Archive | Songmine

Songmine: Collaboration Part 3: Getting Down to Business by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

 Songmine: Collaboration Part 3: Getting Down to Business by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-028-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Collaboration Part II: Meeting Your Match”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

COLLABORATION PART III: Getting Down To Business by John Braheny

Let’s assume that you’ve found a lyricist and/or composer whose words or music feels like the magic ingredient you need to write great songs. The tendency is to want to get to it right away and see if you’re really compatible. First thing you know you’ve got a fantastic song. Then you say “Great, let’s find a publisher!” Your partner says “Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you— I’ve got my own publishing company so I’d like to publish the song.” At that point the song may be in trouble. You may rightfully ask whether your partner’s company is capable of properly exploiting the song. Does he have the connections to get the song recorded? If not, you’re better off not having a publisher at all than to have the song tied up so that no one else may have the financial incentive to try to place the tune. You might ask that if he doesn’t get it recorded in six months or a year, that he give up his publishing interest and you look for a publisher together. You might also set up your own company and split the publishing, but jointly agree to the above reversion clause or agree to bring in a third publisher and you both give an equal share (or all of it) to the new party.

Another scenario is that you have this super song that a publisher gets interested in but you wrote the song with someone last year and since you had no agreement, you can’t assign his share of the ownership of the copyright to the publisher. You haven’t seen your collaborator since you wrote the song and can’t find him. The publisher, fearful of future legal problems, decides not to publish it. If you had, on paper, granted the power of attorney to each other, you could have put that publisher at ease. A real basic consideration is what kind of a split you do on the song. Your collaborator may have supplied a title for a song but you wrote the rest of it. You might feel you did most of the work and should get 90 percent of the money. Your partner may feel that without the title, which supplied the premise, there wouldn’t be a song. You may both be right but that kind of bickering could destroy a very promising collaborative effort. It’s generally agreed that if you get together with the intention of writing a song or to establish an on-going writing relationship, you do a 50/50 split. It’s a pretty straightforward arrangement in any case if one of you is a lyricist and the other writes music. It tends to get a little touchy if each of you write music and lyrics. There’s more room for argument about who contributed the most. That’s why it’s best to agree on 50/50 ahead of time. I’m sure that on some of the Lennon/McCartney tunes, one contributed more than the other on individual songs but they just didn’t want to fight over it every time.

Here are some more situations that sometimes come up: 1. You’ve written the song and you take it to someone else to “tighten it up” and that person contributes a new hook or changes the direction of the song. 2. You take your song to an artist who wants to “personalize” it and changes something. For this he wants writer’s credit. 3. A publisher suggests changes and wants a writer’s credit. Generally speaking we feel that this is the publisher’s job and he shouldn’t get writer’s credit for it. This, of course, would depend on how substantial the contribution is–and it can get a little touchy.

Aside from the considerations of who gets what, there are other problems that cause difficulties. Maybe you decide later that for some reason you want a new lyric or melody to a song you’ve already written with someone. Is it okay to change? Not without his/her permission. What if your melody writer wants a new foreign language lyric. Do you still get paid?

All these potential problems point up the need for collaborators to get all the business straight before they get into the music. There are few things more frustrating than knowing you’ve written a winner but can’t do anything with it. Next time — The Musical Relationship.

MARCH 6 — MARCH 19

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.


0

Songmine: Collaboration Part II: Meeting Your Match by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Jb C000000137 028 001

Accession Number: C000000137-028-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Collaboration Part II: Meeting Your Match”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine BY JOHN BRAHENY

COLLABORATION PART II: MEETING YOUR MATCH

Last time I talked about some of the reasons that people look for co-writers. This time it’s how and where to look.

At best, no matter how you go about it, you’ll have the same odds on finding the perfect collaborator right away as you’d have walking into a singles’ bar and finding someone you’d end up marrying. The two situations have a lot in common. You’re dealing with a whole range of personalities, personal habits, expectations, previous experiences, egos and lifestyles. With collaborators you can add musical and literary influences, business know-how and aggressiveness. There are a few ways to get started and narrow the odds. Like a singles’ bar, you go to where other people are looking too. You put an ad in a music-oriented periodical like Music Connection, Songwriter Magazine or The Overture (Musicians’ Union.) Putting an ad in a city paper or the Recycler or similar papers is getting one step further away. Another good bet is to make little signs that you can put up on bulletin boards in music stores, record stores, the Musicians’ Union or clubs that feature your kind of music. It’s also not a bad idea to put your signs on college music department bulletin boards, particularly if you’re a lyricist.

The ad or sign should include the styles you’re most at home with, the instrument(s) you play, your favorite lyricists/composers and your credits, if any. If you’re looking for a lyricist and you’re in a working band, have a production deal, your own publishing, or have an exclusive publishing deal, mention that too. This tells the pro lyricists that the lyrics aren’t going to lie in limbo indefinitely.

Another approach is through professional organizations. SRS (Songwriters Resources and Services-213 463-7178) has a collaboration service for members. ACSS (Alternative Chorus Songwriters Showcase-213 655-7780) has a “lyric shelf” where lyricists can leave copies of their work and composers can look through them. They’re not allowed to take them but may write down names and numbers of lyricists they’d like to contact. This gives the composer an opportunity to see the lyrics first and avoid the face-to-face rejection process which is always one of the discomforts involved in trying to find both a mate and a collaborator. MCS (Musicians Contact Service-213 467-2191, 714 776-8240) now has composer/lyricist listings in addition to putting musicians and groups together. There’s a fee involved. AGAC (American Guild of Authors & Composers-213 462-1108) also has lyricist/composer listings for different regions of the country. They; re for members only.

Workshops, showcases and clubs are also good ways to meet collaborators. You have an opportunity to hear someone’s lyrics and music without any kind of commitment. You may hear a singer/songw.riter whose music is excellent but the lyrics are weak or vice versa. You might, without being critical, ask them if they would consider collaboration. There’s definitely an advantage in writing with someone who’s out there exposing those songs to the public and the industry.

Try to meet as many people in all areas of the industry as possible. Publishers, though they seldom sign staff lyricists, often like to know of good lyricists that they can hook up with good composers they know of or with other writers on their staffs. Producers may be working with groups that are lyrically weak and would like to know how to find an appropriate lyricist. Recording engineers are also good contacts. Try to meet people personally. Lyrics or music alone sent in the mail are almost never listened to.

If you’re going to be leaving tapes, lead sheets or lyric sheets with anyone, make sure they’ve been protected by registration (try SRS) or copyright, and include the SRS label or copyright notice with the date on each page ( ©or copyright 1980, John Doe.) If you later have the song published, the date should be changed to the publication date. Don’t ever let a tape, lead sheet or lyric out of your hands without your name, address and phone number on every page. You should also keep a list of everyone who has copies of your work.

Next time we’ll discuss how to make a collaboration work and some possible legal problems.

FEBRUARY 21 – MARCH 5

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: Collaboration: Why two heads are better than one by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Collaboration: Why two heads are better than one by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-027-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Collaboration: Why two heads are better than one by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine by John Braheny

Collaboration: Why two heads are better then one

A substantial number of the world’s greatest songs are the reult of writing as a team. There are some very good reasons why writers choose to collaborate.

1. A writer may have more talent as a lyricist than a composer vice versa. The big question is, “How do I know?” Obviously, if you’re a good lyricist but only marginally musical you should look a composer. Less obvious are situations in which you know you have a good lyric but have fooled yourself into believing that you can write a good melody. Your ego may need to see that “words and music by…” line at the top of the page, or maybe you’re just greedy. You need to look for feedback and pay attention to it. Many talented musician/arrangers can put together the music but don’t feel the lyrics are important enough to warrant a collaborator. This may work in a situation where the writer leads a group with a record deal and a unique sound. This was, in fact, the norm with disco, however we also saw that disco tunes like “I Will Survive” ade a lot more money as a song in which the lyric had a universal peal. Even Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, to his credit, decided to collaborate with lyricist Allee Willis to increase the aleady fantastic appeal of his records.

2. Writers often tend to get trapped in their own musical and lyrical cliches and a collaborator can supply fresh ideas. You pick your guitar and your fingers automatically go through a familiar, comfortable set of changes, type of chord, picking style or rhythm pattern. Out of these established patterns come melodies much like those you’ve written before and at times you realize they’re exactly the same. You’re now in a rut. You either decide to get a chord book and work out some new chords and progressions, listen to the radio and cop some new rhythm feels or find a collaborator whose style you like.

3. It disciplines your writing habits to plan to write with someone else. Lots of people seem to function best on deadlines and always wait until the last minute, meanwhile thinking up all kinds of other projects like cleaning the house (“I can’t possibly create in a dirty house,”) restringing your guitar or tuning your piano. Len Chandler refers to these diversions as “sharpening pencils.” I think that in some mysterious way, this common avoidance syndrome is a way of signalling and priming the subconscious to start getting to work on the project at hand. At the eleventh hour when you have to do it, there’s a signal to the subconscious from the brain that says “now give it to me!” and you start doing it. The problem is that many writers will avoid it together if there are no deadlines. Those who function best on that kind of ‘crisis’ basis but want to be productive, make sure to create real deadlines. They promise a producer they’ll write him/her a song by next week and set up an appointment to play the song. Or they find a collaborator and plan on a regular day to get together and write. They know that they’ll have to come up with some ideas to work on before that deadline and, that subconscious preparation process will even have a longer time to operate if it knows that every week (or every day) that deadline will arrive.

4. A partner will furnish constant feedback and critique. You’re stuck for a rhyme and you’re anxious to finish the song. You put together the first thing to come into your head so you can start playing the song. You say What the hell, it’s okay, I’ve hear stuff on the radio that rhymes ‘rain’ with ‘again.’ Maybe some British guy will cut it.” A conscientious collaborator is there to say “WRONG! Let’s see if we can find something else.” Maybe you’re a lyricist and your collaborator is a singer and can say, “I’ll want to hold this note in the melody so could use another word instead of ‘garbage?'” Obviously it can keep your quality high and help you both grow commercially and artistically.

Next issue: Finding a collaborator


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: Tips for the Hard Core Showcaser by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Tips for the Hard Cor Showcaser by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-027-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Tips for the Hard Core Showcaser by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine by John Braheny

Tips !or The Hard core Showcaser

The first thing to ask yourself in preparing for an audition or showcase is: What’s the purpose of this performance? If it’s to get a gig in a club, here are the questions to ask. What does the club owner want? All current Top 40 stuff? Top 40 standards? Top 40 with some originals? Who is the club’s audience? Under 18? A singles’ bar drinking crowd? Pick a club that wants the kind of music you enjoy playing or you’re wasting your time. The audience won’t like you and the gig will get old very fast. The attitude “we’ll make them dig what we do” is admirably ambitious but chances are the owner knows the audience better than you do.

If you’re auditioning for record companies, it’s imperative that you perform primarily original material. They’re not interested in the way you do “Proud Mary.” If you’re working a Top 40 gig, make sure to check with the owner to see if you can throw in a set made up predominantly of originals to play when you know the company reps will be there. Make sure the companies know what time you’ll be doing your original set. Hopefully, you’ve developed a mailing list of music industry people who should be invited. Get handbills printed. If you’re workirig a regular gig at the cluI, try to get the owner to kick in some bucks for the handbills. Tell him you’ll distribute them. Hopefully, you’re working at a club that has a mailing list of it’s own. If not, try to get the club owner to put one together by having his patrons sign a list. If they like you, they’ll then know when you’re playing there again.

If you’re doing a one shot, one night showcase at a club you haven’t played before: 1)Make sure your appearance is listed on their mailer if the club has one. 2)Check with the people who run the showcase for any tips that will help you come off well in their club. Remember, they’ve seen lots of acts win or lose in their place and that perspective can be very valuable to you. 3)If there is a house P.A. system, speak to whomever runs it. Generally, if you have a sound person you work with regularly (who knows your music) and the house system is adequate, it’s better for him or her to work with the club’s sound person who’s used to getting the best sound out of the room. If the house sound system isn’t adequate and you bring in your own, the procedure is riskier. Your sound person had better be one who doesn’t operate by rote and can tailor the sound output to the room with the right E.Q. (treble/bass adjustments) and speaker placement and who is willing to accept advice from the club’s sound person. I’ve seem some good groups empty the house because they wouldn’t listen to advice and played too loudly for the room. Volume must be tailored according to the size and shape of the room and whether the walls are reflective or absorbent. If you’re doing a record company showcase, being able to hear clean vocals is important, so start there and mix around it. 4)Make sure you have a sound check to work out all the problems and to set your instrument levels. 5)Show up on time for sound checks and performances. 6)Be cooperative to everyone at the club, including the waitresses. It’s the difference between coming back to the club or not, and having the employees tell everyone to come and see you or telling everyone you’re losers. 7)Talk with the owner about guest lists and guest policies beforehand so you’ll know where you and your guests stand. This will avoid bad scenes created at the door with your guests who you want to be in a receptive state of mind toward your group. 8)Dress with some conscious thought about how you look as a group, on stage. No matter what you decide to wear, make it a calculated choice rather than looking like you just got off work as a mechanic and didn’t bring along a change. 9)Plan your sets carefully, considering the length of the set, pacing, and where you should place your strongest material. Generally, if you have a potential hit single or other very commercial material, begin and end with it. If you’re going to be the last set, put it at the beginning of your performance. Record people frequently have other places to go and are anxious to leave. If you play a couple of less commercial tunes to open with and think you’ll ‘finish strong,’ you’ll find when you hit the heavy ones that they have already gone. 10)Make sure all information concerning the showcase is conveyed to the whole group. Good luck!!

JANUARY 24 – FEBRUARY 6

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: Looking at the 80’s Part Two by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Looking at the 80's Part Two by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-026-002 Document/Digital File, “Looking at the 80’s Part Two”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

JANUARY 10 – JANUARY 23

Songmine
Looking At The 80’s by John Braheny

PART TWO

Last issue I wrote about the effect of audio-visual technology on performers. There are some products and developments we can look forward to in the 80’s that will influence both our time and ability to be creative.Mass manufacture of miniature electronic circuitry has given us progressively more compact and less expensive toys. We see capitalism at its best in the intense competition to bring us the smallest, most versatile, high performance, reasonably priced electronic gadgetry the world has seen,and it’s only beginning.Here are some more innovations:

Personal computers — Fifteen years ago if someone said they had their own computer at home I would have visualized an enormous machine costing a million dollars with lots of people feeding it programs and data. Now you can go to Radio Shack and get one the size of a typewriter for $600.00 (last time I looked) and the competition among manufacturers is heavy. People are now learning computer programming like they learned to type and are turning out lots of valuable programs (software) for every conceivable use. Among the musicians developing computer programs is Jim Gordon who will be interviewed at the Songwriters Showcase on February 6. Jim has created a program to help in composing film scores which does the conversions from feet and frames to seconds and computes click track timing and bars of music necessary. He’s also created one to figure out recording budgets. If you can’t type and have difficulty in math it will save you hours of work. There is a music writing program available that plays the notes as you press the typewriter-styled keys so you can hear and see the note simultaneously. This would allow writers to store melodies they create — a definite advantage if you’re a terrible singer. There is another side benefit to this type of program. As you continue to use it you gradually learn to write the music yourself and don’t have to wait to get to your computer.The range of possibilities for useful programs is limited only by your imagination and programming skill.

Communications Satellites — More and more companies are either putting in orbit their own satellites or leasing access to existing ones. There is now some controversy brewing about some cable TV stations who, by virtue to their access to satellites, can beam their shows over half the earth. This is upsetting to the major networks because it’s possible for a little station somewhere in Iowa to reach as many people as NBC. They can also do it very cheaply and the cost of both the earth stations and satellites is dropping fast. There is fantastic potential for performers because there are so many unused cable channels available and therefore plenty of opportunity for new and established artists to be heard and seen. It would be possible to have a new talent channel that would continuously showcase new acts. Imagine calling a booking agent in Chicago or Podunk and saying, “I’ll be in your area in a couple of months and I’d like to play your circuit. I’ll be on the talent network at 2 p.m. your time. Have a look and call me back.” On the other end the booker checks out your show or, if he’s busy, he sets up his programmable video cassette recorder to tape it automatically, then he shows it to club owners to get you gigs in his area. You can see the possibilities are mind-boggling. Plays and musical theatre pieces could find backers and producers; songwriters and publishers could pitch songs; producers could shop acts; etc., etc.

There’s much more to these new developments than I have space to deal with here. If you’re interested I’d like to recommend a book called “The Wired Society—A Challenge for Tomorrow” by the world’s foremost systems author, James Martin. It’s a brilliant and visionary book that explores the future ramifications of the telecommunications revolution. After reading it your mind will be buzzing with ways these changes will benefit you as a performer. It will make you look forward to the 80’s with hope and excitement!

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: Looking at the 80’s Part One by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Looking at the 80's Part One by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-026-001 Document/Digital File, “Publishing Yourself: Developing a Filing System”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

DECEMBER 20 — JANUARY 9

Songmine by John Braheny

Looking At The 80’s Part One

The 70’s have shown us glimpses of what we can expect in the 80’s. Some of the most exciting developments include the further miniaturization and mass production of integrated circuits (IC chips) and other electronic components and the advancement of audio-vi-sual technology. Here’s a look at some new developments and how they affect performers and songwriters.

The new video recorder/playback machine is getting more and more sophisticated. We now get more time per tape, easier programming in our absence and therefore more convenience. A more recent product is the videodisc. It takes up less storage space than video tape, is indestructable, has quality which doesn’t suffer with repeated use and is cheap. The major problem with the disc, which I’m sure is an inventor’s priority now, is that you can’t record on it. For a songwriter or recording artist there’s an obvious advantage to not being able to home record on videodisc. It means you’ll get paid for your performance or for the use of the song through the sale of the disc and, assuming people don’t have a video tape recorder, your Rock Concert or Midnight Special performance (assuming they’re still around) won’t be taped at home.

The subject of how performers will be affected by mass video merchandising of their performances is fraught with many legal and career questions. Will an artist get over-exposed? Will people wtill go to concerts if they can be seen at home on a big screen without using the gas or spending the ticket money? If fewer people go to concerts will promoters have to raise prices? Will artists stop touring and spend the time and money cranking out new and exciting audio-visual product? I don’t think a live performance will ever be replaced as a social event. There will be more pressure on performers though to do shows that are not carbon copies of their video performances. The more unpredictable the performers, the more people will look forward to seeing them. On the other hand I suppose it could be argued that people are disappointed if an artist doesn’t sound the same in his/her live performance as on record. Time will tell.

There are some special benefits which certain types of performers will reap in this video evolution. It’s very frustrating to hear record execs say, “He’s too cabaret, a club performer. It’d never work in concert.” Most of the time I think that’s just another excuse but in some cases I’m sure there is some validity in it. Maybe a performer has a subtle kind of intimacy with an audience, an expressive face that communicates strongly up close but is lost past the first 20 rows. Video projections have been used in concerts with great effect but it’s often difficult to get good angles on the artist without interferring with audience sightlines. Video tapes or discs that are studio produced, possibly with live audiences, would be a great avenue of exposure for this type of artist.

There are also many writer/artists who are charismatic, exciting performers but who don’t write songs that are mainstream pop/MOR/disco/Top 40 in style. Their songs may not come across well on record and may not contain the dynamics necessary for AM radio songs to be successful. They may have a limited audience by virtue of an as yet unpopularized point of view. Record companies are rarely inspired to gamble on that type of artist even though they’re great live performers. The hope of videodiscs is that artists who communicate as much with their bodies and personal magnetism as they do with their songs can gain the exposure they need to be able to build profitable careers. Comedians would obviously benefit from audio-visual presentations. Performers who like to mix graphic images and dance with their shows could do mind-blowing effects using new video technology.

Despite all the downers happening in the world as we head into the 80’s it’s still possible to maintain optimism and excitement about the fantastic playground we’re building for artists. More about it next issue.

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: Publishing Yourself: Developing a Filing System by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Publishing Yourself: Developing a Filing System by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-025-002 Document/Digital File, “Publishing Yourself: Developing a Filing System”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine by John Braheny

PUBLISHING YOURSELF: Developing a filing system

If you plan to be actively “plugging” your own songs it’s important to keep track of what’s going on. You’ll need to develop a list of producers and recording artists for whom your songs may be appropriate. Keep a running file on each of them so that every time you make contact you can note who they’re producing (for producers), what type of material they need for the upcoming LP, where they’re recording, what kind of demos they prefer, whether they usually ask for a percentage of publishing, etc.

Info on the artist should include vocal range, what style he/she prefers and information about personal idiosyncracies like “hates sexist songs” or “positive lyrics only.” This information can be obtained from the producer, consumer and trade magazines, radio and TV interviews or, if you’re more fortunate, from the artist.

It’s also wise to keep a record of personal items about the producer, such as “plays golf,” “anti-nuke activist,” “just had a baby,” “going to England in August,” etc. This type of info is useful in all businesses where personal contact is important. It allows you an instant recap and reminder when you call them or set up a meeting, gives you an idea for opening conversation to break the ice, and lets them know that you’re concerned about them as people. It doesn’t take the place of having good songs, though, since many producers have little time for “small talk” and are best served by a brief presentation of your material. It can, however, create a better climate for you to get feedback on your songs and help you develop as both writer and publisher.

After every meeting or phone call notes should be made regarding the outcome, such as “loved ‘Don’t Take It Away,’ doesn’t feel it’s right for (artist) but wants to keep the tape for future reference – remind him,” “didn’t like ‘Do It Again’ but maybe if the hook was stronger – rewrite,” “will be producing (artist) in Sept. -start writing.” Aside from those personal notes, keep another file on the songs. It should tell you who has demos on each of them, when they received the demos, dates of follow-up calls and what was discussed or decided, etc. The value of these records will become apparent after you’ve called about 30 producers and are preparing for another call or visit when you discover you can’t remember whether it was producer X or Y who hates cassettes or whether he’s already “passed” on the song you intend to present.

You should also have a ready file of lead sheets and tape copies on all the songs you’re currently pitching so you don’t need to delay if someone asks you for a copy.

It’s a good idea to have 3X5 cards with you at all times so you can write down any info you pick up on the street. The cards are better than little scraps of paper or matchbook covers because they don’t get lost as easily and are easily filed. The street information you pick up is usually about who’s recording now or a new producer with an unknown act who might give you the opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

For tax purposes make sure you keep track of all expenses incurred in doing business. They include lunches (must be documented as business), demo costs, tape copies, lead sheets, trade magazines, night-clubbing (looking for new talent), auto expenses, telephone calls, all musical instrument purchases and repairs, sound equipment, records and tapes (to keep up with what’s happening).

Remember that all of this takes a lot of discipline but once you get in the habit it becomes easier. If you don’t get in the habit you could seriously jeopardize your chances of success.

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: Administration Deals & Starting Your Own Company by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Administration Deals & Starting Your Own Company by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-025-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Administration Deals & Starting Your Own Company by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine by John Braheny

Administration Deals & Starting Your Own Company

I. PUBLISHING ADMINISTRATION- If you have a catalogue of recorded works or a record deal as a writer/artist or group, and want to set up your own company, you’d do well to shop for an administration situation. You need to already have some recording action happening because an administrator doesn’t own any of your copyrights (one of the advantages), and depends on the 15% of the songs’ income as a fee. If there is nothing to generate income, they receive nothing for their paperwork. Administrators do the following things to varying degrees: (1.( The paperwork and negotiations of granting recording and synchronization licenses (film/T.V.) and registering copyrights. (2.) Digging up royalties that you may never have received from previous recordings of your songs. (3.) Sub-publishing – setting up publishing or administration affiliates in foreign countries who can pitch your songs locally and assist in royalty collections there. (4.) Collecting money in the U.S. and Canada from record companies. Some affiliate with the Harry Fox Collection Agency and some do the collections themselves. Fox gets three and a half percent. (5.) Pitch your songs to producers and artists. Some administrators won’t do this at all and are basically acocunting firms. Others consider that the more action they generate on your catalogue, the bigger their 15% becomes and since they don’t own any of the publishing rights, they can’t look down the road and say, “Someday this tune will get recorded and make me a lot of money.” They’re working for you on maybe a two year contract and need to make these songs pay off now. (6). Follow-up – if you’re being your own publisher and making the contacts with producers or artists but want to preserve the friendships without having to negotiate with or hassle your friends with follow-ups, the administrator should handle it. If an administrator wants more than ‘15% you should be assured that you’ll receive more benefits and they should be able to explain them thoroughly to you. Please shop those deals. BMI or ASCAP can refer you to a list of administration companies.

II. STARTING YOUR OWN PUBLISHING COMPANY- Assuming that you feel your best play of action is to start your own company, here’s how to proceed: (1). You must have a song recorded and a release date of the record in order for BMI or ASCAP to process the paperwork. They adopted that policy because thousands of people wanted their own companies but never had a recording; consequen-tly, no airplay, nothing to collect and a lot of wasted time and effort on their part. (2.) Clear publishing company titles with BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC. Remember that you can’t have a company with the same name affiliated with more than one performance rights organization. Unless you intend to publish the songs of other writers who may belong to other performance rights organizations, you need only set up a company with the one you’re affiliated with as a writer. Give them three alternate titles. Pick something unusual. Remem-ber, they have thousands. (3.) Once the name has been cleared, call the Metropolitan News, 205 South Broadway, L.A., Calif. 90012, 213 628-4384, and ask them to send you the forms for a DBA (Doing Business As.) They will send you the forms and tell you how to pay for it (the total cost is $35.00), then they will print, in a local paper, a notice that you’re doing business under the fictitious name of ‘Crass Commercial Publishing Co.’ or whatever the name is. (4.) Copyright the songs being recorded in the name of your publishing company and get all the forms you need from BMI or ASCAP, whichever you’re affiliated with. They’ll explain their use. (5.) If you know that you will be hiring people to work for you, then you will have to go to the Internal Revenue Service and get a business tax number. Also be sure to contact the State Board of Human Resources and get a State and Federal tax number.

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: Tough Enough To Publish Yourself? by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

Songmine: Tough Enough To Publish Yourself? by John Braheny

Accession Number: C000000137-024-002 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: Tough Enough To Publish Yourself? by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

Songmine by John Braheny

TOUGH ENOUGH TO PUBLISH YOURSELF?

Let’s not debate the fairness of the traditional contract split that gives publishers 50 percent of the copyright on a song. That’s the way it always has been, and that’s the way it is. The fact is that a good publisher can do a lot for you given enough incentive, and that 50 percent is the incentive After all, this is the music business. Let’s look first at what the publisher can and should do for you.

1) Secure recordings of your songs in the United States.

2) Make sub-publishing deals with foreign publishers to get them recorded in other countries.

3)Collect your royalties from record companies and sheet music distributors.

4) Make deals for the sales of sheet music. If your song is a hit, there’s a good market in songbooks, choral and band arrangements.

5) Exploit your songs via airline tapes, commercials, and if the song is successful (don’t cringe) Muzak.

Now, let’s discuss the advantages of having your own publishing company. It’s important because that 50 percent could represent a lot of bread. On the other hand, 50 percent of zero of zero. We at ACSS talk to a lot of songwriters who just “want to own my own company.” Unless you have songs that are about to be recorded, it’s just an ego trip. MBI and ASCAP won’t do the paperwork or clear a name for your company unless you give them a release date on the recording. They found that they were doing tons of needless paperwork to set up companies that never secured a recording. So, you should have a more logical reason than just “wanting your own publishing outfit” if you’re actually going to do it. Here are a few:

1) You’re a good commercial songwriter whose tunes are very coverable and you already have a lot of contacts among producers and artists who’re interested in your songs. In other words, you’re in a position to fulfill a publisher’s major function: getting covers. You should be aware, though, that it takes a lot of time, and follow-up is very important. There are other qualities you should have if you want to do a good job on your own behalf.

You should have the ability to “sell” yourself. Some people sell represent others better than themselves. You should be an aggressive self-starter . You should have the ability to be both creator and businessperson. (Yes, it can be done, and yes, it’s a myth that creative artists always make poor business people.) You should have a great casting sense, that lets you present the right song to the right artist at the right time. Publishers’ reputations are built on their credibility. That’s what gets them back through those producers’ doors’ again.

2) You’re independently wealthy or have financial backing, you write coverable tunes and you can afford to hire someone with with experience and contacts to exploit your songs.

3) You have your own production company or record company and you’re releasing your own product.

4) You’re a recording artist and you’re recording your own songs, and therefore already doing a large share of what a publisher can do for you.

5)You’ve already written commercially successful songs, and it’s easy for you to get in those doors.

6) You’re writing with someone who does well as their own publisher, and you can negotiate a portion of the rights for your own company. If your co-writer is a staff writer with a major company, you’ll find this all but impossible.

7) You’re a writer/artist like Joni Mitchell or a punk band whose songs are unlikely to be recorded by other artists. So you don’t need a publisher.

If you honestly feel you can do a publisher’s job as well as he or she can, go for it. If you’re capable of hustling for yourself, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that someone with your best interests at heart is on the job. You won’t be constantly wondering whether the publisher is ‘sitting on your songs,’ or why he’s avoiding your calls. If someone is not on the case, you have only yourself to blame. Can you handle that?

Another alternative is an administration deal for 15 to 30 percent, depending on how much you want them to do. Next issue, I’ll discuss that species of deal and the mechanics of starting your own company.

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: The Nashville/LA Barrier Crumbles by John Braheny

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

The Nashville/LA Barrier Crumbles

Accession Number: C000000137-024-001 Document/Digital File, “Songmine: The Nashville/LA Barrier Crumbles by John Braheny”, OCR converted text under same Accession Number

(Digitally converted text. Some errors may occur)

OCTOBER 25 — NOVEMBER 7

Songmine by John Braheny

The Nashville/LA Barrier Crumbles

I recently returned from a trip to Nashville and Atlanta, and like some kind of musical sponge, I soaked up all the information I could hold about the current music scene in those places. At the invitation of Phil Black of the American Song Festival, I attended the party at which ASF announced the winners of their Country Professional and Country Amateur categories. For the first time, the ASF had done its country screening in Nashville, where they could utilize the best ears among country publishers, producers and artists. By doing so, the ASF hoped to avoid criticism regarding the ability of LA’s industry ears to judge country songs.

So, you can imagine that a few people were stunned when the winners were announced and both were from LA. Flip Black also indicated that the preponderance of semi-finalists were also from the West Coast, or at least, not from Nashville. Lest we become smug, let it be noted that the winner of the pop category was from Nashville.

What’s going on here? Those of us in LA who listen to a lot of new writers aren’t at all surprised to hear that some great country songs are written here. But its tough to be a country writer here, thanks to an antagonistic attitude between LA and Nashville that seems at last to be eroding. Nashville’s attitude was that an LA writer wouldn’t know a good country song if it was planted on his butt with a cowboy boot, and when LA writers try to write country it came out too pop or folky. There was so much of this kind of music a few years ago that it came to be called “California country.” Writers were going crazy because LA publishers were saying, “That’s too country for us, take it to Nashville.” And when they tried Nashville, publishers would say, “That’s too pop. Come back when you learn to write a real country song.”

Then along came crossover artists like Olivia Newton John, John Denver, the Eagles, Ronstadt and Kenny Rodgers. From the Nashville end, Crystal Gayle, Dolly Parton and other artists were attempting to cross over to the pop charts and thus double their sales and airplay dollars. What they needed, at that point, was exactly the kind of songs Nashville had been turning down.

Those ideal crossover tunes are still hard to find, but some doors are swinging open. Nashville producers are more receptive to West Coast writers, and there are now a handful of LA publishers who have established a lot of credibility there. Among them is Al Gallico, who’s always had credibility everywhere, Cliffie Stone at ATV, and Dude McLean at MCA. Major publishers like Chappell, Screen Gems/EMI and Warner Bros. also have offices in Nashville, to which they send country and crossover material.

The reverse is also true. Nashville writers turning out good pop tunes have had problems in the past finding publishers with good pop connections. Most pop producers recording in Nashville have already selected their songs in LA, and wouldn’t think of going to Nashville to find good pop tunes. I hope that in future those Nashville writers will find a good reception in this city, and that what happened at this year’s AFS is an indication that musical prejudices which keep writers from finding an audience are at last breaking down.

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

Website designed/maintained by Skyrocket Websites