When Should You Write?

Songwriting is a skill that you build as time goes on. You don’t just sit down and write a number one hit, you need to be ready for when the inspiration hits you. So, to be ready for that inspiration, you should set aside five minutes everyday, just to write.

Most songwriters that I look up to give the same advice, which is to try to write everyday. You don’t have to write a song a day, just write everyday. You can write a poem, a journal entry, imagery exercises, a verse and more. You can use pieces of your random writings and build a song from that. It is a way to become a better writer and come up with more ideas.

Think of songwriting like a muscle. You can’t just lift 100 pounds, you work up to that. Just like how you can’t just sit down and write a song when the inspiration hits, you have to be ready for when it does.

I challenge you to start a habit to write everyday. I don’t care what you write, just work your writing muscle and see what you come up with.

Check out some of the songs on this website.

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Showing vs Telling: Lyric Writing

Showing and telling are two storytelling techniques used in songwriting very often. Showing is the act of showing the listener what is happening and using imagery. Telling is when you tell the listener what is happening or how you feel straight forward.

Showing is more common in songs than telling because it helps the listener understand the story. Imagery is how songwriters show the listener what is happening. For example, Ed Sheehan “A Team.”

“White lips, pale face
Breathing in snowflakes
Burnt lungs, sour taste
Light’s gone, day’s end”

Right in the beginning of this song he shows you what the person he’s talking about looks like, the time of year, what the person is doing and the time of day. He could say sickly girl, winter time, smoking and night, but to make it more interesting he finds a more complex way to get the message through by showing.

Telling isn’t any less interesting, but it isn’t used as often. Usually songwriters have a pattern of showing and telling by having three lines show and the last line tell. For example, Lori McKenna, Jeremy Spillman and Travis Meadows’ “Pontiac.”

Pontiacs and daydreams, cigarettes and magazines, backseats full of memories, I can’t let go of

One song that only tells is “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat for example:

“I’ve been awake for a while now
You’ve got me feelin’ like a child now
‘Cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tingles in a silly place”

As you can see she tells you everything she wants you to know including how she feels and what is happening.

Ways to practice this is to practice free writing. Choose a topic and write a paragraph about it in as much showing detail as you can. You can use what you come up with in songs.

Check out songs on this website for more examples and reach out to Robert Braathe.

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Mechanical vs Synchronization Licensing

There are many different types of licensing for music, but I am going to focus on the two most important ones for songwriters. These two include mechanical and synchronization licensing.

Mechanical licensing is a license that a person gets when they want to record and release a song by another person. In this license they are given the rights to make copies of the song and release the song to the public for a percentage in royalties. The percentage is negotiated by the publisher or it is the US statutory rate. The US statutory rate which is 9.1 cents for a song under 5min and 1.75 cents per minute for songs longer than 5 min. You can get a mechanical license from either Harry Fox Agency or the publisher of the song. Harry Fox Agency is a provider of mechanical licenses and a royalty distributor to publishers. The royalty percentage there is usually the US statutory rate.

Synchronization licenses or sync licenses are for video recording. This is the license needed when using a song for a YouTube cover video or movie. In exchange for a percentage of royalties, you get the rights to make a copy of the song and put the song to video. These are handed out by the song’s publisher only with a royalty that is negotiated.

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Chord Progressions

Every chord progression is used over and over again throughout all genres and styles of music. There is no being unique when coming up with a chord progression for a song, but there is a way to make yours more interesting.

First, changing how long you stay on the same chord can help. Sometimes I change a chord each measure and have that repeat throughout the song, but this can cause the song drag. You can change chords after one or two beats or you can stay on a chord for a few measures. Changing this up can help keep your song interesting when writing it and when people listen to it.

Another way would be changing your chord progression in different parts if the song. You can keep a chord progression for the verse, but have a completely different one in the bridge or chorus. This helps the listener identify different parts of the song.

The final way to help make your chord progressions more interesting is with using non chord tones. This helps keep the listener engaged in the song. A non chord tone is a chord or note you use in the song that is not in the original key. You can use this in the melody or chord progression and it adds a lot to the song.

Check out the songs on this website and reach out to Robert Braathe for more information!

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Switch Up Your Writing

Writing one way can cause writer’s block and make you lose motivation to write. Switching up how you write can help keep songwriting interesting. There are many ways that you can switch how you write and gain more motivation to write that next hit song.

First, you can switch up where you write. Writing in the same area gets boring, so going outside or finding a different scenery could help you out. I like to write in my room, but whenever I get stuck on what I’m writing, I like sitting on a bench outside. Changing the scenery I’m in helps me a lot when writing.

You can also change how you write. Instead of lyrics first you can try coming up with a chord progression or melody first. This can help challenge you and your ability to song-write while keeping it interesting.

The final way to help you get inspiration to write is co-writing. Co-writing is one of the most important part of songwriting. Most hits come about when multiple minds come together and bounce ideas off one another. Finding someone who fills indoor weaknesses as a songwriter would be best. Find someone who can write good melodies if you write lyrics or the other way around. This helps keep your writing interesting.

As you can see there are many ways to help you stay motivated to song-write, you just need to find what works for you.

Check out some of the songs on this site and reach out to Robert Braathe for more information.

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Cons of Self Publishing

Self Publishing has many positives, but there is always another side.

Publishers do a lot for their songwriters in exchange for the rights and 50% of the royalties. They are the ones who collect the royalties from PROs, draft licensing agreements and do all the other grunt work so you can focus on writing your songs. If you do not have a publisher, yes, you get 100% of the money made, but you also have to do all the work.

Publishers are also responsible for promotion. They pitch your song to the radio to get it played and put your song out there to get recorded by artists. If you choose to publish your own songs, then you will have to build a professional network and pitch your songs.

If you get so lucky to get a deal with a publisher, they may offer you an advance in the contract. This is so you have some financial security in the beginning of the contract while you are waiting for royalties to come in. Many songwriters pick up side jobs while they wait to be able to live off of songwriting.

Check out my previous blog to get the pros of self publishing!

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Why You Should Self Publish

When you self publish a song that you wrote means that you own the song 100%. When it comes to sharing your song with the world, mechanical license royalties, licensing commissions, and performance royalties goes to you. To clarify, if we look at a song’s ownership like BMI, you can own up to 200% of a song. 100% writer’s ownership and 100% publisher. If you had a publisher the royalties would be split usually 50/50 between the owners, unless another agreement was made.

Another reason self-publishing is great is because where your song ends up is up to you. When someone wants to get a mechanical license to record and release a cover, then you have the option to say no. You get to control who uses your song and where you song is used.

You are also not tied down to a deal with a publisher. These deals are usually exclusive, meaning you cannot work with other publishers for however long the term may be. Also, most contracts have you give the copyrights to your song to them.

Come back next week for the cons of self publishing to learn more!

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Songwriting Forms

There are many parts to a song, they include, an into, an outro, verses, a chorus and sometimes a bridge. A song does not need all of these parts but having a mix of different parts can make your song more interesting. 

An into is the beginning of the piece and it is usually instrumental. An outro is at the end of a song and it gives a conclusion to the song. This can be instrumental or repeat important parts of the song, like the first line or parts of the chorus. 

The verse is usually a repeated melody with different lyrics but can have repetition and the melody can change to fit the lyrics. This is a part of the song that really furthers the story and adds information. 

The chorus is surprisingly not always in a song, but when it is, it is the most important. This is usually a repeated section of lyrics and melody that really attracts the listener to the song. The chorus is the part of the song that typically has the hook or title of the song. 

The final part of the song is the bridge. This is not always used, but when it is it has a great impact. This is a different part of the sing that introduces a new melody and lyrics. The bridge furthers the story and helps keep the listener engaged when nearing the end of the song.

 These parts of a song can be mixed and matched to create different song forms. The simplest song form is strophic or AAA form that is just a verse repeated with different lyrics. Another form is ABAB which is Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus and if it had a bridge instead of the final verse, then it would be ABAC. There is no bad song forms, but it is very important to choose the right one for each song. 

Reach out to Robert Braathe for more songwriting opportunities!

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Songwriting and Copyright

There are common headlines covering music each year involving copyright. These headlines occur when artists or songwriters have traits in their songs that are similar to another person’s song. How do you protect your songs? Well, once a song is placed in tangible form, you are granted the six exclusive rights. These rights include:

  1. Reproduce and make copies of an original work; 
  2. Prepare derivative works based on the original work; 
  3. Distribute copies to the public by sale or another form of transfer, such as rental or lending;
  4. Publicly perform the work;
  5. Publicly display the work, and
  6. Perform sound recordings publicly through digital audio transmission.

This means that to be protected by law you do not need to register your songs for copyright. 

If someone violates your copyright, then you will need to register your song(s) with the U.S. Copyright Office to take legal action. You will be able to send a cease and desist letter or sue, but if you registered your song after the infringement occurred then you will only be able to sue for profits and damages, not legal fees. 

The best time to register your songs for copyright is before you perform or release them publicly. There is no need to register your songs if they are sitting in a journal, but once they get out to the world having that extra protection is very important and worth the money. 

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“We Should Write Sometime”

Collaborative songwriting has become very important in music today. Many hits are written by multiple talented songwriters who may specialize in different areas of songwriting. As a songwriter, I consider myself a good lyric writer and melody writer, but it is helpful having someone else to bounce ideas off of. 

“We Should Write Sometime” is the “tinder” of co-writing. It is a free app that uses the swipe-left and swipe-right idea to pair you up with songwriters in your area. You enter in information including links to songs you’ve written, PRO affiliation and strengths in songwriting. You swipe through the list of songwriters and can find people that you would like to write with. If you match with another songwriter, the app will put you in contact with them and you can start writing.

If you don’t know any musicians and would like to gain experience writing with others, “We Should Write Sometime” is a great app to help you get started.  

If you would like to write with someone, please feel free to contact Robert Braathe! You can check out his songs on this website.

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