I hope this answers every "What do I do with my songs?"
This will take some of the mystery out of the music business and
help those truly called to set a course. All the info here is designed
to get your songs to major artists for recording. That is the only
phase of songwriting with which I am familiar. Remember to read
Copyright-Legal ownership documents of words and
music to a song
Demo-Any type of recording on CD or mp3 that
demonstrates the song. A demo can be made with a piano or guitar
and one voice
singing to demonstrate the melody, or it can be professionally
done in a studio if you have the money. Though that is certainly
Licensing Agency-BMI, ASCAP, SESAC. There are
only three in the world and they collect only "performance
royalties" from air play, video, and live performance of all
venues of music.
Lyric Sheet-Typed words of song only. No music,
only the words.
Mechanical License- A simple contract from the
publisher to the artist stating that the publisher gives the artist
a right to record the song and will be responsible for collecting
royalties from the sales revenue sources the song may earn. At
the mechanical royalty rate is .091, (a little over 9 cents) per
unit (Digital Download, CD or video) sold, to the publisher. The
publisher then divides this amount. They get half, you get half.
and writer is a marriage and on every document copyright, (publisher
owns but you are the Author) mechanical (Right to record), Writers
Contract ( Right to publish) and licensing contract (right to
performance royalties) Publisher and writer are both noted on each
and both gets half.
Pitch-A pitch is your taking the song to the artist
you would like to record it. To pitch you only need a lyric sheet
and homemade demo.
Printed Music-Words and music printed as the song
would appear on sheet music or in songbooks.
Project-A CD or Video of 10 or more
Published-It simply means a song has been recorded
or printed, or both.
Publisher-One who owns the right to get song recorded
or printed and will earn the publishers share of royalties.
A) All revenue collected from sale of project containing your
song. Called Mechanical Royalties
B) All revenue collected from Licensing agency from "Air
play". Mostly from Radio play, but occasionally from video
and live performance. Called Performance Royalties.
Writer's Contract-A form sent to you by a publisher
that you sign, thereby stating you give that publisher the right
to own the song and to earn the publisher's part of all royalties.
>>> To simplify the process I will
take you through each step carefully. Refer to the glossary often
to acquaint yourself with the terms used in music.
1) The song, of course, is the first thing. I give little insight
here. It's your talents, your divine gift that will create a recordable
Here are a few things to consider.
A) More than two verses are a tough sell.
B) Verse-chorus, verse-chorus and maybe a tag is standard (Tag-2-4
lines at the end of the song)
C) Use as few words as possible to say what needs to be said.
A "wordy" song is cumbersome and awkward.
D) Make sure your poetry is good. Rhyme the first and/or third
lines, second and fourth lines of a verse or chorus, or the first
and second and third and fourth.
E) Try to match a melody suitable to the lyrics.
2) The copyright is second:
A) $45.00 (effective July 1, 2006)
for each song for a copyright from Washington. You may also e-file
your submission for a cheaper rate of $35.00.
B) Ask for a "PA" copyright
C) One is enough because you are allowed to make copies of this
form and that will give you all the blanks you could ever use.
D) Request an instruction sheet when you write Washington, although
the forms are self-explanatory.
E) You send lyric sheet, homemade demo and check, which the
form tells you to do.
F) Here is the address:
Register of Copyrights
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559
G) You may also obtain and fill out the PA form eletronically.
Simply go to the Library of Congress website. Click under "Copyright
Office", Click on "Forms", scroll down to "Performing
Arts" and look for form PA. You may also click here and look
for form PA:
You will need Adobe Reader to view the document. If you don't
have it installed on your computer, you may download it here:
A) A pitch package contains the lyric sheet and demo, your name,
address and phone number.
B) Get your song to the artist you think needs to hear it by:
1) Through the mail
2) In person at one of their concerts
3) Send it to their recording company
4) Through an acquaintance that knows the artist, knows someone
from their record company, etc.
5) The trade magazines are full of addresses-Singing News,
US Gospel News, The Voice
6) Go to National Quartet Convention in Louisville held every
September. There are over 1,000 booths of artist and record
4) Should an artist want to record your song, the question of Licensing
and publishing arises. First, publishing:
A) Forget printed music for now. A song has to be a money-maker
before it's considered for print.
B) Most every artist has his or her own publishing company.
For a song to be recorded by someone, other than yourself, it
needs to go through a publishing company and most artists want
to publish what they sing.
C) Anyone can own a publishing company.
1) Find a contractual attorney
2) They usually recommend a Limited Liability Company for
3) You need no office, no secretary, no anything but that
legal document drawn up by and attorney that says you are a
4) This means you earn the Publisher's half and the Writers
half of all royalties earned
5) Giving publishing rights to the artist makes your song
more attractive to them and most are satisfied to "split"
the publishing if you own your own company.
6) After you have negotiated your deal, (who's going to own
publishing) then comes the mechanical License.
A) a simple form that states who will be recording the song,
who wrote it, who is publishing it.
B) If you are giving the artists publishing rights, they
will send a writer's contract for you to sign. You each will
keep a copy. Then they are responsible for their own mechanical
license-the right to record it.
C) If you happen to own your own publishing company and
you are splitting the publishing, then between you, decide
who will administrate the publishing-you or them. To administrate
the publishing means a new copyright, showing them (or both
of you) as owners and you as writer, the writer's contract
for you to sign, stating you agree to the publishing arrangement,
and a mechanical license to the artist, giving them the right
to record it
D) If you let the artist or their recording company have
full publishing rights, they are responsible for sending you
the writer's share of all royalties earned for sales.
5) You cannot join a Licensing Agency until you have been published
(had a song recorded).
A) They require a copy of the finished recorded project.
B) Their other requirements are simply stated in the Writers
C) Write and ask for an application. Here is the address for
BMI, the most popular licensing agency for Southern Gospel Writers:
ATTN: Clearance Dept.
10 Music Square East
Nashville, TN 37203
D) You have no control over royalties earned from airplay (performance
Royalties). It would take a business genius to understand how
they are collected.
E) These royalties are divided through the agency and half is
sent directly to the writer, half to the publisher
F) About the only way you will see airplay royalties from a
licensing agency is if your song is "Singled" and
sent to radio.
G) The licensing agency collects a percentage for themselves
before dividing the remainder between publisher and writer.
6) If you co-publish or Co-write a song, there will be two names
instead of one on each document.
1) A Song is a story: Beginning, middle, end. The end is “the
hook”. The hook is that phrase that ties the story together
and brings it all to a glorious conclusion.
A) The hook can simply be the title, i.e. “Amazing Grace”.
B) It can be the last line of the second verse, i.e., “One
C) The last line of the chorus, i.e. “He Touched Me”
2) Brevity is blessed and less is more. The fewer words used in
each line the cleaner and clearer the song. If you can’t say
it in the allotted meter of the line, change the thought.
3) Good meter is imperative. Each line has a given number of beats—they
must all fall within that limit. If the first line of a ¾
song has 12 meters (which it usually is a must, otherwise, you will
make the amateurish mistake of trying to force a line to fit by
using eighth and sixteenth notes. It won’t always come out
perfect, but it has to be within acceptable limits.
4) Continuity is much overlooked. If your song is about the “blood”
of the cross, make sure the entire song concerns the “blood”
and don’t go off in another direction just because you had
an interesting thought. Take the thought that doesn’t fit
the blood theme and write an another song.
5) Poetry can make or break a song. “Poetic License”
can seldom work. If you can’t rhyme your lines, change one
of the lines. Usually you rhyme the 1st and 3rd lines of the verses.
It is obvious from the information provided that "What do
I do with my songs?" cannot be answered verbally. Don't let
this info Overwhelm you. As you take each step described you will
learn along the way. It's not such an awesome venture. Getting your
songs recorded takes God-given talent, knowledge of the process,
Holy-Spirit guidance and patience, patience, patience.
I pray my effort here will help those God-called writers to take
their message to the heart that needs it.
Here is a postscript about printed music for those who just want to
see their song on sheet music or for potential self-publishers.
A) you must engage a professional to set your song to print.
It is a highly specialized profession. Writers never ever have
to know how to write music, but just be able to sing and play
(or get someone to) the song on a demo. That's all the music
ability required of a songwriter-write the words and hum the
B) Most everyone in southern gospel uses
Gospel Heritage Music
P.O. Box 5299
Cleveland, TN 37320
C) For a minimal fee, he will put your song in print by making
a "Slick"-that means it's camera-ready to take to a
printing company for reproduction.
D) No where in the process of getting your song recorded do
you need to know anything about actually writing the music.
you only need to sing or have sung your melody on a demo!