Me. After a few times that happened, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve also had unsigned co-writers tell me after we wrote a great song that they can’t afford to demo the song. Even though I am trying to appreciate that at least they told me about it before we actually proceed to make the demo, but I still wish they had told me about it before we sit down and spend so much time and energy on writing a song together because now the time had already been spent but I can’t get it cut if we can’t demo it, so we wasted a day. Both are important economic issues. Why spend a day writing a song that no one will ever hear while I could spend that time on writing a song that actually could go somewhere?
If a staff writer writes a song with an unsigned writer, the unsigned writer makes more money. Many of signed writers like myself can ignore that fact and still go ahead and write with unsigned writers, but it doesn’t mean that we can ignore the fact that most signed writers might not really be okay with it. Not only do the unsigned writers make more money, but they make more money and they don’t provide much if any help getting the song cut, because in the real world the signed writer have more chance of getting a cut and in most cases when a signed and an unsigned writer, write together the cut comes from the singed writer. So, let’s say I write a song with unsigned writer let’s say Aaron. We go demo it and Aaron pays his share. All good so far. Aaron doesn’t have a plugger or any admin people to pitch the song for getting a cut. So, my pluggers start working the song. My admin people file the copyrights and register the song with COMPASS. Our staff at Flipside uploads the song to our online system so that our people world-wide have access and can pitch it as well. The pluggers play the song in meeting after meeting and it finally gets picked up by a big artist. There has been a lot of work that went into getting that song cut. Who did all the work? Me and my team. Who paid for all of the work that was done? Me – that’s where my 50% of my publishing goes as the price of being a staff writer. Meanwhile, Aaron has been back at his dancing job taking in a paycheck for that. To top it all off, the money starts to roll in for our hit. Let’s say that $400,000 comes in. Here’s how the money would be split:
Aaron – Gets $100,000 for his writer’s share and $100,000 for his publishing share. Plus, he gets the money he has made from his regular dancing job on a fixed monthly basis.
Hangi – I get $100,000 for my writer’s share.
Flipside – Gets $50,000 for their publishing share and get’s my $50,000 publishing share to recoup demo costs and advances that they had already spent on the song.
So, Aaron gets $200,000. I get $100,000. And I paid for all of the work to get the song cut. Does that sound like an arrangement you would want to partake in very often?
Unsigned writers tend to take up more time and time is money. When I write with other signed co-writers, they don’t e-mail me asking “What is going on with our song?”. They know how it works and they trust that I will let them know if something happens with it, and they don’t need to ask me about it every day. Unsigned writers tend to send a lot of e-mails checking on the status of our song. They forget that while they may only have a couple of songs being worked, I have more than 6000. I can’t possibly deal with a weekly e-mail from 6000 co-writers asking about our songs. This can be one of the main reasons for lots of signed writers to work mostly with other signed writers. Because like that, the whole team knows how to behave. Of course, there are tons of professional but unsigned songwriters out there, but when a group had already ruined the mindset for the signed writers, it ruins it for everybody.
So, if you aspire to write with a signed staff writer – and that’s a great goal to have – you need to understand the economics of the situation and use it to your advantage. Here are some things you can do to make yourself more attractive
Talk about demo costs upfront. Assure them that you will pay your share if you write a great song that you both want to demo. Follow up and pay promptly. Even if you can’t afford to pay your share – which I strongly recommend not to rely on “I can’t afford” excuse – still just tell them at very first. You never know, they might surprise you with coming up with some solution or something. But the most important part here is that at you should make sure everything is clear about the demo costs from the very beginning. At least your transparency about your situation, even your negative situation can help your reputation in front of the signed writers.
Offer to hire a plugger to help pitch the song. And mean it. Not to just keep it as an offer. This will show how serious you are about the song and you want it to work, as much as the signed writer wants it to work. Naturally they are the ones doing all the work, but when you offer to hire someone to help from your side too, makes you stand out from the rest of unsigned writers who ask them for a co-write.
Offer up part of your publishing to their publisher if they get it cut. I had just explained for you how the financial differences are like a big turn off for the signed writers that stops them from writing with unsigned writers. If you offer them that you give them part of your publishing payment, will make them feel a bit “fairer” and they would be happy to work with you.
Knowing how the system works and why signed writers are hesitant to write with unsigned writers can help you increase your chances of getting that big co-write. When you get it, go in with great ideas and write your heart out!