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., that offers courses of study leading to a performance Diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera.
Notable Alumni: Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, James Adler, Lukas Foss (USA Songwriting Competition Finalist, 2004)

6. NYU STEINHARDT (New York)
The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is one of 18 divisions within New York University and is the oldest professional school of education in the United States. It was known as New York University School of Education till 2001.
Notable Alumni: Elmer Bernstein, Wayne Shorter, Alan Menken

5. EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC (Rochester, N.Y.)
The Eastman School of Music is a music conservatory located in Rochester, New York. The Eastman School is a professional school within the University of Rochester. It was established in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.
Notable Alumni: Renée Fleming, Ron Carter, Jeff Beal

4. UCLA HERB ALPERT SCHOOL OF MUSIC (Los Angeles)
UCLA has departments of Ethnomusicology, Music and Musicology
Notable Alumni: John Williams, Randy Newman, Angel Blue

3. THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL (New York)
Known as the Granddaddy of all music colleges in America, The Juilliard School located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, United States, is a performing arts conservatory which was established in 1905. It is identified informally as simply Juilliard and currently trains about 800 undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. It is widely regarded to be one of the world's finest and most prestigious arts programs.
Notable Alumni: Barry Manilow, Henry Mancini, Miles Davis, Philip Glass, Nina Simone, Marvin Hamlisch, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Michael Giacchino

2. USC THORNTON SCHOOL OF MUSIC (Los Angeles)
The University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, founded in 1884 and dedicated in 1999, is one of the premier[citation needed] music schools in the United States. Founded only four years after the University of Southern California itself, the Thornton School is the oldest continually operating arts institution in Southern California.[1] The School is located in the heart of the USC University Park Campus, south of downtown Los Angeles.
Notable Alumni: Jerry Goldsmith, Marilyn Horne, Marco Beltrami

1. BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC (Boston)

Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known primarily as the world's foremost institute for the study of jazz and modern American music.
Notable Alumni: Quincy Jones, John Mayer, Branford Marsalis, Al Di Meola, Melissa Etheridge, Keith Jarrett, Claude Kelly, Diana Krall, Paula Cole, Howard Shore

 

For more infromation on the USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net 

 

 

 

Tags: Berklee, Music Industry, Top 10, Music Colleges, USC, UCLA, Juilliard, Curtis Institute

Musicians: 7 Steps to Creating a Perfect Music Page for Your Website

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Nov 05, 2013 @11:26 AM

7 Steps to Creating a Perfect Music Page for Your Website

by Dave Cool 

 

 Music Play Button


When it comes to having music on your website, installing a site-wide music player or embedding a player on your Homepage just isn’t enough. Remember, your website is your main hub on the Internet. If there’s any place that fans should be able to find all of your music, lyrics, and some free downloads, it’s on your own website.

Create a dedicated Music page as part of the main menu on your site, then follow these 7 steps to give fans a great experience, plus collect emails and generate sales in the process:

1. Have a PLAY button

It sounds obvious, but we still come across band websites where there isn’t a single play button. Don’t simply post the image of your album cover with a purchase link. Let your fans preview all of your songs, including at least 2-3 full songs. Your website isn’t the iTunes store, give fans something more than they would get anywhere else.

 

2. Offer Free Digital Downloads

Speaking of giving more to your fans through your website, offer a free downloadable song on your Music page. Even better than that, offer free songs in exchange for their email address. Getting a fan’s email is worth much more than getting $0.99 for a song download. That way you can keep in touch with them over the long term to let them know about upcoming shows, new music, new merch, etc.

 

3. Have Digital Downloads for Sale

Don’t simply send fans away to iTunes to buy your music. You should have ecommerce setup on your own site where you can offer digital downloads for sale. This way you get to keep the majority of the money, plus collect their email addresses (shameless plug: with Bandzoogle’s Album feature, you can offer downloads for free, pay-what-you-want, or set the price, and you keep 100% of any sales).

 

4. Have Physical Option(s)

Don’t believe the hype, there is still a demand for physical merch. Pledgemusic revealed that 82% of the pledges are going to physical product. So besides digital music, you should also offer physical options for your albums.

 

Signed CDs and special edition vinyls are great for your super fans who want a little something more. (shameless plug #2: with Bandzoogle's Store feature, you can offer physical merch for sale, and again, keep 100% of the sales, $10 million and counting).

 

5. Include Lyrics

Did you know that people search for “lyrics” just as much as “sex” on Google? With digital downloads and streaming, gone are the album/CD jackets with lyrics, but clearly fans still want to see the lyrics somewhere. So on your Music page, be sure to also include lyrics for your songs.

 

Another option is to create a “Lyrics” submenu page for your Music section and post all of your lyrics there. Just make sure that fans can find them on your website.

 

6. Add Album Info & Description

Another important element to add to your music page is info about the albums/songs. When/where was it recorded? With who? What was the inspiration behind the creation of the album? How was the experience? Why are you excited about it? Give your fans some context, let them read the story about your music while they’re listening to it, it might help inspire them to buy it.

 

7. Offer Other Purchase Options

Although you should emphasize selling music through your own website, some people simply prefer to buy through stores that they’re familiar with. So at the bottom of your Music page, include links to stores like iTunes and Amazon, but don’t bring more attention to them than that.

 

Some artists have large calls-to-action sending people directly to iTunes to buy their music, but again, your focus should be on selling directly to your fans and getting most of the money, and more importantly, collecting email addresses to stay in touch with those fans.

 

This is a guest post by musician website and marketing platform Bandzoogle. With Bandzoogle, musicians can easily build their website and manage their direct-to-fan marketing and sales. For more website tips, check out their blog and follow them on Twitter at @Bandzoogle

For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: Create, music page, musician page, Digital Downloads, CD

Songwriter’s Intervention

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 @01:00 PM

Songwriter’s Intervention

Shedding The Bad Habits That Hold Back Your Songs

By Frank Gryner (via your friends and family)

 Songwriting Help

We’ve assembled here because we care about you. It has become clear to the friends and family in this room that your avoidance of technology, in the name of artistry, has negatively impacted your songwriting. Despite your obvious passion for music, you’re continuously blocking your own path of creativity by acquiring several bad habits that we intend to address here today.

Fueled by your natural ability, you may have started out writing songs pretty effortlessly, but in order to advance further, you’ll need to streamline your creative process and take advantage of some of the latest tools available.

 

De-mystifying your music

We’ve heard the phrases “I’m not inspired”, “I have writer’s block”, or “I don’t feel like writing” too often to remain silent anymore. What other profession is reliant on inexplicable cosmic fate in order to produce results? We know it may be hard to hear, but if you don’t know how to write songs on demand, then you’re hardly a professional, but just someone who stumbles upon a decent song by accident.

Even if you don’t have real aspirations to become a professional songwriter, we don’t think there’s anything wrong with becoming really proficient at it. We’re not suggesting that you become an emotionless songwriting machine per se, but there are a lot of ways to improve your craft, starting with educating yourself on precisely what a song is.

A song in its most simple form is melody and lyrics. It can be difficult to separate the arrangement and production from the song itself, especially when you’re overly concerned about its presentation before those fundamental building blocks are in place. Some writers need some level of production early on in order to be “inspired” to write, but reducing this dependency is important if you aim to be versatile and more original in your writing. It all starts with a better way to capture your raw song ideas.

 

Don’t let them get away

The greatest songwriters are both blessed and cursed with a compulsion to create songs absolutely anywhere, any time of day or night. There’s absolutely no excuse not to be well equipped with a portable audio recorder at all times. Using the voice recorder in your smartphone is an obvious choice, but be cautious with any device that isn’t 100% dedicated to one task. Ideas can come while driving or even when you’re talking on your phone; all it takes is a split second to lose one of them while you’re fumbling through app icons looking for your recorder app.

Portable digital audio recorders come in many different varieties, but considering you’re employing this to be a more reliable extension of your brain, we’d suggest the following features:

~ Intuitive navigation and fast bootup time

~ Reasonably rugged but small and lightweight

~ Clear, high-quality sound

~ USB connectivity and/or SD card storage so it’s easy to back up often

 

Remember that the primary purpose of your portable recorder is to capture raw melody and lyrical ideas effortlessly. Other bells and whistles on the device can make this process more confusing, and tempt you with premature production features that ultimately distract you from what’s most important in this phase: the unfiltered, bulk download of ideas from your brain.

 

Don’t beat yourself up

Writer’s block often comes from being too self-critical too early in the song creation process. What hits your voice recorder should be viewed as casting a net into your subconscious, as opposed to anything that really resembles a song quite yet. As you sift through the contents of your recorder, you can start to become a little more judgmental, unearthing song-worthy contenders.

We always recommend resisting the urge to dive head-first into arranging or producing until you have the bare-bones song written. The more you can define the lyrics and melody before introducing additional harmonic and rhythmic support instruments into the mix, the better you can assess what accompanying elements are truly necessary. It’s too easy to use them as a crutch for weak melodies or as a mask for subpar lyrics. It’s a good sign when a vocal line hangs together well with a single instrument such as an acoustic guitar or piano.

 

Building a better demo

So you’ve managed to nurture an idea into something that holds together with a voice and a single instrument? Great. At this point it’s now appropriate to start thinking about building up the production on the song.

Because the rest of the world seems incapable of suspending any disbelief when it comes to works in progress, it’s best to leave little to the imagination when you present your songs. Most of the people in this room aren’t going to appreciate a song that’s not fully produced. Yes, even when sufficiently garnished with disclaimers, seasoned industry professionals have been known to overlook underdeveloped genius. The good news is that there are a lot of easy-to-use tools these days to make your demo sound remarkably good but, more importantly, they can do so without getting anyone else involved.

First off, you need to embrace technology, not begrudgingly, but rather find it within yourself to become a tech-head of sorts. Hear us out on this one. Keeping up with the latest plug-ins, apps and gear that can potentially make your songs sound better should be a priority. While being somewhat obsessed with improving your recording workflow may seem unhealthy to you, for someone who is serious about making their songs sound better, it’s unhealthy to not be fixated on it to some extent. If you’re truly into your craft, it will be worth it for you to tirelessly research the latest options to make your life easier in your studio.

 

Technically independent

The more you can be self-reliant, the more you will actually learn about recording and truly understand your studio setup. The danger in relinquishing control over your recording studio to someone else is that it usually comes at the expense of unsolicited creative input. Before calling in reinforcements when you’re up against a problem, Google it first. Chances are you’re not the first person to be running into whatever technical roadblock that’s holding you up.

This technical independence applies to making do without other musicians as well. When you demo a song, it’s your opportunity to explore the best way to present your vision. Experimenting with different grooves, tempos and keys is a lot easier to do when sequencing the parts withMIDI. This allows you to audition each approach before committing anything to audio or involving other musicians. Many of the currently available virtual instruments sound incredibly convincing, especially if you take the time to detail the velocity and timing of your MIDI performance. You’ll find in certain situations that your programmed tracks can more accurately represent your vision for your song than what a real musician can offer.

The byproduct of being more technically proficient is that you will eventually start to get more creative with the recording process itself. Look at your DAW as an instrument, where the choices you make can take your freshly written song to a whole new level.

 

Tough love

We know that being blindsided by all of us here today may not be your idea of a good time, but believe us when we say that we have your best interest at heart. Maybe we’re biased because we’re always pulling for you to do well... or selfishly don’t want to be subjected to mediocre music; but either way, the end result is to become a better and more effective songwriter, which is a win-win for us all.

 

[Permission Reprint From Recording Magazine]

Frank Gryner is a recording engineer, songwriter, and producer whose credits include Rob Zombie, Powerman 5000, Methods Of Mayhem, and many others. His current passion is the jamming/recording program Jammit.

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

Tags: songwriter, demo, intervention, shedding bad Habits, improve, creativity, studio set-up

Songwriting Tip: The Windup & The Pitch

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 @01:41 PM

Songwriting Tip: The Windup & The Pitch

The basics of pitching songs for licensing

 Songwriting Tip - The Windup & The Pitch

By Eric Alexandrakis

Everyone and their father’s sister’s roommate’s uncle is trying to get into the music licensing game. I started over ten years ago when indies were just starting to realize how accessible it was, given the right methods and avenues. Unfortunately people’s perceptions of how the system works are quite skewed, and considering how most artists are generally lazy by nature (you know it’s true), too many prefer complaining over taking the time to learn how it all works. I mean, let’s face it... it takes a lot of time and expense to perform this type of trial and error, and unless you are a trust-fund kid with ample time on your hands, how are you supposed to do it?

As with everything else in life, if you want it badly enough, you will find a way. I developed my work and contacts while working full-time for someone else. It was pure hell trying to do both, and have a family with a child, but I wasn’t going to be stuck working for someone else for the rest of my life, and I had a dream of independence via music.

I pulled all-nighters, did some free work, invested in quick trips that were necessary, took and continue to take criticism, lived and learned. These notions aren’t indigenous only to the beginning of the building process. They are lifelong commitments, and require constant updating. It’s the nature of the beast. So prior to trying to understand the process, one has to understand oneself. Before you lace on your hiking boots, see if you are cut out for a lifetime of general uncertainty and upward climb.

Pitching songs is quite easy, if you’re willing to go through the process of learning. Obviously I won’t give away all of my secrets, but generally speaking, there is a lot of common sense behind it. It’s a blend of psychology, organization, consistency, persistence, learning when to chill, time, and money. Sound like business as usual? Well, it is—but right off the bat, if you’re sloppy and have the writing skills of Beavis and Butthead, don’t bother. It will come out, and no one, and I mean no one will give you the time of day. This will generally define how you deal with things, and whether you are cut out to make contact with humans in general.

Avoid the wrong route

I remember, as a green and idealistically naïve kid, attending various seminars, guest speaker events (prior to really getting into the belly of the music business), and being perplexed by the amount of totally useless advice that “panels of industry professionals” would provide. I mean if you felt that attempting to break into the music business was futile prior to arriving, upon leaving these panels, a Ph.D. in cement stirring was looking much more appealing. It wasn’t just the reality of how difficult it is to break into the business, it was that combined with the completely useless and ambiguous direction offered by those who claimed to be “authorities” on these important matters.

Some examples. How would a logical person, brought in to mentor, judge music and artists after only allowing 20 seconds of a tune played? After hearing one of my songs, one radio guy on a panel said to me, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!” (You can hear the track in question at http://bit.ly/1duuDXH) Is that really constructive criticism? I mean The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song” doesn’t get into the chorus until1:15, and Micky Dolenz is flat on the whole tune... and it’s a masterpiece!

Now I understand how radio works in trying to hook people quickly, but music is never so cut and dried. Little did he know it, but right at that very moment, that little lo-fi Electro piece he was dismissively ignoring had already been included in 200,000 MP3 players from Rio Audio, was being played on college radio, and was the song that put me in the top 10 running to play on the televised American Music Awards, sponsored by Coca-Cola... all at the same time. (But hey, what the heck do they all know?) The first 100 or so tracks I ever licensed to TV were recorded on a borrowed 4-track, while I had cancer, and later while I was receiving chemotherapy. A music supervisor at MTV heard the sound, and licensed everything. These tunes still get licensed and used all over the place even today.

Another artist’s music was also played for the panel, something that sounded like it was from the ‘60s, it was quite cool. A panelist said to him, “What can I do with this? Go back and bring me something that sounds like today.” I was shocked. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d heard in recent times, and the panelist basically judged it irrelevant.

Here’s the thing. As long as you can objectively stand behind yourself with confidence, nothing these “experts” say matters. A credible person with credible ears would be able to notice something in a certain tune or artist, and make constructive criticism, not “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”. So after that I made a vow to never put myself in any sort of “judging” contest again, as I felt it literally had no value or credibility.

Now there are also those other seminars with panels of “professionals” who give other types of advice. I’ve been on several of them actually, and every time I am invited, I think of this one panel I attended as a graduate student. It was a panel on pitching songs for licensing. The job of the panelists was to take questions on what a music pitch for licensing was, but none of them could answer. Their answers went something like this:

“Well, I own a studio. What you have to do is come to my studio, pay a small recording fee of about $5K/per song, get the song recorded, and go out and pitch it.”

Wow, thanks for the epiphany. Pitch it to whom and how?

Upon hearing a song: “Oh yeah, that’s great, you should try to get that in a baby food ad, it has that vibe.”

Thanks for the studio advertisement. So, basically, I have to spend a fortune at your studio to make it. How do I get the music to the powers that be? Can you tell me who to contact for the baby food ad, or any ad?

Choosing the right way

Pitching is not spending $5K to do one song, or randomly picking brands you think the music will fit in. To put it simply, pitching is just like any other business:

~ Make a plan (What is your goal?  What is your sound? Are you an artist going for   the spotlight, or a behind the scenes person focusing on production music?)

~ Focus on your target market (Music supervisors who deal with certain types of                                productions/sounds)

~ Organize and personalize your presentation (Which show/network/etc. am I                                     sending this to?)

~ Make a professional presentation (Well written, not over the top, not superlative

            nonsense attempting to impress: present yourself as a company, not an artist)

~ Establish your web presence, bio, etc.

~ Get your music perfect—both sonically and in songwriting

~ Network, because your life depends on it

~ Collaborate when it feels valuable to do so

~ Seek out ad agencies, study who they represent and what work they have done

~ Subscribe to IMDB.com, and keep an eye on what’s in production and who the                               music supervisors are

~ Contact music supervisors (you can find them on IMDB, and in other resources online)

~ Read the credits at the end of movies and TV shows (become acquainted with names      in main positions)

~ Watch clips of shows with licensed music on YouTube (and understand how songs                        are edited to picture, what parts of the songs are used and why)

~ Be persistent (you will find yourself banging your head against a wall quite often)

~ Sign up with as many free (and credible) non-exclusive services as you can find

~ For deeper involvement than free services, hire a credible company to send your music out.

 

Once you’ve gotten into the groove with this first batch, everything else should come naturally. Just make sure to avoid some of the more obvious mistakes, because those can be your downfall before you even begin...

Avoid these mistakes

So here are five mistakes I see artists make.

1. “Oh man, I have this great rock song.  It’s perfect for something like a Transformers movie or a Volvo ad!”

Yeah? Cool, how did you know what the supervisors on those projects are looking for? For all you know, they could be looking for heavy metal reggae, or Chinese polka music played on a didgeridoo. Don’t assume, because as the old adage says, when you assume... If you approach a supervisor like this, I guarantee that they will think you’re an idiot.

Know who you are approaching, know what they are working on, know what they prefer (some supervisors have their own musical style/preference), learn about the brand and its past incarnations. If none of this exists, ask them if they are currently looking for content. A polite request like that can disguise prior lack of knowledge of their work... to a certain degree. This is where a credible company that knows precisely what supervisors want (because they ask rather than assuming) comes in really handy.

2. “I’m going to send them the most amazing package ever, with color photos, a video, T-shirt, etc.”

Free stuff is fun for them, for if they love you, they’ll wear your shirt. Otherwise it’ll go to the interns, who might wear it to feel like they are in the music biz, or use it to line their dog’s bed.

Don’t waste money on extra color photos, fancy paper, etc. All they care about is the music and whether this artist has anything significant behind them, to bring some kind of promo symbiosis/placement value to their company, the show, etc. I would, however, suggest sending your materials in an envelope/package that sticks out from the generic brown envelopes.

When you think about it, if you have a deadline, are very busy, and need to recommend a song to someone right away, what do you reach for? You generally reach for your favorite artist out of loyalty, or something you happen to be listening to during that period of time... if it fits the producer’s/director’s request. So due to this, you have to make sure you beat out all of the rest, and of course, have the best sounding master, song, image, presentation and social networking vibe you can.

Gifts are fun, but don’t go over the top with a Vespa or anything. Make it thoughtful, or a cool promo. I remember a band from the ‘90s called Moonpools & Caterpillars who had yo-yos with their logo on them. I still have mine! Plus, it helped that their album was a pop masterpiece with gorgeous art. Check ‘em out! 

3.  “I’m going to call this person so many times, I’ll bore them into saying yes.”

The only response you’ll get from that method is either silence, or two words we all know so well.

Approach them like a company, not an artist, and ask them what the accepted followup frequency is. Some will say that they will reach out when they have needs, but generally don’t, so following up once a month is probably fine. If you find that they don’t generally respond to anything, mail them samplers of no more than an EP’s worth of tunes every month or so. Visit the city, alert them to your presence in the city, and try to get a casual meeting in.

Don’t be pushy, don’t give pathetic sob stories (you’d be surprised), and exude confidence, knowledge and speed. That will gain you respect. Send them cards on holidays, keep up with them on Facebook (without being a stalker!), and develop things slowly. It will take time, but persistence, consistency, and professionalism go a long way, whether you are the artist, or you’re representing all of your friends’ bands.

4. “I’m awesome, and the next big thing, and they are going to know it.”

Awesome. No one cares.

Just present yourself properly, and if that is true, someone will notice. You have to be told you are awesome—you can’t tell others that, because then you totally lose credibility. A bio comparing yourself to Bono, Jagger, Bowie, and Thor is not going to convince anyone that you are Ziggy MickThunderGod Hewson. Lose the ego and the leather pants.

I’ve said it for years... an artist’s biggest enemy is not lawyers, not managers, not producers, not labels, not publishers, and not Yoko Ono... it’s the artist himself. I have a song about this called “I Love Me”. I wrote, recorded and played all of the parts in one take on a portable 16-track recorder one evening as a demo, with zero overhead, and it’s been licensed to all sorts of TV and ads. Check it out at http://bit.ly/1580hko

5. “I’m going to pay this company $6K and I’m bound to get a license somehow”, or “That company wanted to charge me a fee for pitching! Screw them, they wouldn’t take a percentage, total crooks.”

I have a friend who signed up with a licensing company that insisted on her paying around $3K for a college radio campaign, in order to be eligible for pitching. After her college campaign, they got her a reality show license, and then told her that she had to pay them an additional fee for them to clear the song. Blackmail extortion! Then on top of that, they told her she had to pay an additional $2K or so to be part of a conference, to further push her music to licensors. Well, she ended up spending over $6K with them, and ended up with nothing. It’s a great example, more so because she then came to my company for a fraction of the price, and ended up with something like 25 songs licensed to 12 shows all at once, in the same month.

The stars do not align every day, but they do when they do. Supervisors want what they want, when they want it. As long as the package fits what they need at that time, and the quality is good, it can pay off sooner than later. The trick, though, in working with a pitching company is to learn via word of mouth who is good—they do exist and they’re out there and you can work with them—and not pay attention to message board trolls with no accomplishments to back up their opinions who play Wii all day and talk smack about everyone.

As for the whole idea of asking people/companies to pitch your music for a percentage: if you’re not willing to do the work, why would anyone else do it for free? There are companies that have an automated program with thousands of tracks in them, who are paid for their service by networks, and can expose artists for free on a percentage basis. The only thing is, you’re part of a huge number of songs, may not get the personal exposure needed, and your song might get licensed for $1, of which the company then takes 50%. Can you still  buy a box of Tic Tacs for 50 cents? These companies have devalued songs for licensing like you would not believe. Get into a credible system, analyze the company, and don’t assume that you are entitled to free labor or access to someone’s contacts gratis.

When you have to struggle, you are more appreciative and understanding of what it takes to become truly successful.

I recommend to all artists that they take control of their work, learn the ropes, and appreciate the process, because it turns them into better decision makers. It can take a long time, and yet sometimes it doesn’t. Try it yourself. You’ll learn a lot about how badly you want it, and whether you’re in it for the long haul.

[Permission Reprint From Recording Magazine]

Eric Alexandrakis is a highly successful songwriter, producer, and recording musician. He has had several Top 40 hits on the Adult Contemporary charts, has licensed hundreds of songs for various media, and recently completed a remix of Depeche Mode’s new single “Should Be Higher”.

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, licensing, pitching songs

Songwriting Tip: A Strong Opening Line Is Important

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 @11:27 AM

Songwriting Tip: A Strong Opening Line Is Important When Writing Lyrics
By Anthony Ceseri
Songwriting Tip: A Strong Opening Line Is Important
Having a powerful opening line is an important gateway into the lyrics of your song. A great lyrical introduction is an awesome way to get listeners interested in your story right off the bat. Plus, if it’s boring, you run the risk of losing them. People have really short attention spans these days, so effectively grabbing their attention early is crucial.
Having said that, I better get to my point… and make it quick! I recently revisited a great example of a strong opening line in the song “Round Here” by Counting Crows. The first line of the song says:
 
Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog,
Where no one notices the contrast of white on white
 
This is a great intro for a few reasons. The first is it’s really visual. Any time you engage the senses, you’re probably doing a good job of inviting people into your story. This line does that by engaging your sense of sight. It’s easy to picture a ghost and a fog as described here. Immediately, we set a stage of what this lyric will look like in our heads. And it’s effective.
It’s even fun to try and visualize the slight contrast that might actually be there between what we envision a ghost to look like and a thick fog.
In addition to that, this is a fantastic simile. There’s a comparison being made between someone who feels they just aren’t being noticed by the world, and a ghost in a fog. The element that ties these two thoughts together to make it an effective simile, is the idea that no one can see this person. It works very well.
This opening line is also very intriguing. After hearing it, I already want to know more because it’s so interesting. Had the first line had the same idea, but been said more simplistically and generically, I wouldn’t care as much. What if the song had opened with a line like this:
 
Step out the front door
Feeling like no one can see me
 
Eh. Suddenly I just don’t care as much anymore. I mean, it’s basically saying the same thing as the real first line, but in a bland, non-descriptive and generic way. Maybe I’d listen carefully to the rest of the lyrics. But maybe I wouldn’t. The “ghost into a fog line” is infinitely stronger and makes me want to stick around for more.
You can see how putting a really strong line up front is a great way to get your listeners excited about your story right off the bat. Granted, you want to keep them interested as your story continues along, but that first line can be crucial to getting their attention. Good imagery with a strong simile or metaphor, like we saw in the opening line of “Round Here,” is an awesome way to get your song rolling.
For a lot more useful songwriting information, grab my free eBook here: http://successforyoursongs.com/freeoffer/ 
For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Anthony Ceseri, songwrite, lyric writing, Strong Opening Line, intro

Co-writing Tips For Songwriters

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Aug 01, 2013 @02:09 PM

by Owen J. Sloane

guitarnotepad

Co-Writing A Song?. . .
Take Care Of Business First!

Co-writing songs with another co-writer or a producer can be a great way of improving or exploiting your songs, but caution must be exercised to ensure that you don’t end up with a split in ownership of the copyright, or other consequences, you don’t anticipate. In the following article Owen J. Sloane, Esq. Partner: Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane, ALC–Los Angeles, CA offers eight solid tips to help you through the co-writing process.

1. When you sit down with a co-writer to start co-writing a song, make sure to establish that when the song is finished you will mutually agree on the splits in writing. In the absence of a written agreement, the Copyright Act provides a default position that divides copyright ownership in the song equally regardless of the relative quantity or quality of the material created by each co-writer. And there is no distinction in copyright law between lyrics and music or between writer’s share and publisher’s share. The percentage of ownership is based on 100 percent of the song, including lyrics, unless you agree in writing to a different split. And that split will apply even if the music is exploited without the lyrics and vice versa, unless you specifically provide in writing that the writer’s intent was not to merge lyrics and music together, but to treat them as separate copyrights. In that case, the writer of the lyrics and the composer of the music would split income as agreed only when lyrics and music are used together. Establish at the outset that ownership of the final song will not necessarily be divided equally.

2. Rappers are writers. A rapper who contributes original material to your song is entitled to share equally in the ownership of that song with all other writers, unless you and he/she mutually agree otherwise and put that agreement into a signed writing. Also a person who supplies beats may claim an interest in the song resulting from use of those beats. This is still unsettled in law, but don’t take a chance and don’t use beats supplied to you without an agreement in writing as to how much of the copyright you are willing to give up to the creator of the beats.

3. Once the song is finished, agree on the splits and commit that agreement to writing. A simple agreement listing the song title, the percentage of the song owned by each writer, i.e. “the splits,” dated and signed by each co-writer will suffice for each song.

4. If your song is completed and submitted to a producer or musicians for recording, unless otherwise agreed, the producer and the musicians who record the song may acquire a copyright interest in your song by reason of their contribution(s) of original material to the song during the recording process. Not all contributions will entitle them to a copyright interest, i.e., minor tweaks to the song, licks created by musicians and arguably even beats, may not qualify for copyright protection. Accordingly, make sure it is agreed up front in writing, whether the producer and/or the musicians will have been deemed to contribute anything to the song itself in your opinion to vest in them an interest in the song. If so, the splits should be agreed upon in writing and if not, the producer and musicians should sign off waiving any claim to an interest in the copyright in the song. Since the copyright in the recording is different from the copyright in the song, a separate agreement should be reached regarding both copyrights.

5. Register the copyright in the song and the sound recording with the Library of Congress as soon as possible. Although registrations do not ask for the percentage of ownership, they do ask you to indentify each author or claimant. Such applications can therefore be evidence of how many writers contributed to a song and their names and whether they are claimants.

6. If you register a song and later collaborate with a co-writer or a producer or other third party who adds new material, you can separately register the new version of the song. The new registration should identify the new material and will protect only the new material and establish a claim to co-ownership by the additional writers in the new material only. The splits for the song resulting from the incorporation of the new material need to be agreed to in writing but in such an instance the co-writers of the new material will acquire an interest only in the song embodying the new material and not in the song as originally registered.

7. If you agree that someone else has an interest in the copyright, be aware that under US law, each co-writer has the right to license the entire song on a non-exclusive basis and collect 100 percent of the compensation, subject to an obligation to account to the other co-writers. If you are an artist and want to control licensing to other artists, or want to approve usages, which you may find objectionable, you must have an agreement with the co-writers that either everyone must agree on a particular usage, or you as the artist have the exclusive right to approve usages.

8. Although each co-writer has the right to license 100 percent of the song non-exclusively, most licensees will require that all co-owners agree to a license. Accordingly, if you are an artist and want to compel other co-writers to issue licenses or agree to a license that you need as an artist, i.e., for a video, or for another synchronization usage, you need to cover that in the agreement as well, otherwise co-writers can nix a license by refusing to license or by asking for too much money.

(Reprinted with permission from Music Connection Magazine)

Owen Sloane, entertainment lawyer

Owen J. Sloane is a veteran music attorney who has represented many major artists over the years including Kenny Rogers, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Steve Winwood, Elton John and many others. Currently, he represents Daughtry, Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20), Suzanne Vega, and the Frank Zappa Estate, among others. Sloane authored this article with the assistance of Rachel Stilwell. Firm website: http://www.gladstonemichel.com. He may be reached at [email protected] 

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, Song writing, Songwriting, producer, Co-writer, Song writers

Songwriting Tip: 6 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 @12:00 PM

6 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

by Cliff Goldmacher

 Cliff Goldmacher, songwriter

As passionate as we are about our songwriting, the reality is that sometimes it’s difficult to motivate ourselves to write. Whether it’s the fear of plumbing our emotional depths or just good old fatigue after a long day, there are often obstacles to overcome when it’s time to write. While flashes of inspiration are great, we can’t always count on the muse showing up on our schedule. Instead, we’ve got to make our own inspiration. I’ve put together a list of a few things that should help you keep your creative fires lit.

 

1. Set Up a Place at Home to Write

As simple as it sounds, having a place to go where you can focus and be creative can be motivating. Even if it’s just a small desk and chair in a corner of your living room, the fact that you’ve dedicated it to your art will serve as that little push you might need to write. Keep your writing tools – rhyming dictionary, guitar, laptop, etc. – out and easily accessible. It’s amazing what a difference putting your guitar on a stand versus keeping it in a case can make. Make things as easy as you can for yourself and you’ll be much more likely to dig in.

 

2. Set Up a Time of Day to Write

Routine can be a good thing even for something as artistic and creative as songwriting. If, for example, you know that every day at 7pm, you’re going to write for half an hour, then you’re more likely to do it. They say it takes a few weeks of consciously making yourself do something before it becomes a habit. A daily time to write will go a long way towards the healthy habit of songwriting.

 

3. Keep a File of Unfinished Songs

One of the hardest things about writing is starting with a blank page. By keeping an organized file of your unfinished lyrics and rough recordings, you won’t have to climb the mountain from the bottom every time you sit down. While sometimes it feels good to start with a fresh idea, don’t forget to check your unfinished ideas from time to time. It’s remarkable how a few days or weeks can add the perspective you need to see a partially finished song in a new light and finish it.

 

4. Find a Co-Writer

Nothing motivates more than accountability. If someone is counting on you to show up and work, you’re more likely to do it. Not only that but halving the burden can make writing a much more approachable pursuit. This is one of the many benefits of co-writing. Other advantages include having someone whose songwriting gifts complement your own in such a way that you both get a better song than you would have separately. If you haven’t co-written yet, this is as good a time as any to give it a try. Even if it’s not a perfect experience, we all benefit from observing firsthand someone else’s writing process.

 

5. Give Yourself an Assignment

Sometimes the idea that you can write about anything is just too much freedom. Often it’s easier to write if you have some guidelines. If, for example, you tell yourself you’re going to write a song with one chord you’ve never used or a song about a topic you’ve never covered, you’ll find it’s easier to get to work. Anything you can do to give shape and structure to what you’re attempting to write will make the task that much simpler.

 

6. Tell Yourself You’ll Only Write for Five Minutes

This is one of my all time favorites. On days where you’re really struggling to make yourself write, tell yourself you’ll sit down for five minutes. That way, if nothing is happening after five minutes, at least you’ve tried. It’s astonishing how often those days are the days where the breakthroughs happen. Taking the pressure off of yourself may be all that you need to get on a roll. That being said, if it’s just not coming, stop. There’s no point in making yourself miserable. There’s always tomorrow.

 

Conclusion

Being a songwriter is a gift but, as with most gifts, some assembly (otherwise known as work) is required. My hope is by suggesting a few ways to lessen the burden of getting started, you’ll be able to write more consistently and enjoy the accompanying results.

 

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including a brand new video series available at the link below.

http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/video-podcast-series

You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook

 

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting Tip. Motivate, motivation