Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Songwriters-How to Become What You Want to Be

kimcopeland1I have gotten several e-mails lately that begin with “I want to be…”.
None of them begin with, “I am becoming…”, or follow up with, “How can I become…”, which would show an interest in learning and an energy for doing, rather than just wishing.
I typically reply with a short lesson on what I do and the recommend the best next step for them based on the information they have given me. Quite often my advice is to learn about the elements involved in their dream and how they might better prepare themselves for success with it. For those who pursue it further with me, I often end up coaching them and helping them create a plan for their dream.
One of the reasons I founded Kim Copeland Productions was to record great music. The other driving force behind it was to educate artists and songwriters on how to not only record great music, but also to use their creativity and hard earned dollars to be sure that what they record helps them build the career they want.
If you want to become a professional songwriter, of course you must write great songs. But you must also learn how to build a career (a profession) in songwriting, and that involves much more than just writing great songs. It can be a different journey for each songwriter, but there are some common tools, lessons and experiences that apply to all successful paths to stardom and riches.
You need an understanding of each piece of the whole picture you are trying to build for yourself; what each piece does, why you need it, and how it helps to support the whole.
I am a producer. It always surprises me when a songwriter asks me if I will pitch their songs for them. (Which follows the opening statement of, “I want to be a hit songwriter”.) How can you want to be a hit songwriter and not have taken the time to learn what a producer does? How can you be serious about it if you have not learned what a publisher, song plugger, co-writer, A&R rep, or artist does, how it may involve you, and how to speak the language that implies that you understand your craft and your business?
Being something only happens after the journey of becoming something. You do not wake up one day and suddenly realize that you ARE something without being able to look back and see how you BECAME that something. It is always a process, whether you are aware of the process or not.
I challenge you today to begin becoming what you want to be by learning what you need to get there and how to create the job you want. When you approach a publisher, producer, PRO writers rep or anyone else in the music business be informed about what they do and how their talents might benefit you and visa-versa.
If you feel that you have learned your craft and have written some great songs, spend some time learning how to market your great songs and find your place in the music community. Who can help you? Why would they want to? What can you bring to the table that would benefit their business, which in turn would help you reach your own goals?
Typically, for a new writer in today’s songwriters market, you must write a great song; get a great presentation of your great song; then get it into the hands of someone who needs great songs like yours. Here are some guidelines that may help you on your songwriting journey.
  • When approaching a publisher, you are asking them to include your song into their catalog of songs and present it to artists and A&R reps in hopes of getting a cut. For their work, they would share in the copyright and earnings with you.
  • When approaching a song plugger, you are asking to hire them to represent your song catalog to interested parties who may be looking for songs like yours. They typically do not share your copyright, but instead work for a flat fee to pitch your songs as a “work for hire” agreement. Each deal is different and some may receive bonuses for bigger cuts, etc, but this is the basic premise of a song plugging deal
  • When approaching a producer, you are asking for your song to be included on a project they are currently working on. You should know what projects they are seeking songs for at that time and ask them to listen only to songs appropriate for those projects. You should only approach producers with what they are asking for when they are looking for it.
  • When approaching an artist, you should only pitch songs to them that are a) recorded in a pitchable format (not your work tape if you can’t sing or play well enough to deliver the song properly. Don’t expect them to imagine what it could be. It is your responsibility to represent your song in its best light. They will only see it for what it is, not what it could be.), and b) relevant to the current project they are working on, their audience and artist image.
  • When approaching an A&R rep, remember that they are in the business of discovering money-making talent. They are only interested in how your song might make them (through their artist) some money. Present your song in the best possible light (i.e. a quality recording that allows them to imagine it on the radio) and be sure to present only songs that meet the artists they represent and may be on a current song search for.
Finally, approach every interaction with the idea of a mutually beneficial endeavor. Occasionally, we all ask for favors or need a leg up to get our dream off the ground. Just remember that others will be more interested in offering a helping hand if they see that you have come to the table prepared and are willing to work towards a mutually satisfying relationship.
Know what the person does. Know how they can help you and how you might help them. Ask for specific services that they provide, rather than a general “make my dream come true” request. If you follow these tips, you will have a much better chance at finding success in the career you want.
I wish you well on your journey of becoming what you want to be!
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