You are on page 1of 10

Alleman 1

Rachel Alleman


Senior Project

6 October 2017

The World of Songwriters

Songwriting is the process of writing lyrics or music for a popular song. Most people who

want to be professional songwriters are looking to make a profit from what they write, this can

be tricky. Before committing to being a professional songwriter one must first know the

process of songwriting, the copyright laws and publishing, and most importantly, the business

behind songwriting. The music industry as a whole is very competitive and time consuming. It is

also about the connections and being in the right place at the right time. Knowing the process can

help a songwriter tremendously with their creativity and style. Copyright laws are extremely

important to be familiar with so he or she can keep their songs safe. Being a songwriter will take

up a lot of time and effort. It is a learning process, but a committed artist will get better over time

and maybe even sell a hit song.

The process of songwriting is different for everyone, but having a basic understanding of

a simple process can help with anyones creativity flow. Whether someone starts with writing

lyrics or writing a melody, having a process will guarantee success in the long run. When starting

with lyrics one must keep in mind that simple is better. They want their listener to relate to the

words they write, starting simple is the perfect way to build their craft. When thinking of lyrics

one must focus on the feeling they have when thinking of certain words or ideas. When

beginning to develop their craft, it is critical to remember not to settle on the first thing that
Alleman 2

comes to mind, having a few ideas to sort through is the goal. Having a certain attitude when

performing a song will incorporate the audience and make them feel what the writer feels when

they wrote the song. In order to get a strong following and get heard by industry people, having a

strong title is helpful. In the industry this is referred to as being a hook, something to really

catch the eyes and ears of listeners like the standard public, or more importantly, someone big in

the industry. The first couple words in a song are very important to think about, like writing an

essay one must have a thesis to capture what the rest of the paper is about and get the reader

interested. Also a songwriter must think about the overall structure of a song such as, how many

verses and choruses, or the intensity of each section of the song.

The same goes for a song, there must be a line or two to capture the listener's interest and the

tone of the song as a whole. Before an artist commits completely to a phrase, they must first ask

themselves, What is this about? How does this make them feel? What do they want others

to feel when they hear this song? What is the message they want their audience to capture?. If

someone is having difficulty with the structure or the layout of their song, professionals tend to

advise them, to map it out. Many artists use this method, a songwriter should know the entire

story of their song before adding the lyrics and fluff to it. An artist needs to have an idea of

beginning, middle, and end before adding the creative bits and pieces to the final product. Their
Alleman 3

first draft should not be the finished product. In order to be completely successful in songwriting,

one must go through trial and error multiple times on the same song.

When starting with melodies in a commercial song can be a challenge, like classical

melody composition, they are formed the same and both can have hooks. Pop melodies are

normally constructed with short melodic sections that are usually repeated throughout the song

as a verse, chorus, or bridge. Pop songs or any commercial songs are written to be sung by

vocalists, not just played by instruments. To keep a listener engaged, songwriters add different

melodies and intensify different parts of a song to keep it entertaining. Also changing the

rhythmic pattern and phrase length will add some dimension and differences to a song. In order

to add some dimension with the vocals, artists can add harmonies. Harmonies are a pleasing

musical sound that gives the song distinctive appeal (Cohen 121). The most common way to

find harmonies in a song are in triads. Also someone could add a 7th tone within the triad to

achieve a cleaner, more precise sound. To have a successful song, writers need to establish the

right groove, which is the feel of the song. Knowing the type of feel they want is mandatory for a

hit song.

Artists can write a hit song by themselves or with a collaborative team with the same

mindset as them. In everything, people always have to start at the bottom, finding the right

person to collaborate with is the same way. At first it may be overwhelming because a writer is

going to have to deal with a lot of different people with different writing skills and personalities,

there are people with different styles, past experiences, and may approach the task a bit different

than another writer. Collaboration can be a very good thing, even though it sounds difficult at

first. When he or she writes with other people they can contribute musical and literary impacts.

To start off they need to find someone they really connect well with, or they go somewhere
Alleman 4

where they know others are looking to do the same as them. Some writers also place ads on

online sources specifically for music and collaboration. Joining a songwriters association like,

Nashville Songwriters Association International can help an artist build connections with

important people who can help them in the future or can be their perfect collaboration team. A

simple way to think about it is, if one person is good at writing lyrics then they find someone

who is good at writing a melody and likewise. Writing directly with a musician can be a great

reward, a songwriter can really get to know the singer on a personal level, learn about their

relationships in the past and their present ones. The person one may be working with might

already have some lyric ideas they can work with, the professional then can help with the

musicians ideas and the structure of the song. The songwriter and the artist can pass lyrics and

melodies back and forth to create something perfect just for the artist. Writing with producers

can be different than writing directly with the artist, but the producer knows exactly what the

artists sound is and the type of music they want to produce. Some songwriters will want to begin

with a rough track of their song to send to their employers. Tracks are a basic recording of

primary rhythm instruments, usually on a digital sequencer and occasionally with real

instruments (Braheny 136). When or if a songwriter writes with a track writer, they will usually

be producers, engineers, or mixers. People who create tracks will look for people who have their

same style of music, who have written their own song, the track writers will then lay down a

rough melody track. When laying down a track with someone, it is best to talk about business

first before moving forward with anything else. A professional will always make sure that the

person they are working with knows that the royalty must be split between both parties. Before

getting serious about the people one wants to collaborate with, they should always set up a

business meeting to discuss copyright, royalties, and recording. When having a business meeting
Alleman 5

with collaborators, the writer should be assertive and guarded. That is not the case for a creative

meeting with those same people, therefore an artist should never have a business and creative

meeting simultaneously with their group. Their moods and personalities are very different

between business and creativity, the two meetings should always stay separated. Before a

meeting of any kind, a songwriter should prepare everything they want to discuss or any ideas

they may have. The goal is to be taken seriously, coming prepared for any meeting will ensure

good results and have an impressive impact on the writers colleagues.

The most important thing a songwriter has to consider is how to protect their songs. With

that being said, the songwriter needs to think about their song as their property and their

ownership of the product, While you may be emotionally attached to your baby, you have to

think of it as a product, or commodity - an intellectual property (Braheny 154). Many

songwriters have written many hit songs, but they either do not know how to register their song,

or they rely on someone else to pay them for the work they have done. Eventually, once they

have learned and grown in their craft and have been educated in copyright, they will see that they

signed over all their rights to their hard work. Fortuitously, songwriters have learned from their

mistakes and have used what they have learned to educate others. To help amatuer songwriters

learn about copyright there are many books, songwriters organizations, classes, seminars,

websites, and many other learning opportunities in today's society.

Copyright is a constitutional right for someone to distribute or record any of their own

works without consequence. When a musical artist or songwriter copyrights their song, they have

the right to authorize the reproduction of their work and to obtain payment for it. The owner of

the song can give or sell the rights to others like, publishers or record companies. If someone

violates a songwriters copyright it is called infringement. Other forms of protection one may take
Alleman 6

to protect their songs are, patents and trademarks. Patents give someone solo rights over their

own works. Trademarks are justly protected words, phrases, or logos. Copyright comes along

with many rights like, the right to produce the song, prepare new works, distribute copies of the

copyrighted song and sell those copies to the public, display the copyrighted song publically, and

songwriters can perform their copyrighted songs publically anywhere. Copyright Registration is

a legal formality intended to make to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular

copyright (Braheny, 158). Copyright Registration is not required for protection, but the

copyright law encourages owners to register considering their is convenience to this. Registering

will ensure advantages such as, having a public record of a copyright claim, for the entirety of

the US origin there must be a registration prior to an infringement suit can go to court, and songs

will be completely protected by the US government.

Copyright infringement simply means someone stealing a songwriter's work and passing

it by as their own. Surprisingly, songwriters borrow ideas from each other all the time, openly.

The concept is making the idea different and unique from the others, it is about the journey the

writer takes to get to that idea. One songwriter may have an amazing idea, but can not form a

well written song. In this case another songwriter could take that idea and turn it into an inspiring

work of art. The catch is if the second writer uses any of the previous writers original lyrics or

melodies, they could be accused of infringement. In order for someone to prove copyright

infringement they must authorize who has ownership of the copyrighted song, they must also

consider whether or not the infringer really copied the song.

Publishing of music has evolved immensely throughout the years and is highly complex

compared to the publishing of a book. Sheets music sales is only a small part of the overall big

picture in publishing music today. Although it did start with just sheet music, it has in fact
Alleman 7

branched out since we now have technology. When publishing, songwriters are required to have

imagination, creativity, intuition, tenacity, and good business (Braheny 192). Publishers, like

songwriters, will have to be able to deal with rejection. Also knowing the business side and

recording side of music would not hurt either. Publishers can do a lot of different things that will

fall under separate categories including, creative, promotional, business, and administrative. The

creative aspect of publishing consists of, screening new songs, attending concerts, meeting with

new songwriters, and visiting recording studios to hear and meet prospective artists. The idea of

a promotional publisher would be contacting producers, agents, and managers to know what

song the potential artist needs. Also they will read music, film, advertise, and much more.

Getting into the business side, hiring personnel is done by the publisher. They will also talk with

writers about contracts and work with other forms of publishers on various business

requirements. The administrator side of publishing have the jobs of filing copyright forms,

notices with agencies that will collect royalties. The publisher in this field will also do general

accounting as well as any other basic business services needed for an artist. Some publishers are

so educated that they can do all of these things within their career.

Entering a career as a songwriter or a performer is tricky because, there is no right way to

start, it all depends on the person. A professional must first ask themselves some important

questions like, Do they want their songs to be played by other artists? Are their songs too

personal for someone else to play? The list goes on. Asking these questions would be the first

step in figuring out the direction the writer or performer want to take. If someone is just looking

for a career as a songwriter, they could look into the publisher route. Going for that option will

allow a songwriter to have their songs be heard without them performing. Their publisher will

shop around for a suitable artist to perform their song. Having a publisher will require a writer to
Alleman 8

split their income if the publisher gets them a deal. Another way to go is through a record

company. Possibly the artist a superior performer than a writer, they can then get with other

writers who are more experienced who do not perform, and collaborate with them. It all comes

down to knowing whether the artist prefers performing or writing. If the artist is pursuing both

writing and performing, they may want to choose the producer option. A producer can then

provide them with money and other resources to the artist, so they can record and jumpstart their

career. Someone may decide to go with the management route. This will help with knowing what

venues to perform at and also how to commence publishing, record company, and production

deals. The artist can hire a manager or pay an attorney a fee to negotiate the deals rather than

pay a manager fifteen to twentyfive percent of the income (Braheny 272). All in all the artist

must decide if they are willing to pay money for the service or not.

The big sum of people within this business are wanting to earn an income from the songs

they write. In order to be a professional songwriter they must first learn their own process. There

are many different processes someone could go off of, but ultimately it is a personal endeavor.

This profession takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment. Most songwriters starting out will

have multiple amounts of jobs to keep them at a living wage. Before investing time in such a

tedious job one must learn basic business practices surrounding the songwriting profession.

These subjects may include copyright law, publishing, and the all around business side. When

getting started as a professional songwriter one must develop good contacts, this could be

managers, producers, publishers, and record label advisors. The music industry all around is very

competitive, but someone who works hard, is determined, and passionate will get better over

time and could even sell a hit song.

Alleman 9

Works Cited

Blume, Jason. 6 Steps to songwriting success. Billboard, 2004

Braheny, John. The craft and business of songwriting: a practical guide to creating and
marketing artistically and commercially successful songs. Writer's Digest Books,

Ewer, Gary. The Formal Structure of Popular songs: Adapting Freytag's Pyramid . The
Essential Secrets of songwriting, 12 Dec. 2014,

Hess, Tom. Songwriting - Part 1. Songwriting Techniques Article - Part 1, Tom Hess Music
Alleman 10

Music copyright. The Free Dictionary, Farlex,


Silke, Sean. The Business of Songwriting. Songwriting Essentials,

The Process Of Writing A Song. Songstuff,


Vandiver, Jerry, and Gracie Hollombe. Your first cut: a step-by-Step guide to getting there. 11/22
Pub., 2003.