Abraham Maslow on Being Peaceful With Yourself

As humans, I believe we are born innately great. There is genius within every single one of us. BUT... Like an iceberg that is typically only visible 10% above water, we, too, play the human game just 10%. What we see in ourselves and others is just 10% of what is truly available and what we are truly capable of. If we only just reminded ourselves of what mattered, we could develop an amazing ability to produce world-class music that made people stop and listen, skip a beat and dance and truly dive in to their own greatness. After all, isn't that what music is truly for? Here's what Abraham Maslow has to say about all of this. I'm interested in your thoughts. #musician #musicislife #successful #successstory #greatness #passion #motivation #inspiration #quotes #dreams #lifestyle #mindset #goals #love #life

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Avoiding the long, sharp teeth of song vampires

Last time, I mentioned that the music industry might not actually exist as a separate industry, at least for the purposes of creating a business model that you can use to market your music.

Sometimes, however, it seems like there is a sort of music industry—one that has as its customer base all the musicians, songwriters, composers, and other creative people. Based on the pitches in my inbox, it is akin to the once growing vanity publishing business that made “pay to publish” a terrible phrase (although it came from a noble tradition). And we don’t even have to look as far as “pay to play” to see the demon rear its ugly head.

A quick history (optional)

Actually it has been around for a long time. It’s roots are found in ads in the back of magazines where you could find advertising for “song poems” that could be made into greatest hits, if only you were smart enough to hire this company to put your words to music and create a record that they would then “promote.” (If you aren’t familiar with printed magazines, don’t worry about it. Just bear with me.) Your professionally recorded song would be sent to all the radio stations (which is how it was done). Of course, your song would stand heads and shoulders above the others on the air, because the song would be crafted by a professional songwriter (obviously otherwise currently unemployed for unknown reasons) and professionally recorded.  Well, of course they were professionals—you paid them, which made them professional (i.e., earning money from music).

Back to current events

These folks, because they preyed on songwriters, were called song sharks, and although the magazine ads are mostly gone, and the disguises have changed, the fact that they prey on the desire of creative people to get their music heard hasn’t changed in the least. The internet not only makes it easier for music to get to people, it also makes it easier for the sharks to pitch their latest revolutionary way of getting your music heard.

Unfortunately, it is hard to separate the sharks (some of which seem to have morphed into vampires, in keeping with entertainment trends; so let’s use the term song vampire for them from now on) from legitimate toilers in the vineyards of music. Music is not a single product, nor simple. There are not any canned ways of doing things that produce more than canned results. So there is a great deal of room for hardworking agents, music pitching companies, music libraries, and so on. But there are few rules to help distinguish the revolutionary new idea (excuse me, we call them “platforms” now) from the same old con in new clothing.

It’s all very tiresome. And to add to the confusion, some things work for a while, then succumb to their own popularity.

Conventional wisbits

There are two competing bits of conventional wisdom out there. The first, the older, is that you shouldn’t pay for anything. That was the advice offered in the song shark era. If your music is any good, then people will pay you for it. If there is money to be made from your music, then plenty of talented people will be willing to work with you to get it in the right hands. This seems dated now, but there is a kernel of truth in it still. But it conflicts with conventional wisdom bit #2: If you won’t invest in your career, why should anyone else?

The problem I have with this wisbit (i.e., wisdom bit—it is the moral duty of journalists to corrupt the language with more meaningless jargon) is that first, it doesn’t provide any guide for where to invest. I have untold thousands of dollars invested in musical instruments, training, computers, software, microphones, sheet music, more instruments… I will stop here, having made that point.

None of this is what the song vampires are talking about. What they mean is that my not giving them money is proof that I lack confidence in my own ability, music and career. To that I say (along with many things probably left unsaid): “Bullshit!” What I lack, often times, is confidence in their ability to help me in any way. The fact that they got some punk rock group into a club in Des Moines doesn’t mean a thing about what they can do in getting my music to recording artists, placed in films, or even get me more money when I play the local coffee shop (Yankee Creek, every other Sunday morning, 9:30-11:30—hope to see you there) or a regional festival. In fact, many of the “services” make my life harder because it seems to revolve around my running my life in a way they understand.

That isn’t how it works in the corporate world. In that universe (world is too small a word) the PR person goes to the client (hat in hand, dressed up real nice) and gets a spiel on “what we do and how we do it” and then goes back to the office to devise a program that does what the client wants.

But the point here is not to rant about the ineffectiveness of much music marketing; rather I simply want to point out that when it comes to song vampires, you not only don’t necessarily get what you want or need, but that it might soak up time better spent doing something frivolous, say making music.

Soft sell ending

So if you have some ideas of how to tell opportunities apart from the invitations of song vampires, share them. But bear in mind that everyone seeking money from you is not a vampire, unless they work for a government.

Develop the Qualities of a Great Songwriter

If you had to pick two important qualities for songwriters who want to succeed in the contemporary music industry, what two would you pick? Many people would focus on things like originality in their approach to music, or the ability to anticipate new trends. But let’s take a look at those.

While originality can be a great thing, it isn’t really essential. Okay, I hear those cries of anguish. But if you listen carefully to the music that is finding its way into television and movies, you’ll probably agree that most of it is not highly original. And the commercial opportunities to place your music that you’ll see do not typically ask for something original.

More often that not, what music supervisors wanted is something exactly like, but not a copy of, something already popular or that was popular at some specific time in the past. Sort of a known unknown. Sounds contradictory, but true. A movie looking for a Sinatra style song, was in one recent tip sheet. Another asks for traditional Middle Eastern music. Another wants “southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd and dance club music like Black Eyed Peas. And yet, another, well you should get the point here. If you want more examples, get the free Taxi listings or go to the public listings at New On The Charts .

Being able to work accurately within existing styles is going to go a long way toward getting placements—much further than originality, which can actually be a hard sell. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be innovative, just that you can’t expect to sell your work simply because it is different and original. Good is more important than original.

As a side issue here, you need to be sure you understand what music supervisors mean when they say “like.” If the call ifs for a replacement for Satisfaction, by the Rolling Stones, don’t send a Reggae styled version of that song or something you think the Stones will want to record if they ever hear it. What is wanted is a very similar song. The vibe you hear, the tempo, the feel of it, is what is wanted. Of course your riff is better than Keith Richards’ (you’ve been able to learn from him after all), but what you are being told is that they want Satisfaction but can’t afford it. Don’t send in curry chicken when they send out for Chinese. You won’t satisfy anyone.

Okay, back to our main theme.

Anticipating trends can be important when you are pitching songs to artists. But you better be right. You cannot expect to set the trends—see the discussion of originality above. If, like me, you scratch you head at the latest and greatest, you won’t be successful in trying to outguess the market. If you are part of the movement, however, go for it. But again, don’t expect a big career in movie and television placements.

So what qualities would I pick?

  1. Patience, and
  2. Be Among The Willing

Patience is important because, typically, everything in this business takes a long time. (Until someone needs something yesterday, of course. But we are talking about breaking in, here.) It takes people a long time to make up there mind—and they might not tell you their decision at all if you are not the chosen one. It takes time for cue sheets to be filed. It takes a long time for royalties to come in. It takes a long time for CDs with your songs on them to be released. If you are not patience you will go nuts. Cultivate patience, and like a good fisherman you will eventually manage to be in the right time and place to make a great catch.

About all you can do to keep your sanity is submit things and forget about them. If you hear back, great. If not, you should be busy with the next project.

Being among the willing is based on the idea that successful people get that way by choosing to work with the willing. So you put yourself in that path. This is a bit of a variation on “the customer is always right,” in that it includes they idea that you are going to do whatever you can to help them get what they want. Even if it means referring them to someone else. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, and always deliver what you promise. That is what the willing do.

Of course, that isn’t the end all of the music business, but it will help a great deal. And it might keep you on an even keel while you work at it. Those of us who are ex sailors like to be on an even keel, because the alternative is not fun.

So keep doing what you are doing, but all the while being patient and placing yourself squarely among the willing—the helpful.

Another way to look at this came from Dale Carnegie, I believe it was, who said: “Be nice to people on the way up, because you meet the same people on the way down.”

Performing and non-performing songwriters

A recent comment on this site suggested that singer/songwriters had a better chance of success than a pure songwriter. It seems appropriate then to take a look at that notion.

You can group songwriters as performing or non-performing. A performing songwriter is one who pursues performance as part of his or her career. They make recordings of their own material, maybe done a few CDs. Typically they write material that suits their own act in terms of the lyrical message and musical styles. Many folk singers, hip hop artists and so on fall into that category. Many performing songwriters have developed a home studio that lets them, either alone, or with a little help, create quality recordings.

Other songwriters are not focused on their own performance abilities—but that doesn’t mean they can’t craft great songs. But it might mean they create songs they can’t perform, since their focus is on styles they enjoy writing in, or on writing for the top performers already out there.

Non-performing songwriters are more likely to make use of demo studios to take the song to that next level. Even if they have a studio, they are more dependent on finding artists who can make demos or high quality recordings of their tune.

And this presents an interesting tradeoff. The performing songwriter with a home studio can easily crank out a demo, or modify a song for a specific opportunity. But that flexibility often means spending more time dealing with microphone placement, recalcitrant computers, instruments, and technical issues than songwriting. The non-performing songwriter might have to come up with money to pay a studio and musicians, but has no maintenance issues and no technical learning curve. (Take a look online at all the forums dedicated to helping people deal with these challenges for an idea of their scope.) Mixing and mastering are careers in and of themselves.

But what will work well depends on you. So let us look at the pluses and minuses of each approach for a variety of issues that songwriters deal with.

Quick response. Due to the nature of film and television, many opportunities to place songs come with very tight deadlines. Here the advantage goes to the performing songwriter who can quickly put something together, especially in a home studio. The non-performing songwriter needs to continuously build a strong catalog that will mean material is on hand when it is needed.

Responding quickly to create something different is a double-edged sword, however. If you aren’t regularly producing a particular type of song, trying to do one on a moment’s notice makes it difficult to get it right. Each genre and song type comes with a pretty extensive list of things that are done and not done, and they must all be learned.

Diversity. Being a professional songwriter means being able to move with trends and changes. If you write for yourself, then you can adapt easily and quickly, but it is harder to be objective about your efforts. It can be difficult for a single artist to function well in a broad range of styles. The songwriter who works with a demo studio or outside artists can more readily produce a diverse catalogue of tunes, using singers and musicians with the appropriate sound. Instead of producing “ Me Singing The Blues” and then “Me Singing Country” you can get songs produced that fit right into the radio playlist for the genre.

Getting what you want. Theoretically, if you are a performing artist, you can capture the song the way you want it, and present it in the best possible light. Of course, in practice that is only true if you are an exceptionally good artist. Otherwise, the songwriter who uses a professional demo studio might actually have the edge.

This analysis can go on indefinitely, but the point is that the answer is always: it depends. It depends on how you want to spend your time and money, how good a performer you (or your band) really are, how versatile you are trying to be, and whether your focus is getting your songs placed or promoting yourself as a performer.

Some of us walk the line. I have a home studio and record some of my music, use other musicians and artists, use other studios, and keep looking for new ways to improve the quality of my catalog. Why just the other day I bought yet another guitar and if it doesn’t make me write better songs, well it can’t hurt any.


Tip sheets, touts and other marketing information

A common question about marketing music is where to send it. How do you find the people who are looking for music? The answer varies, as does the quality of leads you will get.

Let’s talk about tip sheets. Tip sheets are there to tip you off. They announce music placement opportunities. An artist needs a country song that isn’t too country; a movie needs a tune with the same vibe as the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction,” or maybe just a party song that kids 18 to 25 would be listening to at college. Whatever information the client provides is what you will get.

Tip sheets come in various flavors and colors. There are online tip sheets, many of which are associated with songwriter groups, such as SongU . There are tip sheets that are tied into some paid service (you have to be a subscriber of their service), such as Sonicbids, Broadjam, or Taxi , that submit songs for you. Typically you will pay something to be a member and then a fee per submission. (Taxi screens the submissions, and even though you pay, they don’t submit anything that doesn’t meet the standard for the placement. They say that helps them maintain credibility.)

On a regular basis they post the opportunities and you find that ones that you think are best for you. Typically you won’t get contact information for the client unless you are selected—if then. These services don’t want you going around them, because that is how they earn a living, and furthermore, most of the clients want it that way. You can go to the web sites and see what sort of listings each has. Taxi will happily put you on their email list and send you the listing every month. These are the same listings that members work from and provide a clear idea of the information that is provided—you just can’t submit until you join.

There is a lot of debate over the viability of these services, and although they can look similar, each is quite different in what it offers. There are several other services using a similar business model. You can easily find a lot of disgruntled ex members. A better idea is to contact current songwriter members on the sites (you can typically contact them through a profile page) and ask if it is working for them. Ask how long they’ve been doing it too. Try a cross section and you can eliminate the extreme responses. Most of these work for some people.

Lastly there are tip sheets that are nothing but tip sheets—they provide the facts and contact information for a quarterly or annual fee and the rest is up to you. Although the most useful tip sheets don’t screen your songs, they do screen you. In many cases, such as with New On The Charts , you have to show some credits, indicating that you are something of a pro, before you can subscribe. An online tip sheet called Songlink says: “unsigned writers or new publishers must first supply at least 2 sample demos of their work for subscription approval.”

Having to have credits to get the tip sheet might sound like a Catch 22, but, like Taxi’s reasoning, these sheets must ensure that the people feeding them information, managers, producers, A&R people and the like, don’t get swamped with a lot of amateur, or just bad, efforts, or they will undermine their own networking efforts. (You can help them by only submitting appropriate material and not shooting from the hip.)

One tip sheet that is really more for performers looking for recording contracts, but often has tips in other lines is the UK based Bandit Newsletter. When they have songwriting leads, they are typically for cutting edge music. But not always. They have had listings for country songs and ballads. If you go to the web site, a popup menu will let you request a free sample copy.

This is not intended as an exhaustive list of services or tips sheets, just a starter that lets you see where leads can come from. In the next blog we will look at how music libraries really work and how you can take advantage of their invisible leads.

Songwriters need hits more than ever

Songwriting as a profession has always had a great deal to with trying to write hits. Hits are not everything, but they earn the songwriter lots of money and end up meaning a great deal to a large number of people. Songs become hits because, in some way, they touch people. They communicate a feeling or idea, and that sort of communication is what drives the songwriter to write. Clearly art and commerce don’t have to fight it out every time.

The ongoing explosion of the music industry, and the immediacy of the Internet has changed (and is changing) things drastically. The vast numbers of songwriters hawking their wares, and the immense number of sites offering downloads of the latest and greatest tunes, makes writing a hit both more important and more difficult.

One reason hits are more important in today’s music business (from the songwriter’s perspective, of course) is because there is no longer a market for album cuts. Album cuts are those decent, but unremarkable songs that often filled up albums that had one or two hits on them. For every hit there was a need for a number of good songs that bands could perform in concert and use on the album. As a result, once upon a time, you could make a nice living writing those. But today’s demand for singles is even fiercer than it was back in the days of 45 rpm records—mp3s don’t even have a B side. And only a hit is going to cut through and be heard.

One reason that writing hits is more difficult is that new niches develop constantly, new trends become old, and the song that might have captured the attention of fans last week is now done and overdone. The immediacy of communication is translating into an acceleration of changing tastes. Look at a slow motion example to see why this is important. If you listen to what soul and R&B music was when it came out, you can begin to get the idea. An old style R&B hit song would be retro today, at best. (Great to have in your song catalog for movies, through). And with so much music out there, what are you going to track so that you are current?

Some of the change comes from the constant demand for new, and different music, and part from the proliferation of bands, each with their own take on the music scene. As a songwriter, you face the triple challenge of finding someone who likes the sort of thing you write, can do it well, and then promotes it. But being close to, and working with, artists who are developing a fresh sound is a lot easier than trying to keep up with the tastes of the millions of music consumers. So there, at least, is a place to focus.

In all this change, one thing remains constant. Ultimately a hit is an indefinable combination of musical hooks, memorable music, and lyrics that somehow strike a chord in a huge cross section of listeners. So if you focus on just that goal—writing a tune that touches your audience musically and lyrically—then you are doing all you can, at least in the writing phase.

“Writing phase?” That’s right. This is just one phase of the things you need to master to be successful. As we will discuss in future blogs, writing that great song is just the beginning, and in practice might not even come first. Confused? You won’t be when we cover the next steps in your songwriting business.

The Great Retitling Game

As a clever songwriter, you probably work hard to get the right title for your song. If you are pitching it to an A&R person or someone else connected with an artist, this is very important. The title is often the first impression anyone has of your song. But, if you work with music libraries, you might find there is a factor at work that can throw all that creative effort out the window.

Let’s go back in time. Suppose you are young songwriter of some success named Henry Mancini and you just finished writing a song with Johnny Mercer that is called “Moon River.” In that era, a filmmaker might hear it on the radio and decide it was the perfect song for his movie. So he picks up the phone (no email yet) and contacts your publisher and the record company to secure the rights to use the song and the master recording. In filling out the cue sheet for the performance rights organization (PRO), the music supervisor would nicely put in the title “Moon River,” and everyone is more or less happy.

Now jump ahead. You are Hank Mancini, grandson of the writer of “Moon River.” Of course you call yourself “HMan,” and you have just written a soon to be urban classic, called “Blood Streets.” You’d like to get it in a movie. But these are different times. No music supervisor or filmmaker has ever heard of you. Naturally that just shows their ignorance, but it also represents the difficulty of trying to get noticed when everyone else is trying to get noticed too.

So you turn to music libraries to help you make the necessary connections. Now, since you don’t really trust one library to work its butt off trying to place your song, you’d like to put it in several libraries. That means you want nonexclusive contracts. No problem. Nonexclusive deals are almost as common as songwriters (“common” in the sense of everywhere, not in the sense of, well, “common.”).

But this is where the trick comes in. Suppose you have deals with Library A and B. Library A, being hardworking, better connected and hungrier, gets your song used in a low budget horror flick (congratulations!). They represent negotiate the rights to your version of the song, and the song itself and all is well. Except…

The problem is that when the song is listed with the PRO, the library usually will have dealt themselves the publishing half. But so has Library B. And maybe you already registered “Blood Streets” with HMan Publishing, just in case you cut your own deal. And Library B might get a deal for another project. So your song has three publishers. So when the horror flick gets shown, how does the PRO know to give the publishing money to Library A? Simple. Library tells the client that the song is called LibA-URB209045. Charming, right? They register the title with you as the songwriter and themselves as publisher. The cue sheet will use that title. (Don’t worry, they’ll probably get it right in the credits.)

So life is sweet. But technology might come along and make it less pleasant. Heard about digital watermarking? It’s just one approach to automating the process of identifying the songs that are played on the air and Internet. And there are lots of geeks busily working on more methods. But they all share one minor problem—your song always looks the same, no matter what title is used. They can’t distinguish between “Blood Streets” and LibA-URB209045 for one single reason—they are the same thing. The same recording is doing several jobs.

This might present a few problems.

There are other arguments against retitling, as this is called, but this one seems to me the most worrisome. Many songwriters won’t do retitling deals. Some won’t do any nonexclusive deals. But nonexclusive is the norm, especially for up and coming songwriters. Getting exclusive deals requires either a track record or some pretty magnificent material (and a lot of patience to connect).

So if you run across a retitling situation, that’s why they exist. What you do about them depends a lot on you. Right now I can’t offer a solution, but it is a situation you need to keep your eye on.

Songwriting for film & television

If you write music with the intention of getting it used in film and television, the rules of engagement are substantially different than writing songs for artists (including yourself or your band) to record. Of course, working for a film and television projects are not identical either, due to the way those industries operate, but much of that is irrelevant, and we will look at the things they have in common.

While you don’t need to worry about arranging in a style that suits a specific artist, as you would to pitch a song, you do need to produce a product that fits into a specific niche, and the arranging and production tasks might be even more difficult. Music for video is, for the most part, all about niches. When you write music to pitch for use in video formats (as opposed to writing to a specific video), instrumentals, novelty songs, ballads, theme songs, and cues are all part of the mix. You don’t have to do all of them—you can specialize. But you don’t have to, either.

What you will need to do, if you write songs, is prepare multiple versions of your productions—with and without vocals, and for both instrumentals and songs you will be asked for versions that are one minute, thirty seconds and even 10 seconds long. Learning to create these versions is a great thing.

First it will make you aware of the need for a hook in your piece and how hooks work. This will make your music stand out and be remembered. Next, automatically doing them makes you more competitive, because a music super might want to uses these snips of your piece throughout the program. A title song might have the hook reprised. And that means bigger checks from your performance rights organization (PRO) when the project is shown.

Many times the demand is for replacement tracks. The music supervisor has used some well known recording in a scene during editing, but now needs a song to replace it. Often the temporary track was picked because it had the right vibe—the tempo, feel, some lyrics. Now you are asked to write and produce a replacement track. And usually very quickly. The challenge is to capture the feel of the track without copying it. Typically, a cover version won’t work—it would be too expensive, or the rights to the song are not available. This has to be original work that is very close to that song.

To develop the skills needed for doing this (which will make you very popular with music supervisors) you can start doing it on your own. Find classic songs by the Rolling Stones, or The Beatles, or contemporary songs by your favorite artists, or period songs, and create tunes that sound like they could be played on the same radio station. Use your favorite music, the stuff you are inclines to listen to, at least to start, because you need to develop a sense of when your songs sound like they fit in perfectly. Later you can branch into other styles, especially if you see a trend in the kinds of music being used. But at first, just go with what you already know.

This effort accomplishes two things: it teaches you to find the essence of these songs (in the writing, the arrangement, and the performance) so that you can do it when an opportunity comes up; it gives you a bunch of songs to put into music libraries that will attractive to music supervisors.

You can do the same with a variety of niche music, whether it is klezmer tunes, old blues, or big band. The advantage of smaller niches is that there is less competition. Not long ago I saw a call for Russian button accordion music. I doubt there were many submissions. There are often calls for specific types of world music, such as Middle Eastern, or Chinese.

As you work, keep in mind all the influences that you study, so that when you put them in libraries you can list them all in the “sounds like” box that feeds the search engines. Make it obvious and easy for music supervisors to find them.

The originality in these tunes and productions lies in how much they capture the feel and spirit of some of the best known and loved examples in that genre. You should be adding to the genre. And the more you do it, the better you will be able to do it. No one said this would be easy—just exciting.

So this is how you start. Later we will discuss getting your music to the right people and writing music for a specific video.

Q&A with Lior Shamir (and songwriting contests)

A few weeks ago, I did a quick interview with Lior Shamir, director of We Are Listening (WAL). WAL is a London-based artist development company primarily giving opportunity through songwriting contests and their extensive and experienced list of content judges. Enjoy the interview.

Kavit: Lior, thanks for doing this short Q&A. Could you share a little about your background and how you came to start up We Are Listening? What inspired you to start WAL?

Lior: I’m a Berklee College of Music graduate with a background in songwriting and post-production. After graduating, I knew I wanted to position myself on the business end of music (as opposed to the creative) because I felt that there were many others more talented than me as musicians, writers, producers etc. and, quite honestly, I felt that I was rather business savvy for a music guy. We Are Listening blossomed out of a kitchen table project along with a number of other new-media related initiatives.

Kavit: As far as I understand, We Are Listening primarily promotes songwriting contests. Can you share why you feel contests are useful and what you feel makes one successful as a songwriter contest winner?

Lior: Mainly because of the high return of a reward from a contest verses the risk of participation (or fee) and the relatively promising odds of winning. But, also, because the very nature of contests puts the participants in front of ‘people in the know’, win or lose, so there is always the value of exposure – which is a valuable commodity in the music space.

Kavit: Can you share a success story or two from your previous contests and what they have gone on to do so we have some idea of what’s possible with these contests?

Lior: We’ve taken unheard of artists and put them on 200 US radio stations. We’ve secured sync licenses for indies with networks such as MTV. We’ve made it possible for fledgling artists to work with big name producers, songwriters and executives. This is what we do and how we justify the entry fees.

Kavit: What do you believe to be the three most important success attributes or traits for music businesses?

Lior: 1. Know your shit. 2. Get online. 3. Make sure it sounds – and looks – fabulous!

Kavit: Where do you see the independent music industry heading and what can musicians do right now to jump on the bandwagon and get ahead in their career before the year is out?

Lior: I think LiveNation, TicketMaster, Radiohead and NIN have the right idea – but is that indie? As an artist/manager, if you’re not already very familiar with the various online tools and services available to you for self promotion (many of which are free), you will lose. Also, most artists think they’re great and, as we all know, most artists suck so try to be objective and focus on your strengths.

Kavit: So Lior, before we end, what can we all look forward to seeing happening in the world of WAL and Lior Shamir in 2008 and onwards?

Lior: Oooh… many wonderful things! We Are Listening is currently undergoing a facelift and we’re working with a number of up-and-coming brands that will make your head spin in terms of ‘getting ahead’.







Some interesting points in the above interview. I have never been a fan of promoting songwriting contests although if there’s a good enough reward at the end of it, I believe it’s worth the effort. It will help you move to the next level quite rapidly but it’s important you sustain yourself at the end by continuing your own promotion. Many of these types of contests offer promotion packages, but they don’t last a lifetime and you’ll need to pick up again and continue your own promotion unless you can afford to pay someone.

Here are some places you’ll find contests:

  1. Jodi Krangle of The Muse’s Muse lists Songwriting Contests.
  2. The UK Songwriting Contest
  3. World of Music and Lyric Writer Awards from We Are Listening

What are your thoughts on this avenue (songwriting contests) into the music business? Have you had any experience and could you share your stories or tips for others…?

The songwriter in the new music business

If you are a songwriter trying to market your songs, then I’m sure you’ve encountered endless marketing programs and ideas for selling “your songs”.

Typically, however, when you look more closely, these efforts end up focusing on selling recordings of your songs—ways you can sell downloads or videos. If you are a songwriter, and not a performer, then this can be frustrating.

Even if you perform, you might be the kind of songwriter who does great material for film and television, such as niche pieces (world music, or rock from the 60’s). You might find a retro audience, but that isn’t what you are about.

Yet, there is a world for songwriters.

Pure songwriting, where you write songs or compositions intended for someone else to record, and are not a singer/songwriter or in a band, or create songs and instrumentals for media, such as film or television, differs remarkably from the performance world.

Pure songwriting is often behind the scenes work. In the business world, this type of activity is called business-to-business, which is much different than retail sales. You are pitching within the industry, to industry professionals, not to consumers.

So, in general (there are exceptions), a fan base won’t help you. A strong online presence is largely irrelevant. What you do need is a good business model, a niche (if you can develop one), a thick skin, patience, and a well developed sense of humor.

Why is it so different? Well, first of all, you are not actually selling something. Movies, television, and singers, don’t buy songs—they license them. So your goal is to do what publishers call “exploiting” your songs. You want to get them used. That means you need to know about the various kinds of licenses, how they might be valued, and their long and short term benefits for you. This is serious stuff, and not simple. Granting some licenses precludes granting others. As a friend of mine suggests, it isn’t for the weak.

Much of the available information is out of date. That doesn’t reflect badly on the authors, but does indicate how rapidly the market has changed and is changing.

It is practically a cliché to say that the market is increasingly competitive, and the chances of having a single recorded and selling enough copies to send your kids to college is much slimmer in the era of downloads, a growing online catalog, and a growing Indie presence.

Not that there isn’t money to be made, but you need several strategies to be successful.

Part of successfully defining a strategy is determining where you fit into the music business—writing songs for recording artists, writing music for music libraries, and writing for videos or games are, in some ways, quite different businesses.

Although they are not mutually exclusive, deciding early on where you want to focus will help you build the specialized skill set and marketing acumen to make progress. We will examine each of these businesses (more, if we can ferret them out), and look at ways to gain a foothold. We will look at making and maintaining contacts, and understanding the basics of doing business in these fields.

In the course of this blog we will look at the changing world of the contemporary songwriter, and take a stroll down some of the paths you might choose to take.

Through the eyes of people who might be your customers, library owners, artists and producers, we will try to see what their expectations are, and how you can learn to meet them.

We will look at the way things have gone for some successful composers and songwriters, to see what can be learned from their diverse experiences.

And a word of caution: In a world of downloads and royalty free music, it is tough to know where you stand.

Songwriting is (and pretty much has been for a long time) a business. Irving Berlin was known to check constantly to see that he was getting paid for recordings of his songs. If you see it only as an art (and it is that too), that is certainly your choice, but bear in mind that you are going to be competing against some talented people who are both artistic and businesslike.

You will even suffer in competition with people who are more businesslike than you and less talented. Such is the life. We will look at the variety of business models appropriate for songwriters, the kinds of music being used today (and where), and some ways of getting it into the right hands—hands that will do that business alchemy of turning music into gold. If not gold records, at least some income for you.

This exploration will be open ended and will try to incorporate changes in the songwriting world as they happen. I hope the information is useful to you, and that you not only succeed, but maybe even change the songwriting world a bit more.

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