A few words to songwriting beginners
I’d love to save you some time if I may. If you ever sit in front of your computer listening to the radio or watching TV and saying, “Shit, I could write that”, I have some news for you. Chances are, you can. But you you have to work at it. And you can do it the hard way or the easy way (no, I’m not selling you anything yet – just giving you a word of advice). First off, let’s kill a few questions that keep coming back to me:
Where can I post my lyrics so publishers can buy them?
Bona-fide publishers don’t buy lyrics. Why should they? People are queuing up to give them away. Publishers only work with complete songs. And even then, only songs they think they can get “placed” very quickly. So get yourself a partner and write some songs.
Where can I find a writing partner?
Funny you should bring this up. Musicians are everywhere. Good composers are harder to find, as many are holed up in their bedrooms composing (as opposed to gigging). So post announcements on bulletin boards in music and/or computer shops. Run an ad in a local paper. Ask friends. Find a singer with a contract.
I have a song that Beyoncé/Robbie Williams/Madonna would love – a guaranteed hit. How do I send it to them?
It’s very hard work. That’s what publishers are supposed to do. First, does your favourite artist actually sing other people’s stuff? No? Find another object of devotion. You don’t know? Then read the credits on their latest album.
Geez, what else should I know?
If you’re even half-way serious: lots. To talk to other songwriters, drop by the “rec.music.makers.songwriting” newsgroup and ask some questions. There are also a good number of books on songwriting available. In general, you need to look for books that combine practical and artistic advice. No one book has all the answers, but the better ones will give you a good broad overview of the craft and the business – because remember that for better or for worse songwriting is largely a business.
…I don’t remember saying that?!
Something else worth considering. You’ll meet lots of colourful characters in music. Some will want to tie you down very quickly, others will tell you that “there’s no need for a contract”. In both cases, proceed not with caution – proceed with knowledge. Lawyers are expensive, and the vast majority of cases do not require them. In the early days, get an idea of what the issues are through books or by asking other musicians. Alternatively, you can buy a selection of standard term contracts. It’s not the same as having a lawyer, but could save very painful discussions down the line. Even if you do buy your own contract don’t forget to read it before you sign it! There are obligations on both sides.
What about tipsheets?
I’ve subscribed to a number of tipsheets and magazines over the years. Two that I particularly appreciated are SongLink and Bandit. The first is for songwriters that fancy themselves as commercial (yeah, like me). Bandit is more focused on the band scene, with valuable listings for the US and the UK/Europe (get a free sample courtesy of A-Lyric.com by sending a message to Bandit). Both are bona-fide and well worth considering.