Many songwriters, unaware of the benefits of collaboration, question why anyone would collaborate on a song. Typically they consider only what they perceive as the negatives: splitting the royalties and losing creative control. Perhaps some, used to driving the ship alone, find the process of collaborating a bit odd.
Some hits are indeed penned by just one songwriter. But take a good look at the Billboard Charts, especially the country charts: an extremely high percentage of songs are co-writes. Sometimes a song’s credits will list six or seven collaborators.
So if hit songwriters regularly collaborate there must be some benefits. First, writing with a partner or two you obtain immediate feedback that will nip poor ideas in the bud. Also, songwriting is usually a difficult process as you try to perfect the original idea and collaboration provides helpful creative input, for example, when you’re stuck on a particular section the co-writer may inject an idea that is usable that keeps things moving forward.
Collaboration expands the well of experience available to draw from as you write. More ideas. Better lyric lines. And fatal mistakes due to simply being unaware are often prevented. For example, frequently a writer will try to use a phrase or expression common to the area they grew up in that is foreign to everyone else. A co-writer who lives in or grew up in another area of the country would immediately notice that particular phrase is not going to work and question it long before it gets to radio or even A & R.
While most writers believe the best possible song would result from them running the entire show because they assume it would be a more cohesive product, the truth is that collaboration more often produces the best work.
Co-writing can also make you appear to be more professional. Why? Because pro writers generally co-write constantly while amateurs rarely do. Cross over into the co-write camp, write great song, have truly pro demos made, and song publishers will automatically give your submissions additional credibility.
But the biggest advantage to a co-write situation, in my opinion, lies not in the creation of the work, but in the marketing of the work. Instead of one person marketing the song you have two or three. And it’s amazing how often a particular song you’ve long forgotten suddenly gets a hold or a cut because a blast from the past co-writer has been pitching it on projects all along.
Before you co-write with anyone be sure to sign a contract specifying the song title, date of creation, what the contributions of each songwriter are (music %, words %) how royalties will be split and sign and date it. Some points may be unknown at the start, fill those in as you proceed and initial it.
Consider taking on a partner to write your next song and perhaps you’ll soon be singing the praises of an old cliche: Two heads are indeed better than one!- B. E.
Hit country song royalties are paid by the performing rights organization (BMI, ASCAP or SESAC) chosen by the songwriter/music publisher and can be compiled from many possible sources.
Artist: Jake Owen
Song: What We Ain’t Got
Songwriters: Travis Meadows/Travis Goff
Released: August 11, 2014
369,000 copies sold through May 2015.
Highest Chart Position: Billboard Country Airplay Chart: #18
Billboard Hot 100 peaked at #89 mid February 2015
Past 12 Months Royalty Stream, June 2015 to June 2016
Distributed via BMI derived from:
AM/FM Radio Airplay, You Tube, Sirius XM, I Tunes, Rhapsody
AM/FM airplay: ($72,537) All other sources: ($9,374)
Total Royalties, one year period: $81,911
Best Quarter: $71,269 1st Quarter 2015
Royalties dropped to $1,544 for the fourth quarter of 2015.
Royalties posted here reflect only the songwriter share. The music publisher received identical amounts.
A tune came in today (by songwriter Tom Hogan a.k.a. Steve Zodiak) at Play It Again Demos that uses a rarely-employed technique you might wish to experiment with.
The song features a happy, upbeat melody but the lyric is definitely negative. For some reason that contrast works.
The best example of this technique is Jim Croce’s “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” where the lyric reveals the dichotomy between the singer’s current career path: “rubbing fenders with a rag and walking home in soggy old shoes” with where he feels he deserves to be: sitting in an air-conditioned office “talkin’ some trash to my secretary sayin’, ‘Hey now mama come on over here!”
I can’t agree with the attitude, a real man treats women they deal with in business or in their personal life as they would want their mother or sister to be treated, but the lyric’s contrast between fantasy and reality is hilarious.
In tough guy with a sensitive side, Jim Croce’s defense, he also wrote “Time In A Bottle” as well as “Operator.”
Another example is “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. It can give you happy feet but the lyric is mostly negative. Including lyric lines discussing crystal meth addiction.
Happy music, not so fun-loving lyric.
It works, try it!- b.e.
Tucker Beathard, signed to Big Machine in Nashville is looking for songs for an upcoming album, follow up material to his single “Rock On” released in March 2016.
Listen Again Music (BMI) has pitch access. E-mail request for permission to submit to: LAMusicPublishing.firstname.lastname@example.org
If accepted you will be offered a single song publishing agreement before Listen Again pitches the song to the Beathard camp. There is never a charge to the songwriter for this, you will retain 100% of the writer’s share but the contract will assign the publisher’s share of royalties to Listen Again Music.
Listen Again Music (BMI) located in the Nashville TN area is accepting songs from unpublished songwriters. They are currently in a catalog building phase, songs accepted and contracted will be promoted to major label and independent recording projects as well as film and Television. The “open doors” policy is for a limited time.
Interests are Country, Christian, Rock and Pop.
Extra consideration will be given to performers currently playing the song regularly in a live show.
Also, lump sum purchases of royalty streams and/or copyrights are being offered on songs that charted on the Billboard Top 40 and are no longer earning substantial royalties.
Click here for contact information and more complete information.
The majority of songs that make radio playlists are written by more than one songwriter. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see four or more names attached to a particular piece of work.
Some songwriters can “do it all” while others simply can’t, but even if you are a “can do” writer you may recognize you are weak in certain areas and would benefit greatly from co-writing.
But even if you feel you can do it all and do it all well, certain advantages inherent in the process may still make co-writing an attractive option:
1. Working with others can provide motivation; additional ideas; and, in general, keep your creative fires stoked and burning brightly. Some folks don’t have the discipline to work alone.
2. You’ll receive immediate feedback from co-writers on your contributions to a project.
3. Meeting and networking with new people, the lifeblood of both song marketing and marketing yourself as a songwriter, is inherent in the process.
4. You’ll “Get the scoop” from co-writers: on writer’s nights, who’s looking for songs, etc.
5. Your pitch opportunities will expand exponentially. Instead of just you marketing your material, as you co-write more you will begin to amass a small army of built-in “songpluggers,” each with excellent motivation to pitch songs you’ve co-written with them.
1. Working with others isn’t for everyone. Personality conflicts, power struggles and disagreements could arise.
2. You’ll write by appointment rather than when the mood strikes.
3. You will be splitting royalties with your co-writers.
Most songwriters find the advantages of co-writing outweigh the disadvantages. Not sure? Try it, you just might love it!
If you write Christian songs, even just a few, it will benefit you to become a member of The Christian Songwriter Association. Benefits include:
- A highly informative blog
- Exposure for your songs on American CSA radio
- Meetings in several chapter cities
- Help writing, recording, promoting and performing your Christian music
If you don’t live near one of the chapters in the following cities:
Christian Songwriters of Phoenix, Arizona
Christian Songwriters of Denver, Colorado
Christian Songwriters of Orlando, Florida
Christian Songwriters of Cleveland, Ohio (Ohio Chapter)
Christian Songwriters of Nashville, Tennessee
Christian Songwriters of Austin, Texas
Christian Songwriters of Longview, Texas (East Texas)
Christian Songwriters of El Paso, Texas
Christian Songwriters of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Why not start your own?
Additional information is available by phone or e-mail:
Phone: (817) 527-1CSA
San Antonio, Texa
Here are two tips, one specific, one general, that I think will move you a lot closer to your goal of writing great songs. Regardless of whether your audience will be friends and family; industry professionals, or your live show fan base, better songs is a good thing!
1. General first: We live in an age of specialization and a “winner takes all” situation. Many businesses have closed doors because they couldn’t get on page one of Google while their competition at the #1 spot raked in millions. The pro football player who specializes in shutting down the run on third downs and is the best in the world at it? He’s worth multiple millions of dollars yearly. The guy who is “almost as good” at that same thing is selling used cars in Buffalo. That “winner takes all” mentality applies to songwriting. Most hit songwriters specialize in one genre and focus all efforts on writing great tunes aimed at what’s currently playing on radio in that genre. They focus all their money on having superb demos cut that will get a song publisher’s or artist’s attention.
If you write in multiple genres your knowledge of each type of music writing won’t likely go as deep. Meanwhile, your resources, be they time or money, will be divided. It simply is not a sound success strategy. Many times I’ve heard professionals here in Nashville say things like, “I studied country chord progressions thoroughly before I wrote my first country song.” or “I locked myself in a room for three months and studied shuffle beats.” What they did was study everything they could find on shuffle beats. How they started, how they evolved. studied great shuffle players, and didn’t stop until they thoroughly understood shuffle beats and how they’re used.
You don’t have to lock yourself in a room, but I do think the more you study the songs of the genre you write in, the better you’ll get. Start with the roots of the genre up to what’s being played on the radio now. Study chord progressions; instrumentation; vocals; how harmony is used; song form; and the most important hits that changed the genre, pushing it in a new direction.
2. Here’s a specific tip for every song you write: Don’t force too many words in a line. What I’ve seen over and over is songwriters setting up a good, solid verse framework in verse one, but in verse two, or in the chorus, one or more lines are stuffed with too many words. The demo session singer starts complaining, “This line is too wordy, it’s like a tongue twister trying to fit it in.” It can also be a tempo issue. Many times I’ve realized a song would feel better up just a metronome click or two, but doing so creates that same tongue twister problem in a specific line.
Sometimes you can simply remove “and” or some other superfluous word and the line sits just fine. Other times, that alone wont fix it because the syllables will no longer phrase properly. In that case, re-think your idea- B.E. Watson
If you have a song ready to demo, or want Mr. Watson to review it for any possible fatal flaws, including lines that are “too wordy” plus give a free quote on demoing it, send your mp3 rough and lyric to the e-mail address at: Play It Again Demos
A bridge is a brief section of a song that is different musically speaking, than any other section. It usually occurs just one time. A bridge lyric usually conveys new information, often with a different perspective.
Example: If the song prior to the bridge is about “why we can’t be together in a love relationship” the bridge might take the position “now if things were different in this specific way, then maybe our love relationship could happen.” Meanwhile the bridge music might differ– a different chord progression, a quarter note feel instead of eighth notes, etc. So in most cases, we’re looking for contrast both musically and lyrically, from the rest of the song.
That being said, sometimes the bridge simply drives home the point. It could have the same chords as the chorus and repeat a phrase from it. The idea is to hold the listener’s interest in whatever way best achieves that. What is the purpose of your bridge?
In my opinion, there are three main reasons to add a bridge:
1. The song is too short
2. The listener needs relief
3. To present new, contrasting, information in the lyric
If the song is under two minutes long adding a bridge to lengthen it might make sense. There are other options for lengthening, such as doubling the final chorus or adding a verse, so be sure a bridge is the best option.
Some songs reach a point where the listener is starting to lose interest. Inserting a bridge can be a powerful way to re-interest bored listeners and pull them back into the song. Once again, there are other options: A breakdown section or an instrumental solo are two examples. Experiment to be certain the bridge is the best choice.
If the song works well without a bridge, why add one? If your song is wordy, more words might even turn the listener off, a solo would almost surely be the better choice. .- b.e. watson
Before the demo, comes the songwriting process. While good songs can certainly almost write themselves, effortlessly pouring out in no time almost finished, they’re the exception. And when you’re stuck it’s good to have some tools to keep the writing process in motion. With a good system and writing formula, you’ll never suffer from writer’s block.
Songwriter’s should get in the habit of recording potential song titles either in a notebook, iPad, cell phone, or whatever. If someone utters an interesting phrase, jot it down in your title list. If someone posts something clever on Facebook that might make an interesting song title, capture it.
In most cases the song’s title is your hook or a big part of it. When you’re stuck, simply go through your list and pick the potential title you feel most interested in working with.
Title selected, if you’re writing a verse/chorus type of song (not all songs have a chorus) the next step is to write a chorus around it. The title may appear in any of the chorus lines, set up a pattern you like and fill in the remaining lines. For example, if your hook/title appears in the first line and the last, write something for lines two and three. You can get some basic ideas for verses at this point, but finish up the chorus before getting very far on them. You want it to scream, “Here I am, the point to this song!”
Next write the verses. The verses usually benefit from differentiating them from the chorus. This can be done by altering the note values to double or half.
Two things to keep in mind when writing individual lyric lines:
1. Visual image words, that is, words that evoke an image in the listener’s mind, rule.
2. Cleverness and literary techniques can make your lyrics grab the listener;’s attention, especially seasoned music industry professionals. Their antennas are always up for writer’s who understand song crafting.
We went from one place to the next. Bland! Boring!
We walked along the granite path to Deadman’s Road. Interesting! Intriguing!
Why? Because walking a granite path evokes a visual image. Deadman’s Road sounds mysterious and brings up questions. Those questions need answered so they must listen intently to get them!
Use literary techniques like word echoes, alliteration, inner line rhyme, anaphora etc. when you can as they will hold a listener’s interest.
If you do it right your song looks like this:
You could add a bridge section which is a section that usually appears just once and is separated from the chorus and the verses. You could also take a few of the chorus chords, maybe 4 measures and create your introduction:
This would be a complete song but you could also add a pre-chorus before the chorus sections. Or you could add an instrumental solo.
There are other ways to write a song and other forms besides verse/chorus, but this is a winning formula that’s created hundreds, probably thousands, of hits. Instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, why not take advantage of that fact and write your own? – b.e. watson
If you intend to pitch your country lyric with the hope of obtaining a hit record, know this: it will be scrutinized for flaws by the gate keepers- industry pros like music publishers and screeners- before it ever gets near the eyes of an artist. Here are several fatal flaws you should avoid, preferably before cutting the demo. Review your lyrics to see if they have any of these.:
1.“Too Wordy” Many times your first efforts will be long winded. You can usually convey the same message with fewer words, both in the song as a whole, as well as in individual lyric lines. Cut the fat.
2. “Cramming In” If you’re singing along with your melody and find you’re struggling to make the words quite fit in a given space it’s going to sound that way to a listener. Writing more words in a line than the singer is comfortable singing, unless done intentionally for the effect, is bad writing. Take some out or rewrite the line.
3. “The Song Goes On Forever” If you have crafted five verses doubled up on every chorus and put in both a solo and bridge, your song is going to land at 5 to 7 minutes in length. That’s too long if you’re aiming for radio airplay. Radio likes 2 1/2 minute songs. It may be painful but you need to delete several sections.
4. “A Too-Long Bridge” Often a song is rolling along, holding the listener’s interest but bogs down in the bridge that’s twice as long as it needs to be. Can your bridge convey what you need it to in 8 bars instead of 16? 4 instead of 8? Do it!
5. “Stale Ideas” Does your lyric have a lot of clichéd phrases? Instead of “She drinks like a fish and gets stupid” which everyone has heard before, replace that phrase with something unique and fresh such as, “She’s an alcohol drain, a meatball brain”. And no place is more critical to replace clichés in than the hook.
6. “Reversed Order”. Don’t reverse the natural order of words just to create a rhyme. Country lyrics should be conversational. If you wouldn’t speak it quite that way,, unless your only listener will be Yoda, don’t write your country lyric that way.
While hardly comprehensive, this list will help get your lyric on the right track- b.e. watson
When you write a new song you automatically have an intangible, yet potentially valuable, right called “the right of first release.” It simply means you have the right to determine the when, where and who of the song’s first public release.
After that first public release that right is forever lost. From that point on it’s open season. Anyone who wants to record the song after the initial release can simply notify you of their intention and request that a mechanical license be issued. You do not have the right to refuse that request. If you fail to honor it, and they have proof they requested a license but were ignored, they can proceed without it, and if you pursue them, pay you at that point.
You have the option to grant a license for up to 10.000 copies with a small sum paid in advance to cover the first 2,000 copies downloaded or sold. The current statutory rate is 9.1 cents per copy so it totals $182.00. Get it, if it’s an independent release it may be your only payment from that version.
Yes, this means if you are a singer and want to record a cover of a hit song by a famous artist you may do so provided you obtain the mechanical license.
Giving up your right to first release can affect your options later. It may limit the number of outside artists who will be interested in your song. If you have a “big name” artist interested, but a less popular artist releases it just prior, the big name may lose interest. That situation isn’t common, just possible; many songs have a first release plus multiple covers by many different artists. Some songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists.
Also rare but possible, a music publisher may decide to pass on signing a song that doesn’t have the right of first release attached- b.e.