Music Gateway’s insight on co-writing

In this blog post, Graham Turner from Music Gateway, an online marketplace for people in the music industry, offers some usual information to our young songwriters wanting to create a sustainable career in the music industry.

Co-writes or Cow Rights

Hmmm, now; here’s a subject I could write a book on.

“It’s like rats on a sinking ship, crawling over each other to get to the cheese.”

Most successful songwriters will tell you, the best way to improve your writing, network your way ahead, and give yourself the best chance of writing something fantastic, is to co-write.  I’d agree with that; wholeheartedly!

I’ve had some truly amazing experiences writing with other people.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some top top writers in LA and Nashville, had the honour of having some of my teenage hero’s playing my songs here in the UK and learned so much from some of the best producers in Scandinavia and Europe.

I’ve had songs played on Radio in most parts of the world and had a couple of songs featured in TV shows and even had one song voted by Publishers in the top 40 songs written in Nashville in 2013.

My co-writers, in the main, have been exceptionally talented, amazingly generous and fun to work with. Without exception, all of my successes have been as a result of having a clear vision about what we were writing, who it’s been aimed at and agreeing what contribution we were happy with sharing BEFORE the song was written.

On the flip side, I’ve had some people go to sleep on a couch while I write a song around their explanation of how they got their hangover that’s so painful, it’s stopped them being able to work, yet they’ve demanded 50% publishing rights of the song, afterwards.

I’ve had producers block the use of a song that they didn’t even write, because the film didn’t fit their image (even though it went on to reach number 3 in the HMV dvd charts), and after we’d offered to pull their name from the credits but still demanded we pay them their % points. It later transpired that since they produced it, they’d gone on to write with Little Mix and decided that we were no longer worthy of his lofty position.

I’ve written with Emmy award winners who were generous enough to include a so-called friend of mine in one session. It turned out to be a big mistake as my “friend” got completely competitive during the session by rudely cutting across every single line or creative suggestion made, and we had to call a halt to the session.

I’ve helped people write and re-write their lyrics for them, spending up to 20 hours researching and writing their song, only to be offered a miserly 10% share after the event.

It sometimes gets even more spiteful when a song looks like it’s going to make money. Suddenly, people start counting hours, words or notes and trying to split things out even further.

Of course, most industry decision makers are not stupid. They can see through all of this very quickly.

It’s funny really. I didn’t realise it at first, but if you stand back at a Network Event or look from afar on Social Media, you can actually see, it’s like rats on a sinking ship, crawling over each other to get to the cheese.

I often wonder why some people can’t see the bigger picture and as soon as you start arguing about this kind of stuff, two things happen.

The Good Karma in the song disappears almost immediately, and what could have been a good thing, goes with it.

You end up with 100% of nothing. (or whatever percentage you’re left with).

So what’s the moral of the Story kids?

Don’t write a single note until you’ve agreed these two rules; IN WRITING:

  • What the writers split is going to be?
  • Who is it aimed at (or more importantly – where don’t you want your song used)

Now, that’s fine when it comes to the song, but there’s also some discussions needed around production, especially nowadays when production takes up a large part of making the final sound of the song (even though it may not necessarily be part of the raw song). Of course, many producers do write and produce so it’s less of a problem discussing this but you still need to consider:

  • How are you going to pay for the production (will you do it yourselves – in which case, you still

need to discuss this as part of the writing splits conversation). If you pay for the production, you

Normally own the master recording rights, which is important, as some finished songs are released as is when you get a song placed and therefore can command a production fee to buy out the recording and potentially negotigate royalty points as well.

  • Who’s going to sing it? (do they get a share of the song if they’re contributing to the melody line, or are you going to pay them a session fee for their time?)

You’ll have your own view, but I’ve always found that the best co-writes are where everyone has equal shares, even if they only plant a seed that another party has the type of receptive and expansive mind needed to grow it.

On the flip side, the ones where competitiveness over shadows creativity or where Ego over shadows humility when dealing with the business end, can only be described as Cow rights.

Discover more about information Music Gateway and check out their Next Gen competition for singers, musicians and songwriters.  For 14-23 year olds to enter a musical instrument performance an original song, solo, ensemble or cover

We’ve 5 weeks to go until the entry deadline of The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2018 competition!  If you’re 8-18 years old and are writing your own songs enter today!


Guy Chambers joins our Young Songwriter 2018 judging panel

Now in it’s 7th exciting year, from February 1st, the prestigious Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition 2018 is officially open for entries from across the UK and Ireland and internationally.

We are starting our search for the world’s top young songwriters. Could this be you?

If you’re aged between 8 and 18 and love writing your own original songs, then enter our Young Songwriter competition before the 8th April 2018 for the opportunity to:

  • Get noticed by some of the best songwriters & key players in the Music Industry
  • Have your songs heard and stand out from the crowd
  • Record your winning song with the top producer, Paul Stanborough in London
  • Receive a professional music video and professional photos from your studio session
  • Win a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio audio interface
  • Win a sE Electronics X1S Studio Bundle
  • Win a SoundCloud Pro Unlimited subscription
  • Perform in our Young Songwriter 2018 showcase in London
  • Win 4 tickets to Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
  • Win a Tinc big boom stand n speaker
  • Get connected to our vibrant community of young songwriters

This year’s panel of award winning judges includes

Singer songwriters Tom Odell, Imelda May and Lucie Silvas, songwriters & producers Guy Chambers (for Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Kylie Minogue, & Mark Ronson), Eg White (Adele, Duffy, Take That, Pink), Tim Laws (Gabrielle, Lighthouse Family), Jessica Sharman (for Ward Thomas), Nicky Cox (editor, First News) and Nigel Elderton (Chairman, PRS for Music).

Get ready and enter your original songs online



Highlights of 2016

It’s been an incredible year! Have a listen to our top 20 songs of our young songwriter members in 2016.  Congratulations to our young songwriters and a big thank you to the fantastic Song Academy team.

If you’re a songwriter aged 8-18 check out our Young Songwriter 2017 competition, open for entries on 1st Feb 2017.

If you’re interested in our after school clubs & holiday workshops have a look at what we offer talented young songwriters.

If you’re a music teacher looking to enrich your music programme please have a look at our songwriting programmes for schools.

If you’d like a Song Academy songwriting birthday party get in touch.

We’ve had a brilliant year helping young people write smash hits and express themselves.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

The Song Academy Team

Young Songwriter 2016 album released


* Album release showcasing the top young songwriters across the UK and Ireland

* Judges included Tom Odell, Eg White, Guy Fletcher & Jamie Theakston

We’re delighted to announce the release of the Song Academy Young Songwriter 2016 Compilation Album on Spotify, iTunes and other distributors through AWAL (Artists Without A Label). The album includes 26 tracks from the winners and selected finalists & highly commended of the 2016 Young Songwriter competition, which attracted outstanding young talent from 7-18 year olds across the UK and Ireland.

This album not only gives young songwriters a unique platform to get noticed by a larger audience and educate them in the digital world of e-commerce and the dynamics of the music industry, but it also provides them with their own revenue source.

Buy our Young Songwriter 2016 album on iTunes.

The annual Song Academy Young Songwriter competition has gone from strength to strength since it began in 2011 and is now the leading song writing competition for young people aged 7 to 18 across the UK and Ireland. It’s a springboard for the next generation of creative stars to get noticed by key players in the music industry, build confidence, have their voices heard and shine in the limelight.  Thank you to our sponsors PRS for Music, Yamaha, Dawsons Music, Farida and Access To Music for supporting our Young Songwriter 2016 competition.

This year’s prestigious judging panel, including Tom Odell, Rumer, Eg White, Guy Fletcher and Jamie Theakston, whittled down hundreds of entrants to choose a winner and two runners up from both of the competition categories, covering 7 to 12-year-olds and 13 to 18-year-olds.

Tom-OdellThe judges had nothing but praise for Song Academy. Tom Odell, singer songwriter said “When I was 13 years old I started writing songs, and over the following years I became more and more obsessed with it.  But the thing that always kept me awake at night was how to get them out there for people to hear them. This is why I think the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is a great way to inspire and help through this process, and its something I wish had been around when I was starting out.”

Rumer photoRumer, singer songwriter said: “I was very impressed with these children’s songs and was taken aback by their originality and their beautiful, unselfconscious approach to storytelling. I was very humbled by a lot of their words.”

Director of PRS for Music, Myles Keller said “This wonderful competition empowers young songwriters, enabling them to showcase their talent and offering them a ‘one of a kind’ opportunity to gain crucial feedback from some of the very best British songwriters. In the early stages of a career, this kind of help is like gold dust and really enables industry newcomers to build strong, sustainable careers. Music is integral to our nation’s identity and it is crucial that we nurture the next generation of songwriters now to ensure a creative future. PRS for Music is absolutely delighted to support such a positive and exciting competition.”

Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy, says: “Here at Song Academy, we are aiming to give young people a voice, help them to express themselves and celebrate their individuality. We give them the opportunity to unleash their creativity and inspire them with what’s possible. By connecting them to a vibrant community of their peers who all love writing original songs, as well as exposing their songs to key players in the Music Industry, we help to build young people’s confidence and self-belief.”

GET READY for our 2017 Young Songwriter competition and take a look at our excellent song feedback service.

Sound bites from Yamaha Artists

Here are some great tips from Yamaha Artists on some ways of developing your songwriting and recording  talents.  Yamaha sponsors our Young Songwriter 2016 competition.  Hurry to get your entries in – the entry deadline is this Saturday 9th April (at midnight)!

Clare CooganNAME:  Planet. Circle. Star.
OCCUPATION:  Teacher / Producer / Performer
Don’t be afraid to share your work with others. There’s no point giving yourself a hard time if you’re not sure where to take your song next – ask a friend to listen to your work. A second pair of ears can put a whole new perspective on a track and can often fill in that missing piece and take your song to the next stage. It can give you new confidence in your writing and you never know what will come from sharing your work – new collaborations, ideas and opportunities. Sharing your work in its early stages can be nerve wracking, but go for it, you gain so much!


emilydolandavisNAME: Emily Dolan Davis

OCCUPATION: Professional Drummer



Whatever instrument you play, make sure you record yourself and listen back. For me it was scary at first, and I realised the difference between how I thought I sounded, and the reality. The more I did it, the smaller that difference became, and it enabled me to progress so much more than ever before.


Ben KennedyNAME: Ben Kennedy

OCCUPATION: Drummer, currently out with ‘Foxes’

YAMAHA PRODUCT: Yamaha Beach Custom Absolute Drum Kit


Before starting any session/gig, make sure you are comfortable with the set up. It is important to feel relaxed at the kit whilst rehearsing/recording or playing a live gig. Tuning the drums right and making sure heights/angles are adequate, will bring the best out your playing. When possible, bring your cymbals and snare drums. More options means you can create the best sound possible on the day.


DomNAME: Dom Sigalas

OCCUPATION: Producer / Composer



Drum programming- Use your fingers, not your mouse.

Throughout your music career it is extremely likely that you will have to use a drum part in one of your songs. If you don’t have a drummer at hand learn how to play the drums on a keyboard. You don’t have to be a virtuoso.

The secret is to learn the GM (General Midi) mapping. The elements are almost always on the same keys (Kick- C1, Snare-D1 etc) so all you have to do is practice!

It really pays of because your programmed drums will be more natural and have an element of performance rather than being sterile and robotic. I almost never program acoustic drums with a mouse.

Finger drumming is a skill that once you get the hang of it will serve you for life!

Here’s one example of what you can do:

Music video of ‘Right To Be Loved’ released today

Our music video for ‘Right To Be Loved’ is released today!

Eleven talented singer songwriters from Song Academy, aged between 12 and 16 have written a song to have it’s premiere performance at the “Voice In A Million” (VIAM) concert, entitled ‘Right To Be Loved’. VIAM is a promoter of school/singing events with the ambition to positively change the perception of Adoption and Fostering both in the UK and worldwide.

Click here to buy ‘Right To Be Loved’ on iTunes.

Through the power of songwriting and music, these 11 Song Academy young songwriters aim to remind the world that everyone has a right to be loved, has a right to belong and a right to a brighter future. Their aim is to raise awareness of the large number of vulnerable children in care and the difference that adoption and fostering makes in the world, for both child and parent.

The idea for ‘Right To Be Loved’ was sparked during a meeting between Rowena Atkins, Director of Song Academy and Jo Garofalo, founder of Voice In A Million. They were talking about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition and giving one of the winner’s the opportunity to perform at the VIAM show. It was a natural step to utilise the talents of Song Academy members to write an original song on the topic of children, adoption & fostering so helping the VIAM mission.

Founder and CEO of Song Academy, Rowena Atkins said “It was a perfect fit – young children writing about the plight of young people in care whilst also making their song relevant to older children and parents adopting – reminding the world that everyone has a right to be loved and a right to be a part of a loving family unit. I’m incredibly proud of ‘Right To Be Loved’ and hope it rocks the world.” A thank to our sponsors PRS for Music, Yamaha, Dawsons Music & Farida.

Founders of VIAM, Jo & Robert Garofalo said “We are delighted to welcome Song Academy to Voice In A Million this year, our mission includes giving talented youngsters the opportunity to shine on world class stages. Song Academy’s ‘Right To Be Loved’ is in perfect harmony with VIAM’s ethos.”

The premiere performance of ‘Right To Be Loved’ will be at the Voice In A Million show at Wembley Arena on 2nd March 2016. Right to be loved was produced at Studio Rokstone – home of ASCAP award winning songwriter and chart producer Steve Mac. The producers were Tim Laws, ASCAP award winning songwriter and record producer, Pete Craigie, engineer, arranger, mixer and live production and Diane Allison Young DAYTime Entertainment.  Our music video was produced by Steve Coleman.

If you’re aged 7-18 and write your own original songs – enter The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2016 competition before 9th April. Check out how to enter.

Home Recording

This term at Song Academy Winchester, we have begun recording the students’ songs and some asked me about setting up their own recording system at home. There are so many ways of doing this, we all make use of recording and song writing apps but this technology is still relatively new and there is still no better method than using a proper, good quality microphone and making use of one of the various recording programmes available.

Microphone choice

A professional studio often has a great collection of microphones for recording drums, guitars and vocals etc. These microphones can cost thousands of pounds, but all you need to record at home is one microphone. A large condenser microphone, such as SE200 or AT4033 are perfect for recording vocals and instruments and are not prohibitively expensive, costing as little as £40.

This is what the microphones tend to look like, the circular thing in front is known as a pop-shield. This is also a useful piece of equipment as it stops hard sounds such as ‘P’s or ‘K’s from spoiling your recordings. These can be made from things around the house. Why not try twisting a wire coat hanger into a circle and stretching a pair of tights over it (making sure you ask permission first from whoever’s tights and hanger it is).

Audio interface choice

To record successfully on a computer or Ipad it is necessary to get a good audio interface or soundcard. Most computers do not come ready to record music, unless you have had one specifically made. So you need to use an external interface/mixer so you can plug your microphone or instrument into your computer, and control its volume, and allow it to connect to the recording software. Ipads now have several interfaces such as the IRig, which allows you to plug microphones and instruments into an Ipad and use it with various apps including Garage Band, which is one of the most easily used recording software applications. For computers or laptops Focusrite and RME are both highly recommended and affordable. There are interfaces with different numbers of channels to record through, so my recommendation would be to start with a two channel or one channel interface such as Apogee’s One, which also has a built in microphone.

Software choice

There are a number of popular recording software programmes. I use ProTools predominantly, which is the industry standard for live music recording. However, there are some excellent software packages that allow you to not only record your own live sound, but also program drums and other instruments included in the software. ProLogicX and GarageBand are particularly good for this. Cubase, Cakewalk and Reason are also great programmes for live and synthesized sound.

Room choice

Depending on space, there are some things to consider when choosing where to set up your home studio. If you have an unused garden shed or out building, this can be perfect, and wooden walls, which can be quite resonant can be dampened by material on the walls, If you are recording in your house, make sure your are not too near a street or in a room with a boiler or anything which may make excessive noise.

You would be surprised how many songs were recorded in ‘home studios’, and it has never been easier to record anywhere, anytime, so why not have a go!


Tori Kelly – A Singer-Songwriter to Watch


Tori Kelly is a sensational breakout singer/songwriter who has captured the hearts of millions with her smooth Soul vocals and humble spirit. 2015 has definitely been her year. She’s appeared in every music award show including the VMA’S , Billboard and sang a beautiful rendition of “Who’s Lovin You” written by Smokey Robinson at the 2015 BET Awards show.

Although Kelly is currently taking over the Pop charts with her two current singles “Nobody Love” and “Should’ve Been Us” , her musical journey began when she started posting video’s on youtube doing covers of Rnb and Soul hits such as Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” ( video below)

Tori Kelly has appeared on Star Search at the age of 10 and even made it to the final 24 on American Idol . Although she started singing at an early age, she knew that in order to be authentic and recognised, she had to create her own music and style. She decided to take a new approach by picking up the guitar in her early teens and teaching herself how to play. Kelly came from a very musical upbringing in her hometown of Southern California. Her father sang and played bass and her mother was a proficient saxophone and keys player. In her biography she discusses being greatly influenced by gospel and R&B acts such as Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott . In the article below she discusses her songwriting approach.

The wonderful thing about Tori’s musical journey is that she created her own fanbase using the internet and without the help of labels and management. She found her own voice through picking up her guitar and songwriting. She practiced her craft not only on the guitar but continued developing her vocal range abilities and learned a few other instruments along the way. While kids her age were going out, she preferred to stay indoors and practiced the one thing she loved the most. Once her youtube channel reached close to over 700,000 subscribers, she decided to start her own label and produced her debut album titled “Handmade songs by Tori Kelly”. She recorded the album herself, playing most of the instruments on her own.

Tori’s hard work paid off. Even at moments when she was rejected or turned away, her passion and determination kept her moving to her ultimate goal . Tori is now being managed by Scooter Braun ( Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen) one of the most prestigious music managers in the business . In 2014 -2015 he has helped Tori finally gain the full recognition that she deserves as a powerful and unique artist who created her own musical path. She is now hailed as an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone, USA TODAY and is in talks of being nominated for a Grammy with her debut album Unbreakable Smile which was released just this year.

Unbreakable Smile – Itunes link:

Or listen to the full album on youtube:




The Ivor Novello Awards 2015

Last week BASCA announced the nominations for the 60th Ivor Novello Awards, taking place on 21st May. Now in case you haven’t heard of them, winning an Ivor Novello award for your songwriting is to a musician what an Oscar is to an actor. Named after entertainer Ivor Novello, these awards – nicknamed The Ivors – are presented annually by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), with the esteemed and appointed Ivors committee comprising of industry experts, songwriters and composers deciding on the winners each year. The statue itself, is a solid bronze sculpture of Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry. Seeing as our SAYS15 judging panel have eight of these prestigious awards between them (5 for Barry Mason, 2 for Eg White, 1 for Tom Odell) we thought it would be worth a look at this year’s nominations.

Clean Bandit lead the way for the 2015 Ivor Novello awards with nominations for both Best Contemporary Song and Most Performed Work. FKA Twigs is the bookie’s favourite to win Best Contemporary Song, having narrowly missed out on the Mercury Prize earlier in the year. James Napier, better known as Jimmy Napes, is the man of the moment with three nominations for his work with Sam Smith and Clean Bandit.

Watch James Napier talk about writing the Ivor-nominated song ‘Stay With Me’

Interestingly this year, The Ivors are now restricting the total numbers of writers who claim credit for a song to six, and all entries must have a British or Irish contribution of at least one third to qualify. So on songs with multiple writers, not all of them may receive a nomination. For example, Tom Petty has been credited with 15% following the dispute over Stay With Me, but he doesn’t merit a nomination for the song.

You can see the full list of nominations on The Ivors website>

To see the list of finalists and specially commended songs for our own 2015 Young Songwriter Competition, head to our competition page>


Performance highlights and winners from Brits 2015

In case you missed it, here is the best of the Brits 2015…

Madonna – Living for Love

Everyone is talking about that notorious tumble, but what was most impressive is that Madonna didn’t even miss a whole verse and carried on singing to give what was the best performance of the night. The show must go on!

Ed Sheeran – Bloodstream

Ed shows what you can achieve with just a guitar and a great song (and one helluva loop station!)

Sam Smith – Lay Me Down 

Sam Smith delivers a note perfect performance of his moving ballad.

 The winners

It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour, selfies and gossip of the ceremony. But don’t forget that the Brits were established to celebrate the musical talent of the UK and beyond. So here’s the complete list of winners – well done to all of them!

British Artist Video of the Year: One Direction, You and I

British Breakthrough Act: Sam Smith

Mastercard British Album: Ed Sheeran, X

British Female Solo Artist: Paloma Faith

British Male Solo Artist: Ed Sheeran

British Group: Royal Blood

International Male Solo Artist: Pharrell Williams

International Female Solo Artist: Taylor Swift

International Group: Foo Fighters

Critics’ Choice Awards: James Bay

British Producer: Paul Epworth

British Single: Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk

British Global Success Award: Sam Smith


Now onto the main event of the UK music calendar #SAYS15! With a panel of judges that have a glittering array of Brits and Grammys between them, make sure you get your entry in to be in with a chance of winning! Here’s to the next generation of Brit winners…