SONGWRITING, MUSIC BUSINESS, LICENSING/ROYALTIES
The navigational tools of the music business can sometimes be confusing or misrepresented. To newcomers seeking a way to make their climb, it is a very frustrating circus of events to hurdle. Some of the most common misunderstandings on the business side of independent songwriting are the management of rights, registration and residuals of the business value of those works; most notably, royalties.
In certain clubs and cafés, the writers rule. Most of these are “originals only” venues where a cover tune can get you laughed off the stage. When you move to a hub, writer's nights may be the center of your world for the first few years. A writer's night is the best place to make friends, network, test-market songs, and learn how things work. You don't get paid for this gig, unless opportunities are worth something to you.
For any of you who have ever been frustrated by getting a publisher, producer, artist, or ANYONE In the music industry to listen to your songs, one of the PRIMARY REASONS is THIS.
FEAR OF FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS!
Now the "American Lottery" is to SUE someone because they have a word, a title, a melodic phrase that sounds like their song. Listen up folks, EVERY SONG SOUNDS LIKE SOME OTHER SONG!!!!! THERE ARE ONLY 12 NOTES!!!! ONLY SO MANY EMOTIONS, ONLY SO MANY WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU!!!!! You SOUND LIKE SOMETHING ELSE!!! TRUST ME!!!
About two years after I started trying to write professionally, a friend of mine staged an intervention of sorts. He approached me very kindly and asked me how my writing was going. I told him my frustrations and I told him the truth – I didn’t have much of anything going on. He asked me how I was supporting my family and I admitted that I wasn’t doing a good job of that. Then, he gave me one of the hardest choices of my life. He offered me a job. A career really.
1) Verb tenses changing or going back and forth in a weird way. This is one of the mistakes I see most often when critiquing song lyrics. Switching between past, present and future can really mess your lyric up if you are not super clear about what is going on. Let someone else read your lyric and have them tell you what they think is going on. They will often express confusion if your tenses are messed up.
Let me tell you a tale of two cowrites, both from my early “pro” days. First… the bad cowrite.
I was signed with Major Bob Music at the time, and “Monday Morning Church” had recently been a top 5 country hit for Alan Jackson. But in spite of having a publishing deal and a hit under my belt, I was still pretty much a newbie trying to figure things out. (I still feel that way to be honest.) Anyway, Major Bob hooked me up to cowrite with a legit hit songwriter. This guy had many cuts and hits to his credit, and I was honored to get in a room with him.
One of the things we are involved in more and more are open mics, talent shows, writers nights, open stages, etc. Some are poorly organized, just a few people getting together, doing a few cover songs for the other writers in the audience waiting their turn, some are very rigidly organized and controlled. Some are "show up and get on stage" many have a long waiting line to get on and are very sought after. They all are important on our way to testing out our material and abilities.
Ask a Music Lawyer: Is the Poor Man's Copyright Enough to Protect Your Songs?
The traditional "poor man’s copyright" is a practice where you take a work you've created, put it in an envelope, and mail it to yourself via the United States Postal Service. Because the Postal Service would stamp the envelope with a postmark that had the date of mailing, it's argued that the date on the envelope proves that the work was created on or before that date. Otherwise, if you hadn’t created it yet, how would you have mailed it to yourself?
Southern California born singer/songwriter Chris Iverson picked up a guitar at nineteen, wrote his first song three months later and continues his songwriting journey today some 700 songs down the line.