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!