There is a threat on one of London’s most vibrant and historic streets, a threat that will eradicate decades of music history from our city and further remove future generations from an essential link to our music past.

Denmark Street, also know as Tin Pan Alley since the late 1950s, has been a mecca for musicians ever since rock’n’roll moved to London. But now, due to development plans surrounding the Cross Rail Interchange and the increase in commercial interest in the local area, there is a rise in property values and these “skyrocketing rents are making it unaffordable for small local businesses [to stay] and are dissolving the community and its legendary musical culture.” [RoundBoyPictures “The Demise of Denmark Street”]

What will take the place of the music history that has been around for last 70 years? More corporate chains such as Starbucks and Pret A Manger (as if there aren’t enough already, clogging up London’s streets), more over priced housing for the elite to be at the heart of the city with excellent transport links, that’s what. However, by adding homogenous chain stores and removing historic individuality, what will people travel into town to see? Commercial property? Why will tourists want to visit the heart of London if they destroy iconic sites like Denmark Street, a gem in British popular music culture?

For a musician, this street was a haven; you could do everything as Alex Jackson, from an independent film company called Round Boy Pictures who are making a documentary on “The Demise of Denmark Street” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Demise-Of-Denmark-Street/658932924190243) said. “You could join a band, buy instruments, get them repaired, record, play live” and furthermore you could discuss new and old music face to face all day long with other like-minded people – the opportunities for young, aspiring and professional “museos” were endless. This street heard the early recordings of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, this street was the first place that Elton John worked, it was where the Sex Pistols lived; it’s drenched in British pop culture; yet all of that is on the verge of being demolished.

Having already shut down the Astoria and 12 Bar Blues, two venues which have hosted some of the best live showcases in London from Adele, to Jeff Buckley, to the Libertines to many more, developers want to renovate the rest of the street.

Denmark Street is about real life musicians and music lovers. It’s something tangible, away from social media threads, an important piece of London’s history. How many music streets solely dedicated to music are there in London? How many memories will be swept away under the concrete? What message is this sending out to young aspiring musicians, music journalists, up-and-coming managers and songwriters? Where else can you go and play 15 different guitars or try out 10 different pianos, just to make sure you’ve found the one to suit you best? Will we be forced to buy our instruments on the Internet, putting them at risk of being damaged in transit or having to spend time and money sending them back because they not the right fit for us, purely because we haven’t played them first? Choosing an instrument is a very personal affair, and one that shouldn’t be compromised to make way for something that will not improve or remember the culture of the city we live in.

Jobs will be put at risk in an already struggling employment crisis and for many musicians working in music shop is a way to work flexible hours in order to make a living whilst following their musical dream.

As one fan said on social media, “I’m sure the Pret A Manger they replace [12 Bar Blues] with will bring an equal amount fo character, heritage and sense of community.”

How many of you have been to Denmark Street? What are you views on it? Tweet @songacademyUK and let us know what you think about its current demise. And if you haven’t been then make sure you go along before it’s gone, take some photos (don’t forget to tweet/instagram them to us) and perhaps jot down a few ideas for a protest song while you’re there entitled “Denmark Street”: send your songs to contact@songacademy.co.uk for a chance to get featured on our website.

 

Our Young Songwriter 2015 competition is off to a cracking start! Have a listen to our playlist of selected songs this week and read what inspired these young songwriters to write their song…


‘Rewind’ “I wrote this song thinking about all the bad things that human kind have done and how we look back on them now and wish we could change them, but obviously those bad things have been done so all we can do is move on from it all”.

‘Losing Faith’ “It may appear a bit bleak, but it is based on the world today and my current experiences and the environment that I live in and my struggle to keep faith in what I believe in”.

‘Run’ “I was cheated on by my first love. This song is about realizing that you deserve so much more and going away from the same pattern and not letting them ruin your life anymore. Nobody listened to me when this happened I was on my own and resorted to music, I wanted people to hear me and how hurt I was but that I will not let people around me and everything that was going wrong pull me down. Nothing can pull me away from my music. I want to share my song with the world”.

‘Dirty’  ” I wrote this song after listening to various Kasabian and Jamiroquai albums. The song’s about a modern popular London lad that is in a relationship. However, he has options to move on with other relationships and life in general, but he doesn’t have the courage to leave her because she puts his wrongs to right when times are tough. Furthermore, he puts himself in a tricky/dirty situation and cheats behind her back”.

‘Dreaming’ “This is a song I wrote about a boy and a girl who have once been in a relationship. I tried to base it on the fact that a break up may be hard for both people, but if it’s needed it is the best thing for both. I have had a similar experience to this and I felt that I didn’t want it to be a typical break-up song where it’s just regret, I wanted the listener to hear the reasons why it’s happened and to understand or relate to the lyrics and meanings”.

‘I danced with you’ “The main concept of this song is the feeling you get when you begin falling for a friend you have been close with for years, and then you begin showing these emotions to them and all you are getting is nothing in return”.

‘Look at me’ “These lyrics evolve around our life, starting a new school, making new friends and all the ups and downs of daily life. We know that there are so many more amazing artists out there who are also in the same boat as us but we really just want to show you what we can achieve together as a team”.

If you think you have what it takes to write a hit song – click here to enter our Young Songwriter 2015 competition!

 

One of this week’s hot topics in the songwriting world is that of Sam Smith’s hit track Stay With Me vs Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers I Won’t Back Down. Below are links to the two tracks, and undeniably, the melody in Smith’s chorus is exactly the same as Petty’s 1989 track.

 

 

 

The outcome? Tom Petty and his co-writer and collaborator Jeff Lynne received songwriting credits on the track, which has sold over 4 million copies so far. Smith, who wrote the song with top songwriter Jimmy Napes (Clean Bandit, Naughty Boy, Disclosure) and William Phillips admitted that the songs sounded the same but the similarities were coincidental, as none of the writers were previously familiar with the track.

But what constitutes plagiarism? And what do we mean when we say copyright?

Plagiarism, or musical copywriting, is when you use someone else’s melody or lyrics and pass them off as your own song. Another facet of plagiarism occurs in sampling, which is when you a take a portion of one sound recording and reuse it in a different song: this is very popular in rap music.

Copyright protects a literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial, graphic or sound recording from being reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner. In terms of songwriting, the life of copyright lasts for 70 years after the owner’s death and in recorded music, recently modified in 2011, the life of copyright is 70 years after the original recording of the track.

So when writing your next big hits, be mindful of what has come before – take inspiration from artists you admire, but if you are lifting melodic or lyrical chunks from your favourite song and passing them off as your own, well, it’s musical stealing – also known as copyright infringement.

Listen hear to some of the most popular songs which have been sued for copyright infringement, and try and find some of your own. Tweet @songacademyUK with your findings.

http://news.yahoo.com/blurred-lines-5-other-popular-songs-sued-copyright-064800748.html

 

 

 

So as Christmas fast approaches, the music and marketing industries are getting the big guns out. Coca-Cola has their Santa, the X Factor has their Christmas number 1 attempt, and John Lewis has their much-awaited adverts. They’ve really nailed their niche over the last few years, in combining heartwarming stories set to a cover song by a contemporary artist. This year, it’s the turn of Tom Odell and his version of John Lennon and the Beatles’ ‘Real Love’. I’ll be looking at Tom Odell’s version, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s made quite a few changes from the original, particularly in the structure and arrangement, so please do listen to both and compare!

‘Real Love’ is a mid-tempo ballad in 4/4, with influences of pop, classical and jazz styles. It has a short structure of Verse/Verse/Pre/Chorus/Chorus, probably to keep it to an appropriate length for the TV advert. The chords in the verse are a little unexpected, going F – Em/F – F7 – E – Bb – Am – C – F, and the pre chorus using F and Bbm, however the chorus is a traditional pop progression of F – Dm – Bb – C. The use of 7ths, 9ths, suspended chords and substituted chords show quite a jazz influence in the harmony. However the arrangement is of a pop ballad and classical kind, beginning with just vocals and piano, then gradually adding a glockenspiel, a string section, percussion and backing vocals. Lyrically, the song describes the new meaning of his life now that he has found ‘real love’.

This song certainly fits the John Lewis niche of the heartfelt ballad. Tom Odell has a pure, folk-influenced voice that suits the emotion of the song, and he also shows off some vocal riffs towards the end. But the most enjoyable part of this song for me is the arrangement, the gradual layering of the instruments towards the soaring climax is really beautiful! Ok, it’s a little cheesy and sentimental perhaps, but if there’s any time of year when I can excuse sentimentality, it’s definitely Christmas. And it’s important to remember that this cover was specifically designed to fit hand-in-hand with the advert, so it’s more of an audio AND visual experience. It’s sweet, it’s effective, and it definitely won’t do any harm to the careers of John Lewis or Tom Odell.

 

Favourite lyric – ‘All my little plans and schemes, lost like some forgotten dream’

 

 

We’re delighted to announce the release of the Song Academy Young Songwriter 2014 Album on Spotify, iTunes and other distributors through AWAL (Artists Without A Label). The album includes 19 tracks from the winners and selected finalists of the 2014 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.

The 2014 star-studded judging panel, included Eg White (written for Adele, Florence + the Machine, Chloe Howell, Tom Odell, James Blunt), Fraser T Smith (written for The Kaiser Chiefs, Example, James Morrison, Sam Smith, Taio Cruz, Pixie Lott), Jamie Theakston (radio DJ at Heart FM), Lili Tarkow-Reinisch (written for Ellie Goulding), Jamie Scott (written for One Direction), Nicky Cox (editor of First News) and Mark Hill (the original Artful Dodger, written for Ed Sheeran and Craig David), were hugely impressed with the high standard of songwriting from the entrants and how fresh and unique the songs were.

One judge commented, “You hear many artists today just chasing the money, but these young writers are unafraid of expressing themselves and going places musically and lyrically that many don’t dare to go, for fear it might not be in trend.” That is what Song Academy is aiming to do, nurture a wave of fresh, undiscovered talented writers who will be the new generation of writers.

Director of PRS for Music, Myles Keller said “The Song Academy’s 2014 competition offers young songwriters a golden opportunity to showcase their music and get invaluable feedback at a really formative time in their development. 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, particularly during the same year we are celebrating a century of songwriting.“

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said “I am an avid supporter of activities that enable young people to nurture their musical talent, such as the Song Academy’s Young Songwriter competition. It’s a fantastic opportunity for aspiring tunesmiths up and down the country to showcase their songs to music industry insiders. I wish all the young musicians that have taken part the very best as they develop their chosen careers.”

The Young Songwriter 2014 album costs £7.99 and 99p per track.

Buy the album today and support the young songwriting revolution!

 

 

 

We are delighted to announce our Young Songwriter 2014 Showcase at Westfield, Shepherds Bush on Sunday 22 June from 1pm to 5:15pm.

The Young Songwriter 2014 winners have been announced. They have recorded their winning songs at Universal Music and had a professional photoshoot. Now, all winners, finalists and talented young songwriters from Song Academy’s after school clubs will be performing live with a professional band at Westfield, Shepherds Bush next Sunday. Have a listen to some of the songs in the incredible line-up.

The showcase event is a celebration of the power of young people to touch, move and inspire themselves, their peers and the world at large through their songwriting. We’re running a free songwriting workshop from 2:30 to 3:30pm for 8-13 year olds. Please reserve a place. Places are limited so book early!

The Young Songwriter 2014 competition received over 400 high quality entries from across the UK and Ireland. Every judge was fighting for their favourite entry to win the coveted title of Song Academy Young Songwriter of 2014. Both age categories displayed “a ridiculously high standard of mature and well thought out songs” said one of the judges, and many felt that some of the entries in both the 7-12 and 13-18 category were “Ivor Novello standard”. They also felt that many of the songs were so good they could be pitched to and “cut by current artists”.

Every judge was impressed with the “bravery” that these young songwriters displayed in expressing their emotions, both musically and lyrically, and how the finalists in both categories “surprised” the judges with their talent and understanding of songwriting. “You hear many artists today just chasing the money, but these young writers are unafraid of expressing themselves and going places musically and lyrically that many don’t dare to go, for fear it might not be in trend.” That is what Song Academy is aiming to do, nurture a wave of fresh, undiscovered talented writers, and one of the star studded judging panel said that after hearing the finalists from the 2014 competition they felt like they were listening to the “new generation of writers.”

2014 Judging panel included: Eg White (written for Adele, Florence + the Machine, Chloe Howell, Tom Odell, James Blunt), Fraser T Smith (written for The Kaiser Chiefs, Example, James Morrison, Sam Smith, Taio Cruz, Pixie Lott), Jamie Theakston (radio DJ at Heart FM), Lili Tarkow-Reinisch (written for Ellie Goulding) and Jamie Scott (written for One Direction), Nicky Cox (editor of First News), Amy Studt (singer- songwriter), Lou Rhodes (singer-songwriter), Mark Hill (the original Artful Dodger, written for Ed Sheeran and Craig David), Barry Mason (written for Tom Jones and Elvis Presley), Rob Davis (written for Spiller and Kylie Minogue), Lyn Goddard (songwriter and producer) and Denzyl Feigelson (advisor to Apple and iTunes and founder of Artists Without A Label),

Founder and Manager of Song Academy, Rowena Atkins said: “Song Academy is passionate about young people seeing their greatness and leading. Our Young Songwriter competition is a spring board for young people aged 7-18 to get noticed by key players in the music industry and shine in the limelight”

Director of PRS for Music, Myles Keller said “The Song Academy’s 2014 competition offers young songwriters a golden opportunity to showcase their music and get invaluable feedback at a really formative time in their development. 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, particularly during the same year we are celebrating a century of songwriting.“

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said “I am an avid supporter of activities that enable young people to nurture their musical talent, such as the Song Academy’s Young Songwriter competition. It’s a fantastic opportunity for aspiring tunesmiths up and down the country to showcase their songs to music industry insiders. I wish all the young musicians that have taken part the very best as they develop their chosen careers.”

Jamie Theakston, Heart FM DJ said: “I support anything that encourages children to find their way into the world of music, especially something like Song Academy which requires no formal training and their emphasis is on fun and self-expression.”

We’re looking forward to seeing you at Westfield, Shepherds Bush on Sunday 22 June, 1pm to 5:15pm

IMG_1237Unprecedented Results from the Judges’ Call

The excitement is palpable from Universal Music’s recording studio, where winners Orla O’Neill and Taylor-George Ellis are recording their winning songs from the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition 2014. But the judges conference call that happened a week previously was just as exciting…

Every judge was fighting for their favourite entry to win the coveted title of Song Academy Young Songwriter of 2014, so much so that this year, we had to add 3 runners up to the finalists as opposed to the 2 runners up we had last year. Both categories displayed ‘a ridiculously high standard of mature and well thought out songs’ said one of the judges, and many felt that some of the entries in both the 7-12 and 13-18 category were ‘Ivor Novello standard’.

They also felt that many of the songs were so good they could be pitched to and ‘cut by current artists’. Nearly every judge was impressed with the ‘bravery’ that these young songwriters displayed in expressing their emotions, both musically and lyrically, and how the finalists in both categories ‘surprised’ the judges with their talent and understanding of songwriting.

‘You hear many artists today just chasing the money, but these young writers are unafraid of expressing themselves and going places musically and lyrically that many don’t dare to go, for fear it might not be in trend.’ That is what Song Academy is aiming to do, nurture a wave of fresh, undiscovered talented writers, and one of the star studded judging panel said that after hearing the finalists from the 2014 competition they felt like they were listening to the ‘new generation of writers’.

The judges were looking for songs which ‘moved them, gave them joy to listen to, communicated with them’; all of which the 2014 finalists did in abundance.

Come and watch Orla and Taylor-George and all runners up and finalists perform live at Westfield, Shepherds Bush on Sunday 22 June, 1-5pm. IMG_1183

Listen Closely

With the world around us becoming increasingly hectic, many people don’t have time to develop the voices of today’s youth. What with electronic gadgets being the central hub of our existence, people being constantly contactable by machines at every moment, unruly children being silenced by iPads and iPhone games, not many children are given the chance to sit down with a pen and paper and write down what they are thinking or feeling because they ‘don’t have time’. But what if they did? What if children took an hour a week to sit and reflect on their thoughts about the wider world, about what’s going on around them, about their feelings and their lives and wrote those feelings down, perhaps to inspire others, or give hope to themselves?

I have been in the privileged position of having the opportunity to listen to what young people today have expressed through the medium of songwriting and it has left me in turn astonished, inspired and humbled. Working for Song Academy, an after-school songwriting club where children who are seeking a chance to be heard above the noise and express themselves creatively are given just such a platform; a space in which they can express their thoughts, fears, excitements, disappointments, and opinions in a safe, encouraging environment. Some write for themselves, trying to cope with the effects of bullying in school, friendship crises or to make sense of death or grief, while some write to inspire others, offering them hope through song, positivity through lyrics, and as Nelson Mandela once said, by letting their ‘light shine, [they] give other people permission to do the same’.

The psychological effects of songwriting are very interesting. Music therapist Barbara Dunn says that ‘writing songs can be a very powerful tool in therapy’ as it forces one to collate thoughts and feelings into a ‘package’ that can then be analyzed and interpreted from ‘different angles.’ Some children I’ve worked with at Song Academy have found when they are in a troubled situation often they refer back to a song they wrote to provide a source of comfort, and that the power of a melody with a personal lyric can lift their mood in an instant.

Apart from the after-school club, Song Academy has an annual National Young Songwriting competition, which allows children between 7-18 years old across UK and Ireland to have their songs listened to by top industry professionals. I was fortunate to have been one of the judges last year and hearing the variety of emotions expressed, from self-harm to first love, from parental gratitude to bullying, from friendship to celebrities, the children’s songs were bursting with insightful, powerful and inspiring ideas. Children are using songwriting as a vehicle to express hopes and fears and are realizing what a powerful force music and melody can be as a medium to understand themselves and each other; and all we need to do is listen.

Dunn says ‘writing down thoughts and feelings, whether in a journal or song, can be an incredibly healing process. It is a way to give voice to the essence of who we are, to understand and express ourselves and, to some extent, our relationship to the community and world that surrounds us’. If we can get more children engaging with their feelings and thoughts, and transforming them into a song, whose message is personal or universal, then maybe they’ll grow up to believe, as John Lennon once penned, ‘there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung’.

By Jessica Sharman

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