Songmine: The Publisher/Attorney Tango by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: The Publisher/Attorney Tango by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-034-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: The Publisher/Attorney Tango by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

The Publisher/Attorney Tango

In the last article we discussed a couple of incidents which illustrate the reason for Arista Music Vice President Billy Meshel’s antagonism for the kind of attorneys who represent their own interests before those of their writer clients. One of those was about an attorney who said he wanted $50,000 “up front” for an unproven writer/artist that Meshel wanted to sign. Remember that several factors are unknown to the publisher at this point: (1) Will a dependable paycheck make the writer lazy or will domestic difficulty make him/her unproductive? (2) Will the publisher or producer be able to secure a record deal for the writer/ artist? (3) If a record deal is secured and the writer/artist is called upon by management and label to tour extensively, will this severely affect the writer’s output? (4) Will the publisher be able to get covers on the songs? Obviously, the latter is the basiC gamble all publishers need to be willing to take. The gamble involves their ability to pick coverable songs and to work with the writer to encourage their creation. All these considerations, however, affect the odds and, the higher -the stakes, the bigger the gamble. With every deal there’s a point at which the gamble seems too big to take. Any good creative publisher, assuming he has the money to invest, will want to spend money not on front money just to sign a writer, but in promoting the writer and the songs. It’s those companies who have the money to spend who seem like fair game to attorneys. There’s a prevalent philosophy that says, “If they give you big front money, it guarantees that the company will work like hell on your project so they can recoup it.” The philosophy has probably worked in enough cases to give it some credence. The problem is that each situation is unique and must be dealt with individually, and some attorneys don’t always explore the situation fully before negotiating for the writer. Ultimately, the best contract is one in which neither party feels ripped off and there’s plenty of incentive for both parties to do their best. By the way, writers don’t always understand that advance means against future royalties and they can’t gripe if they don’t see any royalties for a lo-o-o-ong time. It’s a good thing to remember when your attorney says, “Let’s go for big front money…”

Anyway, back to the publisher. It may be a relatively small company who could give you a weekly advance, but big front money could seriously jeopardize their financial resources for, say, hiring independent promo people to help the record company promote the songs or financing your masters as a writer/artist. There are small companies who don’t have the big bucks but who can give you lots of attention and aggressively pitch your tunes. They grow as you grow. A good working relationship with your publisher is also extremely important and should be a major factor in the deal. It’s very short-sighted to say, “If the money’s right, that’s all that counts.”

As for attorneys, you do need them, not so much for a single song deal (though you should have professional advice from somebody knowledgeable) but for any contract involving exclusive commitment. The attorney should give you the pros and cons of all deal points and discuss current industry practice. You should explain your personal feelings about the people in the company and ask for any information he/she may have about the company’s reputation. Then, you tell your attorney what you want him/her to do. A percentage (usually 10%) of the deal in lieu of an hourly fee is an arrangement you should be very cautious about. It’s tempting for an attorney to negotiate for high front money so he/she can get a big 10% right away, but that’s not always in your best interest. You may also decide to change attorneys later on and you’ll continue to pay that original attorney that 10% Better to borrow the money and give them an hourly fee, stiff as it may be. Learn enough to know what you want and just use your attorney to make sure you get it in writing.

John Braheny is co-founder/director of the Alternative Chorus Songwriters Showcase in Los Angeles.

See all previous entries in the Songmine Series

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.

 
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Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 11 – November 1994 – Interview: Gretchen Peters

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 11 – November 1994 – Interview: Gretchen Peters

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 11 - November 1994 - Interview: Gretchen Peters

JB#: C000000062-048-001

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 11 - November 1994 - Interview: Gretchen Peters

JB #: C000000062-048-002


Table of Contents

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

FEATURES

INTERVIEW –

GRETCHEN PETERS . . ………………………………………….. 7

This outspoken hit writer has a lot to say about songwriting, Nashville, and the music business. Tim Mathews reports from Music City.

SINGING FOR A LIVING –

PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME…………………………………………….. 8 – 9

All the latest information on panelists, speakers and industry pro’s as LASS presents an all day event for singers and singer-songwriters.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING –

MUSIC OR LYRICS: WHICH COMES FIRSTS’ ……………………………. 13

There’s not just one way to write a hit song as David “Cat” Cohen explains.

MUSICAL NOTES –

SONGWRITERS SAY IT ALL…………………………………………………….. 14

Songwriter and teacher Harriet Schock reveals how a song’s lyric can reveal much about the song’s writer.

SPOTLIGHT –

GREEN CH RI$TMA$ ………………………………………………………………… 16

Think it’s easy to write a Christmas standard? Ned Treanor uncovers the truth.

LASS NEWS
MEMBERS NEWS – NOTEWORTHY – MUSICAL CHAIRS………………. 4

News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers and A&R reps are this month, good stuff about our Members and Pickups.

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE………………………………………………. 6

Cassette RouletteTM (publisher song critiques) and Pitch-A-ThonTm (producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts.)


See all Previous Songwriter Musepaper Posts

From the Acting Archivist…

Much like the Songmine columns posted earlier, the archives contain a large collection of Songwriter Musepaper publications. With this posting, I am beginning a project to scan the cover and table of contents of each issue and then OCR (convert the scanned picture to text) the table of contents in order to make it searchable. I don’t yet have the staff necessary to create complete scanned issues of the Museupaper, but if there is interest in a particular article or interview, I can scan that and make it available here.

Douglas E. Welch, douglas@welchwrite.com

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Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 5 – May 1994

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 5 – May 1994

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 5 - May 1994

JB#: C000000062-047-001

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 5 - May 1994

JB #: C000000062-047-002


Table of Contents

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

FEATURES

CREATIVITY QUICK QUOTES………………………………………………………… 7

Here’s the second installment of quotes on the creative process

from successful writer/artist/producers taken from previous interviews.

This time its Melissa Etheridge, Alan Silvestri and Don Was.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING-

WHAT MAKES A GROOVE?………………………………………………………….. 8

An understanding of grooves is essential in contemporary music of all styles. From country to hip-hop, David Cat Cohen makes it easy for you to see how those essential grooves are put together.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE-

INTERACTIVE ELECTRONIC PRESS KITS-PART 3………………………….. 10

Simon Higgs continues his step-by-step breakdown of how to use

the latest software to assemble your own unique electronic press

kit for free promotion.

SPOTLIGHT-

BOOK REVIEW: MUSIC, MONEY AND SUCCESS……………………………………… 12

Dan Kimpel reviews a great new book by industry veterans Jeffrey Brabec (v.p. business affairs, Chrysalis Music Group) and Todd Brabec (director of membership, ASCAP) that is a “must buy” for anyone who wants to know how money is made in the music biz.

LASS NEWS

MEMBER NEWS – NOTEWORTHY – MUSICAL CHAIRS………………………. 4

News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers

and A&R reps are this month, good stuff about our Members

and Pickups.

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE………………………………………………….. 6

Cassette RouletteTM (publisher song critiques) and Pitch-A-Thon TM

(producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts).

See all Previous Songwriter Musepaper Posts

From the Acting Archivist…

Much like the Songmine columns posted earlier, the archives contain a large collection of Songwriter Musepaper publications. With this posting, I am beginning a project to scan the cover and table of contents of each issue and then OCR (convert the scanned picture to text) the table of contents in order to make it searchable. I don’t yet have the staff necessary to create complete scanned issues of the Museupaper, but if there is interest in a particular article or interview, I can scan that and make it available here.

Douglas E. Welch, douglas@welchwrite.com

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Songmine: Attorneys: Do You Need One? by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Attorneys: Do You Need One? by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-033-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Attorneys: Do You Need One? by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Arista Music Vice President Billy Meshel did an animated rap against a certain type of attorneys in a recent interview at’ the Songwriters Showcase. Too often, he said, as soon as he found a writer/artist he was interested in signing, he would recieve .a call from an attorney who proceeded to “blow the deal” both for him and the writer. His apparent hostility toward these attorneys brought a barrage of reactions which we didn’t have time to discuss in depth. I felt it was worth booking him for a later interview to explore the personal feelings, and experiences that produced his volatile attitude about these attorneys.

Questions revealed that Billy, on two occasions, had found songwriters at the Showcase he wanted to sign to exclusive staff writing deals. Within a couple of days after expressing interest in one writer, he received a phone call from the writer’s attorney saying, “We’re talking about $50,000 in front and escalations if certain moneys are earned.” What was irritating to Billy was that there seemed to be no interest on the part of the attorney in what the company planned to do to advance his client’s career, or how much money and effort the company was going to dedicate to it. Billy said, “I didn’t expect to get into the deal free, but that was out of line. The problem is that most attorneys work on percentages…” It may be a conflict of interest for an attorney to get, say, 10% for negotiating a deal, because he may negotiate for high front money so he would get a fat fee right off the top. He risks blowing the deal or giving up deal points somewhere else at the expense of the writer in order to get the front money. (This is called “front loading a deal.”) Billy felt that the writer was a “piece of meat” to that attorney, who wasn’t at all concerned with the writer’s career. If his outrageous request for this new writer wasn’t met, it didn’t bother him that he’d blown a deal with a publisher who might have helped to build a great career for the writer. The writer would fade into the woodwork and the attorney would go on to the next deal.

In the second situation, the writer, the manager and Billy had come to an agreement. Though Billy wouldn’t want the details publicized, I can attest to the fact that it was excellent for a new writer/artist. The manager wanted to think about it for a few days. A couple days later, an attorney representing the writer called Billy saying that they had received a better offer somewhere else and could he top it. Billy told him to take the other deal. The next day, the manager called to say that he didn’t know that his attorney had run that number on him and they still wanted the original deal. By that time, Billy was turned off by the game and didn’t want to work with people who operated that way. He couldn’t believe that the manager didn’t know what his attorney was going to do. He also wanted to feel that the writer wanted to be with his company because they’d do the job for him, not just because he was the highest bidder.

It may have seemed to those who heard Billy that he didn’t think songwriters should have attorneys. WRONG. Billy feels that the writer and publisher should sit down and discuss the deal in broad terms, then leave the ‘boiler plate’ details (specific percentages, etc.) for the writer’s attorney to negotiate. He thinks that before seeing a lawyer, the writer should find out (by talking with the publisher) just what they each can expect from one another and get a feeling about the personal chemistry. Attorney Kent Klavens was in the audience and cautioned writers not to discuss specific deal points with the publisher if they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Meshel’s main point was that too many attorneys look out only for their own best interests, and too many writers take too little interest in the business end of their careers, or are too intimidated by attorneys to tell them what they want. Next time, we’ll continue this rap with some insight into the publishers’ side of this controversy, and more on songwriter-attorney relationships.

See all previous entries in the Songmine Series

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.

 

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Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 3 – March 1994 – Interview: Jenny Yates

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 3 – March 1994 – Interview: Jenny Yates

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 3 - March 1994 - Interview: Jenny Yates

JB#: C000000062-046-001

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 3 - March 1994 - Interview: Jenny Yates

JB #: C000000062-046-002


Table of Contents

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

FEATURES

INTERVIEW-

JENNY YATES……………………………………………………………………………….. 7

Jenny Yates has had her good times and bad times but a constant

has always been her love of performing and writing. Three

collaborations with Garth Brooks on his new album are definitely

a richly deserved “up” for her.

UPBEAT-

SHAKIN’ ALL OVER……………………………………………………………………….. 11

Dan Kimpel vents on the crisis opportunists.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING-

THE BLUES-FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE……………………………………………… 12

Terry Janow gives us some music history and “bluesology.”

MUSICAL NOTES-

THE AMERICA ALBUM CHRONICLE……………………………………………………. 13

Hank Linderman, who assisted on the first America album in ten

years, introduces a daily diary by Dewey Bunnell of the recording

sessions and attendant real-life problems that often intrude in the

process, including the sub-zero Omaha winter.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

INTERACTIVE ELECTRONIC PRESS KITS-PART 1……………………………………. 16

Our resident multimedia maven, Simon Higgs, gives us a glimpse

of how to get free promotion with an interactive demo and press kit.

LASS NEWS

MEMBER NEWS – NOTEWORTHY – MUSICAL CHAIRS……………………………….. 4

News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers

and A&R reps are this month, good stuff about our Members

and Pickups.

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE……………………………………………………….. 6

Cassette RouletteTM (publisher song critiques) and Pitch-A-Thon TM

(producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts).

 

See all Previous Songwriter Musepaper Posts

From the Acting Archivist…

Much like the Songmine columns posted earlier, the archives contain a large collection of Songwriter Musepaper publications. With this posting, I am beginning a project to scan the cover and table of contents of each issue and then OCR (convert the scanned picture to text) the table of contents in order to make it searchable. I don’t yet have the staff necessary to create complete scanned issues of the Museupaper, but if there is interest in a particular article or interview, I can scan that and make it available here.

Douglas E. Welch, douglas@welchwrite.com

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Songmine: Sex and the Singles Writer by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Sex and the Singles Writer by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-033-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Sex and the Singles Writer  by John Braheny by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Sex And The Singles Writer

Sex sells just about everything. It is an international preoccupation, particularly for those in the prime record buying age groups. A look at last week’s (or any week’s) Billboard Hot 100 singles chart shows that outright sex themes like “Sexy Eyes,” “Brass In Pocket,” the old “Gimme Some Lovin’,” and “Do That To Me One More Time” are still prime song lyric topics.

Radio wasn’t always as tolerant as it is now. If writers wanted to get that powerful, money-making airplay they had to avoid the subject… or be very clever about it. In the early 50’s, even songs like “Teach Me Tonight,” as tame as it sounds today, could give people wet dreams. It’s all relative, isn’t it? See how jaded we’ve gotten?

Throughout history there’s been a wealth of bawdy balladry, and during the ’60s folk revival, Oscar Brand (“Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads”), Ed McCurdy (“When Dalliance Was In Flower”) and others resurrected volumes of it to record. There’s also been a steady flow of “underground” record classics like “Stickball,” lots of raunchy blues and, of course, the Rusty Warrens and Red Foxxes. There are’also currently a lot of hard core album cuts you won’t hear on the radio. There’s always been a heavy division between what can be sold on record and what’s considered fit for the air. In the past few years, however, that division seems to have all but disappeared, and if it isn’t getting played it’s because it doesn’t sound like a hit. There are rock stations that 15 years ago would have been shut down for playing “My Sharona” or the Pretenders’ “Tatooed Love Boys” (where she sings “…you showed me what that hole was for”). Artistically it works fine in context, but there was a time when it would have given the FCCs a heart attack.

It seems that R&B and rock and roll have always been the homes of the up front, unsubtle sex lyric. “Let’s Get It On,” “I Like To Do It With You,” and “Get It Up For Love” are the first -ones that come into my head but a little more research could turn up lots more. I believe this is so because musically these lyrics sit in a dance format which is, in itself, stimulating. Blatant, sexual lyrics, at least for me, as a listening experience, get boring.
Sex has been the lyric backbone of disco, probably because discos are places where people go to look for sex. Perhaps many of those people go there looking for love, but finding love in a disco is like trying to find drinking water in the Pacific. It all looks good but it’s not quite what you need. It doesn’t satisfy the real thirst.

I think it’s interesting to observe how often the word “love” is substituted for sex. “Let Me Love You Tonight” is a current example. The sex/love confusion in colloquial usage since the term “making love” came into being could be the subject of a major psychological study. Peter McCann used that phenomenon to create his hits “Do You Wanna Make Love (Or Do You Just Wanna Fool Around).”

In general, most country and pop ballads take an approach that’s more subtle and inventive than that taken with R&R, R&B and disco. The importance of the lyrics in the mix of these songs subjects them to closer scrutiny. David Gates’ near standard “Make It With You” lets the listener use the phrase not only in the sexual sense, but in the sense of building a successful relationship. Songs like his, with titillating titles but broader, multi-level meanings and good craftsmanship, not only sell the song, but also make it more satisfying for a longer time as a listening experience.

There are probably as many ways to write about sex as there are ways to do it. Some of them are quickies that are off the charts in a minute and others, that we fall in love with, stay with us a long time and continue to excite us. What are the limits? Somebody asked me that in a seminar not long after Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” was a hit and I said that if someone can orgasm over 20 times in a hit record, how much further could you go?

John Braheny is co-founder/director of the Alternative Chorus Songwriters Showcase in Los Angeles.

JULY 10 — JULY 23


See all previous entries in the Songmine Series

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.


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Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 2 – February 1994 – Interview: Shai’s Carl Martin

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 2 – February 1994 – Interview: Shai’s Carl Martin

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 2 - February 1994 - Interview: Shai's Carl Martin

JB#: C000000062-045-001

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 2 - February 1994 - Interview: Shai's Carl Martin

JB #: C000000062-045-002


Table of Contents

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

FEATURES

INTERVIEW-

SHAI’S CARL MARTIN ………………………………………………………………….. 7

Dan Kimpel interviews writer/producer/artist Carl Martin whose

group, Shai, is one of the great success stories in recent history.

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR SONGWRITING

BUSINESS FOR THE IRS……………………………………………………………. 11

How long can you write off your songwriting hobby? What can you

deduct? Accountant Robert Klein is back with some nuts and bolts

information to keep you straight with the IRS.

MUSICAL NOTES-

WRITING IN THE MARGINS  ……………………………………………………….. 14

Harriet Shock gives you a look at the kinds of time-consuming

problems successful songwriters face and how to stay organized

and focused while still maintaining a day job and “normal life.”

TOOLS OF THE TRADE-

MICROPHONES  ………………………………………………………………………… 16

Hank Linderman gives you some critically important information on

this most important part of the signal chain.

SPOTLIGHT-

SONGWRITERS PLAYGROUND:

INNOVATIVE EXERCISES IN CREATIVE WRITING. ………………………… 19

Barbara Jordan’s new book, Songwriters Playground, is one of the

best investments you can make to goose your muse. Dan Kimpel

tried it out and testifies.

LASS NEWS

MEMBER NEWS – NOTEWORTHY – MUSICAL CHAIRS………………………. 4

News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers

and A&R reps are this month, good stuff about our Members

and Pickups.

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE………………………………………………….. 6

Cassette RouletteTM (publisher song critiques) and Pitch-A-Thon TM

(producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts).

 

See all Previous Songwriter Musepaper Posts

From the Acting Archivist…

Much like the Songmine columns posted earlier, the archives contain a large collection of Songwriter Musepaper publications. With this posting, I am beginning a project to scan the cover and table of contents of each issue and then OCR (convert the scanned picture to text) the table of contents in order to make it searchable. I don’t yet have the staff necessary to create complete scanned issues of the Museupaper, but if there is interest in a particular article or interview, I can scan that and make it available here.

Douglas E. Welch, douglas@welchwrite.com

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Songmine: What Else Is Commercial? by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: What Else Is Commercial? by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-032-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: So What’ Else Is Commercial? by John Braheny by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

SONGMINE BY JOHN BRAHENY

So What Else Is Commercial?

Last time I discussed the importance of writing lyrics that reflect the values and’experiences of a large segment of the record buying audience. This is, of course, assuming that you’re concerned about selling records and getting airplay, i.e. “being commercial.” Hopefully, those values and experiences are either ones you feel comfortable with or that reflect your own experiences. This is especially important if you’re a writer/artist. A major part of your appeal will be tha, n,,ndle will identify with your point of view. Billy Joel, Jackson Browne and Rickie Lee Jones are good examples. It doesn’t work if you take a different point of view on every record. People never really learn who you are. It’s also really tough to have a hit as an artist with a song that you’re not at home with. You may be doomed to playing it for years. If you’re a non-performing write, you’re not so restricted, and can write “for the market” or try’ the point of view of the artist you’re writing for.

Beyond the considerations we’ve just discussed, there are some stylistic considerations that affect the commerciality of a song. One of those is cleverness. Country music is the obvious home of the clever word play, the new twist on an old cliche and the lyrical “turnaround.” Some recent examples are “Lying Time Again,” “Yippi Cry Yi,” “Nothin’ Sure Looked Good On You,” and “Wishful Drinkin’.” There was also the old pop tune, “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.” That kind of cleverness is designed to stick in the listener’s mind. The lyrical “turnaround” with the surprise ending has wide appeal. The most recent example is Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” was another in that genre that was a great crossover hit. To hardcore “heart” writers, that kind of song may seem trite and contrived. Those same people probably hate to hear a joke more than once, because once they get the punch line it’s not funny to them anymore. Because of the way they’re put together or the way they’re told, though, some jokes never seen to wear thin. I guess that’s the appeal of those songs. The appeal is probably even broader if the song illustrates some common problem or has a “moral” like Chapin’s “Taxi” or “Escape.”

The more conversational and natural the lyric feels, and the more vivid the visual imagery, the less contrived it seems. In other words, the trip should be as rewarding as the destination. “The Gambler” was a very cleverly contrived story, and even though the use of a deck of cards as an analogy for life wasn’t a new idea, it was a fresh way to do it. Its natural, rhymed, colloquial language and movie-like imagery made it great art.

While I’m on the subject of colloquial rhyme (though not necessarily great art), I was fascinated by the success of the R&B “rapper” records. By and large, my personal opinion was that they were pretty terrible. The rhyme, in most cases, was really, as we say, “cheap.” They went for the easiest rhyme, clearly at the expense of content. Even though their success was not exactly gigantic, and they were obviously records and not songs, I was surprised, and figured there was definitely a lesson involved in analyzing the phenomenon. What really got me into it, though I’d been hearing them on the radio, was stopping at a taco stand on So. Robertson and hearing one blasting out of a big stereo portable radio on a table in front of the stand. On the inside, waiting in line to order, were two black kids about 16 years, old doing every line of that rapid rap in perfect sync. That’s when I realized that the first level of appeal is that they’re fun. It was clear that memorizing all that rap wasn’t my idea of fun, but it obviously was to them. There’s also the idea that the stuff felt spontaneous and consequently we’re a little more forgiving about the bad rhyme. The spontaneity was also welcome amid the super-slick produc- tions around it on the radio. It was unquestionably a black record with limited appeal anywhere else, and I’m sure nobody had any illusions about it being a coverable tune. It’s just nice to know that with songs like the “rappers,” like Mac Davis’ “Hard To Be Humble,” and Ray Stevens’ “The Shriners’ Convention” that there’s an audience for tunes that are “just for fun.”

John Braheny is co-founder/director of the Alternative Chorus Songwriters Showcase in Los Angeles.

JUNE 2 6 — JULY 9


See all previous entries in the Songmine Series

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.


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Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 1 – January 1994 – Interview: Aimee Mann

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 9 Issue 1 – January 1994 – Interview: Aimee Mann

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 1 - January 1994 - Interview: Aimee Mann

JB#: C000000062-044-001

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 9 Issue 1 - January 1994 - Interview: Aimee Mann

JB #: C000000062-044-002


Table of Contents

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

 

FEATURES

INTERVIEW-

AIMEE MANN……………………………………………………………………………… 7

John Bitzer gets the former Til Tuesday lead singer/writer and now

solo artist to tell music biz war stories just so you don’t get the idea

that once you get the record deal you’ve got it made.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING-

DEVELOPING A LYRIC STORY LINE…………………………………………… 11

David Cat Cohen continues on the subject of developing a cohesive

story line with a beginning, a middle and end.

ECRANS SONORES SCORES BIG IN FRANCE……………………………… 12

Len Chandler recently covered the Second Annual International

Music and Film Conference in France and lived to bring back the

story. (Some people have all the luck!)

MUSICAL NOTES-

REALITY: THE TRAINING WHEELS……………………………………………… 14

Harriet Schock thinks you should forget writing songs about

subjects you know nothing about and “get real.”

PREPARING FOR TAX TIME……………………………………………………….. 15

Tax accountant Robert Klein tells you what you should be (or should

have been) doing to avoid the hassles of the audit-from-hell or just

save yourself some money on accounting fees.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE-

THE FLEXIBLE COMPRESSOR-PART 2……………………………………….. 16

Hank Linderman concludes his two-part series on getting the most

from your compressor covering compressing a vocal, level

smoothing, ganged compressors, stereo compression and more.

SPOTLIGHT-

NAS SALUTES JIMMY WEBB……………………………………………………… 18

John Braheny covers the Eighth Annual Salute to the American

Songwriter.

LASS NEWS

MEMBER NEWS – NOTEWORTHY – MUSICAL CHAIRS……………………… 4

News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers

and A&R reps are this month, good stuff about our Members

and Pickups.

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE………………………………………………… 6

Cassette RouletteTM (publisher song critiques) and Pitch-A-ThonTM

(producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts).

See all Previous Songwriter Musepaper Posts

From the Acting Archivist…

Much like the Songmine columns posted earlier, the archives contain a large collection of Songwriter Musepaper publications. With this posting, I am beginning a project to scan the cover and table of contents of each issue and then OCR (convert the scanned picture to text) the table of contents in order to make it searchable. I don’t yet have the staff necessary to create complete scanned issues of the Museupaper, but if there is interest in a particular article or interview, I can scan that and make it available here.

Douglas E. Welch, douglas@welchwrite.com

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Songmine: So What’s Commercial? by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

 Songmine: So What's Commercial? by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-032-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: So What’s Commercial? by John Braheny by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine BY JOHN BRAHENY

SO WHAT’S COMMERCIAL?

At some point before, during, or after the writing of a song, it behooves a writer to decide whether the idea itself for the song is “commercial.” Now don’t get defensive! I’m not saying that every song you write must be a potential hit. At the risk of repeating this message too many times, you should write everything and anything your creative impulses trigger. At some point though, you’ve got to develop some perspective on those songs. The one you wrote about your second- cousin’s appendicitis may be impor- tant to you personally but everybody else will say, “So what?” The romance between you and your pet sheep, let us hope, is not exactly a universal theme, nor one that most recording artists (who don’t write their own bizarre songs) are going to record. You need to decide which of these songs are going to be meaningful in some way to a mass audience before shopping them to publishers or producers. Lots of different kinds of songs work. Larry Groce’s ” J unk Food Junkie” was a really “off the wall’ song but everybody identified and it was a #1 hit.

I’m not talking now about putting together a commercial sounding, contemporary groove or an infectious rhythm track. It is important but lots of people know how to do that very well. They know how to make a commercial sounding record. At the height of the disco mania, they were turning them out by the hundreds. The ones that sounded a little different from the rest or that came up with a new electronic sound gimmick would hit the charts and immediately spawn a couple hundred clones that would hit the discos but never make the radio. As popular as some of them were for a few weeks, few of them had any staying power or held the attention of the listener as a song. Some got airplay but few sold records. One of the rare exceptions was “I Will Survive” by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. The reason was that, along with the great groove and production, it had a lyric idea that made its popularity continue long after that groove and production would have otherwise burnt us out by repetition. The lyric was an anthem for women. Something positive their spirits needed to hear from someone who sounded like she knew what she was talking about, with a story that sounded familiar. The message was positive: that no matter how he treated them before, they didn’t have to take it anymore because they had found a new self-respect. They rallied to “I Am Woman” but it was more general and philosophical. without the nitty gritty “real life” feeling that made “I Will Survive” such a hit. So what we have here is an idea that people had a need to hear, a thing they needed to say. I think one of the most important functions of a song is,to give the people a vehicle to express hopes, dreams, and inner conflicts that they might otherwise keep inside; feelings of love, hate, and humor. Songs have a. way of uniting us by those common strings that bind us together. It was great to hear Dan Hill express the apparent contradictions of the love/hate aspects of an intense relationship in “Sometimes When We Touch.” Those of us who’ve been there may have felt like we were a little crazy for having those kinds of feelings and were relieved to hear someone else express them. We were even more relieved that hundreds of thousands of other people loved the song.

“Torn Between Two Lovers” was both a country and pop hit because it expressed an old situation in a new and more sensitive way. Lots of people don’t identify with “cheatin’,” but still have the problem of loving more than one person at the same time. It was also interesting to note that it’s always been okay in country music to talk in a positive way about men having more than one lover whereas only really bad women could love more than one man and I don’t ever recall a woman making a statement like that. Times, values, and mores change constantly and often the more “Commercial” songs are the ones that not only express your most personal situations and feelings, but do it in a way that everyone else can easily understand and identify with.

JUNE 12 -JUNE 25 


See all previous entries in the Songmine Series

About Songmine and Music Connection Magazine:

John Braheny met Eric Bettelli and Michael Dolan right before they were going to publish Music Connection magazine. Eric and Michael wanted to get their publication out to as many songwriters as they could. They had already heard of the LA Songwriters Showcase, and of John and his partner, Len Chandler. John’s goal was to advertise the schedule of guest speakers and performers at the weekly Showcase… so they made a deal. 

They published John’s Songmine column (he had never before written a magazine article!) in their very first edition, in November 1977. Trading out the column for advertising, this arrangement continued for many years. Plus, Eric and Michael came to the Showcase each week and distributed free copies to the songwriters!

Those articles became so popular that (book agent and editor) Ronny Schiff offered John’s articles to F&W Media, where they became the backbone of John’s textbook, The Craft and Business of Songwriting. As a follow-up, Dan Kimpel (author, songwriter, teacher), who had also worked at LASS, took on the Songwriting column at Music Connection magazine which continues to this day! You can subscribe to get either hard copies or online.


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