Archive | Songwriting Business

Helpful articles about the Business of Songwriting

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 3 Issue 11 – October-November 1988 – Interview: Jules Shear

Songwriters Musepaper – Volume 3 Issue 11 – October-November 1988 – Interview: Jules Shear

Songwriters Musepaper - Volume 3 Issue 11 - October-November 1988 - Interview: Jules Shear

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Table of Contents

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FEATURES
THE CRISIS OF A&R COMPETENCE AND RECORD COMPANY ECONOMICS
Music business consultant Thomas A. White fired this opening volley in a heated dialogue on a&r in Billboard Magazine. The subject will continue on the NARAS/ASCAP sponsored panel on November 19 (see Noteworthy) Page 7

JULES SHEAR: RECKLESS SLEEPER
Jules has had hits with Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles, as well as a recording career of his own for over 12 years. We talk about his work, his new band, Reckless Sleepers, and their new IRS Records album, Big Boss Sounds Page 10

SONGWRITERS EXPO 12 HIGHLIGHTS
Scenes from a magic Expo Pages 14-15 & 18-19

IT’S A JINGLE OUT THERE
LASS Pro Member and jingle producer, Richard Lieter gives us a closeup look at his experiences in the jingle jungle Page 20

FREE WOMAN IN POMONA
Molly-Ann Leikin gets a new perspective as she guests with LASS co-founder/director Len Chandler at his songwriting class in a California men’s prison Page 23

WRITING WITHIN A SCALE CONTEXT — USING INTERVALS
David Cat Cohen gives you more hot music writing tips Page 26

# 1 WITH A BULLET
Dan Kimpel reviews a new Cypress Records album featuring the original demos for some #1 hits Page 27

LASS NEWS
MEMBER NEWS — NOTEWORTHY — MUSICAL CHAIRS
News about classes, biz events, where your favorite publishers and a&r reps are this month and good stuff about our members Page 4

WEEKLY SHOWCASE SCHEDULE Who will be at the Showcase looking for songs and what they’re looking for on Cassette Roulette (publisher song critiques), Pitch-A-Thon (producers and record company reps looking for songs and acts). Also a list of Pick-Ups (writers whose songs were picked up last month) Pages 16-17

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

Previously in Songwriters Musepaper:

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Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 3 by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 3 by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-018 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 3  by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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MAY 24 — JUNE 6
Songmine by John Braheny

[This is the third part of the writer’s account of his work on the sound-track of the movie “The Birdman”].

OK dear readers, I left you as we were getting the run-down on Chinese music and instruments from Dr. Lui at UCLA’s Anthro-musicology Department. I played my cassette tape of the session over and over in the car and in my house during the next few days. Then I called Curt Berg, who already had The Birdman’s theme written and I went over to his place to hear it. I thought it was beautiful and we discussed how it could best be arranged. Since Curt is an arranger, he was accustomed to thinking in terms of several instruments, musical textures, and so on. Des-pite all that, we decided the most effective way to express the feeling was a single wood flute played loose and free.

Curt was swamped with work, so I volunteered to put the rest of the score together. By this time the .producer/writer/editor was close to a final edit, and I could get more accurate counts to tell me how many seconds of music I needed. Many :ompromises are made on a low-budget film like this. He and his backer were already over budget, an almost standard predicament for filmmakers because something in-variably goes wrong and scenes must be reshot or re-recorded. I mention this to explain that getting by as cheaply as possible without sacrificing quality is the major concern of small, independent film-makers, and consequently, those who compose and produce the music for them. I took the job knowing I wouldn’t make much money or have a big budget to work with. I did it because Bernard does quality films. I enjoy working with him it’s a challenge, and when he gets a shot at a major feature film I’ll be there.

The challenge this time was that, in order for me to come out with any money at all to show for two weeks of my time, we had to forego professional recording stud-ios and record on the TEAC equipment at my office. This offer-
ed advantages other than the obvious financial ones. I could take my time, do lots of takes and experiment without being clock (and budget) conscious during the creative process. I should also mention the negative aspects. I had to be extra conscious of quality. because I don’t have a noise reduction gear and while mixing several tracks together I had to be concerned about noise buildup. Thankfully the score doesn’t have to be as noise free as records because the playback systems used with 16mm films are themselves noisy, and there are other sounds on the film (waterfalls etc) that will mask some noise.

These considerations, how-ever, ‘do not justify carelessness. The following things can be done to minimize noise:

• Don’t use noisy instruments. I had to can a popular brand of contact pickup because the pre-amp was too noisy.

• Use a graphic equalizer, if poss-ible, to de-emphasize noisy fre-quencies as much as possible without affecting the sound quality ‘of the instrument. For example, if you’re recording a bass instrument, you’ll be able to reduce the noise in the upper frequencies without aff-ecting the sound. It’s more difficult with mid-range instruments as the character or timbre of the instru-ment (or voice) is often dependent on overtones that occur within the “noisy” frequencies, so it’s all compromise at that point.

• Record at as high a volume level as possible without distortion. This is called recording “hot”. The idea is that when you finally mix it to the film, you may only need half that volume and the noise will be reduced along with the music.

* When mixing your music at home, before transferring it to “mag stripe” (the sprocketed audio tape that’s used to mix the sound to the film) mix it mono onto a full track if possible. Half track will do, and quarter track is the least desirable. The more signal on the tape the better. Make sure you mix as “hot” as possible without dis-tortion and that all the levels of the individual pieces of music you take to transfer to “mag stripe” are uniform so that during the transfer you don’t have to mess with volume for each one.

(To be continued)

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 2: Research and Spotting

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 1 and Part 2: Research and Spotting

Accession Number: C000000137-017 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 2: Research and Spotting by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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MAY 10-23

Songmine
by John Braheny

Songmine-Film Scoring-Part 2: ‘Research and Spotting by John Braheny

In my last article I talked about the initial preparations for a film I scored, a Ray Bradbury short story called The Flying Machine, set in ancient China. I also spoke about my background and about the prod-ucer/director Bernard Selling. was doing the music with _Curt Berg, an excellent composer, arr-anger and big band leader. Our first move was to see the film, get some general impressions and talk with Bernard about his general concept for the music. Bernard is a musician (something unusual to run into in a director) and he had some ideas. Obviously, the music had to sound Chinese, but he felt it wasn’t important that we adhere strictly to the traditional style. Since, in film scores, basic song forms usually go out the window, except for thematic material, we had some latitude.

Next procedure is to “spot” the film, deciding in what “spots” there should or shouldn’t be music. This is a very subjective procedure. We start by figuring out where the music is absolutely needed to ex-press something that the actors or dialogue can’t say, to heighten the effect of the action, or to give flavor or “color” to a location. We include notes about places for “wild spots” or “stingers” we’ll record just in case we decide later that maybe we’ll need it and save ourselves from a last-minute session. We also decide which music will be out front, and which will be subtle underscoring.

I put together a form for myself that lists, from left to right:Film Footage and Frame Counts; Action; Psychology and Music. We watch the film on a Moviola, an editing machine on which the film, with a dialogue track, can be run back and forth and pieces can be cut or added. It also gives you film footage and frame counts that are mechan-ically geared to the film so that if you start at the same place every time, it’ll continue to be an accurate reference to the beginnings and endings of particular scenes.

Bernard had not completed the editing at this time, so some counts would be different and we’d get the final ones at a later stage. Even though I knew that, I went ahead and mapped out the film scene by scene, which at least would help me remember what followed in the story. Later, we’d convert film feet and frames to seconds to find out how much music we needed. Some Moviolas show time counts as well as film footage. For 16mm film there are 24 frames per second and 40 frames per foot. Under the Action heading I’d write whatever action was taking place in that scene. Under Psychology I’d deter-mine, in discussions with Bernard, the underlying importance of this action. What feeling is he trying to evoke in the audience? Should the music represent the point of view of one of the characters? Should it “tip off” or anticipate the next scene?

For instance, the Emperor is speaking to the “Birdman” in a garden. The Birdman doesn’t know that the Emperor intends to kill him. I needed to know whether Bernard wanted a little “impending doom” undercurrent of music to let the audience know that something was wrong and all was not as friendly as it appeared. He decided he wanted to keep the music light, from the point of view of the Birdman, who thought he might be rewarded for his beautiful invent-ion. That way we, the audience, would identify with him and be be as shocked as he was when the Emperor revealed his intentions.

We discussed the philosophy of the film in terms of the characters. The Birdman, a creator, a dreamer, a free spirit, should be represented by music that soared and evoked a feeling of freedom. The Emperor, bound by tradition and responsibil-ity, should be represented by music that felt more regimented, tight and conservative. After those “psycho-logy” considerations are explored and we have an idea of what the music needs to do, we get to the Music column, where we figure out how to achieve it. We need to consider what instruments to use, tempos, scales and modes, harmon-ies, etc., as well as musicians. To do this we need some information on Chinese music, so Curt called Mr. Lui at UCLA’s Anthromusic Depart-ment, we got together at his house and he graciously demonstrated several Chinese instruments and allowed us to tape his explanations of techinques, tunings and how to write for the instruments. (To be continued.)

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 1

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 1: Research and Spotting

Accession Number: C000000137-017 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 1 by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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Songmine: Scoring Films on a Low Budget Part 1: Research and Spotting

APRIL 26-MAY 9
Songmine

SCORING FILMS ON A LOW BUDGET PART I
by John Braheny

A couple of weeks ago I finished a film score and thought, after explaning the process to several people, that it might be of interest to you, too. What is interesting, I think, is that I am not an arranger, per say, with a lot of background in theory and composition in that department. As a result, I realize that my potential and scope are limited by the lack of those skills, but it’s all about priorities in my life and becoming an arranger is not one of them. Nonetheless, I’ve done alot of work with film music. There was a period of about 3 years when I composed and produced music for radio and T.V. commer-cials and because I used unorthodox approaches to compensate for lack of chops in other areas, I came up with unorthodox sounding music, which was what they were looking for. Most people dping music for commercialsiareiarrangers.and con-sequently, inspire more confidence in ad execs, who are notoriously paranoid to begin with, and con-sequently, those composers get alot more work. I’m not going to B.S. you that I got rich on it. It just worked out that way when people wanted something out of the ordi-nary, some of them took a chance on me. It gave me the chance to experiment on somebody else’s bread and I did alot of things with studio technology using every new gadget and technique I could think of. Working with film is, to me, very exciting because beyond the mechanics of timing to the second, it’s very subjective and interpretive. Obviously, the ad people as well as film directors, know what the music is supposed to do, but there are lots of different ways to achieve what they need and that’s where the creativity lies. I play guitar and violinand thosechopscan ‘transfer to bass and viola without a lot of trouble. Also, though I lack techni-cal arranging skill, I have a fairly good understanding of the dyna-mics involved which are the same skills basically, that producers need in putting together a “head ar-rangement” (one using only chord charts)

So with that in mind, along comes Bernard Selling a month or so ago and asks me to score his new film. I’ve scored 3 other films for Bernard and he likes my work. He won an award for one of his first documentaries called “Henry, Boy of the Barrio” before I’d met him and subsequent films he produced and directed were aimed primarily at an educational market. His last two have been films of short stories used often in English classes. It’s good preparation for him to move into longer feature films and gives him a way to develop and demon-strate his skill and style. The film I just worked on was from a Ray Bradbury allegory called “The Fly-ing Machine” which is set in ancient China. The story briefly, is about an emperor who upon dis-covering a man flying over his kingdom in a self-made machine, then decides he must kill the man to prevent the possible danger that evil men might use this invention to do evil things. There is much dialogue between the emperor, who appreciates the possible joys of flying, the beauty of the invention and the imagination of the inventor, and the inventor himself, who ob-viously believes he shouldn’t be punished for doing something beau-tiful. In the end the emperor does execute the ‘birdman’, but not without considerable inner turmoil. It’s the classic confrontation bet-ween change and the status quo, and between technological advance and our protection from its evils (see the China Syndrome).

“But Bernard,” I said, “I’m not really into Chinese music. Why don’t you hire someone who is?” He explained that the music didn’t have to be traditional and strict and that he wanted what could result from the synthesis of styles. In that regard, he also put me together with Curt Berg who is a big band leader, composer and arranger. He was looking for a synthesis of our styles, too. As it turned out, it was a very busy time for Curt and he didn’t have as much time to work on it as he would have liked. He composed a beautiful theme,and we spent some time together on the research and recording end. Next issue we’ll get into the nuts and bolts including research, ‘spotting the film’ ,(where it does and doesn’t need music), conversion formulas (frames to seconds), choosing in-struments and players, click tracks, recording, transfers, mixing, etc.

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Songmine: The Chances for Advances by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: The Chances for Advances by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-016 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: The Chances for Advances by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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Songmine: The Chances for Advances by John Braheny

APRIL 12-APRIL 25
Songmine

YOUR CHANCES FOR ADVANCES
by John Braheny

For some unexplained reason, several songwriters have asked me in the last couple of weeks whether they should ask a publishing com-pany for an advance, so I took it as a sign that I should deal with in this column. In all cases the writers were in need of the bucks and I told them they should go for it but with some information I think is worth considering.

1) It’s an ADVANCE, and not a payment for the song. I know most of you are probably already aware that the bread they give you now comes off the top of any royalties the publishers may receive later. This applies, in general, not only to publishers but to BM1 and ASCP as well. Despite the fact that it is, right out front, called an ADVANCE I’m surprised at the writers I talk to who are very upset a couple of years down the road when their statement from the publisher don’t yield them a check. They’ve meanwhile con-veniently forgotten that the pub-lisher will pay themselves back for that loan. The computer doesn’t forget!!

2) REVERSION CLAUSES,and your publishing contract affected by your receiving an advance. Reversion clauses state that if a publisher does not obtain a released recording of your song within a specified period of time )a year is fair),the publish-ing rights to the song revert back to you. It insures that if the publishers don’t do the job for you, you can take it else where and it won’t sit in their files forever with nothing happening. So how does it relate to advances? Here’s the basic princi-ple. The more money a publisher puts out in front, before actually getting a record cut on the song, the more he gambles. So to hedge the bet, he/she is not going to want to give you back the song and lose the money if they don’t get the tune recorded. Oh yes, they’ll just write it off. I mean, are they going to turn you over to a collection agency if you don’t pay it back, or take you to court for a few bucks, or hire a detective to find you? Not too practical for them or very good business to alienate a writer who might write a hit tomorrow. So what they will do is tell you up front that they can’t give you a reversion clause if they give you an advance. That’s just a good business practice for them.

3) A GOOD DEMO ENHANCES YOUR CHANCES – Based on the same principle as above, if you go to a publisher with a good, usable demo and that saves them the cost of producing it themselves )$100.00 to $500.00), you’re in a much better position to ask for an advance. You’re also in a much better posi-tion to ask for a reversion clause but you may have to decide between the clause and an advance.

4) SPLIT PUBLISHING – If you want to keep a part of the publishing, they’re unlikely to want to give you an advance. Here again, you’re reducing the potential profit for them. In fact they’re likely to ask you to split the demo costs if you want to split the profit. Not unreasonable at all.

5) STAFF WRITERS – Writers under contract receive not a weekly salary but a weekly advance against future royalties, but there’s very little chance of getting a reversion clause. They want every song you write during the term of the con-tract and usually before, and they want those songs for life plus 50 years.

6) HOW MUCH?- $25.00 on up. whatever you can negotiate. What-ever the traffic will bear. Ultimately friends, everything depends on how badly they want the song; they risk that you take it somewhere else. If they’re excited, they’ll usually want to let you know it. I believe, if you need an advance it can’t hurt to ask for it but that the enthusiasm of the publisher and his/her willingness to give you a reversion clause are ultimately worth more. There’s a philosophy that publishers hustle harder if they have more of an investment in a tune, and there may be some degree of truth to it, especially in the case of staff writers. But publishers ability to assess the commercial viability of your song is their game and gamble and if you raise the stakes they lose more if they’re wrong. Bear it in mind.

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 6: Attorneys by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know - Part 5: The Professional Team by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-013 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 6: Attorneys by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

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Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know: Part 6: Attorneys
by John Braheny

In my assumed role as the record company, I will frequently be approached by attornies with pro-duct. This is happening more and more these days. Since attornies are negotiating many contracts with record companies, they have made good contacts at the labels and find themselves in a position to know if and when a company is looking for a certain type of act. Since they have an inside track, it’s easier for them to shop the product than, for exam-ple, an out manager or a new one who doesn’t know his/her way around yet,

From the record company’s point of view, I’d rather deal with an entertainment attorney,, in par-ticular a record business attorney. When he/she comes to me or my company to negotiate a deal, they MUST speak the language and have up to date knowledge of current record industry practices. If not, we will wind up engaged in hours of fruitless negotiations and will end up having to educate your attorney (at your expense). As an example, you’re presented with a production or record contract and you call your uncle, whose specialty is suing auto manufacturers, Right off the bat, he should refer you to an entertain-ment specialist but suppose„husi-ness is slow this month. He knows there are a lot of bucks in the music industry; he has visions of his nephew being a big rock star; he thinks it would be great to get involved in a more glamourous business and figures, “What the hell, how hard could it be to negotiate a record contract?”. He gets the contract and the first thing he objects to is the fact that this big record company wants all recording costs recouped off the top of your royalties. He thinks it’s a terrible idea and, not knowing that it’s a firmly established practice in the industry, decides he should try to negotiate that point, exposing his ignorance. The record company attornies will either refuse to nego-tiate with him at all or will eat him alive for breakfast.

Needless to say, none of this helps you at all, Entertainment law is very complex and just knowing the academics is not enough to make one a good attorney in that field, Personal experience, good contacts (politics) and a current knowledge of industry practices as well as a knowledge of the policies and contracts of specific record companies is equally important. As a record company, I want to deal with an attorney whose philosophy is that the best deal is the one that comes closest to being fair for both parties. Obviously, I’ll negotiate for my own advantage, but if that means that it’s unfair to you, I know I’m going to have problems with you later and that you won’t be happy with the deal.

Getting away from my record company role for a moment, let’s just talk about some situations that can arise in attorney/artist rela-tionships. Attornies in this field are expensive and fees range from $50 (not many) to $150 plus per hour. They’ll log all the time spent on your behalf on the telephone, in meetings with you, with the record company, or whatever, and bill you for just that time. There are attornies who, in lieu of an hourly rate, will offer to shop your tapes and negotiate your deal for, say, 10% of your income from that contract for the life of the deal. This may, on the surface, seem like a good deal, particularly if you’re broke. You should consider, how-ever, that maybe in a couple of months you’ll become, for whatever reasons, disenchanted with your relationship and want to get another attorney. That will mean you’ll then be paying two attornies, and that’s 10% of your income that you might have a better use for, partic-ularly if you acquire a manager who may take another 25%. I’m not saying that under no circumstances should you take a deal like that, only that it’s risky.

Attornies sometimes work on spec, or deferment, which means that they’ll defer payment until they’ve made a deal for you and collect’ their fees from the front money. They’re most likely to do this if a producer or record company has shown enough interest in you to present you with a contract, or if they have good ears and feel you’ve really got a good shot at a deal.

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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.


0

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 5: The Professional Team by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know - Part 5: The Professional Team by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-013 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 5: The Professional Team by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 5: The Professional Team by John Braheny

So far, we’ve explored: 1) the value of the artist/writer package, 2) what’s on the tape, 3) your live performance, and 4) your marketa-bility and P.R. potential. Now we get to a subject which, in my assumed role as a record company executive, is very important for me to consider: the people on your team.

I’m likely to be impressed if you have a team of professional people who believe in you, particu-larly if they are people whose work I respect. If you come to my atten-tion through the efforts of your manager, producer and attorney, who have been generating energy and momentum on your behalf, it will tell me two important things: 1) That if I sign you, my company will have lots of competent aid from your team, helping to insure your success, and 2) that if I don’t sign you, someone else prob-ably will. First of all, let’s assume that all my questions ’til now have been answered to my satisfaction and I’m very excited about you as a writer and an artist. Another thing that will impress me and tip the scales in your favor is knowing that you have a com-petent manager and producer. Let’s talk about the best situation for me as the record company, and consequently, what’s best for you. The Manager – A manager, among other things, should be able to initiate and negotiate publishing, record company and production deals, know what clubs or concerts you should play and what radio and TV shows you should do and when. He’s the buffer between you and the business; your advisor and alter ego. Ideally, your man-ager is also excited about you and your talent and is dedicated to making You a successful artist. I’d be more impressed if he/she is a manager with a record of success, one who has managed other successful acts, one who knows the record business and understands the functions of all the component parts of the talent machine and the need for coordin-ation and teamwork between every-one involved. I’ll want you to know that you manager knows you, your strengths and limitations, and has a plan for the development of you.r career. So, what if your manager does not have a heavy track record and is not know-ledgeable about the record bus-iness? Unless he/she is willing to learn and take direction, I know I’m going to have lots of problems. There are enough points of argu-ment between record companies andmanagers who know the busi-ness, but it’s particularly crazy to try to deal with someone who has no way of knowing when I’m making important concessions to him/her or suggesting a course of action that, from our experience is advisable, but the manager does not understand. Inexperienced managers may also assume ad-versary roles to cover their ignor-ance rather than finding ways to work with the company. I would rather you had a manager with whom I already have a good wor-king relationship because, hope-fully, our problems have already been worked out, or at least we’ve learned how to argue with each other. So, if you have an in-experienced manager, I’d try to hook him/her up in a co-manage-ment situation with a successful manager so that he/she could learn and you wouldn’t have to suffer from his/her inexperience. (hope-fully). Otherwise, I’d rather you didn’t have one, so I could help you find a good one.

The Producer – If the tape I first listened to was a finished master recording, ready for the radio and was produced by a pro-ducer with a successful track record it gives me another way to hype you to radio, press, etc., as well as insuring that the rest of the product will be competently pro-duced. With a successful producer as part of the package, it isn’t even necessary to bring me fin-ished masters, just demos of ex-ceptional songs and performances. If you bring demos produced by yourself or an unproven producer I have no way of knowing that I’ll get a well-produced finished product. In that case, I’ll want to hear a finished master before I decide or I’ll want you to find a producer who I know can deliver it. If you’re already signed to a producer I believe to be in-competent, then I know I’ll have a sticky legal problem to deal with. Your producer should know your strengths and weaknesses and have a plan for how he/she will produce you to make you as commercially viable as possible. It’s interesting to note that more than 90% of the deals made are producer/artist packages known as all-in deals.

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Archive Highlight: The American Song Festival Songwriter’s Handbook by John Braheny (1982)

“People mailed cassettes (!) to the American Song Festival  offices in LA where they held regular listening sessions with groups of music publishers and producers, voting on each song, depending on their genre. John Braheny was one of the many industry judges (pop music).  All of us looked forward to the annual ASF awards party, where we could see just about anyone in the music biz, like at the Grammys, only not as dressy! The ASF wanted to have a little gift, a premium, to send out to songwriters when the contestants entered the contest, so John wrote “The Songwriters Handbook.” Later people remarked to him that they saw this booklet as ‘the single’ which introduced his ‘album’ (his much bigger book which followed, “The Craft and Business of Songwriting”). This little how-to book was very popular… Jon Iger, president of the Arizona Songwriters Assn., gave away these booklets to each new member…and still talks about it!” — JoAnn Braheny

“When I first began writing lyrics, I was told about this festival and then a friend took me to a celebration party.  I was hooked.  I entered the very next year and won a 1/4 finalist and a semi finalist in a lyric competition.  From that point on I was winning category finalist and money and I didn’t stop entering until the festival ended, finally winning 5 categories and a grand prize.  It was a thrilling introduction to the music industry and enabled me to land a staff-writing job with Motown.”  — K.A. Parker

“The ASF back then was a lot like “The Voice” is now for singers, but it was an annual national songwriters’ competition. It was great fun and resulted in encouraging songwriters everywhere  to continue to learn and grow. It was a goal to aim for.” — Jill (Frisbee) Brandt Gain, former Co-Director, American Song Festival

ASF Songwriter s Handbook 0 Cover

Accession Number: JD000000145, Publication/Digital File, “The American Song Festival Songwriter’s Handbook by John Braheny (1982)

Read The American Song Festival Songwriter’s Handbook by John Braheny (1982)booklet in PDF format

From The American Song Festival Songwriter’s Handbook…

“THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

If you didn’t feel you had a flair for lyrics and/or music already, you wouldn’t have entered the American Song Festival and wouldn’t be reading this now. I don’t believe you can get talent from a book but I do know that there are a lot of tricks of the trade that can help that talent blossom a lot sooner than it would in the “school of hard knocks.” I hope this book will help you in the following ways.

1. Show you some options that may not have occurred to you. Maybe you never knew anyone who wrote songs, or if you did, you never asked them how they did it. In over 400 interviews that my partner, Len Chandler, and I have had with music industry people, including many hit songwriters and producers, we’ve discovered that there are lots of successful ways to write great songs. New writers tend to either want to have a simple ABC formula for writing a successful song or to only trust their instincts and not want to mess with their process by learning anything about their craft from anyone else. Both are a big mistake because they’re self-limiting. Creativity and craft are both essential ingredients in successful songs.

2. Give you some basic principles to go by. I hate to talk in terms of rules because if you’re creative you’ll be breaking them and you must be creative. For everything I say in this booklet that may remotely sound like a rule, there is an exception somewhere, either because an established writer/artist was commercially powerful enough to get away with poor craftsmanship or because the writer had the craftsmanship to violate one rule in favor of another rule of greater importance, to fulfill the needs of a song. It seems like a good rule, for example, never to precede the first chorus by three verses, until you look at Don Schlitz’s “The Gambler” (a hit for Kenny Rogers) or Henley & Frey’s “Lyin’ Eyes” (a hit for the Eagles). Breaking the rule works in these songs because the listener is pro-pelled forward so relentlessly by the strong visual imagery and the quickly unfolding story that it would be a mistake to have the chorus earlier. The need of the song is to keep the listener interested and it’s accomplished brilliantly in both these songs.

What I’ll deal with here are some generalizations and in-sights that are based on the odds. I’ll discuss the most com-=mow monly successful forms, approaches and considerations.”

Read The American Song Festival Songwriter’s Handbook by John Braheny (1982)booklet in PDF format

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Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 4: What Makes This Act Marketable? by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know - Part 4: What Makes This Act Marketable?

Accession Number: C000000137-012 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: What A Record Company Needs to Know: Part 3 by John Braheny, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine: What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 4: What Makes This Act Marketable? by John Braheny

Music Connection
February 1 – 14, 1979

Songmine by John Braheny
What a Record Company Needs to Know – Part 4: What Makes This Act Marketable?

So far, as a record company executive, I’ve talked about the value of a writer/artist package, what I want to hear musically and what I’d like to see. Now I have to assess how, if I sign you, I’m going to make people aware of you. It’s easier for me if you’re the brother or sister of somebody famous, though after the curious-ity of the first album wears off, you’d better be able to deliver something substantial and very much your own. It’s also great if you know Linda Ronstadt or any-one else who’s famous and likes to help their friends. That in itself doesn’t get you signed, but it does give me something to talk about.

That’s what I need: P.R. potential! “He/She ‘has been in the background as a musician (Clapton, Hendrix, Glen Camp-bell), a singer (Rita Coolidge, Cher, Nicolette Larson) or a writer (there are legion) and is now coming up front to make his/her own music.” That’s a good hook for us because there may be a bunch of people out there who actually remember you when you were doing whatever you were doing in the background or on stage with the more notorious folks. If not, then maybe we can arouse their curiousity by associa-tion. “Oh yeah, if he played with him, who I really dig, it must be something like it, only different. I’d probably get off on it.”

Beyond all those old, familiar P.R. approaches, which I guess, at least in the beginning, are probably as good as any, I want to look for things about you personally that enhance the mystique; they reveal you as a human being of substance, morbid interest, virtue or character, or ideally, all of the above. Eddie Money was a cop. You have to say, “Hey, what kind of a great rock ‘n’ roll singer was a cop?” or vice-versa. It’s a great interview opener.

Beyond all those old, familiar P.R. approaches, which I guess, at least in the beginning, are probably as good as any, I want to look for things about you personally that enhance the mystique; they reveal you as a human being of substance, morbid interest, virtue or character, or ideally, all of the above.

Can you speak well and confidently and do you have something interesting or funny to say. If not, I’ll make sure Johnny Carson doesn’t invite you to talk to him after you sing and that you don’t do interviews. If you have a strong or well-articulated opinion, on the other hand, I might want you to be interviewed, unless I thought that your views were directly opposite those of your audience. For example, how would Joni Mitchell have fared if she had thought it was wonderful for us to be in Viet Nam and took every opportunity to say so?

Do you have an unusual or interesting bachground that will inrigue people? Jail and the funny farm have always been interesting, unless you were in jail for mugging old ladies or moles-ting children instead of something heroic, like smuggling 20 tons of Columbian into the country.

Have you had some kind of previous success that we could use for P.R.? Were you part of a successful group? The writer of a well-known hit? Do you have an interesting and flamboyant per-sonality or hang out in social circles that automatically attract attention from the press?

Those things are important in that they give us “hooks” that we can use to let people know about you, and the press needs that knid of stuff to work with. More important though, is the market-ability of the music itself. It’s important that the music have a unity of style such that, when we do find the audience, you’re the same artist from album to album.

Writer/artists frequently ask if record companies like to hear stylistic variety. “I can write country, R&B, pop, anything! Why don’t I give them a little of each and see what they pick up on?” That’s commendable if you want to be a staff songwriter, but a record company will have to say, “Rut really, who are you?” If country music is what you write and perform best and enjoy most, what’s the point in trying to market you as an R&B artist and release an R&B single on you? If it takes off, are you going to be trying to sell half an album of country tunes to a rock or R&B audience, or vice versa? So, as you can see, it becomes a market-ing problem. Of course, we don’t want all your music to sound the same and we do want you to grow, we just need for you to have developed your style to the point where you’re the same, identi-fiable artist from one album to the next.

Next time – Attorneys, managers and agents: Your Team.

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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Songmine: What A Record Company Needs to Know : Part 3 by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: What A Record Company Needs to Know - Part 3

Accession Number: C000000137-011 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: What A Record Company Needs to Know: Part 3 by John Braheny, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine: What A Record Company Needs to Know: Part 3 by John Braheny

Music Connection

January 18-31, 1979

What a Record Company Needs to Know Part 3
John Braheny

I’m pretending to be a record company again this time, asking the questions I’ll need answered to my satisfaction before signing you, a writer/artist, to my label. Many of the same questions relate to you as a non-writing artist, too. My information comes from my experiences as a student of the industry. I’ve been a recording artist, I’ve attended and taped hundreds of seminars, read the trade magazines, and with my partner, Len Chandler, conducted over 300 interviews with music industry professionals at the Alternative Chorus Songwriter’s Showcase. Among those pros have been many of the record company executives who make the decisions about signing new talent.

Last time, I talked about where I was coming from as a record company executive. My bottom line question has to be, “Can my company make money on this act?” Other re-lated questions are, “Will this act enhance the prestige, and contribute to the image, of the company?” and, “Will I be a hero or lose my gig on the success or failure of this act?” For all those reasons, I need to ask the right questions and get the right answers. I was talking about what I knew I needed to hear on the tape I received, so now let’s assume that I liked what I heard. I thought the songs had commercial potential and the performance was excellent. Those are really the basics. Now I also have to ask another series of questions, not necessarily in order of importance, but all, nonetheless, very significant. –

1) How is your live performance? It would impress me to know that you had spent a few years as a live performer. I’d like to see some great reviews of your performances, preferably by recognized critics (your high school or college paper won’t quite do). But most of all, I want you to do it to a tough audience. Not one where all your friends are stacking the house.

2) I’ll want you to be visually interesting (if you’re good looking it helps, but isn’t necessary), move and speak confidently (remember that we process and retain more information with our eyes that our ears, which is one reason we can sell a lot of records to people who attend your concerts), and have a good sense of you personal identity. I want, as the audience, to go away from your performance with a feeling that I know who you are and I like you, or that you’ve given me enough pieces of yourself in your musical and visual presentation, to create an intriguing mystery that makes me want to know who you are. Sometimes the mystery is more delicious, but you do have to make me care.

3) If I’m watching a group I want to see you involved and interacting with each other, not all standing there like robots, each in your own little world.

4) I want to know you’re giving me something and enjoying it. Live performance bears a lot of similarity to making love; you have to have a sense of drama and dynamics in your movement, choreographed or not. Your choice of songs and their placement in the set, your arrangements and the way you dress (uniform or not) should all be appealing.

5) I’ll want to see that the things I liked on tape can be reproduced live. I don’t expect to see an orchestra, but the basics have to be there. For example, if a significant degree of your appeal to me is based on your group vocal sound, I’d better hear it in your live performance.

6) I want to know that, ideally, I’m dealing with an experienced professional performer who knows and under-stands (and accepts) the hardships of the road and loves to perform. I know that in spite of TV exposure and hit records, there’s no substitute, in the eyes of fans (and potential fans), for the magic of a great live performance. Live performance sells a lot of records and is a great marketing tool for us. It gives us reviews we can use and something for local DJs and fans to talk about. It gives you the contact with your audience so you’ll know what they like about you. It gives you a kind of high that can’t be duplicated and, even if it sometimes takes a couple of years, it provides a major source of income, particularly for non-writing group members.

To be continued next time…

Previously in the Songmine Collection:

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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