Songland Could Be Good If…

Adam Levine

If you haven’t yet heard about it, Adam Levine, Dave Stewart and the executive producer of The Voice, Audrey Morrissey, will be teaming up to produce a new series called Songland.

The whole idea behind Songland is that songwriters will get a chance to pitch their songs to a panel, very much like vocalists vying for a deal on The Voice, and the winner will, I’m guessing, get their song recorded by a big name artist. Continue reading “Songland Could Be Good If…”

Be Careful What You Read

Linda Perry
Linda Perry

Here are a bunch of shocking headlines I grabbed lately from various web ‘sources’, emphasis is mine:

    • Beyonce’s Songwriting Abilities Clowned By Songwriter Linda Perry
    • Linda Perry SLAMS Beyoncé For Taking Credit When She Shouldn’t! – Perez Hilton
    • Shots Fired? Linda Perry Takes Aim At Beyonce’s Songwriting –
    • Beyonce’s Songwriting Credits are Questioned by Linda Perry But Do Fans Really Care? – Bustle
    • Beyonce Must Prove Herself As A Songwriter –
    • Linda Perry Calls Out Beyonce’s “Songwriting” Skills – Dlisted

…and most shocking of all…

  • Linda Perry Drags Illiterate Porn Star Beyonce For Her Bullshit –

You can check the sources yourself if you want to, which is why I included them. And how did it all start? Well, songwriter Linda Perry, who has written for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Ariana Grande, Celine Dion, Alicia Keys and others, did a recent Reddit question-and-answer session, and one of the questions posed to her was this:

Linda, how do you feel about Beyonce changing one word on a song and getting writing credit. Does that bother you as a songwriter?

It’s a fair question because songwriting credit is certainly a revenue source that artists (and their managers and record labels) have started to take more advantage of in the past few years.  Change a word here or there and ask for writing credits so you can get a bigger piece of the pie.

Let’s look at that idea for a minute though.  If you had someone the calibre of Beyonce wanting to record your song and potentially making a lot of moola, what would you do?  I’m thinking a lot of us would day “sure, go ahead, whatever you want!” with great enthusiasm and flashing dollar signs in our eyes.  I’m also thinking that big name artists like Beyonce know very well that if one songwriter won’t do it, another will.

From the headlines above, however, you’d think that Linda Perry was a self-righteous, nasty-mouthed, ungrateful be-atch.  This is the inter-web folks (yes, I know it’s not called that) and you need to remember that every entertainment-related website is continuously looking for new ways to scream for attention, so I wanted to show you Linda’s actual answer (which others did too, but almost as an afterthought, hoping maybe you’d click on an ad or two in the meantime):

“Well hahaha um thats not songwriting but some of these artists believe if it wasnt for them your song would never get out there so they take a cut just because they are who they are. but everyone knows the real truth even Beyonce. She is talented but in a completely different way.”

Utterly blasphemous, no?  No.  Just an honest response to an honest question.  I don’t love Beyonce, and neither do I hate her.  Sometimes it’s just the web I hate.


In The Thicke of Things

I was pretty curious when I first heard about the continuing lawsuits that have been flying back and forth between Robin Thicke and his label and the children of Marvin Gaye.  The suits (I don’t really know how many!) are because of Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines”.

I think what really might have sparked this whole fuss was when Thicke gave an interview in GQ Magazine where he said:

“Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give it Up.’ I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.’ Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it.”

When the Gaye family started to make noises about the similarities between the two songs, Thicke actually threw the initial punch by suing the Gaye family FIRST, claiming that there were no similarities.  I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that before.  It was supposedly to “protect” the song, which was was No.1 on Billboard for 12 weeks in 2013, and a huge hit for Thicke and his producers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. It was also up for, but didn’t win, a Grammy for best song.

Since then, the accusations have been flying back and forth, with the Gaye family also accusing Thicke of copying Marvin Gaye’s song “After The Dance” for his song “Love After War”.  But instead of talking lawsuits for a moment, let’s have a listen.

If you haven’t already heard it, here is Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines”:

And now, here is Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”:

The usual elements that are brought up in song copyright suits are melody and lyrics, which is why those are the parts that you submit when you are creating a documented copyright for a song.  You can’t copyright a chord progression or a title, although occasionally they have come up as part of a suit.  In this case, the issue is the feel and/or beat, which is created by the percussion, drums and bass.  The chord progressions in each song (and the key, for that matter) are different.  The lyrics and melody (where there is one) are different.

So has there been an infringement?

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think.  They are an awful lot alike because of that groove. Whether, technically speaking, a similar groove will be enough to claim copyright infringement, I will leave that up to the courts.  I’ve read arguments on both sides, one claiming that Pharrell, who I admire a lot, likes to pay “homage” to those who influenced him and what harm is there in that?  But that groove is really, really similar.

I could almost write the whole thing off if I thought to myself that Thicke had subliminally come up with that groove because the song was ‘way back in his memory somewhere.  But his interview says it all.  He liked the groove in that song and they (for the lack of a better word) copied it.  It was, in that respect, intentional.

What do you think?  Where do the lines get crossed?


Ralph Murphy’s Law

Songwriting veteran, Ralph Murphy, recently gave a few eager songwriters some writing tips at his recent talk during ASCAP’s Expo in Hollywood. Here they are:

    • The importance of writing for women: “Women physically buy 50% of all records made — and make men buy the other 50%,” joked Murphy.
    • Seeking feedback from unbiased listeners: “Your friends and family are your worst critics because they love everything you do. Forget you even have a family.”
    • The power of pronouns: “You” is a trigger word that really pulls in the audience and makes the song relatable to them.” Murphy cited Zac Brown Band’s “Keep Me In Mind,” for example. “The first line is: ‘How come all the pretty girls like you are taken baby?'” Murphy highlighted the strategic use of ‘you’ and ‘pretty.’ “It isn’t rocket science you know!”
    • Ease of singing: “All the first songs you grew up loving as a child were easy to sing.”
    • Don’t leave things unexplained: “If you start out a song with ‘Driving through Oklahoma,’ you better address why you are in Oklahoma. Don’t say you have a loaded gun in the car and then never tell the listener what you do with it.”
    • Rhyme scheme as a tool: “Don’t change your chord till you change your thought. Avoid contrived rhymes.”
    • Expectations: Establish the premise of the song early on and fulfill the listener’s expectations. Make the song believable and write for the singer. Don’t write a song about children, for example if the artist you are pitching it to doesn’t have kids. It won’t be believable when they sing it.”
    • Before heading out to do a signing of his “Murphy’s Law of Songwriting” book, Murphy bestowed his “best bets for going forward” upon the crowd, divulging the recipes that would give his students the best chance of selling a hit:
    • Pop song: 100 bpm or more featuring a woman as the artist; an 8 second intro; use the pronoun ‘you’ within 20 seconds of the start of the song; hit the bridge middle 8 between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds; average 7 repetitions of the title; create some expectations and fill that expectation in the title.
    • Country: 100bpm or less for a male artist; 14-second intro; uses the pronoun ‘you’ within the first 20 seconds of the intro; has a bridge middle 8 between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds; has 7 repetitions of title; creates an expectation, fulfills it in 60 seconds.

Certainly some things to think about, even if you don’t believe in “rules”!


Enhanced by Zemanta

Finding New Fans Can Backfire

I read an article today on a music marketing website that had to do with finding new fans online.  It basically said not to wait for fans to find you, but to seek them out by looking for similar artists to yourself on websites that you have your music on, like Reverbnation or MySpace.  The author said to “reach out” to these other artists’ fans.

Image representing ReverbNation as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase

While I see the importance of marketing yourself and your music when you’re a performing artist or in a band, I do think that some of this can backfire on you if you don’t know how to go about it or when to stop.  As an example, I had a songwriter who emailed me a month or so ago about a song that he had placed in some kind of online contest.  He wanted votes for his song.  Now, first of all think of this:  if you are trying to get people who don’t know you to vote for your song, what if they don’t like it?  I mean, that is a possibility!  They might end up voting for someone else.   There’s a backfire right there.  So solicit people that you already know like your music.  That’s the first step.

I did not go to the site to listen to his song because I basically didn’t have time at that point.  So I pretty much ignored his email, which was generic in nature anyway.  In other words, mine was in a long list of emails, he didn’t email me specifically.   But even after I ignored it, he didn’t stop at that.  He emailed again, presumably to the same number of email addresses saying that he had reached a semi-final with his song and he needed votes again.  And then I got a third email, as he was still looking for votes.  So this time, I politely emailed for him to please remove me from his email list.
Continue reading “Finding New Fans Can Backfire”