Songwriting Tips, News & More

The Best AND Worst Advice For Successful Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 01, 2017 @08:00 AM

 

The Best AND Worst Advice For Successful Songwriting

by Mark Cawley

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This is delicate stuff for me. I coach writers all over the world; some with wildly different goals, talents, and dreams. For me it’s not as much nuts and bolts as trying hard to find real life examples of a successful path--and an equal amount of cautionary tales.

As with any advice, I would start with considering the source. Is the person qualified to give direction? For me, I always wanted to hear from someone who was in the trenches. Someone who had actually been where I wanted to go. I like to flip to the back of the book and read the credits before I start “how to”-ing.

Just by virtue of doing what I do, as long as I’ve done it, I’ve built up quite a stash of hard-earned wisdom (with plenty of mistakes mixed in).

 

Let’s start with the best advice:

1. Jump! When you’re stuck, complacent, or just bored creatively; shake things up! For me this has meant actually picking up and moving to L.A., London, and Nashville over the years. Sometimes with no plan and certainly no plan B! It can be scary, but you’re an artist and that’s what artists do sometimes. They jump into the unknown. Every jump I’ve ever made has made me a better, and more aware songwriter. It’s as important to live and experience things as it is to study and practice your craft.

2. Study the Great Ones. Like most writers I know, I learned by deconstructing songs. How are they put together? Why do some relate to so many people and become hits? Just the process of breaking down songs and putting them back together gets in your DNA as a writer and is bound to make you better.

3. Network. This can be a hard one for us introverts but I promise, those connections you make will come back time and time again to be invaluable. I still connect with writers I wrote with 20 years ago. They’re great co-writers but more importantly, great friends and you need friends to survive in this business.

4. Be Fearless. Maybe the best advice I ever got. The best cuts I’ve ever had came from songs that were written without a “net”. If I surprised myself and loved the result, chances are someone else will.

5. Be a good hang. You’re in it for the long run and believe it or not, the writing community is smaller than you think! Being prepared, considerate, and a good listener makes you someone people want to work with again. Word spreads!

 

Now the worst advise:

1) Have a plan B. To do this job you have to not be able to not write. See #1 above.

2) Only write what you know. You can argue this, as I have with several of my coaching clients. “The only true songs are the songs written from my own personal experience”. That’s the argument . I would argue that unless your life is unbelievably interesting and eventful, the well will run dry quick. Great to write from real life but it’s also pretty cool to make something up sometimes!

3) Focus on being creative, someone else will do that messy “business” part. I tried that, doesn’t work. Be a student of the business, it’s your career and no one is going to care about your career like you do.

4) Follow the songwriting rules. Obviously, learn ‘em. So you can break ‘em! Like any craft, you want to learn the ABC’s...but then you want to invent some of your own.

5) Great art requires suffering. I’ve written some of my best sad songs when I was insanely happy and some of the most upbeat ones when I was down. If you just write every day, you’ll experience it all. Promise.

 

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 through iDoCoach.com. 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 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.

  

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


 
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Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 01, 2017 @08:00 AM

Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success
by Karen Randle
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It doesn’t much matter where you are in your songwriting at the moment. You can be a well-established songwriting pro with cuts with various major artists who knows his revenues ought to be higher. Or you can be a beginner songwriter coming out of the gate and trying to make your way…as long as you have your thinking straight and are serious about your songwriting, you can achieve greater success.

However, there are three “uncomfortable truths” about why most independent songwriters never will.

 

Truth #1: The most successful songwriters tend to get paid more for who they are than what they do.

Max Martin keeps placing songs with the biggest music artists of today, more any any other active songwriter today. Why? Max Martin has written and co-written 22 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits (most of which he has also produced or co-produced). Max Martin is the songwriter with third most number one singles on the chart, behind only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). As a producer he holds the record for second-most number one singles on the chart with 20 behind only George Martin (23). Additionally, five of these songs he wrote or co-wrote made their debut on the chart at number-one. Number one debuts songs include "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake and "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

You are not entitled to a high income. Just because you have your law degree…your doctor degree…your certification in whatever… and 25 years of experience…etc. This does not mean you will automatically get paid more.

Think about athletes. NBA player Derrick Rose who plays for the Chicago Bulls is one of the highest paid athletes—even though he has been riddled with injuries most of his career. Tim Tebow, whose NFL career never put him in the same category of the best athletes in the game, made millions in endorsements. Why? Simply for being “Tim Tebow.”


So building up who you are is vastly more important than what you do or your competency level.

Truth #2: No attempt in improving oneself - Writing songs on your own, never attempting to collaborate with other songwriters or producers. It’s in working on your SONGWRITING.


All the finalists in the Pop and Country categories in the 2016 USA Songwriting Competition are collaborations, written by 2 or more songwriters. This trend seems to be the same on most of the songs the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

Elton John collaborates with longtime lyricist and friend Bernie Taupin on most of his greatest hit songs. Elton recognizes that his strength lies in writing music, particularly melodic lines. And Bernie focuses on his strength - writing lyrics. Songwriters can learn from the pros: If you are great in writing music but bad in writing lyrics, it doesn't mean that you are toast at all. You can collaborate with a lyricist or a songwriter who is excellent in writing lyrics.

Truth #3: An old one: The definition of INSANITY is: doing the same things the same way over and over again while hoping for different results.

Albert Einstein is broadly credited with saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Many songwriters tend to do that. Example: they use the same chord progression and same rhyming clichés and wonder why their songwriting never seem to improve.
 
You need to be willing to look for and accept a different approach—even a different concept of yourself and your music, musicianship or songwriting. That different approach may include a fundamental change in the way you think of yourself, your role, your songwriting, your music artistry, and the way you present yourself to the music industry or audience.

Some of it might feel uncomfortable. It certainly will be different from what you see others in your same profession/music/category doing.

At the risk of being obvious, one way you fundamentally improve your songs is by collaborations. But most songwriters invest all their energy in only one means of increasing their value: “writing their songs all by oneself” better.

This is akin to trying to lose weight, keep it off, and be healthier only by reducing the quantity of calories, carbs and fat you eat—with no changes in physical movement, exercise, food choices, nutrition, nutritional supplementation and mental attitude management.  Yes, you can lose some weight by doing just one thing to further and further extremes, but as any dieter will attest, you hit a wall when no more pounds can be lost even if you eat nothing but a leaf of lettuce with a squirt of lemon for dinner every night.

Sorry, but getting better and better and better at your “thing” will slam you into an income barrier and will NEVER lift you over that wall.

You need to increase your value to your audience/music industry in multiple ways in order to improve your songwriting or music artistry.

If you want to leap-frog to a much higher success, then you must master improvement of yourself, use a more sophisticated approach to your songwriting and your music artistry and focus on learning the strategies that are proven to catapult to your music success.

Information on 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, Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Justin Timberlake

Are Your Song Pitches as Perfect as They Should Be?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 @03:58 PM

[Songwriting Advice] Are Your Song Pitches as Perfect as They Should Be?
by Jason Blume

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When I critique songs during my workshops and webinars I ask the writers what their intention is for their song. For example, do they hope the song will be recorded by a hit country artist, or is the writer a folk singer who wrote the song to perform it him- or herself at coffeehouses. Is the goal to have the song recorded by a pop star, or to license it for placement in television or films? I need to know the writer’s hope for the song so I can assess whether the melody and lyrics are hitting the target the writer was aiming for. Songs that work perfectly for one artist or genre might be completely inappropriate for others.

In a surprising number of instances, when I ask the writers’ intention for their songs I get responses that reveal they are not listening to the recent hits by the artists they hope to write for. For example, sometimes a song that would fit perfectly on a playlist of 1960-era folksingers is intended by the writer to be recorded by one of today’s country stars. Similarly, a song that sounds appropriate for a 1980s boy band might be intended for a current urban/pop star.

My prescription is to go to Billboard and jot down the titles of the top five songs in the genres where you believe your song might fit. Listen to those songs carefully and print their lyrics. Note the rhythms in the vocal melodies, the instrumentation, the songs’ structures, the chord changes
and the style of language used in the lyric. Then ask yourself if your song contains similar techniques. It can also be beneficial to seek professional feedback to be sure we do not have a blind spot and that our songs are indeed accomplishing what we intended.

If your goal is to place a song with a specific artist, study his or her recent hits. I’m not suggesting we clone those songs; we need to push the creative envelope–not rehash musical territory that has already been covered. But we need to accomplish this while writing material that is consistent with the genre we are aiming for.

Give your songs their best shot by studying the market and being sure your pitches are “pitch perfect” for the artists or licensing opportunities you target.

[Reprinted by permission from BMI]

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three GRAMMY-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies.

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


 
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Playing With The Box

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 @06:00 PM

Playing With The Box
by Harriet Schock
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It all started with a student I had named Moke. He would bring me songs that he wasn’t happy with but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I put him through my songwriting course “steps” and very early in the process, he discovered something that got him enthusiastic again: In a verse, verse, bridge, verse song with the title at the end of the verse, you can twist the title and make it have a different meaning at least three times during the course of the song. Each verse will lead to it differently and it will change meaning just like a chameleon changes colors. I’d forgotten what that realization felt like, but he was having it like fireworks. From then on, every week he’d bring me another song that attempted to change the title’s meaning at the end of each verse. It was at that point that I coined the term “playing with the box.”

There’s a well known story about the child at Christmas who is given an expensive toy only to end up playing with the box the toy came in. This is exactly what it feels like to me when I see a writer find a clever idea and try to twist and turn it, outlining a way the story could develop, without any real meat to the story. He’s playing with the title, as the child would play with the box at Christmas.

When a title comes in at the end of a verse and hits us right in the seat of our emotions, it’s very powerful. “The Song Remembers When” by Hugh Prestwood is a perfect example of this. But that song is not a clever mind game. It is a work full of real-life pictures, supporting a truth that goes beyond language.

Many of my students have written powerful songs with the structure of verse, verse, bridge, verse with the title at the end of each verse. One of the most talented and skilled writers I’ve ever worked with is Tracy Newman. In the decade  she’s been in my class, she’s written some astonishing songs. The one I’d like to quote here is “Someone in the Room.” She twists the title each time but never lets the emotional impact be lessened by our awareness of “cleverness.”

SOMEONE IN THE ROOM (Tracy Newman 2011, Kabeauty Music)

He lets me brighten up his day  
Pours out his heart to me  
He’s interested in what I say
And when we disagree
He fights fair, we work things out
He’s such an open book, I have no doubt
I’m his special SOMEONE IN THE ROOM

Not a word of that is true
He only looks my way
When I interrupt his view
Or take the remote away
Sad eyes, the TV
It’s finally gotten through to me
I’ve become just SOMEONE IN THE ROOM

He used to fly to me with a wild heart
Pretend to cry when we were far apart
Yeah, he’d call me up and say my name
Over and over again
 
He took me to the highest high
I never touched the ground
So I don’t even want to try
To travel this far down
It feels so wrong
Days and nights are too long
To be just a SOMEONE IN THE ROOM
Life is too short
And I want much more
Than to be just SOMEONE IN THE ROOM


Getting back to my student, Moke, I should say that he soon learned there was more to emotional impact than clever plays on words. He’s eventually chose topics to write about that were connected to reality and fertile with pictures. Occasionally he would fall off the wagon and bring in something that looked a bit like a movie set of a house, with no house behind it, but I would just look at him and he would say “I’m playing with the box.” It’s great to have students who do my work for me.

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

 

Information on 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, Helen Reddy, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs

5 Things You Can Do To Make Your New Year More Musically Successful

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 02, 2017 @08:00 AM

5 Things You Can Do To Make Your New Year More Musically Successful
by Karen Randle
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As you begin the year, we wish you great music making, prosperity and autonomy…and hope you have your best year yet.

Today, I’ll list five things that will specifically help you meet your songwriting and music making goals for 2017.

1)      Pick your biggest wins. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with songwriting and music making ideas you want to implement. Instead of attempting everything from your book or tape of ideas, melodic lines, lyric ideas, becoming overwhelmed and paralyzed and completing nothing, pick one or two ideas that will give you the biggest wins.  Give yourself a deadline to complete them. Then pick two more. For example, if you run into a songwriting block today to a completing a break up song, try it again in 2 days time, this will give you a new perspective and might give you a bigger win in 2 days time when your mind is fresh. Make your single focus to get to finish that verse or pre-chorus or melodic line that didn’t work earlier in place in the next week. Then move on to your next big idea.

 

2)      Rewrite your song. People often wonder what hit songwriters like Desmond Child do to write iconic hit songs. The answer is simply that words matter and he’s very good at picking and combining words that catches the audience’s ear. He wrote “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” as a sole writer, the song became a minor hit for Bonnie Tyler in the middle of 1986. Desmond said “I was sore at the record company for not pushing that song”. "I'm going to prove that that song's a hit! So we wrote it again".

Although Desmond was dissatisfied with its success in the US and UK, he did not give up, he rewrote the song and it became one the biggest and most iconic hit song in rock history. Thus, “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” became “You Give Love a Bad Name” with co-writers Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. This song also was on VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs".

Here is a very important lesson you can learn from Desmond Child: Don't give up, regroup and rewrite your song.

 

3)      Test and Try writing in a different genre.  Let’s say you love Country music but hate writing in the Rock or Hip-Hop genre. It doesn’t mean you should thump your nose at Rock and Hip-Hop styles.

Heard of hick-hop? Country rap is a subgenre of popular music blending country music with hip hop-style rapping, also known as hick-hop or rural rap. Country rap began to form as a genre when Bubba Sparxxx and producer Shannon "Fat Shan" Houchins created Sparxxx's 2001 debut album Dark Days, Bright Nights as an independent release which was later re-released on Interscope Records. The trend continued in 2005 when country artists Big & Rich introduced Cowboy Troy to the country world via 2005's Loco Motive released on Warner Brothers, which reached #2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and the rest is history.

 

4)      Experiment by performing yourself as a music artist. Meghan Trainor was signed by a music publisher in Nashville as a songwriter. She experimented and gave it a try as a recording artist. The rest as we say is history, Meghan’s debut single “All About That Bass” became one of the biggest hit single by a debut artist, hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, selling over 15 million copies worldwide, #1 on 58 different countries, her debut album debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 Album charts and she went on to win a Grammy award for Best New Artist.

 

5)      Collaboration with other songwriters.  If you look at the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, chances of a song written by more than one songwriter or even multi-way collaboration between songwriters and producers. The #1 song of the year 2016 “Love Yourself” was written by Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and Benjamin Levin. The #2 song of the year 2016 is a multi-way collaboration “Sorry” written by Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Sonny Moore and Michael Tucker.

 

 

Information on 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, Desmond Child, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor, Bon Jovi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


 
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(EXPERT MUSICIAN ADVICE) Find & Work with Music Attorneys

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

(EXPERT MUSICIAN ADVICE) Find & Work with Music Attorneys

By Glenn Litwak

 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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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: The Windup & The Pitch

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

Songwriting Tip: The Windup & The Pitch

The basics of pitching songs for licensing

 Songwriting Tip - The Windup & The Pitch

By Eric Alexandrakis

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

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

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

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

Avoid the wrong route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the right way

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Establish your web presence, bio, etc.

~ Get your music perfect—both sonically and in songwriting

~ Network, because your life depends on it

~ Collaborate when it feels valuable to do so

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Avoid these mistakes

So here are five mistakes I see artists make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome. No one cares.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Permission Reprint From Recording Magazine]

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

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

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