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What Songwriters Need to Succeed
Excerpt From "A Meeting Of The Minds"
By MusicDish
(more articles from this author)
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Anne Freeman - "Our purpose here today is to explore some of the findings of the MusicDish songwriter survey; in particular, we'll look at the statistics that showed only 7% of the 584 songwriters surveyed selected 'improving their craft of songwriting' as most important thing to help to move their career forward, and anywhere from 30% to over 50% do not utilize the many resources and services available to them to help them further their careers, both traditional and new media."

Kim Copeland - "Susan and I do a lot of workshops, teaching workshops, lesson plans, and seminars. The most difficult task that we have is convincing songwriters that they need this, which makes no sense at all to me.

"Songwriters can be divided into two categories, in my opinion: those that look to it as a hobby and those that look to it as a career. I think that there are too many who are confused about that. There is nothing wrong if you want to do it as a hobby; then, you don't need all of this stuff. You also don't need publishers and labels, because you're material's not going to be ready for them. If you want to do this as a career, then you need teaching materials, workshops, and shared creative energy. I liken it to building a house. You wouldn't set out to build a house with no carpenter skills and a spoon and a fork in your toolbox. That would be ludicrous. But at the same time, you sit home and say, 'I know how to write that song. My grandma told me that it's great!' But, when you put that house on the market and people come in a look at it, built with a spoon and a fork compared to something that was built by a professional builder, which house do you think folks are going buy?"

Barbara Cloyd - "One of the things that I noticed when looking over the survey is that a large portion of people who reported that they were actually making income from their writing were independent singer/songwriters. I have this theory that the range of music that people like can be represented as a yardstick, and the yardstick represents every style of writing. Anywhere that's within those 36 inches, you can find somebody who likes your kind of music. The range of music that gets recorded and released by major labels, that gets on the radio and on the music channels on TV, and shows up in the bins in the stores, however, is maybe 3 inches of that yardstick in the middle somewhere. The portion of that music that comes out of Nashville is maybe about a quarter of an inch of those three inches - maybe a half an inch, if I'm being generous, and maybe maybe three quarters of an inch if you include Christian music. I live in Nashville, so this is where my emphasis is. Let's say that on the yardstick, the style of music that will get cut in Nashville lies within the 7 - 71/2" mark.

"If you're over there at 33 inches, somebody likes that style of music if you're creating a quality product, but it's not going to get cut in Nashville. Let's say that you're creating Um-Pa-Pa Polka music. I probably won't buy it, but there are people all over the world starving for Um-Pa-Pa Polka music. What I'm leading into is that although a large percentage of the people reporting that they made income from their songwriting made those sales off of the Internet and downloading, very few of the writers surveyed were really utilizing the Internet. Only 8% of those surveyed selected learning how to use Internet more effectively as an important need in their career. And, only 7% percent selected songwriting. What I'm seeing here is a dollar missing a gold mind."

Jason Blume - "I was mortified. Now, I shouldn't have been because I'm a songwriter, and most of the songwriters I know believe what I've believed for many, many years, which was that my songs were incredible. The only thing that was stopping me from becoming successful was that I didn't have the magic dust sprinkled on me, or the connections, or whatever. I believed that for many, many years. The truth of the matter is, when I now look back, is 'no.' When I was having those first ten years of banging my head against the wall and getting nowhere, it was because my songs were not up to the level they needed to be at. My songs were not better than, or just as good as, Dianne Warren's songs, Gary Burr or whoever you want to point to, who are the top people. I did not see that. So why should it surprise me that other people did not see that?

"It didn't matter how interesting or good Alanis Morissette's voice sounded if she didn't have a "You Ought To Know," which was just going to jump out of the airwaves and grab people by the throat and go, 'I have never heard anything like this before on the radio.' This is not another good song. It's wow, it's different, it's unique. It's the way I felt the first time I heard a song, when my assistant kept saying to me, 'Have you heard this totally crazy song about this guy who was singing, 'we were doing it on the floor, we were doing it in the kitchen, and she walked in on me and so I said, 'it wasn't me!' ' I finally heard the song and I said, 'Wow, it's so fresh, it's so different.' My experience is that 93% of the songwriters I'm encountering are not writing songs at that level, that are that fresh that unique, and that interesting."

Gary Talley - "I guess I've been playing on song demos, publisher demos, since 1968, or something like that. The same thing happens over and over again. 90% of the time, people will pay lots of money to get a song recorded and to do a really nice demo - which could be thousands of dollars - and everybody in the studio knows that that song is never going to get recorded. It's sad, really. I think that there should be a video of a major publisher listening to songs, and how many songs will be turned off before the song's intro gets done. You have to know what these people listen to, the hundreds of songs every day. That's their job - they listen and listen. When something is not up to par, even if it's the fact that somebody does a long intro to a song, what they hear is 'amateur' and the tape goes off. Just those little things can make the difference, like is discussed in any of these books here on the table. For instance, in Jason's book, there are do's and don'ts for demo-making.

"I'm just totally amazed at the people who don't even think that there is a craft of songwriting, much less think they - well - they think that their songs are great and they don't really want to learn about the craft of songwriting. That's why I made the video, "Guitar Playing for Songwriters," because I realized that a lot of people are so limited by what they can do on an instrument. I was talking to a songwriter about guitar players vs. piano players. She was saying, 'Piano players know more chords and they can write more interesting melodies.' That's true, because people learn to play guitar in a different way than they learn to play piano. You can't compete with the Phil Vassars, and the Annie Roboffs and the Jason Blumes if you only know three chords on your guitar. You're limiting yourself. It's the same issue that we all have, it's trying to convince people that there is a craft of songwriting in the first place, and that there's a lot to learn. I know that the next time I'll do a demo session, I'll go into the studio and they'll play the work tape and nobody in that building will think that anything's going to happen with that song, and that's just really sad. You need to be realistic about where you are in your songwriting."

Download the 4th Installment in "Songwriters in the New Millennium" Series

"A Meeting Of The Minds" is a free downloadable report gathering songwriting veterans Anne Freeman, Jason Blume, Barbara Cloyd, Kim Copeland, Gary Talley, David Wimble and Susan Tucker. Through their own real world experience, they proceed to dissect what songwriters need to succeed in the industry as well as addressing subjects ranging from song contests, song critiquing services, artistic integrity, rewriting process.

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