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
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.
Just a few quick tips gleaned from working with the church band the last few weeks that will help you when writing Contemporary Christian rock songs. There are several elements that are common to them you might keep in mind as you write:
1. They tend to follow the intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus format.
2. They frequently present a twist on that format: A chorus upfront. Or perhaps an instrumental interlude appears very early in the song and again just prior to the bridge or final chorus. Or a chorus or a bridge repeats many times more than you might in a secular tune aimed at getting radio airplay, this is usually in a worship song at a medium or slow tempo.
3. There are Christian songs and there are worship songs. The lyric in a worship song focuses on worship God in a personal way, i.e., “You are The King, the savior, you are the glorified one.”
4. The chords tend toward simple four chord progressions but an amazing number use the tonic, a.k.a. the 1 chord, followed by the 5 chord with the bass playing the third of that chord instead of the root, then on to the relative minor (E, B/D#, C#m) or (G, D/F#/ Em) to give two examples. In the Nashville Number System it’s the 1, 5/7, 6- progression.
The “Glorify You Alone” video above utilizes that very progression as well as several other tips presented in this post.
5. The lyrics tend to be simple, there aren’t many CC rock tunes that feature wordy lyrics or complex concepts. One exception to that is the lyrical masterpiece “He Loves Us” (Jesus Culture, David Crowder Band and others) with it’s lines like this in the Jesus Culture version: “And Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.”
6. The bass line and drum chart often create the dynamics of the arrangement, which typically builds as the song progresses. In some songs, the build reaches an apex then quiets up at the end, some songs plow right on through at full tilt, apex to end.
7. The bass guitar lays out a lot. It might stay out until the chorus appears or even until the second chorus. Sometimes, even in a chorus or verse where you’d normally expect it to continue, the bass and drums drop out, then drums play alone, then the bass comes in to provide power, maybe thumping quarter notes then going to eighths and the bass/drums really drive the song hard at that point.
7. Thumping out eighth notes on bass is very common, especially at tempos around 80 beats per minute, but it can occur at any tempo anywhere the lyric gets intense and emotional. Sometimes it’s “pound out 8ths” beginning to end with just a few runs tossed in here and there.
“Glorious” by B.J. Putnam is 145 BPM and most of the choruses are driven by 8ths while verse 1 is whole notes and V2 does a cool little delayed scale walk starting on the “&” of beat 2.
Although you can write your song on acoustic guitar and let the musicians on the demo provide some of the elements discussed here, as well as decide where they should happen, I believe envisioning, or “hearing” how it will sound in regards to dynamics- where does the supporting music stay quiet and where does it get huge- can positively affect the lyric writing process- B.E. Watson
Wow, what a time in history to be a songwriter, it’s amazing!
Google Play, You Tube, iTunes, Amazon Advantage, Kickstarter, websites, e-mail marketing through Constant Contact…Songwriters don’t need record labels anymore to recoup an investment in demos and promo!
Gary Nowak’s YouTube video “Gasoline” (a song produced at Play It Again Demos which Gary posts under the name “Jess Mei”) is closing in on a half million views. You Tube pays for views of original song material as well as cuts the owner in on ad revenue.
Help Gary get the ball rolling on our latest work for him, the song A Miracle At Work which he built his new video around, just posted under his “Jess Mei” moniker.
And yet another client, Nicholas Gianetti reports getting a Nashville Trax single funded for $40,000 for a video, CD and promo through Kickstarter.
When I received an e-mail from Jim Bussey saying that he’d earned over $300,000 on his song “I can See It In Your Eyes” from various Internet sources to date, it struck me that he invested $1.200 in the recording and profited by over $298,000! Yet there’s likely some guy out in Ames, Iowa somewhere who had an equally good song but chose a different company over Nashville Trax, and received the typical competent, but bland, recording.
And the song went nowhere.
He’s probably walking around the streets of Ames thinking, “Man, good thing I saved that extra $250 bucks that Play It Again company wanted!”
When I started into the business everything was done by mail. There were no MP3s to shoot around on the Internet in seconds. No YouTube videos to instantly publish your song to the world.
Looking back, it was ridiculous what songwriters went through to get a song contracted with a major label or major music publisher. But that was the only game on the planet. Impress the gatekeepers or else.
Or else your songs stayed in a drawer or you played a home made demo for family and friends only.
People did “indie projects” but good luck getting anywhere, advertising in print medium was too costly to sustain. And getting the free publicity necessary via radio airplay? It happened, but very rarely. Now free and nearly free marketing opportunities abound.
The gatekeepers are still there generating 1.000 rejection letters and e-mails for every, “please let us contract this song” phone call.
They are still a valid path to try in pursuit of a major label Billboard hit but songwriters don’t need them anymore to be heard! There was an article in the last Nashville Scene noting that some songwriters are making more on YouTube than they would with a Billboard hit through a major label deal.
Google Play, You Tube, iTunes, Amazon Advantage, Kickstarter, websites, e-mail marketing…Songwriters simply don’t need the big company investment anymore to recoup an investment in demos and promo!
Songwriters don’t need them to make income from songs!
Frankly, if the gatekeepers ever disappear entirely, I won’t miss them much. How about you?– b.e. watson
You no longer need to worm your way in to Sony then wait for A&R to decide if they’ll take your song or reject it.
John Goodman of Dickie Goodman Publishing is offering free music publishing to any songwriter who has written an original song that isn’t yet tied up with a publisher! Dickie Goodman is Guinness certified as having the most Billboard charting novelty records ever. They have all the mechanisms in place to fully exploit your copyright.
Legal Restrictions: Note that a demo recording is not licensed for this type of use. You’d need to pay for an upgrade to limited release master and once you achieve 10,000 download or CD sales, an additional upgrade fee to full master recording is required.
Click here to go to Dickie’s sign up page and learn more.
The article released this morning:
John Goodman offers free music publishing!
for more info: e-mail:
Jump on it, the offer may not last!
Stay in the songwriting business long enough and sooner or later you’ll enter into a co-writing situation, it may even become part of your daily routine. I highly recommend signing one of these agreements with your co-writer before starting each song. Most likely everyone involved has excellent intentions but time passes, memories are hardly infallible and sometimes each party assumes things the others involved don’t: you can easily end up in a lawsuit. This agreement will go a long way towards making sure years after the fact, everyone is literally and figuratively on the same page- b.e.
Need help turning your lyric into a song? Need help turning your song into a pro demo for pitching to industry pros? Visit PlayItAgainDemos.com.
Modify as needed:
COLLABORATOR SONGWRITING AGREEMENT
For the purpose of collaborating on a song titled:
with lyrics written by:
and music written by:
Royalties will be split according to the following percentages: ____ % to Party #1 and ___ % to Party #2 (usually 50/50 or, if more than two parties, usually an equal split).
Any expenses incurred will be at the expense of the party deciding to undertake promotion of this work as they determine to invest on a case-by-case basis. Expenses can not be billed to the other party nor may they be retroactively deducted from future royalties or income in regards to splitting of royalties between the parties in this agreement.
Neither party may interfere with the advancement of the marketing of this work. Either party may grant the right of first release to an artist but must notify the other party that the release was granted. Either party should be notified of any events relating to the advancement of this song material by the other party.
Should another collaborator be required at a future date for the purpose of writing a new arrangement, foreign language lyric. modification for use in an advertising commercial or any other reason, the percentage of royalties for the original collaborators will not be reduced to less than 1/3 of the music portion and will not be reduced at all on the lyric portion without both a written notification to the affected contributor and a signed agreement from them permitting the reduction of royalties.
All income derived from this song should be split according to the percentages noted above, including, but not limited to, income from publisher advances; sales of CD recordings and mp3 file downloads on the Internet; sales derived from mechanical licenses to individual independent artists; third party sales such as through Amazon.com, iTunes and similar sites; music book publishing and sheet music sales; church worship performance; live music performances; movies, television and jukebox royalties; radio airplay royalties and all sales and airplay income from independent and major label record companies.
If either party is dissatisfied with the work produced under this agreement, they may not withdraw their contribution from this work; however, they may re-use their portion, and only their portion of this work or any part of it, in collaboration with a third party to create a new song. Should this occur, the new song will have no legal connection to the song discussed in this agreement.
Any disputes regarding this song and/or collaborators agreement will be settled by a mutually agreeable neutral third party. In lieu of a mutually acceptable third party, disputes will be mediated by an entertainment lawyer w/ the party pursuing the dispute responsible for all legal fees incurred. I have read and understand the terms of this agreement:
Party #1 sign ______________________
Party #2 sign________________________
Or C, F, G7, C,
Or F, C, G7, C, Any order you like is fine, note that even though here we started with the F chord, the key is still C, not F.
To write a song using a three chord group in a verse/chorus type song, establish a pattern for your verse and a pattern for your chorus. A quick example using the key of G three chord group group:
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
D7, C, D7, C,
A simple song:
G, D7, G D7
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
D7, C, D7, C,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
C, D7, G, G,
D7, C, D7, C,
It’s common to add a 2 minor to the 3 chord group. The 2nd note in the C Major scale is D so the 2 minor is D minor.
Play C, Dm, F, G
Another common chord to add is the 6 minor. In C that’s A minor.
So you could play C, G, Am, F, G7, C, G7, C.
To be sure you grasp the concept let’s try an example in another key, the key of E.
Ascending the E Major Scale we have:
E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# and E again, up an octave.
1-4-5dom7 = E, A, B7.
The 2 minor and 6 minor in the key of E are F#m and C#m.
To apply this to songwriting you might choose a chord progression for your verses and alter it for your choruses, climbs or bridge sections, play 4 beats per letter:
E, A, B7, E – E, A, B7, B7
E, A, B7, E – E, A, B7, E
A, B7, A, B7, A, B7, E, B7
E, A, B7, E – E, A, B7, B7
E, A, B7, E – E, A, B7, E
A, B7, A, B7, A, B7, E, B7
C#m, B7, A, A, C #m, F#m, A, B7
A, B7, A, B7, A, B7, E, E
Thinking in terms of chord progressions brings order where there once was chaos.
Now for something a bit more advanced.
There are thousands of chords but, according to the acknowledged authority on the subject, Ted Greene, the author of Chord Chemistry, every chord can be grouped into one of three basic categories: major, minor or 7th. If you understand that then you can start experimenting with simple chord substitution (pursue this subject very far and it gets exponentially complex).
The rule: Any chord in a category can be subbed for another in the same category provided it sounds good to the ear.
Does the sub serve the song? Does it support the melody?
Majors, major 7ths, major 9ths, major 13ths, etc. are in the Major category.
Minors, minor 7ths etc. are in the Minor category.
7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc. are in the 7th category.
Extended and altered chords are grouped by their root classification. In other words, generally, the first alteration to appear dominates. A B7+5 (B seventh sharp five means to raise the 5th a half step so the F# becomes a G note). But because the 7th appears first B7+5 would be classified as a 7th type. Ted groups augmented 5th chords as 7th types also.
So if you write a basic progression: C, F, C, F, G7
You could rewrite it: Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Gdom9th.
Another variation: Cmaj7, Fmaj7, Cmaj7, Fmaj9, GAug5
Or perhaps you have a basic D, Em, A7, D (4 beats each)
Perhaps jazz it up: D, Em7, Em9, A7, A13, D (play 4 beats on the D chords and only 2 beats on each of the Em category and A category chords)
But Em7 is a 7th type, correct? How can it sub for Em?
No. Em7 is a minor type because the minor appears before the 7th, and can indeed sub for Em.
Subs are extremely useful in certain songs in certain spots but it can easily be overdone. Get far beyond something like subbing a 9th for a 7th, which almost always works, and it tends to impart a jazzy flavor that may or may not serve the song. You won’t likely have much use for substitution in a classic rock song like Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” that pretty much is what it is. But most ballads in any genre can benefit as well as many uptempo pop, jazz, country swing and…well, let’s not set limits, you never know where just a single substitution might improve an arrangement. Hmmm…”I’m goin’ off the rails on a Jazzy Train?” I like it.
And remember, you only need three chords to write a hit. So if you use 5 or 6 chords obviously it will be a #1, lol.
Here is a post on the minor three chord groups.
We’re barely scratching the surface here. If you want to learn very basic open chord progressions and simple rhythms get my book Guitar Shop. If you want to learn more complicated chords, extended chords, how non-root bass notes work and learn all the chord substitution rules, get Ted’s book– bill watson
Two very good books that will help anyone interested in writing Christian songs.
The Craft of Christian Songwriting:
How To Write And Select Songs For Worship:
When I finally got serious about my Christian walk it took a while to figure out that there was a difference between the songs chosen for church service and most of the songs you’d hear on the way to church on Christian radio. Contemporary worship songs are subset of Contemporary Christian music. I think the second book really makes that distinction clear.
Click on the pics if you want more information.
The best songwriting software is clearly Master Writer 2.0:
That’s not to say it’s the best songwriting tool, the best songwriting tool is your brain. But Master Writer 2.0 is a close second.
I’m not a fan of rhyming dictionaries. But when I needed a rhyme and wasn’t happy with the 300 rhyme words Master Writer displayed and it popped up nearly 400 more near rhymes? Well, I realized this was an important advance that could change the songwriting game.
It also helps you organize your songs, avoid penning illiterate phrases unless that’s your bag, all sorts of things that are useful.
I’d advise at least clicking the pic above and taking a look at it. It’s pricey but many big time songwriters swear by it and if you want to play with the big boys, it’s wise to use the toys they prefer- b.e.
On the other hand, people often argue about the quality of a specific song. This one is “great”, this one is “not very good” …who appointed them Judge of All Things Musical?
What’s certain is that generating large numbers of CD sales or paid downloads requires a lot of people agreeing a song is good enough for them to spend time and money on.
It’s weird really, any song can have avid supporters or avid detractors, yet there’s a collective mindset that determines which songs experience huge commercial success. And success is difficult to argue with.
So that’s about where commercial songwriting begins to branch off from pure art. “Rules” happen. You begin to run into gatekeepers who believe they know what “everyone likes” in a certain genre. And you better not rhyme heart with start because that’s overused cliche, that song’s going nowhere, buddy.
Unless it becomes a huge hit anyway, then for a lot of reasons that make it the exception to the rule, including the fact it was written in June and there was a moon in June, it’s okay.
Is anyone seriously going to take issue with the thought that a group of co-writers assembling at an appointed time specifically for songwriting purposes where they’ll brainstorm clever song titles and write lyrics about fictitious situations, aiming for a Billboard hit, is pure art?
And this link certainly offers food for thought:
How do you get your mind around that concept? Where does all THAT play out in your life?
The point is if you write songs you can take any of three positions:
1. I write purely for the sake of the art/fun/relaxation aspects. I don’t avoid “songwriting rules” but I don’t embrace them either.
2. I do songwriting for the art and if I accidentally write a hit, great, but no worries one way or the other. “Songwriting Rules” who cares?
3. I want a hit song! Because I want to write a hit, I “follow the rules” as much as they can be determined.
Maybe the Internet has opened things up a bit but it seems “the system” many musicians and songwriters complain about exists for a reason. Most people like a certain category of music or maybe 2-3 categories.
So if 5 million people are looking to listen to country music/purchase country music downloads, radio stations make that group a narrowly focused target. They do that because they must have money from advertisers to survive and advertisers need a targeted demographic to make spending $ pay off.
If you want to write a country hit, you must get your song in heavy rotation on the most powerful of those stations. As you endeavor to do so, the gatekeepers will be making sure you comply with rules.
Hey, life is tough no matter what you do.
That’s songwriting now and for at least the next many years to come.
To write a lyric successfully, the music framework it will sit on must be accounted for. Lyrics aren’t poems. Lyrics are restricted by elements poems aren’t, elements that are part of music. This post is intended to get you thinking properly and give a concrete tip or two you can use, by no means can we completely explore this topic here.
The biggest restriction on a lyric will be the measures (a.k.a. bars) each line has to exist in.
In 4/4 time there are 4 beats to a measure. The typical 4/4 song has 4 bars to a phrase, so 16 beats, and the beats are evenly measured. Let’s pull up:
Click at the top of the circle to fill the dot above “92” and it will begin to click at 92 beats per minute. That’s a medium tempo, not real fast, not real slow.
Count along each time it clicks. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.
Every 4 beats a new measure begins. In four bars of music those 16 beats are exactly how long your initial phrase should be. If each word gets 4 beats you could write four words total each receiving 4 beats: How about “I don’t know you.”
I don’t know you
1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4
You are writing whole notes. Whole notes get 4 beats.
For the next phrase let’s use half notes, each word receiving only 2 beats except on the word “very” where we’ll give each syllable only 1 beat, so they are quarter notes:
and I do not like you very much
1 – 2 – 3 – 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4, 1- 2- 3- 4
As you can see, unlike poetry where lines can be free form, music tends to impose restrictions that are mathematical in nature. Using an x to represent a measure, typically music in 4/4 looks something like this:
Introduction: x x x x
Verse 1: x x x x / x x x x
x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 1: X X X X / X X X X
Vere 2: x x x x / x x x x
x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 2: X X X X / X X X X
Bridge: x x x x / x x x x
Chorus 3: X X X X / X X X X
Chorus 4: X X X X / X X X X
If you chart out a basic diagram of the song format then start the click at the appropriate tempo you can write to it, ensuring the lyric will sit nicely in the music once it’s written- b.e. watson
Is Songwriter’s Market 2014 showing the long tooth?
At one time Songwriter’s Market was a useful tool for pitching songs to publishers and record companies. But things have changed in the songwriting world. Times have changed.
Many songwriters complained about Songwriter’s Market 2012. According to most, it was badly in need of updating. One buyer revealed that most of her 2012 submissions came back unopened and undeliverable. Most comments on various retail sites are negative.
Songwriter’s Market 2013 had little updating from 2012 so if anything, it was even less useful.
What has changed since the early days of publication?
Songs are more in demand, not less. At one time there were three major TV networks, major motion pictures, PBS and radio. If your songs weren’t played in those places you weren’t making much money. Now there are far more outlets. Look at television alone: Hundreds of channels, most of which use music.
Internet websites, radio and Internet advertising use vast amounts of music already and use is increasing as the Internet changes from older users with large desktop systems who prefer reading words, to a younger demographic using smaller devices that prefers music and pictures. Music helps sell.
There are newer, universally accessible and arguably better ways to get exposure for an act than there were when Songwriter’s Market began publishing. YouTube, Facebook, etc. weren’t available fifteen years ago.
It’s possible the editors have become lazy in updating Songwriter’s Market listings. But regardless of the reason for the decline, it’s still a very useful book for researching music publishers and other music related companies. You can get names, e-mail addresses and more to help you start establishing contact.
But purely as a mechanism for marketing songs it has been coming up short for years now.
Does anyone care to comment on the usefulness of Songwriter’s Market 2014? -b.e.