Songwriting Tips, News & More

(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

 FindWorkAttorney.jpg

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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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, pitching songs, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Music Attorney, copyright infringement

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
Songwriting.png
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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5 Simple Truths I Learned About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 10, 2016 @07:00 AM

5 Simple Truths I Learned About Songwriting

by Jessica Brandon & Ron Van Dyke

 songwriter.jpg

I thought I knew a lot about songwriting when I first got involved with co-writing and writing with other songwriters and producers.

I was dead wrong.

I had a transformation of sorts. While helping to write this article together, I discovered the real truth about songwriting. I found out how to write a song without having to feel uncomfortable and feel like I was forcing the issue, plus a heck of a lot more.

Here are five simple truths I learned about songwriting, and myself, after being involved with writing songs with other co-writers.

 

  1. Nobody is a natural songwriter

When I started in songwriting I got three words of advice from my band member “Go get ‘em.” Most musicians and songwriters seem to think that you can go out there and just write. When that doesn’t work, and you come up short too many times, you start thinking you are no good at songwriting.

The simple truth is no one is a natural born songwriter. And songwriting is a learnable skill anyone can master given the right tools, strategies and learning. There are hit songwriters such as Harriet Schrock, Jason Blume, Ralph Murphy who are songwriting teachers that are helping budding songwriters.

 

  1. Rewriting Your Songs

The first draft of your song may not always be the best. Sure, you have heard hit songs written in just 5 minutes. However, rewriting lyrics and music can be a rewarding experience. Especially if you are not satisfied with your first draft, writing songs is like sculpting a sculpture, a piece of art.

Also, when you return to your song an hour or a week later, you’ll have partially forgotten its details—and assuming you documented the draft carefully, that’s a good thing!

 

  1. Don’t wing it, learn song structures

When I first started songwriting many years ago I had no form. I didn’t know what AABA form or verse, chorus, bridge was. I had no idea what a verse refrain structure was. There was no preparing in advance and no real order to what I would say or how the melody or chords would be. I knew what I wanted to say in the song well enough and could wing it. But since I didn’t have a set way to write, it was hard to learn the various structures for writing a song. I was leaving my songs to chance and letting the many songs go incomplete. Learning structures of various songs is important – it lets you control the songwriting process so you can steer your lyrics, melody, chord progression, and have a better chance of completing the song.

 

  1. Songwriting should come naturally

If you learn structures of songwriting, the momentum you build and the objections you eliminate will make your audience eager to hear your song, which makes the songwriting a pleasant and rewarding experience.

Also, listening to new songs on the radio can provide sources of inspiration. There were times where I had the dreaded “Songwriters Block” where no music or lyrics were coming from my head. I took a 15 minute break by turning on the radio and Voilà – I had a hook for the chorus! My ideas for the verse, pre-chorus and bridge came quickly and my song was completed within an hour.  

 

  1. Co-writing credits can sometimes be misinterpreted

If you look at the Billboard charts you’ll notice that many of the songs have more than one writer credited. This may not always be as it 1st seems as some of the co-writer’s listed may not have written a single word or a note. In these cases it could be a producer, an A & R manager or an artist who worked a writing credit into the deal with the songwriter. The more famous or well known an artist or producer is, the greater the chance of having a hit song and, therefore, the more leverage they have in getting these kinds of "co-write" deals especially with hungry songwriters. A famous example of this was Elvis Presley who indicated that he wanted to cover Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You”. Parton was interested until she realized that Presley’s manager expected her to sign over half of the publishing rights. She declined and the rest is history.  The song went on to be one of the best selling hits of all time when it was covered by Whitney Houston with Parton keeping all of her royalties.

Many of the great songs out there have been written by more than one writer, which goes to show that co-writing can be a fruitful and wonderful thing. If you are looking for co-writing opportunities it’s important to know your strengths. Are you better at the music side of things or are you stronger with the lyrics? Knowing this can help you identify co-writers who have strengths that you may not have, therefore, making it a potentially better match and hopefully avoiding disappointments. If you are able to hook up with writers who are better and more experienced than you, even better. Collaborating with other songwriter’s is a cool thing and definitely worth trying. This is just one of the many fascinating topics that are covered in our past blogs posts.

 

Enter your songs in the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, enter online or by mail. Enter now... But you must enter by midnight, May 27, 2016. Go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Songwriting Tip: Don't Explain Too Much

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Don't Explain Too Much
 

Book_Big.jpg

This book excerpt explores the challenge of properly communicating feelings and emotions with listeners through one's lyrics, and looks at how a songwriter can structure their work in such a way as to clearly get their intended message across without excessive exposition.

____________________________

Guest Post excerpted from the newly released e-book Songwriting: Get Your Black Belt In Music & Lyrics

Don’t Explain Too Much

tricky situation:

In order to communicate a feeling, you could take the quickest path and just tell listeners what you’re feeling, but that usually doesn’t create the best results. 

Key Word: PORTRAY

One result of merely telling the listeners what you’re feeling is that your story won’t leave anything open to their imagination. You’re placing the listeners off to the side of your lyric, since you’re not inviting them in to think for themselves, draw their own conclusions and read between the lines. Try not to tell so much — open the lyric up to people’s interpretations by portraying emotions instead.

Consider this:

There are two important ways to portray: 1) Portray by using imagery: Instead of saying I’m so in love with you Shawn Colvin says ”I never saw blue like that before, across the sky, around the world” in her song Never Saw Blue Like That. 2) Portray by letting something happen as a consequence of the emotion. Let’s say that you want to convey how much someone is missing someone else. Missing someone who has just died. Someone who has committed suicide by jumping of a bridge, to be more precise. Like in Bobby Gentry’s song Ode To Billie Joe (1967). In the end of the song you could let the main character (a girl) explain how much she misses, and longs for, the person that no longer exist. Another, and much more efficient, way of letting us understand, and drawing us into the story, is to portray her feelings by letting her do something:

“And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge,

and drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

–  excerpt from “Ode To Bille Joe” by Bobby Gentry

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

 
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Songwriting Tip: Walking that Line

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Walking that Line
by Harriet Schock


Walk-the-Line.jpg

There’s a line between art and commerce and for some people, it’s wide enough to walk. Finding a way to do it is an art in itself.

I know some of the best songwriters walking the earth but you might not know their names. That doesn’t mean they’re not great. And I know some really successful ones who are also exceptionally good. Today, even in a city as known for songs as Nashville, there’s a feeling that “formula” is taking over. And the pervading attitude is that merit doesn’t necessarily accompany success, and certainly vice versa.

When I was in Nashville one of my meetings was with a former promoter from the record label I recorded three albums for in the seventies, in L.A. He’s been very successful in Music City since then and when I recorded my last two CDs, I sent them to him. When he heard the newer songs, he announced that he was still a fan. This was my opening to ask him a question I didn’t dare ask the strangers I’d been meeting with all week. “Could co-writing here actually hurt my writing?” He gave me a candid “yes.” I thought about it long and hard. I took “could” to mean if I wrote with the wrong attitude, it “could” harm me but I would make sure that didn’t happen. Some of the greatest songwriting I’ve ever heard is coming out of Nashville, in my opinion. So I decided to adopt the attitude that I could learn from anyone or anything I admire. But I wouldn’t let it dilute the style I’d become known for in my own writing. I had found another thin line to walk.

My first writing session was with someone who also teaches songwriting and that was really fascinating. It was like speaking “shorthand.” I just sat in the library where we’d found an available grand piano and played endlessly to a drum track until we found a melody for the chorus. We discussed the lyric direction and he wrote the lyric to the verse with my minimal participation. I took the tape home and wrote the verse melody which I sent him.

This particular collaborator also helped me learn some of the unwritten rules of Nashville collaboration: The B writer (the one with fewer hits) brings the concept to the A writer (the one with more hits).

Therefore, in my next songwriting session, I brought the concept. I had no sooner said the last syllable of the title than my new co-writer had the guitar up, playing and singing a melody that made me feel totally at home and enraptured. I began to realize the reason this multi-hit-writer was so successful was that he’s really good. Melody and harmony fell out of this playful creature like a fountain overflowing.

This brings to mind another kind of thin line, one mentioned by Irving Berlin, who spoke of the thin line between familiarity and plagiarism. Berlin walked this line deftly and attributed his success to it, and my collaborator was walking it like a trained gymnast. When I heard the melody and chord changes, it was nothing I’d heard before and yet it felt completely familiar. Every note went where I wanted it to, like when someone finds that place on your back that itches.

Another interesting line I encountered that trip was between hanging out and becoming a drinker. I noticed a lot of networking going on at songwriters’ hangouts, which happen to be bars in many cases. I don’t know how they spend day after day there without liver damage, but the “whiskey flows and the beer chases their blues away.” And since I was drinking water and trying to say in “The Zone,” it didn’t have much effect on me except as an observer. I understand legal sobriety is now determined by Breathalyzer tests, for which I understand Listerine can cause a false positive. So it’s not easy to find where demarcation is sometimes. But I still try to walk the line. All of them.

 


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

 
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Songwriting Tip: Legal Issues With Songwriter Collaborations

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 05, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Legal Issues With Songwriter Collaborations
by Wallace Collins, Esq

MusicianArt-1

Under the US copyright law, an author or creator owns a copyright in his or her work the moment it is “fixed in a tangible medium” (i.e., the moment the expression of an idea is written down or recorded in some manner). When it comes to the recorded music business there are two primary copyrights of interest: one in the musical composition or song; another in the sound recording of that song. A copyright extends for the life of an author plus 70 years, and in the case of collaborators on a copyright it extends for the life of the last surviving collaborator plus 70 years.

This article will focus on the collaboration between and among the co-writers of the musical composition or song which is generally comprised of the music (e.g., melody, harmony, chords, rhythm, etc.) and the lyrics (i.e., the words). The essence of collaboration is working together to create a single work regardless of how or what each party contributes. Collaborators may work together in the same room at the same time, or not. The creative contribution of each co-author may be equal in quality or quantity, or not. Both authors may work together on the music and lyrics or one might write just music and the other lyrics. The long history of collaboration has shown that there are endless combinations. Co-authors do not need to have a written agreement concerning their joint work, but it is probably a good idea to do so given the myriad issues that can arise and become a problem under such circumstances.

             Co-writers can divide copyright ownership in whatever proportion they determine, and that ownership concerns both rights (ownership and control) and revenues (income generated). In the absence of a written agreement, under current case law concerning both copyright and partnership law two or more collaborators are generally deemed to share equally on a pro rata basis. This might be so even if it is clear that the contributions of the authors were not equal since the Courts generally prefer not to make decisions about the value of each author’s contribution to a copyright and simply divide it by the number of authors (and we probably prefer that Courts not be making decisions about whether the hook or chorus lyric has more or less value than the chorus melody, etc.). Therefore, without a written agreement two songwriters would be deemed to own the song fifty-fifty, three songwriters one-third each, etc. A typical music business guideline for dividing ownership has been to designate the music as 50% and the lyric 50% of the song copyright. Under this scenario, if one person creates the music and two others write the lyrics, they may agree to divide the ownership 50% to the music creator and 25% to each of the lyricists. However, this concept does not have any legal significance so if there is no written collaboration agreement then under this scenario each author would own 1/3rd of the song copyright.

             Beyond the issue of just dividing the income there arises the issue of copyright ownership and control (sometimes referred to as the administration right). Many songwriters prefer that there be separate administration among the various writers and their respective publishing companies, if any. In other words, each author retains control over its respective share of the copyright. In this way each writer retains some control over what happens with the song, the scope of the licenses and how much is charged. Under US copyright law, each joint copyright owner can exploit the song and also grant non-exclusive licenses to third parties subject to the duty to account to the co-writers for any money that is generated. Each writer could also transfer some or all of their respective share of the copyright (e.g., to a publishing company) without affecting the ownership interests of the any other co-writer’s share in the copyright (although no one writer can grant an exclusive license nor transfer copyright ownership in the entire song without the written permission of each co-writer).

             All of these issues can be addressed in a written collaboration agreement. There are endless variations depending on the circumstances. Each author may retain his or her share of revenues and ownership but grant the administration rights to one party (e.g., the artist/co-writer and/or its label) so that the artist would have the right to record and exploit the song and grant third party licenses. Particularly in the world of synchronization licenses (i.e., using the audio with visual images such as in film, television or video games), it is usually more convenient for one party to have the right to grant licenses and to collect and divide all the income. Licensing can become complicated when a licensee has to seek the approval of, and document permission from, multiple writers and their respective publishers. However, each different scenario and the co-writers involved will need to determine and negotiate what arrangement works best for themselves in that particular situation.

             A collaboration agreement can be as simple as a pie chart drawing made on a napkin at the dinner after the writing session or as complicated as a writer’s publishing company dictates that it be. Over the years there have been many stories of writers agreeing, however reluctantly, to acknowledge a “co-writer” who did not even make a contribution to a song (e.g., featured artists, producers, record executives, band members, etc.). The exact contribution to a song is always a somewhat subjective measurement and if the price of getting a song on the record of a multi-platinum artist is to share writing credit then this pressure can be difficult, if not impossible, to resist. However, keep in mind that once a “co-writer” is acknowledged in writing it can be very difficult to undo. Most successful songwriters rarely, if ever, share credit in this context and every writer should try to follow this practice.

            At the end of the day, if you believe in yourself and your talents, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and invest in good legal representation - all the successful songwriters do. Your lawyer can create a fair collaboration agreement for you to use or “translate” the documentation presented to you and explain its terms and then help negotiate more favorable terms for you as appropriate. My advice: never sign anything - other than an autograph - without having your entertainment lawyer review it first.

[Article used by permission from Wallace Collins]

Wallace Collins is an entertainment lawyer and intellectual property attorney with more     than 30 years of experience. He was a songwriter and recording artist for Epic Records before receiving his law degree from Fordham Law School. T: (212) 661-3656; www.wallacecollins.com


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

 
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Songwriting Tip: Why You Still Should Register A "Copyrighted" Work

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Why You Still Should Register A "Copyrighted" Work
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

copyright_stamp

While many creatives in the entertainment industry believe (and are partly correct) that a work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium it still pays, often literally, to formally register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office, particularly where legal issues are concerned.

A common misconception in the entertainment industry is that an author has a “copyright registration” in the work upon completion and the publication of the created work. However, this is not true. Although the Berne Convention, which the United States is a signatory to, creates a “universal copyright” or copyright upon creation and publication of a work, the work is not “registered” until it has, in fact, been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Truth be told, all of the benefits of copyright ownership are not available in America until the Copyright has been registered.

Registering a copyright is as easy as preparing and submitting an application to the United States Copyright Office with the appropriate filing fee and a copy of the copyrighted material. Once the work is registered and the certification is issued, the benefits of the registration begin immediately and are retroactive to the original filing date of these elements.

While it is established that a copyright is automatically created in a work upon the completion of the original work of authorship, when it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression; a formal registration of the creative materials with the U.S. Copyright Office within three months of public release provides additional, valuable benefits to the creator of the work. Some of these benefits include that the work now becomes a matter of public record and is available for search within the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress. This makes it easy to search and verify the ownership and extent of an existing, copyrighted work. This permits an individual to quickly find and contact the creator in the event that the individual desires to use or license the copyrighted material.

Additionally, in order to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit when an author believes that one of their copyrighted works has been infringed upon, the work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to instituting a lawsuit. A valid registration certificate constitutes prima facie evidence of valid copyright ownership in the work after five years. Also, if the owner has filed for registration prior to the infringement or within three months of publication of the work, the author may be entitled to recover actual damages incurred, statutory damages as well as attorney’s fees. These fees can exceed the actual damages incurred by the copyright owner.

A valid registration also defeats a defendant’s defense of being an “innocent infringer” and provides increased statutory damages for infringements found to be “willful.” It also allows for the owner to easily license and catalog the various rights in the works.

Therefore, while there is no requirement to register a work to receive a “copyright” in the creative work, the existence of a valid copyright registration certificate provides numerous benefits to protect the work as well as provides monetary and licensing benefits that would not exist without the certificate.


[Article used by permission from Justin Jacobson]

Justin M. Jacobson has helped bring in numerous new high-profile clients, including Celebrity DJ/Producer Joshua “Zeke” Thomas and his Gorilla Records label; international live art competition, ArtBattles; G-Unit Records recording artist, Precious Paris; former NY Jet Donald Strickland; Warner-Chappell producer, J-Dens; celebrity jewelry designer, Laurel DeWitt; and BMI Latin award-winning producer, Carlos Escalona. He also spoke at Cardozo School of Law as part of “Beyond The Billboard: Advertising Law in the Fashion Industry” presented by their SELSA & IPLS Fashion Law Committees. He is a lawyer at The Jacobson Firm, P.C.: http://www.thejacobsonfirmpc.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, copyright a song, Registering a copyright, U.S. Copyright Office, Co-Writing Songs

Songwriting Tip: Does your Latest Song Sound Similar to Ones Before?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Does your Latest Song Sound Similar to Ones Before?

by Mylène Besançon

 

rsz_sound_like

For many songwriters, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that their songs are unique. With music lovers tending to have very discriminating hearing and short attention spans, picking up on similar patterns, lyrics or recurring themes between two or more of your songs could easily turn them off, regardless of how subtle the similarities are.

In a saturated music market, it’s not uncommon for different songs from different songwriters to sound similar, especially in genres such as pop. Listeners, though, are less likely to be forgiving when they are from the same songwriter.

So, how do you avoid plagiarizing your own music (or anybody else’s for that matter?) Whether you’re a known songwriter or still in obscurity, there are a number of ways to ensure that all of your songs sound different from each other.

  1. Have friends and family review your songs: If you have a large catalog, you may not have the time to go through all your previous songs to see if a new one sounds similar. But, you can ask people who are close to you and are familiar with your music to read through your lyrics and listen to the song to determine if it’s noticeably similar to anything you’ve done before.

  2. Invest in a low cost music production company: This really depends on what you can afford as a songwriter who is trying to make a career out of your writing talent. However, if you’re out of writing ideas and in danger of using the same melodies in new songs, you should contemplate investing some money into an affordable music production house that can bring fresh ideas to the table to match your style or even help you revamp songs you’ve already written so that they sound totally different.

  3. Expand your repertoire: If you’re already well-known for writing songs based on certain themes, rhyme schemes and genres, you may want to broaden your horizons without totally alienating your fan base. This may be a balancing act but music history is littered with singers and songwriters who successfully crossed genres and strayed from the prevailing themes of their song collections, earning new fans and expanding their markets in the process.

  4. Collaborate with another writer: People co-write songs all the time and, while this may cut into your royalties, it is better to share than risk losing listeners due to unoriginality. However, be sure to work with someone who is a good writer and can bring fresh ideas to the table.

  5. Learn an instrument: Some of the best songwriters are those who also play an instrument, such as the guitar or piano. Adding an instrument to your skillset can serve as inspiration and as a guide in your head when trying to write fresh lyrics.

As a songwriter who intends to make a life and living from your talent, having a steady stream of songs under your belt is the only way to keep going. However, continuously writing songs may eventually take a toll on the imagination, making it harder to compose a song that has its own identity when compared with all those you did in the past. The preceding tips could help you to survive such trying periods whenever they arise.

Mylène Besançon is the CMO of SongCat LLC, a top-rated online recording studio. We believe that by making professional music production financially accessible to anyone with a dream and a voice, we have the potential to change the musical landscape forever. Visit http://songcat.biz to learn more.

  
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, copyright a song, Registering a copyright, U.S. Copyright Office, Co-Writing Songs

Max Martin, the Most Successful Songwriter

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 @07:00 AM

Max Martin, the Most Successful Songwriter (in the last 20 years)

MaxMartin.jpg

Just turn on Top 40 radio and you will hear one of his songs "Shake It Off", a song recorded by Taylor Swift. Max Martin, is a Swedish songwriter and producer has replaced Diane Warren as the most successful pop songwriter of the last 20 years.. He rose to prominence in the mid-1990s after making a string of major hits for artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Bon Jovi and NSYNC. Some of his earlier hits include "I Want It That Way" (1999), "...Baby One More Time" (1999) and "It's My Life" (2000).

Martin, born Martin Sandberg in Stockholm, won the Grammy for producer of the year, non-classical, in 2015 and Album of the year (for Taylor Swift’s “1989” Album) in 2016. He has written 21 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any other writer in history except for Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). Martin has produced 19 of the Hot 100 No. 1s, more than any other producer except for another Martin: Beatles producer George Martin, with 23. Max Martin's run began with Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time: in 1999. He has also written No. 1s for *NSYNC, Katy Perry, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd.

Hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts is the absolute "Olympic Gold Medal" measure for a songwriter. In the Billboard Charts' Hot 100's 57-year history, only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26) boast more leaders as writers.

Expanding the scope to the Billboard Hot 100's top 10, Martin's sum swells to an astonishing 58 top 10s on which he's credited as a writer. While it's not an all-time record (yet; McCartney boasts more).

 

Here are Max Martin's 58 Hot 100 Top 10s as a Songwriter

Peak Pos., Title, Artist, Peak Date

No. 7, "Do You Know (What It Takes)," Robyn, 8/2/1997

No. 2, "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," Backstreet Boys, 9/6/1997

No. 7, "Show Me Love," Robyn, 11/29/1997

No. 4, "Everybody [Backstreet's Back]," Backstreet Boys, 5/9/1998

No. 1 (two weeks), "...Baby One More Time," Britney Spears, 1/30/1999

No. 6, "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys, 6/26/1999

No. 10, "(You Drive Me) Crazy," Britney Spears, 11/13/1999

No. 6, "That's the Way It Is," Celine Dion, 3/4/2000

No. 6, "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," Backstreet Boys, 3/18/2000

No. 9, "Oops!...I Did It Again," Britney Spears, 6/10/2000

No. 1 (two weeks), "It's Gonna Be Me," 'N Sync, 7/29/2000

No. 9, "Shape of My Heart," Backstreet Boys, 12/2/2000

No. 2, "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson, 4/9/05

No. 6, "Behind These Hazel Eyes," Kelly Clarkson, 6/11/05

No. 9, "U + Ur Hand," P!nk, 5/5/2007

No. 9, "Who Knew," P!nk, 9/29/2007

No. 3, "Hot N Cold," Katy Perry, 1/22/2008

No. 1 (seven weeks), "I Kissed a Girl," Katy Perry, 7/5/2008

No. 1 (one week), "So What," P!nk, 9/27/2008

No. 1 (two weeks), "My Life Would Suck Without You," Kelly Clarkson, 2/7/2009

No. 1 (one week), "3," Britney Spears, 10/24/2009

No. 10, "Whataya Want From Me," Adam Lambert, 5/1/2010

No. 1, "California Gurls," Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg, 6/19/2010

No. 2, "Dynamite," Taio Cruz, 8/21/2010

No. 1 (two weeks), "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry, 9/18/2010

No. 4, "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love," Usher feat. Pitbull, 10/9/2010

No. 8, "Teenage Dream," Glee Cast, 11/27/2010

No. 1 (one week), "Raise Your Glass," P!nk, 12/11/2010

No. 1 (one week), "Hold It Against Me," Britney Spears, 1/29/2011

No. 2, "F**kin' Perfect," P!nk, 2/12/2011

No. 7, "Blow," Ke$ha, 3/19/2011

No. 6, "Loser Like Me," Glee Cast, 4/2/2011

No. 1 (five weeks), "E.T.," Katy Perry feat. Kanye West, 4/9/2011

No. 3, "Till the World Ends," Britney Spears, 5/14/2011

No. 7, "I Wanna Go," Britney Spears, 8/20/2011

No. 1 (two weeks), "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," Katy Perry, 8/27/2011

No. 3, "The One That Got Away," Katy Perry, 1/7/2012

No. 6, "Domino," Jessie J, 2/18/2012

No. 1 (one week), "Part of Me," Katy Perry, 3/3/2012

No. 9, "Scream," Usher, 8/4/2012

No. 2, "Wide Awake," Katy Perry, 8/11/2012

No. 1 (three weeks), "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift, 9/1/2012

No. 1 (nine weeks), "One More Night," Maroon 5, 9/29/2012

No. 5, "Beauty and a Beat," Justin Bieber feat. Nicki Minaj, 1/5/2013

No. 2, "I Knew You Were Trouble.," Taylor Swift, 1/12/2013

No. 7, "Daylight," Maroon 5, 2/23/2013

No. 1 (two weeks), "Roar," Katy Perry, 9/14/2013

No. 1 (four weeks), "Dark Horse," Katy Perry feat. Juicy J, 2/8/2014

No. 2, "Problem," Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, 6/7/2014

No. 4, "Break Free," Ariana Grande feat. Zedd, 8/30/2014

No. 1 (four weeks), "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift, 9/6/2014

No. 3, "Bang Bang," Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, 10/4/2014

No. 7, "Love Me Harder," Ariana Grande & The Weeknd, 11/22/2014

No. 1 (seven weeks), "Blank Space," Taylor Swift, 11/29/2014

No. 3, "Love Me Like You Do," Ellie Goulding, 3/7/2015

No. 6, "Style," Taylor Swift, 3/21/2015

No. 1 (one week), "Bad Blood," Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar, 6/6/2015

No. 1 (one week to-date), "Can't Feel My Face," The Weeknd, 8/22/2015


  
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, Co-Writing Songs, The Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, Taylor Swift, Jessie J, Max Martin