Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting in Nashville

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


Songwriting in Nashville

By Jason Blume

Music_Row_street_signs.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Another issue came up during the webinar …

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

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

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

 

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

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



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


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

 
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How Songwriters Make Money From Publishing

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @07:00 AM

How Songwriters Make Money From Publishing
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

Songwriting

While songwriters and musicians are often advised by their fellow artists to keep their own publishing, such an approach is no longer especially applicable in the modern music economy. It is more important that artists develop a solid understanding of where exactly publishing revenue comes from, and how to deal with Performing Rights Organizations.

Every new musician is told by some other musician or industry professional “to keep your publishing” or some variation of this. Such a statement is archaic and a potentially career debilitating mistake. A better understanding of what “publishing” monies consist of and why this outdated advice of “keeping your publishing at all costs” no longer applies in today’s digital music age is needed.

Generally, “publishing money” as it is referred to, actually includes the royalties earned from the public performance of a musical work, specifically for the owners of the copyright in the underlying musical composition. Typically, the underlying musical composition in a musical work refers to the lyrics and underlying musical composition. These rights are owned by the track’s songwriters, composers and publishers.

A track’s songwriters, producers and composers must sign up with the appropriate performing rights organization to receive their public performance royalties or so-called “publishing monies.” In the U.S., the Performing Rights Organizations are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Each country has their own performing rights organizations, so a foreign citizen might apply and become a member of the organization for the country they are citizen of.

Once an individual is signed up with a Performing Rights Organization, they must properly index their works with that organization. This involves listing each track’s writers and composers as well as their appropriate ownership percentage. The performing rights organizations then collect and distribute these “small” public performance royalties to its members based upon its own unique pay-out formula. Each organization has its own pay-out formula and a musician can research and determine the best fit for their music on each organization’s official website.

Every Performing Rights Organization collects and licenses their members’ works for public performance usages. Some of these public usages include license fees to play the songs on terrestrial and satellite radio, on television, in motion pictures, through digital streaming services and for the live performances of the works at venues, stadiums, theme parks and concert halls as well as colleges and universities.

Today’s music business has evolved to a more 360° model, where all of the artist’s monetary revenue streams are subject to recoupment and payment to a particular entity, like a record label. These deals typically include a specific percent interest in the signing artist’s “publishing;” and, since this has become the norm, it’s nearly impossible for an artist to have such stream excluded.

In order for an artist to typically achieve the notoriety and budget needed to create a real impact in the entertainment industry, the benefits that a major label receives in return must be worth their time and effort. Without one of the most lucrative streams of income, i.e. “publishing,” such a feat is nearly impossible and impractical from a label’s point of view.

So some new advice is, keep your publishing unless you have a really good reason not to, like to bring your career to the next level, a level that you might not have otherwise been able to achieve. As they say 100% of nothing, is, well, nothing.

For additional information and membership forms, please visit www.ascap.com ; www.bmi.com; or www.sesac.com.

 

[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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Finally taking control of your songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 01, 2016 @01:48 PM

Imagine… Finally taking control of your songwriting!

by Mark Cawley

ControlSongwriting
Here’s the idea. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Great inventors never wait for the world to discover them, they discover things the world needs or at least, the world’s interested in.   
The business model of songwriting has changed and continues to evolve. Where can you fit in? Chances are this hasn’t been part of your creative journey, maybe it hasn’t had to be but what if it were?
What if you match your song with another art form? Rather than waiting on that publishing deal or for your song to be found you get pro-active?


Before you groan too loudly I’m not talking about writing for the advertising world although it’s not a bad idea. What if your song is a match for a project or a product or even a campaign but the powers that be don’t know it? You can be the matchmaker.


For instance …
I have a songwriter I’ve coached that wrote a very cool song about coffee. She didn’t write it for Starbucks but why not reach out to them or any number of caffeine related products and see if your song can be a part of someone’s bigger vision? She has been putting it out there and getting a great response. Nothing to lose. Hasn’t landed yet but…it might and by being the writer, owning the publishing, she gets on someone’s radar and can even be more flexible than a standard publisher might in getting a usage.


Another friend and client in Australia sent me a song called “Stephen Hawking Wants You To”. I urged her to look for any projects involving Stephen Hawking. This was before last year’s movie about him. She reached a UK film company who had just done a project about him but now has a dialogue to send lot’s of her songs for possible film use.


Another for instance.
Kye Fleming and I wrote a song about a year ago called “What Would Lennon Do”. We weren’t asked to write it, didn’t think it had commercial hit written all over it, just wrote it to express ourselves. Rather than let it sit we started thinking…big. Who might want this to be a part of their message? It’s a song of peace so we reached out to the UN. Sounds far fetched? You’d be amazed at the people who are open to a good idea. It reached all the way to the secretary of the UN. They are still deciding how best to connect it . We kept thinking. We also reached out to Amnesty International and they are in the process of creating a charity single with their artist board.

So many artists are being found though mediums other than records. Someone has to have the big idea, make the connection. Why not the songwriter?


My point is your song might be someone’s solution. Thing big, think waaaay outside the box and pitch your own song. Waiting on the world to hear you or waiting on that publisher to do the work for you is getting harder than ever. Not only that but most of the best and most successful songwriters I know have always pitched their own ideas. They might have a great publisher but they didn’t always  wait for them to come up with the best idea. They became their best promoter.
By creating a vision you’re taking control of your songs, you’re taking control of your career and, the buzz you may get from  connecting your vision to someone else’s can be bigger than you ever imagined.
Control equals freedom and freedom feels great!

About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 15 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is a contributing author to the USA Songwriting Competition a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.

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

 
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6 Questions for Songwriters to Ask Before Demoing a Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 @07:00 AM

6 Questions for Songwriters to Ask Before Demoing a Song
by Cliff Goldmacher

DemoRecording

So you've written a song that you're excited about and feel like it's got a real chance of getting cut or placed in a film or on TV. That's great news. Now the trick is to be sure you're asking the right kinds of questions of yourself and others before you spend good money creating a quality recording. I've put together a list of the six big questions you should ask before demoing a song.

1. Are you prepared to do this professionally?

This sounds like an unnecessary question, I know, but especially early on, songwriters have a tendency to try to cut corners or take a more DIY approach to demos with often amateurish-sounding results. Why would you want to compromise a great song with a mediocre demo just to save a few dollars? The best way I've heard this put is the quote, "Cheap can be expensive." Either you have to have spent the necessary time yourself to become an expert engineer, instrumentalist, and singer in your own studio, or you should seriously consider using a professional studio, musicians, and vocalist.

2. Is your song finished?

I know this sounds like another seemingly unnecessary question, but I can't tell you the number of times songwriters have shown up at my studio to demo a song with unfinished lyrics or unresolved melodies. I get it. It's exciting when you've written a song and you want to get it out in the world as soon as possible. You figure that you can tweak your lyric or melody in the studio but, in my opinion, the studio is the absolute wrong place to try finishing a song. There's nothing more stressful than trying to create when you're paying a dollar a minute or more. Do yourself a favor and make certain your song's melody, lyric, and structure are completely done before you schedule your demo.

 
3. Is your lyric sheet 100 percent accurate?

Often, in the time between finishing your lyric sheet and getting your song ready to demo, the lyric undergoes a few more minor – or sometimes major – tweaks. Taking the time to make certain that every word on your lyric sheet is what you want the demo singer to sing is well worth your while. At the very least, you'll waste valuable studio time having the singer modify the lyric sheet, but if you're not paying close attention during the session, the demo singer might end up singing your old lyric and you'll be in the unfortunate position of having to re-hire them to come back and sing the proper lyric. Fortunately, it's a problem that's easily avoided by double- and triple-checking your final lyric sheet.


4. Do you have a definitive rough recording of your song?

For me, a "definitive rough recording" means you've made a simple, low-fidelity recording into your laptop or smartphone which conveys the proper lyric, melody, and chords of your song. This is generally done with a single instrument and sung by one one of the songwriters in the room after the song is completed. As I've said before, there's no Grammy award for best rough recording, so don't agonize over this. The reason it's useful is it can be sent to the demo singer in advance of the session and referred to when the session musicians arrive. It's always better to have a recording than to assume you'll just be able to play and sing for the musicians or singer in the studio. It's amazing what you forget when you're put on the spot. Stick to your rough recording.


5. Do you have a compelling reason for doing a full-band recording?

The temptation to want to dress up your songs is a very real and potentially expensive one. While I'm well aware that nothing sounds quite as good as a fully produced recording of your song, it's more important to ask yourself whether the pitch opportunities you're considering really require it. There are only a few good reasons to do a full-band recording that justify the expense, such as a film/TV pitch where the scene requires it or an artist demo where you're showcasing not just the song, but the artist's sound. Otherwise, I'd strongly suggest that you consider a high-quality single instrument (guitar or piano) and vocal. This is more than enough to convey your melody and lyric in a professional setting. Also, remember that you can always add additional instruments and production if a later situation warrants.

6. Do you have a full explanation from the studio of all the costs?

When you're choosing a studio and booking your session, don't forget to have a frank discussion with the studio owner regarding any and all potential costs. Sometimes a studio's hourly rate isn't the only cost you'll incur. It's enough to ask exactly what your costs will be. Often, conversations about money can be uncomfortable, but if you're treating your songwriting as a business, then it's essential. It's always better to have a full understanding of your costs going into a session so that you can avoid a potentially awkward conversation later. Even studios that have an hourly rate should be able to give you – within an hour or so – a fairly accurate estimate. Discussing the money up front and getting it out of the way is a great recipe for enjoying your session without being distracted by non-musical things.

The decision to demo one of your songs should never be taken lightly. You're attempting to put in permanent form a representation of your song that you'll use and pitch for many years to come. The demo process itself can be great fun, especially if you've taken the time to properly prepare and do the necessary homework. As I was told once, "It's better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent." I couldn't agree more.
 
If you’ve ever wondered about the exact chain of events that takes place from the time a song is written and demoed until it winds up on a Top 10 Billboard charting album, purchase Educated Songwriter’s “A Day in the Life of a Demo” webinar for $14.99.

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, and author with over 20 years in the music business. Click here to get a free copy of Cliff’s e-book, The Songwriter’s Handbook

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

 
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Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @07:00 AM

Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers
by Jason Blume
HitSongStructures

When I took my first songwriting workshop I had no idea that verses, choruses, and bridges were the primary building blocks used in popular songs. Nor did I know that the vast majority of the songs I listened to on the radio combined these components into one of four song forms, or a variation of one of these forms.

Initially, when I learned about song structures, I feared that confining my music to one of a handful of prescribed forms would limit—or even destroy—my creative expression. But I learned that effective songwriting is an art of communication; that a primary goal was to connect with—and evoke emotion in—my listeners. The structures I used to express my songs did not alter their message. To the contrary, presenting my songs in formats with which my listeners were familiar, allowed my audience to receive the melodies and lyrics I shared. My listeners might not be able to define or identify a verse, a chorus, or a bridge, but they had spent a lifetime listening to music that was constructed using these components, so including them added a sense of familiarity.

Popular music is constantly evolving, and this article explores whether the use of song structures has changed, and whether there are any trends to take note of. Before proceeding, I’ll briefly define the functions of each of the “building blocks.”
Verses

Verse lyrics tell the story, include action and details, and lead the listeners to the chorus and the title. Each verse typically has different lyrics, and while there are no “rules” about how long a verse should be, the most common lengths are eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

Hot Tip: To write a second verse, ask yourself, “What else happened? Or, “Then what happened?”
Choruses

Chorus lyrics are usually a simple summation of the concept—a place to summarize the song’s essence in a catchy, easy-to-remember way. Choruses are intended to be the most memorable part of the song, both lyrically and melodically—the part people walk away singing. Choruses tend to be eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

In song forms that include a chorus, the title will almost always be in the chorus. The rare exceptions to this are typically songs written by artists who write for themselves. For example, Coldplay’s GRAMMY-winning Song of the Year, “Viva La Vida” never includes the title in the chorus—or anywhere else in the song.

The chorus lyric does not typically bring in detail or advance the story. Why? Because the chorus will likely be repeated two or three times, and if it is full of detail and story, it probably won’t make sense to repeat it.

Typically, every chorus within a given song will have the same melody and the same lyrics. But there are certainly exceptions. The two choruses in Patsy Cline’s classic “I Fall to Pieces” (Harlan Howard/Hank Cochran) include different lyrics, and in Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” the final line of each chorus lyric is different from the others.
Bridges

The word most often invoked when describing the function of bridges is “departure,” and indeed, the most effective bridges depart both melodically and lyrically from the other sections of the song. Ideally, in this section a new lyric angle, new perspective, and/or new information is introduced. Bridges (often referred to as the “Middle 8” outside the U.S.) are typically four or eight musical bars. They can be instrumental (such as in Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball”), but that’s not typical.

Whether to include a bridge or not is a creative decision based on factors such as whether the writer wants to advance the story, if there is a new melodic element they want to introduce, and the length of the song.
Pre-Choruses

A pre-chorus is a component of a song that occurs immediately before the chorus. Sometimes called a lift, a climb, a channel, a set-up, or a “B” section, its function is to connect and propel listeners from the verse to the chorus—both melodically and lyrically. This sub-section of the verse is most often comprised of four or eight musical bars.

Songs that include a pre-chorus in the first verse almost always have one in every subsequent verse. In songs that have two verses prior to their chorus, the pre-chorus typically only appears in the verse immediately before the chorus.

In many instances (such as The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”) every pre-chorus has the same melody and the same lyric. But in the pre-chorus of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” the melody of each pre-chorus remains the same, but the lyric changes each time. Both of these approaches are regularly found in successful songs in various genres.
Post-Choruses

Post-choruses (sometimes called “B” choruses) are sections that follow a chorus, providing an additional hook. Most often comprised of four or eight musical bars, the post-chorus might follow every chorus within a given song, or it might be only in the song’s final chorus. In addition to contributing an extra melodic hook, in many instances, this section serves as a place to hammer home the title.

Excellent examples of post-choruses include Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
How Songs Have Typically Been Constructed

The most popular song forms since the era of the Beatles have been:

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Bridge—Chorus
(Example: Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”)

Verse—Verse—Bridge—Verse
(Example: Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You”)

These structures are sometimes expressed as:

A—B—A—B
A—B—A—B—C—B
A—B—A—B—A—B
A—A—B—A

Popular variations have included starting with a chorus (B—A—B—A—B or B—A—B—A—B—C—B); having two verses prior to the first chorus; and having a “double” chorus.

In songs that use the A—A—B—A form, a common variation repeats the bridge after the third verse, followed by an additional verse (A—A—B—A—B—A). In these instances the second bridge is almost always the same as the first—melodically and lyrically. The last verse sometimes repeats the lyrics of the first verse, but not in all cases.

In some songs, the pre-chorus is repeated between the second and third choruses, serving the function of a bridge. Sam Hunt’s country hit “House Party” is a good example of this.

The A—A—B—A song form (with slight variations) was used in songs such as Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” (written by Linda Creed and Michael Masser), Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” This song form seemed to be in a disproportionately large number of songs that became “standards.” But the popularity of this structure began waning in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It can be heard in 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY-nominated song “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack and written by Hayes Carll.)
EDM (Electronic Dance Music) Structures

In pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and most other popular styles, the high point of the song is the chorus. But in EDM, the high point is “the drop” or “the dance break.” This section is typically instrumental, or mostly instrumental, with only the title or the hook line being sung.

The chorus—which has lyrics—comes before the drop, usually in the spot where other genres would have a pre-chorus. In EDM, the chorus’s function is to build into the dance break, which is the peak of the song.

While an EDM song might have 2 verses and choruses, in many instances, there is only one verse and chorus. It would be extremely rare for a song in this genre to have a bridge.
Current Trends

David Penn, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hit Songs Deconstructed, is an expert regarding the latest trends in pop songs. His website www.hitsongsdeconstructed.com provides intensive analyses of virtually every aspect of the songs that comprise Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 songs.

When asked what trends he is currently observing in the structures of hits, Penn stated, “One of the most pronounced trend shifts that we’ve observed during the last few quarters is that songs are getting to the chorus/payoff much faster. For example, the percentage of songs that feature the chorus BEFORE the verse reached its highest level in years, skyrocketing from just 25% of songs in the first quarter of 2015, up to 42% of songs in Q2, and remained close to the same in Q3.”

A prime example of a recent hit that started with a chorus is Justin Bieber’s #1, “What Do You Mean” (written by Bieber, Jason Boyd, and Mason Levy). The song uses a B-A-B-A-B form (chorus – verse – chorus – verse – chorus), with each verse including a pre-chorus.

“During the first three quarters of 2015, a total of 21 disparate forms were utilized when crafting the 43 songs that appeared in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. The ABABCB form continues to be the most popular, and the BABABCB form follows as the second most popular.” (David Penn, Hit Songs Deconstructed)

Penn continued, “It’s interesting to note that the popularity of the ABABCB form rose to hits HIGHEST level in years in Q1 (60% of songs), followed by dropping to its second LOWEST level in years in Q2, where it accounted for just 26% of songs, and remained almost the same in Q3. This was due in part to the number of forms in the top 10 doubling from 8 to 16 from Q1 to Q3.

The popularity of intros, pre-choruses, and instrumental breaks rose to their highest level in over a year in Q3. Bridges, however, fell to their lowest, being replaced by other sections such as an instrumental break or a changed up pre-chorus to provide a pronounced departure relative to other sections in a song. These are just a few of the many trend shifts that we’ve been observing at Hit Songs Deconstructed.

Aside from the ABABCB and BABABCB forms, most of the other forms in Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 Songs during the first three quarters of 2015 were found in just one or a couple of songs each quarter. So, the trend is to draw from a wider variety of song forms than have been used in the past.”
Trends in Country Music Song Structures

A review of the 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY nominees revealed that each of the five nominated songs used a different song structure.

    “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Hayes Carll) is V-V-B-V
    “Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools” (recorded by Tim McGraw, written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton) is V-C-V-C-C
    “Girl Crush,” which was also GRAMMY-nominated for overall Song of the Year, (recorded by Little Big Town, written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey) is V-C-V-C, ending with a reprise of the beginning of the first verse
    “Hold My Hand” (recorded by Brandy Clark, written by Clark and Mark Stephen Jones) is V-V-C-B-C
    “Traveller” (recorded and written by Chris Stapleton) is V-C-V-C-B-C

A look at Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015 showed that writers of hit country songs are exploring a variety of song structures.

    “Take Your Time” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with the final chorus featuring a change in the lyric, and what might be considered a post-chorus.
    “Girl Crush” (listed above)
    “House Party” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, and Jerry Flowers) is V-C-V-C-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus. A repeat of the pre-chorus following the second chorus serves the function of a bridge.
    “Kick the Dust Up” (recorded by Luke Bryan, written by Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, and Ashley Gorley) is V-C-V-C-B-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus.
    “Crash and Burn” (recorded by Thomas Rhett, written by Jesse Frasure and Chris Stapeton) is V-C-V-C-C with what could be described as a post-chorus after the second chorus.
    “Sangria” (recorded by Blake Shelton, written by J.T. Harding, Josh Osborne, and Trevor Rosen) is V-C-V-C-B-C-B.
    “Homegrown” (recorded by the Zac Brown Band, written by Zac Brown, Niko Moon, and Wyatt Durrette) is V-C-V-C-C-B-C, with a post chorus after the second chorus.
    “Buy Me a Boat” (recorded by Chris Janson, written by Chris Janson and Chris DuBois) is V-C-V-C-B-C.
    “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (recorded by Keith Urban, written by Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C-C, with a post-chorus following the final chorus.
    Like a Wrecking Ball (recorded by Eric Church, written by Eric Church and Casey Beathard) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with pre-choruses. The bridge is instrumental.

The classification of whether a section constitutes a bridge, a pre-chorus, or a post-chorus is subjective, and in some instances, is not clear-cut. It is interesting to note that of the fourteen songs that comprise the 2015 Country Song of the Year nominees and Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015, six had structures that were not found in any of the other songs, while five of them used the V-C-V-C-B-C (A-B-A-B-C-B) and three were V-C-V-C-C (A-B-A-B-B).

While popular songs still rely on the building blocks of verses, choruses, bridges, and pre-choruses, recent hits have included more variations in the way those elements were put together, and post-choruses have become increasingly popular.

Songwriters have been exploring new song forms and variations—and if the music charts and GRAMMY nominations are any indication, listeners have been embracing the new structures.

[Reprinted by permission from BMI]

Jason Blume is the author of This Business of Songwriting and 6 Steps to Songwriting Success (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Azar, and John Berry (“Change My Mind,” a top 5 single that earned a BMI “Million-Aire” Award for garnering more than one million airplays). Jason’s song “Can’t Take Back the Bullet” is on Hey Violet’s new EP that debuted in the top-10 in twenty-two countries and reached #1 throughout Scandinavia and Asia. He’s had three top-10 singles in the past two years and a “Gold” record in Europe by Dutch star, BYentl, including a #1 on the Dutch R&B iTunes chart.

Jason’s songs have been included in films and TV shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Assassination Games,” Disney’s “Kim Possible” “Dangerous Minds,” “Kickin’ it Old Skool,” “The Guiding Light,” “The Miss America Pageant,” and many more.  Jason is in his nineteenth year of teaching the BMI Nashville Songwriters workshops. A regular contributor to BMI’s MusicWorld magazine, he presented a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and teaches songwriting throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Bermuda, and Jamaica.

After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s latest books, online classes, instructional audio CDs, and workshops visit www.jasonblume.com.


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

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

Record Producer & The Music Artist

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 @07:00 AM

Record Producer & The Music Artist
by Jamie Hill

Jamie Hill is an independent record producer: he talks about artist-producer communication
VU-Meter-iPhone

Being clear on who you are as an artist

When I’m considering working with a new artist, I generally suggest that we do one song together first to see whether the relationship works. So in this spirit, last month I had a singer-songwriter come by the house. There was something in this woman’s writing and voice that really resonated with me, and that I thought I could contribute something positive to.

She came over and played me a bunch of songs, and we picked one to start with. What I typically do next is to demo up some production ideas in the computer, to get the conversation started. But before that, it’s important for me to get a sense of what the artist is hearing in their head production-wise. Especially when an artist has started a song with just an acoustic guitar, it could go in any one of a dozen directions.

So I had her play me some inspiration tracks in Spotify. I had been hearing a Beth Orton sort of thing for her material; she played me Meiko and Lucy Rose. Which, if you think about it, are pretty compatible vision-wise with my Beth Orton idea: a tightly produced balance of acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, and drum programming.

So based on that, I got started on a production template. I did an acoustic drum kit and upright bass in the verses, and then brought in some drum machines and synth bass to make a dark scene change into the choruses. Then I had the artist over to start fleshing it out.

And she hated it. Hated it! She had a viscerally negative reaction, specifically to the drum machines and synthesizers. Which, of course, were directly cued from her inspiration tracks. So I probed on that point, asking whether it was the parts the electronic instruments were doing, or perhaps the sounds I’d chosen. But no, it was the very fact of their existence. “My sound is folky-jazzy,” she said by way of explanation.

Huh.

I have two thoughts here. The first one is that this artist did exactly the right thing, in that moment. If you’re an artist, and you’re working with a producer, you have to be your own best advocate. If something is happening that isn’t resonating with your vision of who you are, then it’s critically important that you speak up. Only through your fastidious curation will you end up with a record that’s the best possible representation of who you are.

My second thought is that this artist could probably have communicated way better with her inspiration tracks, which turned out to be highly misleading. It turned out that what she liked about those tracks was that the acoustic guitar was front and center, and that both singers were husky altos like her. Which is a very different story than the one I’d been ostensibly presented with, given that I specifically had asked to hear songs whose production and sound she found inspiring.

Collaboration is challenging, and fraught with the potential for misunderstanding. Therefore it’s extra important to be as clear as possible with your communication as you enter into a new creative relationship. Get your expectations and hopes clear with yourself before bringing them to someone else, communicate them unambiguously, and you’ll get started off on the right foot.


[by permission of Jamie Hill & Pyragraph.com]
Jamie Hill is an independent record producer, music engineer, and author. He works across a variety of genres, mostly in the independent and alternative music spaces, with bands such as ArnoCorps, Shannon Curtis, and many more. He has had chart success internationally with Swedish indie-pop favorite Jens Lekman, whose record An Argument With Myself debuted in the Billboard Heatseekers Top 10 in multiple countries. 

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

 
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Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough

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

Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

SongwritersWritingSongs
When a band enters the recording studio they typically sign a "split sheet," a document which specifies each person's contributions and ownership percentage on a given track. This often isn't a sufficiently detailed agreement however, and artists should make an effort to take further legal precautions in order to avoid issues down the road.


For some unexplained reason, frequently when artists go into the recording studio to work on a track together, they typically sign a “split sheet” and think it suffices.  In reality, the traditional songwriter “split sheet” could merely be used as a stop-gap measure that is meant to ensure all parties are on the same page and understand what was contributed to the song by each party. Ultimately, songwriters should enter into a more elaborate and complete agreement to ensure the song can be properly used.

A “songwriter split sheet,” or “split sheet” for short, is a form that is signed by all the parties involved and lists each producer and songwriter. Each party’s contributions and ownership percentage of a particular musical composition are detailed. A typical “split sheet” should also include additional information about the parties, including each person’s physical mailing address, performance rights organization information (in the U.S., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), publishing company information (if there is one), birthdate and Social Security and EIN number.

songwriter-split-sheet

This document may seem to be comprehensive enough to cover the parties involved as it lists each party’s specific contribution (i.e. lyrics, beats, melody, etc.) and the corresponding percentage that each party owns of the final piece; however, it does not specifically address numerous important issues that could make or break a tune and severely inhibit its commercial value.

Generally under U.S. Copyright Law, if no agreement exists between the contributors to a particular copyrighted work, the assumption is that all of the contributors are considered joint-authors and own an undivided equal share of the song. This permits each owner to issue third-party licenses without the approval or consulting of any other owner as long as they account for any profits they made to the remaining owners.  While this may be acceptable in situations where the actual work was equal among the contributors; it is not always the case, and could cause some serious issues if the composers do not understand this point.  For example, if members of a band create compositions, sign a split sheet and then break up; each individual from the group can record and release the same material, merely subject to an accounting and payment.  This is frequently thought of as a nightmare situation.  Therefore, the right to issue or enter into third-party licenses for the finished material should be agreed upon in a more formal contract. This is an important point that a typical “split sheet” does not address at all.

Additionally, a standard “split sheet” does not speak about many ancillary and important elements to a song’s commercial value.  This includes any right of publicity matters, such as utilizing a particular producer, artist or songwriters’ name in connection with the publicity and marketing of a finished work. Other important matters to address include the right to request a proper accounting from the other parties, the right to audit and inspect a particular co-owner’s business records and the right to recover (i.e., recoup) certain documented expenses (i.e. recording, engineering, mixing, mastering costs, etc.). The agreement should also address the right to proper attribution or credit on the finished work.

Furthermore, the traditional “split sheet” does not mention any warranties or indemnifications by any of the parties to each other. Without these warranties, each party could be liable for any potential unauthorized sampling, lack of appropriate rights clearance or any other unauthorized or infringing uses in the finished work by each party. A “split sheet” also does not discuss the party’s right to approve any finished work or the right to approve any marketing or promotional campaigns and budgets for the track.  Finally, it does not address which state law to apply to a particular situation and does not specify where any disputes or claims would be adjudicated.

Clearly, the traditional sentiment and reliance on the outdated and minimal “split sheet” should be disregarded and all the contributors should enter into more formal and elaborate agreements. This is necessary to ensure all the important issues are addressed and that each party is properly protected and aware of their rights and interest in the finished work.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted when drafting any formal agreement.

 

[Article used by permission by 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, Recording, song demo, demo recording, songwriter split sheet, Co-Writing Songs, Split Sheet

Songwriting Tip: Dress Your Demos for Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sat, Feb 07, 2015 @05:30 PM

by Ralph Murphy

songwriting demo

Hit songwriter Ralph Murphy talks about songwriting in Nashville and what it takes to create a song demo for that market.

Every time a songwriter (or songwriters) finishes a song, the inevitable question comes up: How should this piece of work be demoed? Let's start by defining what we are taking about. Demo is short for "demonstration," which Webster's Dictionary tells us means "an explanation by example, a practical showing of how something works or is used."

So, step back from your song and take a long, hard look at it. What are its strong points, and what is the simplest, most eloquent way to show it off, i.e. to demo it?

Start Simply

Start with a simple guitar/vocal presentation and apply some logic. If you feel that simple will be enough, then fine. But make sure the guitar playing is excellent, the vocal is solid and well performed (by solid, I mean in tune and in character with the song), and the basic quality of the recording is good -- no pops or hiss or dropouts.

Embellish When Necessary

If the major part of the song is a big chorus, add a harmony part and perhaps a piano. If it's up-tempo and rhythmic, add an electric guitar and maybe some percussion. Now, there are songs that are great vehicles for records, but need a full demo to show them off. So, take out that second mortgage!

Look the Part

And finally, aside from clear labeling (the title, your name, telephone number, address, and the copyright notice) and a neatly typed lyric sheet (in upper-case letters), use a good quality CD (or mp3) when you pitch your song. Don't put a million dollar dream on a ten-cent recording.

Your song is copyrighted for your lifetime plus 50 years, so remember for at least 50 years, the demo you make today will be the only representation of how you really intended your song to be dressed. Make sure it's dressed for success.

 

Murphy's Laws of SongwritingRalph Murphy, hit songwriter

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter and expert, has been successful for five decades. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle's "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way". Consistently charting songs in an ever-changing musical environment makes him a member of that very small group of professionals who make a living ding what they love to do. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. Achieving "hit writer" status has always been a formidable goal for any songwriter. *His new book Murphy's Laws of Songwriting "The Book" arms the songwriter for success by demystifying the process and opening the door to serious professional songwriting. Hall of fame songwriter Paul Williams said in his review of the book "If there was a hit songwriters secret handshake "Da Murphy" would probably have included it. To buy his book, please click here: http://www.songwriting.net/ralph-murphy-book

 

To enter the 20th Annnual USA Songwriting Competition, click here: http://www.songwriting.net/enter

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, Ralph Murphy, A&R, demo recording