Songwriting Tips, News & More

USA Songwriting Competition Winner On Tonight Show "Conan O'Brien"

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 @11:37 AM

Kate Voegele not only hit the big time by landing #10 on the Billboard 200 Album charts but also appeared earlier this week on Tonight Show "Conan O'Brien" on July 20, 2009. Kate got her start right here by winning the 2005 USA Songwriting Competition and she is still the youngest first prize winner at 18 years old at that time. 

 

 

 

Tags: Kate Voegele, hit song, hit songwriter, songwriting competition, song writing showcase, USA Songwriting Competition, Billboard Charts, One Tree Hill, Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Hits Top 10

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 @12:22 PM

Kate Voegele Performing at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at SXSW

Kate Voegele's new album with Interscope Records was released on May 2009 and it hit Top 10 on the Billboard charts on this week of June 15, 2009. 

Kate is also an actress on "One Tree Hill". She has appeared on "Good Morning America" and her new single "99 Times" is climbing the Billboard charts and has been receiving heavy airplay throughout United States. 

Kate Voegele started her claim to fame by winning first prize in the 2005 USA Songwriting Competition with her song "Only Fooling Myself" in the Pop category. She became the youngest winner at just 18 years old at that time. After winning the USA Songwriting Competition, she went on to perform at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at SXSW on March 2006 (see picture above). Her stunning performance and her win lead her to be signed to Interscope records shortly after. Her winning song "Only Fooling Myself" was featured in her debut album with Intercsope records and it peaked at #37 on Billboard Charts (Adult Top 40). Her debut album peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts. 

Many USA Songwriting Competition winners in the past have received recording and publishing contracts, have their songs placed on the charts as well as having their songs placed on film and television. 2006 First Prize Winner and 2008 Overall Grand Prize Winner Jordan Zevon was signed to New West Records and appeared on TV program “Late Night With David Letterman”. 2007 Overall Grand Prize Winner Ari Gold had his winning song “Where The Music Takes You” hit #10 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Darrell Scott, winner of the country category of the 2005 USA Song writing Competition had his winning song "Good Ol USA" cut by award winning country singer Faith Hill and the song was renamed “We've Got Nothing But Love to Prove.” Also, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (Kensington, MD), winners of the Children's' music category of the 2005 USA Song writing Competition won a Grammy award in the Best Children's music album in the 2006 after winning the USA Songwriting Competition. Judges include A&R managers from record labels such as Warner, Capitol Records, Universal, BMG/SONY Music. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition visit:

http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: Kate Voegele, hit song, hit songwriter, songwriting competition, composing songs, One Tree Hill, sxsw, songwriting showcase, Billboard Album Charts

Top 10 Ways To Win A Songwriting Competition

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 @07:59 AM

Written by Ira Greenfield

This is a follow-up artilce to the one I wrote last month. I have been approached many times by songwriters how to submit their songs and win a songwriting competition. This is what I think that will work best:

1. Catchy Chorus or Hook
Having a catchy melodic chorus or hook that drives home the message always works well in a song. 2007 USA Songwriting Competition top winning song "Where The Music Takes You" by Ari Gold, Joe Hogue "JOJOHO" and Sean Petersen has such an catchy chorus that it not only won the songwriting competition but also hit Top 10 on the Billboard charts. This is a good evidence of a song with a catchy chorus/hook.

2. Good Verse
Writing a good melodic verse starts and keeps the listener involved and wanting to hear more. The 2008 USA Songwriting Competition top winning song "Home" by Jordan Zevon, Jordan Summers & Morty Coyle is an example. The catchy verse keeps the listener curious to listen for the upcoming hook.

3. Short Into or No Intro
Everyone just love long classic intros such as "Stairway To Heaven" and 'Wish You Were Here". However, radio friendly songs today tend to have shorter intros. Also, at a music industry judging level, judges and A&R want to hear the meat of the song. They just do not want to waste any time. The 2007 winning song had no intro, the song starts immediately, no waste of time.

4. Get to Quickly to the Hook
You really need to get to the point quickly. I have been visiting Nashville songwriting scene every year and their rule of thumb is getting to the chorus within 45 seconds for savvy songwriters.

5. Good Lyrics or Storyline
The 2007 runner-up song "The War Was In Color" had such a touching lyric about World War 2 and imagery of the lyrics just jump out from the CD.

6. Unique Idea
Many songs are almost the same. 2008 Winning song in the Folk Category "Snare Drum" by Lucy Wainwright Roche, had lyrics written about someone clapping his hands making "Snare Drums" sounds. Also, there are hit songs that just stand out for being so different: Womanizer and Poker Face. There isn't "I love you, you love me" cliches in songs like these. Using cliches like "You wanna break my heart and now I fall apart" are such cliches in lyric writing that it doesn't show any originality.

7. Good Use of Chord Progression
2008 Top winning song "Home" had Beatles inspired chord progressions with a twist. The 2007 winning song has retro "George Michael/Wham" inspired chords but with a more up to date musical feel as the song goes on.

8. Good Use of Melodic Line
2003 Top winning song "Lighted Up" by Gabriel Mann had a drastic change in the pace of the melodic line that by the time the chorus comes, it stands out and the melodic line slows down in the chorus works well.

9. Short Instrumental interlude in between Verses and Chorus as well as Chorus and Bridge
Long interludes between verses and choruses are frowned upon. There was an entry that was given to me to listen with a 1 minute intro, 1 minute lead guitar interlude between verses and choruses that I had to fast forward. The judges all want you to get to the point quickly, please do not waste their time.

10. Using The Right Instrumentation
If the song is a ballad, vocals and piano or vocals and guitar are sufficient. For a kicking Rock/Alternative song or a Dance/Electronica, a more produced version with bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals may be needed to display the use of the song. However, radio ready or polished production is not necessary. The runner-up of the 1999 Competition "Happy Valentines' Day" by Trina Belamide was recorded simply with just vocals and piano.

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


Tags: Songwriting, songwriting competition, songwriting contest

How Songwriters Can Create a Winning Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, May 08, 2009 @12:25 PM

~written by Ira Greenfield

Many songwriters have asked me what makes a winning song. As VP of development at USA Songwriting Competition for the past 14 years and I have heard winning years through the years, a winning song should be creative in both music composition aspect as well as the lyric composition. A good example is the top winning song of 2008 competition "Home" written by Jordan Zevon, Jordan Summers and Morty Coyle. Musically, it displays surprises in Chord changes and the lyrics about coming home are not the clichés of what you hear on radio. It didn't hurt the song that chorus is  catchy.

Another example is the winning song of the country category in 2007 "I Can Live Without You", written by Mary Danna and Troy Verges. One would think the song is about someone who doesn't want to live with another. However, there is a twist at the end of the sentence in the chorus "But I just don't want to". They have taken a love and heartache song and given a "surprising twist" in the end. Also, the bridge was short, surprising and also emotionally high (with the melody hitting a high note at the end of the melodic line) and yet sad. That song still remains a favorite at the USA Songwriting Competition.

I have heard submissions where songwriters try to write the derivative songs that were number one on the charts at one time and end up being awkward. One case was a songwriter who took the entire track of Jennifer Lopez song "If You Had My Love" and wrote a similar melody to the background music, even the melodic line's rhythm was so similar. The chorus even copied the melody of the original song. Our judges thought the song has been plagiarized, let alone not being creative as the judges left the room singing to Jennifer Lopez song instead. Needless to say, that song didn't win.

I realized an interesting fact that the top winning songs of the past two years have been a three-way collaboration. The winning song last year was written by three songwriters and so was the year before ("Where the Music Takes You", written by Ari Gold, Joe Hogue "JOJOHO" and Sean Petersen). That song also hit top 10 on the Billboard Charts after winning the competition. "Where the Music Takes You" was unique, it had no intro, the vocals start as soon as the music plays. The chorus was so catchy that the judges left the song singing to it.

Speaking of catchy, the winning song in 2004 was written by five songwriters ("My Three Wishes", written by Patrice Pike, Wayne Sutton, Sean Phillips and Darrell Phillips). The opening hook in the chorus of the Alternative song "My Three Wishes" was accented in an off beat way that would draw the listener to want to hear more. You can tell that the song took extra effort and creativity.

A song may sound nice to listen to but please note that a lot of work is being done to the song: musically, lyrically, artistically and more. Cher's biggest hit "Believe" was written not by one but six songwriters! Paul Barry, Matt Gray, Brian Higgins, Stuart McLellan, Timothy Powell, and Steven Torch wrote that hit number one in 23 different countries. Where would Cher be without this great hit song like this? Could you be creative enough write a song better as good as this or even better? Write one and submit it to us in the USA Songwriting Competition.

Information:

http://www.songwriting.net/enter


Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, collaborator, Melody, writing songs, song writing showcase, composing songs, music composition, lyric writing

Jordan Zevon Performing At USA Songwriting Competition showcase during SXSW 2009

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 05, 2009 @10:25 PM

Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, American Idol, song writing showcase, sxsw, songwriting showcase

Muscle Music Marketing For Your Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Apr 16, 2009 @04:16 PM

Muscle Music Marketing For Your Songwriting
By Molly-Ann Leikin

Most creative people are terrible at business. We're all very, very sensitive and take it personally when someone is abrupt or rude as we nervously try to promote our uncertain selves.

The guy who makes one more phone call, one more time, gets the meeting. The most persistent musicians are the ones with the deals.

We hate hearing that because we're all looking for fairy godmothers to rescue and discover us, but Toto, there is no fairy godmother. No matter how much we want or need one, it's on each of us to switch gears and become the cool-headed champions of our own art.

Nobody will ever love our work more than we do. Not our mothers, dads, wives, husbands, ex-husbands, ex-husbands twice removed, significant or insignificant others.

The good news is that in my book, "How To Be A Hit Songwriter", there are three whole chapters devoted to the creative marketing your music and lyrics. And in the Fifth Edition of "How To Write A Hit Song", just published, there are two.

One of the best recommendations I can make is to call, speak to and/or meet one new music person every day. Not just when you feel like it. Every day. Keep a list with phone numbers and email addresses. At the end of the year, you'll have 365 contacts. Sure, it's easier staying home under the bed, hoping hoping hoping to just mail it in, unsolicited, but you have to leave the comfort of your creative space and get out into the world where the people are you need to meet. The chances are good that the next Sony CEO won't knock on your door desperate to go potty, hoping for a diet Coke, with shaved Bavarian ice, in the bargain.

Don't you owe it to your music to learn to be as good at business as you are at writing, singing and performing? When you are, you'll have the whole package. Then nobody can stop you.

© 2009 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant in L.A. with a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination. She is also a Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe). Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy and so far, 5041 others have placed their work, with Molly's help, in movies, TV, on CD's and in commercials.
The author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter", Molly's website is www.songmd.com and her toll-free number for the USA and Canada is 800-851-6588. You can also reach her at songmd@songmd.com


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, writing songs

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Song Melodies, Part 3

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Apr 02, 2009 @07:10 AM

HOW TO WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 3, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, songwriter

When I write a song, I always write the melody first, one note at a time. While I have limited chops as a keyboard player, I do hear melodies in my head. I keep a recording device of some kind with me all the time - in my car, in my purse, next to the bed, even in the shower - so that whenever I get an idea for something, I just record it, la la la'ing. Sometimes I even call my voicemail, and sing to myself. I constantly revise the notes, going over and over and over them. You may work differently, but just remember that songwriting is a process, and what comes out in the first draft is just that - a first draft - and usually needs several more to reach the finish line. I'm lucky because I feel a little click in my gut when I know something I've written is finished. But I don't have anything to do with chords or programming until much later.

After writing the single notes of the chorus, I work backwards to write the individual notes of the verse, again, one note at a time. When I am finally happy with both the verse and the chorus, I go looking for the chords to put around them. That way, I'm not inhibited by my lack of musicianship or intimidated by the technical aspects of programming. I just write the song. Once the melody's down pat and the lyric I write to the melody clicks and I have the chords that go around the notes, then I start thinking about "how do I hear this produced, what instruments do I feel, what record on the radio sounds like what I'm going for." But it all starts with the individual notes of the melody. I know from working with so many talented, developing writers that they start with too much ambition and too much technology and not enough bare simple note-by-note creativity. So if you find your melodies aren't as strong as you would like them to be, or that the marketplace requires, then I suggest you try some version of my way of writing songs and adapt it to your personality. When you change the process, you can change the result.
© 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd.

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people. A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard. She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com. Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, Molly-Ann Leikin

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Song Melodies, Part 2

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Apr 01, 2009 @02:42 PM

HOW TO WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 2, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriter

In writing a melody, it's critical to keep your audience surprised.  Since we speak English in iambic pentameter, it's natural to assume we can write in the same meter.  Unfortunately, it's deadly boring.  So I suggest you deliberately vary the lengths of your lines, and the number of notes in each, along with the number of lines or bars per section, to avoid your song sounding predictable.  After all, it's your job as an artist to tell your audience something they aren't expecting.    

The range of most contemporary singers is an octave and three - the interval from middle C, for example, to the E an octave above it.  If you write a tune with a range greater than that, you'll be hard-pressed to find a singer with the chops to handle it.  My song, "An American Hymn", which I wrote with Lee Holdridge, was only recorded once in twenty years until Lee figured out how to revise the bridge melody, reducing our octave and five to an octave and three.  Now the song is recorded at least once a month.    

Most hit "power" ballads, such as Daughtry's "Home," end their verses on notes lower than the ones on which the choruses start.  To create tension and drama in their melodies, I urge my clients, and you, to go up into the chorus, not sideways or down.  Doing the latter is like letting air out of a tire.  So go up and stay up.  And although some contemporary songs break the rising-into-the chorus rule, you can bet their rhythmic hooks at the beginning of and throughout the choruses are strong enough to overcome the melody's drop, and keep us listening.  

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people.  A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard.  She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com.  Please note:  Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Melodies, Part 1

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 @10:57 AM

HOW SONGWRITERS CAN WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 1, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin

After the title, the tune is the most important part of the song. The way our brains are wired, the melody is the first thing we hear. If we like it, we'll stay tuned and listen for the words. If the tune doesn't get to us, it's over.

Melodies need hooks. Without them, nobody will ever hear your work, no matter how brilliant the lyric. I know lyricists won't be happy to hear this, but it's true and knowledge is power.

In constructing a melody, there are several guidelines to follow. I recommend to all my clients, no matter where in the world they are writing, to get to the hook/chorus, within twenty-five or thirty seconds. I advise them, and you, to keep their introductions short. The intro is usually instrumental, and the song doesn't officially start until the verse begins. So keep the intro to eight bars or less. Often writers who are in love with their software wail on and on for sixteen or thirty-two bars before beginning the actual song. Don't. Eight bars are plenty. The audience will only give you a few seconds of ear time and then move on to something more accessible. You worked hard to get ‘em. Don't let ‘em get away.

If we like a melody, it usually isn't until we've heard it several times that we finally hear the words. You can write a brilliant lyric, but if it has a weak melody, nobody will ever hear any of it because the tune hasn't done its job. The function of the melody is to grab us in an unguarded, primitive, totally emotional state and hold our attention long enough for the more civilized and intellectual lyric to take hold and give us some words to sing. Leikin's Law is give them what they want. Express yourself as only you can, absolutely. You have a fingerprint as a writer that nobody else has. But don't expect a lyric to do the melody's job.

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people. A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard. She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com. Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information

How To Find the Right Songwriting Partner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Mar 19, 2009 @07:06 PM

Written By Molly-Ann Leikin

Here's what I look for in a musical collaboration:

l. A great idea, one I have NEVER heard before.

2. A co-writer who is as committed as I am to making great music. This isn't a hobby. It's a life.

3. What can a potential co-writer bring to the table that I can't? If I write music, how are his lyrics? Just okay? Or do they tell me something new, something I've never heard before. How are his tunes, his production chops? Passable? Or cutting edge and original? How's his voice? Will his vocal fingerprint turn heads? Y'gotta turn heads, no matter what you contribute to the project.

4. Is this potential co-writer reliable, respectful of my time and talent? And does he/she really have a magical gift to enrich the literature of music, rather than just filling up letterhead and mp3's by recycling what other people have already said/sung?

Bottom line: don't settle too easily. Honor your work. Respect what you do and never stop looking for the best people, the very best, not just the closest or the most available, on your creative team. They are out there looking for you, too.

5. Where do I find them?

Fifty times a day, every day, I hear from bands, lyricists and composers passionately looking for the missing pieces of their songs. Once I've heard what you do, in a consultation, I've been extremely lucky hooking up writing teams. When you're ready to set up a consultation, I can help you, too.

© 2009 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant in L.A. with a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination. She is also a Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe). Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy and so far, 5041 others have placed their work, with Molly's help, in movies, TV, on CD's and in commercials.The author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter", Molly's website is www.songmd.com and her toll-free number for the USA and Canada is 800-851-6588. You can also reach her at songmd@songmd.com.

Tags: song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin