I do a lot of mentoring with writers that are working toward getting their first song recorded. The vast majority of them are holding themselves back because they are asking the wrong questions. So much of the growth we experience in life can be attributed to learning which questions to ask and which ones we shouldn’t be asking or are not ready to ask yet. Simply because these questions portrait who we are how we think and function, in the industry that connections are as important as the actual talent and nothing my be done, said or asked without thinking. Here are the questions I hear most often:
How can I get my songs to a publisher?
Where should I play to get discovered?
How do I get my songs to (insert major star’s name here)?
I write a lot about encouragement and perspective because I believe they are two of the most important issues that songwriters face at any level. For me, I stay in my “happy place” when I see progress every day. It can be the smallest bit of progress, but I need to feel a little momentum or movement in the right direction each day. The days that I get down are the days when I feel like I’m slipping backwards. A big co-write cancels. I lose a hold I counted on. Or a cut doesn’t make the record.
I feel myself slipping back into the abyss and I get scared. The “voices” start telling me that I’ve had my last cut. They start making me wonder if I’m cut out for songwriting. They tell me I should have found a stable job to work at. I fight the voices with my daily progress. I prove that I’m moving toward success and away from failure by taking at least one step forward each day.
We usually get a lot of questions in Flipside's website in regard to co-writing etiquette. There is a lot of factors in creating a reputation in the industry and make people want to write with you or simply making them to avoid you. It’s important to know whether you are on the “naughty” or “nice” co-writer list. Here are some real-life experiences I (or friends of mine) have experienced.
Naughty Co-Writer #1. This guy takes a phone call during the co-write and stays on the phone for more than 5 minutes without explaining what is going on. Usually, he leaves the room, so you don’t know where he is and if/when he is coming back. Nice Co-Writer #1. Apologizes for his phone ringing, explains that it is urgent and comes back to let you know if he is going to be a while. Communication keeps him in the “nice” category.
The other day, a friend and I were talking about a songwriter that is on fire. He’s getting an amazing number of cuts. We were talking (with a little envy) about his success and wishing for something even close to what he is experiencing. Someone else came in the room and heard us mention his name. They said, “Do you know his story?” Both of us admitted that we did not. So, he told us the story. This writer came to town and was living in his car. After several months of living that way, he met a song plugger who really liked his music. The plugger discovered that he was living in his car and invited him to live in the spare room in his house until he could afford a place to stay. The writer said that he didn’t want to impose. Instead, he asked if he could just live in a tent in the song plugger’s yard. He would not change his mind, even though the plugger begged him to stay in the house. He cooked his food outside and only went inside to wash clothes or to use the restroom.
Last year a publisher friend asked me to write with a new singer/songwriter who had recently moved to town. The first thing out of the publisher’s mouth was “this guy has over 80,000 Instagram followers.” Not that that the artist was a great writer or singer or guitar player. The publisher was blown away with all the Instagram and Twitter followers. So, we set a date for the writing appointment, I remember it because it happened to fall on Valentine’s day. Not that it particularly matters to this account. The artist arrived before me and when I walked into the writing room he was on his computer and couldn’t wait to show me how many comments he just got on a recent Facebook post.
Here are five ways to catch a publisher’s attention with your music. These techniques will really increase your chances of succeeding with a publisher IF you write a great song.
Write strong up-tempo songs. They always need more. It is much easier to get a great up-tempo song cut than it is to get a great ballad cut. So, writing a great up-tempo song makes the publisher’s job easier. Making their job easier makes you more attractive to a publisher.
You’ve got the song. So, you’ve been writing and put together a nice collection of songs; And you’re ready for that next step, finding a publisher. That person who believes in your writing and has the connections to make things happen. Here are 3 common mistakes that can kill your chances of working with a music publisher:
Pitching your songs. It means playing songs for publishers, artists or record label people in hopes of getting them to record or help you get a song recorded and it is one of the most important steps of being in the music industry as a writer – otherwise your songs without being pitched basically means nothing – yet, pitching is one of the areas where songwriters make the most mistakes. And, those mistakes can be costly. Sometimes the cost can be losing all your credibility as a writer while maybe your songs are actually pretty good, but you’ve already ruined your reputation by making these simple mistakes. You don’t get too many chances to make a good impression before you are put on the “burned bridge” list. Here are some of the important dos and don’ts to remember when you pitch songs.
As the music economy continues to move toward a streaming based model, people are drifting rapidly toward the idea that music should be free. I think it’s vital to remind ourselves (And our friends) from time to time WHY it is important to pay for music:
For my song to get out to the public, I have to demo it. A conservative estimate of the cost of that demo is $800. I make approximately 9 cents per sale of the song. So, I need 8,888 people to buy the song before I even cover the cost of my demo.
Most songwriters I know have a lot of people who have helped them get to whatever level of success they are enjoying – even if it is simply being able to write regularly. Here’s my list. I’m guessing many of you have similar lists.
This is one of the questions I get all the time. People will say, “I called COMPASS and they never called me back. Why are they so rude?” Or, “I went to five publishers and none of them would listen to my music”. Or I even get Facebook messages from people I don’t know saying “Here are links to three of my songs – listen to them and let me know what you think.” All of those questions or statements reveal a lack of knowledge of the way the music business works. And that is precisely why the people involved aren’t giving their time to the people making requests.
One of the most common questions people ask me is “Do you think I have what it takes to do this?” They are usually referring to their music. In reality, the current quality of their music is not the primary factor in answering that question.
When I got my first writing deal, I didn’t have any songs that my publisher wanted to pitch. And, none of the songs I brought in ever got cut. Zero. I got signed on potential. My publisher told me that he signed me because:
The line between pro songwriters and aspiring pro songwriters is primarily a line of thought. Pro songwriters learn to think differently as they write. That different line of thinking usually involves a series of questions that they keep asking as they write. Those questions cause the song to be more commercial than it would have been without them. Here are some of primary questions a pro asks while songwriting.
Music History is filled with great songwriting collaborations. John Lennon-Paul McCartney, Elton John-Bernie Taupin, Mick Jagger-Keith Richards, and the list goes on. Two heads can truly be better than one when writing a song, but only if it’s the right match! And finding that right match can seem impossible at times. Over the years I have written with many artist, producers, and writers; some went great and spawned multiple hits while others were a dud. Here are some of the qualities I look for in a co-writer.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked this question literary from everyone, family and friends to fellow musicians! And, the answer is ever changing. More and more writers and artists are finding creative ways to get paid for their music. I’ll start off with the simple answers and move on to some of the more creative ways people are finding.
You've spent a lot of time songwriting, brainstorming production ideas and many hours in the studio recording your babies (aka your songs). You think the work is finally over, but you're far from the finish line. It has just begun, and now it's time to prepare for your successful release. You've worked hard on the creative side of your music, but the only way to make music your career is to have a strategy and business plan in place. I'm going to give a few tips that will help with a successful release as an indie artist. These are all the things I've learned from mentors along my journey to releasing my albums and EPs. We'll start with promotion and the truth is, it begins months before a single hit the airwaves or internet. This is a long thought out process that goes past the isolation rooms and mixing boards.
It seems like so many songwriters and in general a huge number of people in music industry have egos that are out of whack in one direction or the other. I personally take these egos as syndromes some people have and treat them as if they are sick. Not only me but I think most people in professional music industry do the same, even the same people who have such huge egos. Even they don’t like others to show them their ego and attitude! Run through this list every now and then to make sure you are staying cantered.
It is important as a record producer to understand that each situation is unique, and the relationship between the record producer and the artist varies greatly depending on the arrangement between the parties as well as the genre of music. Producers have traditionally been paid for their services as employees or as independent contractors, and their contributions to the creation of the sound recording in the studio are generally deemed to be a work-for-hire under the copyright law. As such, the copyright in the sound recordings is owned by the artist or the record label.
So, we all had heard about the so called "X-Factors" in entertainment industry. But what are people's concern when they mention this whole x-factor? Well, first of all we have to see which part of entertainment we're talking about. Are we looking for stardom in music? Or as an actor? Or as a social media influencer? Or maybe anything else? All of this industry have a lot of requirements in common but certain qualities must be emphasized in each of the sub-industries in entertainment in order to make one as "star". Here we are going to have a breakdown of the most common must-have qualities.
In this day of the smart phone, people believe that they can take photographs by simply pointing & clicking. If you want to take pictures of your food, please use your smart phone. A smart phone is great for making phone calls or tracking your daily schedule, but it is horrible for capturing those precious moments in your life for a professional use, especially for the ones in entertainment industry. You may be able to get a good picture with your smart phone, but it will look nothing like a portrait from a professional. Photography is an art form. Don’t trust your smart phone.
Here are some ideas for gaining fans for your music without giving it away.
Get involved with social media. If you want to sell 500,000 songs, the best way to do it is to have 2,000,000 friends. Your friends won’t always buy your music. Connect with people on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Follow them and ask them for their support for your page and your posts. Investing in other people and their careers will encourage them to do the same for you. Comment back to anyone who comments about you. The more you interact, the more friends you get.
You have just written your latest best song and you are asking yourself “What’s next? Should I do a full expensive version of this song or a simple piano/vocal demo?” This is often one of the most important questions a songwriter can ask themselves in this game. Getting this step right can often determine whether an artist records or passes on your song. Here are some guidelines I’ve used to help me successfully navigate the song demo waters.
So, you’ve written a great song and you want to record an amazing demo to present it to the world. But there are certain things you need to know and follow before, during and after writing your demos. Believe it or not, the presentation of the demo sometimes can be even more important the content of the demo itself!! You can have a great demo and a bad presentation can make music supervisors and producers to don’t take it seriously, or opposite, you can have an “okay” demo but a good presentation and attract the attentions towards what you had done. Here are things I have learned in a 15-year career and more than 3,000 demos.
Copyright Protection. Under copyright laws, copyright (literally, the right to make and sell copies) automatically vests in the creator the moment the expression of an idea is "fixed in a tangible medium" (in other words, the moment you write it down, type it or record it on tape). With respect to music specifically, a copyright in the musical composition owned by the songwriter and a sound recording copyright in the sound of the recording owned by the recording artist (but usually transferred to the record company when a record deal is signed). It is important to remember that you own the copyright in your work the moment you write it down or record it, and you can only transfer those rights by signing a written agreement to transfer them. Therefore, you must be wary of any agreement you are asked to sign.
I’ve been asked hundreds of times “Why are staff writers hesitant to write with writers who don’t have a writing deal?”. The short answer is that the people who have gone before you have ruined it for you. Here are the most significant reasons signed writers hesitate to write with unsigned writers.