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 information here is designed to get your songs to major artists for recording. That is the only phase of songwriting with which I am familiar.
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 song.
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 electronically. 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: http://www.copyright.gov/forms/
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 Pigeon Forge, TN held every September. There are over 1,000 booths of artist and record companies there.
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 publishing
3) You need no office, no secretary, no anything but that legal document drawn up by and attorney that says you are a publisher.
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 Application
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 Scarred Hand”
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 melody.
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) Nowhere in the process of getting your song recorded do you need to know anything about actually writing the music. Again, you only need to sing or have sung your melody on a demo!