OK. So what’s the Mission around here?
Songwriting and Music Publishing
As a songwriter trying to succeed in the ever competitive world of music, realize that now more than ever the song is the most important component of your musical presentation.
These didn’t necessarily all have to be hits, but they should at least be in the ballpark. In putting together an album for a major label, I’d always encourage the artist to have at least five potential hits on their CD. The remaining tracks could be “artist songs” – songs that fill in the blanks as to who you are and what you’re about. Sometimes these “artist songs” can be crucial; they may resonate with your potential audience in a deeper way than any of the higher-profile hit tunes.
And because of the new dynamics of the Web, a hit song is more important than ever. Nowadays you rarely hear people talk about not how killer a new artist’s album is. Rather, they zero in on the one song that has captured the public’s imagination. And if you’re thinking, “Write a hit song that grabs everyone’s attention? That’s easy,” know that it’s not. That’s why every artist—especially the new and emerging ones—needs to pay attention to both the art and craft of songwriting. A variety of crucial questions needs to be asked and answered:
Is the song structured properly?
Does it have a bridge section or a pre-chorus?
Does the chorus pay out melodically?
Does the song have a defined beginning, middle and end.
Are the lyrics compelling?
Is it saying something in a fresh way that hasn’t been heard or done before?
Weak links or a strong presentation?
Because of my experience as a publisher and an A&R representative, I know what makes songs tick. I understand structure as well as the various nuances that render a song bulletproof. I can’t wave a wand and make your material first- rate. No, this is something you have to work hard at, with the understanding that one out of every five songs you write might be considered album-worthy, and it might take writing 50 or 60 pieces to get the 10 or 12 killers to include on your album.
Aside from the song knowledge I’ve acquired from years of making records, working with artists, setting up collaborations between songwriters and all the various skill sets required of “an A&R guy,” I’m also a professional who instinctively looks for the good in what an artist is doing. That said, the hardest part of performing A&R is recognizing the good, as well as noticing the “weak links” in an artist and their presentation. Too often, A&R people go to a showcase or listen to demos, and they’re looking for this weak link, to justify not signing the artist. Every artist at one time or another has heard these comments:
Your songs need to be better structured
You need better lyrics
Your songs need more melody
Your voice has a great upper register, but you need help in the lower range
Any and all of these comments may be valid, but once he recognizes an artist’s shortcomings, then the A&R person’s responsibility is to work to eliminate them and make the music stronger. This might mean collaborating with other writers, working with a vocal coach to strengthen the singer’s range, finding the right studio to record in and the right support musicians…any number of things that can, and should, be done to separate the artist from the pack.
Traditionally, the role of an A&R person was invaluable. He was the creative champion of the artist, working on their behalf to find songs, set them up with collaborations with other songwriters or find them the right producer. Once an album was complete, the A&R person also helped in selling the artist to the label and the larger music community. This would entail overseeing the artist’s imaging (supervising photo shoots and promotional literature) and helping strategize how best to take them to the marketplace.
“I continue to go out at least two nights a week to check artists performing at various clubs and venues around Los Angeles, and though I’ve seen a number of extremely talented performers, I’m always amazed to find that most exhibit a weak link.”
Inevitably, it’s their material. Whether it’s your songs that need help, your vocals that need improving or finding a sympathetic producer, I am well connected in all of these creative areas and can get you to the right person to help make your weakest link disappear.
Because I am no longer an active career coach, I don’t want to hear your songs or your presentation to labels. I have kept this information on songwriting and music publishing in here more for educational purposes. Same with both the live video interview from YouTube as well as the print interview from Taxi. If you can utilize this information to have a better understanding of songs, how they work and how music publishing works, I feel I’ve been successful in passing on this knowledge.