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

A John Braheny Songmine column from the archives…

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

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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.


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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