Tips for Songwriters: Prepare your songs to show to artists

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter/engineer/producer/author and owner of recording studios in Nashville and New York City.  Download Cliff’s free e-book, “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos”



As a result of recording and producing hundreds of demos, I’ve learned that it is always better to “prepare and prevent” than to “repair and repent.” Here are a few steps you can take to help make your demo recording experience more successful.

Song Preparation

It may sound obvious but make sure your song is FINISHED. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had clients come into the studio only to start rewriting a part of the lyric or melody. It is significantly less stressful (and quite a bit less expensive) to write a song when you’re not paying the studio an hourly fee.

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Q&A with Shaimus

Geek rock is taking over Los Angeles, and it goes by the name Shaimus. But LA isn’t all they’re taking over; Shaimus has had music on Guitar Hero and Rock Band 2, and you may have caught some of their music in your favorite TV shows and films. Read on as COREnered gets down with Evan Brown, Shaimus’s guitarist, and feel free to let out your own inner geek.

Shaimus - The Sad Thing Is, We Like It Here

Shaimus.com

  1. What is your first musical memory?
    My very first musical memory was listening to Raffi tapes over and over as a pre-schooler. I used to play the album all the way through, turn it back over to side A, and start right over again. I’m pretty sure I drove my family crazy.
  2. What was the first concert you ever went to?


    My first concert was Billy Joel on the River of Dreams tour when I was about 10 years old. My parents took me, and I was amazed by his showmanship and was privileged to see a set full of classic songs. That was a great introduction to live music.

  3. What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration?



    In my immediate vicinity, I go to my bandmates. They always have really original, creative ideas and always impress me with how seriously they take the craft of songwriting. And when all else fails, I just hit ‘play’ on albums from my mainstay artists: Clapton, Radiohead, Ben Folds, Elliott Smith, Chris Cornell, Pink Floyd, Supergrass… There are so many bands that inspire me in such different ways.

  4. Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound.


    Bouncy Geekcore. We have some bouncy songs and a lot of our music appeals to music and video game geeks (we were in Guitar Hero and Rock Band 2 after all), plus I’d like to think there’s a bit of edge to our sound, which can particularly be heard during our live show.

  5. Stones or Beatles?
    I am personally a big Beatles guy. I was raised on them⎯ I’ve been listening to them since I was a baby. I saw Paul McCartney live in 2005, and it was easily in the top 3 best concerts I’ve ever seen… Incredible stage spectacle, plus a setlist of over 30 classic songs that I swear was tailored to my personal tastes. There were tunes in that set that I didn’t even dream of hoping for (like “I Got A Feeling” from Let It Be) and when he played them it felt like it was just me and him in the arena together.
  6. What’s your dream collaboration? 



    I would love to write an album with Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish. I think he might be the unsung songwriting genius of the ’90s. Super catchy songwriting with a flair for in-your-face musicianship without being indulgent. I think brilliant music always dances a fine line like that.

  7. Do you find the song or does the song find you?



    For me, the song finds me the vast majority of the time. If I sit down with the goal of creating, it’s hit or miss. The much more common scenario is that I’m hit with a stroke of genius while I’m in an elevator, far from anywhere that I can write it down (but not likely inspired by the elevator music).

  8. How do you discover new music



    Lately I’ve been a little obsessed with Grooveshark. I try to keep up with as many new bands as I can, but there are so many of them and they all have sites scattered across the web. With Grooveshark I can sample the music of many bands in one place, and it’s helped open new musical worlds to me. My musical horizons have definitely expanded exponentially because of the ‘net.

Songs in movies, TV shows, and ads: How do the licenses work?


George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is a Professor and Executive in Residence in the college of Business Administration at Loyola, New Orleans. He is most easily found on Twitter at: twitter.com/gah650


I get asked this question (or a variant on it) more than just about any other music business related topic. I get it; it ain’t easy to understand, but it’s not that hard, and, understand it you must.

Also, as much as I believe that the “music business” is dead, and it’s all just business; the one thing that is unique to the music business is how copyright is handled. That’s not to say that you have different intellectual property interests in music than in other businesses; you don’t. Rather, there are just various “terms of art” related to © that are unique to the music business.


So…here we go: an attempt to explain the rules and licenses around songs being used in films, tv, and ads. Let me know if you have any questions; I’ll try to answer them in the comments, and maybe this can be an evolving document that we can reference.

    Any time a song is used in a film, tv show, ad there are two licenses required:

  1. A synchronization (synch) license: This is a license the producer of the above must obtain from the writer of the song (if the writer has assigned her © to a publisher, the producer must go through the publisher). 


    This license gives the producer of the above the right to synchronize the ©’d song (important: not the recording of the song, but the underlying composition – the lyrics and melody) with the moving images in the tv show, ad, or movie.


  2. A master usage license: the producer of the above must negotiate a license with the person who holds the © to the recording of the above underlying composition (i.e. the version of the song found on the CD). 
Typically, the master usage holder is the label. If there is no label (i.e., it’s self-released by the artist), then the producer of the movie, etc. negotiates directly with the artist who self-released.


Thus, in the case of an artist who has not assigned their publishing rights to anyone and self-releases their own record, the producer of the movie, etc. negotiates “both sides” (i.e. the synch and the master usage) with the artist herself.


If the artist has done a publishing deal and a record deal, the producer negotiates with the publisher for the synch rights and the label for the master usage rights.


Unlike with mechanicals (i.e. the payment labels make to songwriters for the rights to mechanically reproduce a ©’d song on the album the label releases), there is no compulsory license for either synch or master licenses. Because there is no compulsory license for the synch or master usage, the producer must negotiate both of these licenses, and either the master holder or the publisher can deny the request.


In reality, the producer will approach one of the parties (the label or publisher – typically, publisher first – see below for why), and see if they can get the writer interested in the synch (most writers, of course, are falling all over themselves to have their music used).

The producer makes the publisher/writer an offer, and then tries to shift the burden of the master clearance to the writer/publisher. At that point, they (both producer and the publisher/writer) push on the label to clear the master side (most labels, of course, are falling all over themselves to have their music used), and a deal is struck. 


The fee is divided (typically evenly) between the publisher for the synch rights and the master holder for the, er, master rights.

Sometimes, the publisher will want to do the deal, but the label won’t. In this case — as you saw, for instance in I am Sam, where the publisher for the Beatles cleared the synch rights for the song, but the label wouldn’t make a deal for the master usage — the producers used different masters (i.e. they had artists cover the songs).


It doesn’t work the other way; if the publisher won’t grant the synch license, the party is over – this is why producers go to publishers first: they’re the dispositive party.

Importantly, in the US, when the Ad or TV show or Movie is publicly performed on TV (i.e. it’s broadcast), a performance royalty is generated for the writer and publisher of the song (often the same person). The performer (i.e. the person on the master) sees none of this performance royalty. Do note, that no performance royalty is generated from public performance in movie theaters, as they are (wink, wink, nod, nod) exempt from paying public performance royalties.

Additionally, in 1995 Congress enacted the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (DPRA). This act — in conjunction with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1995 — created a performance royalty obligation to be paid by webcasters whenever they broadcast a ©’d work over the Internet. Significantly, this performance royalty compensates the performer and content owner (i.e., label) of the work. The publisher and writer are still compensated when their ©’d works are publicly performed online via the Performance Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), but now — due to the DPRA — the featured performer and content owner are also compensated. This brings the US in line with the rest of the world (with some glaring exceptions, like North Korea) with respect to paying a performance royalty to both the writer and performer. Of course, to date (though efforts are afoot to change this) this only applies to public performance when it is digitally transmitted; for terrestrial radio (i.e. FM/AM), only the writers are paid a performance royalty. SoundExchange collects from webcasters on behalf of their registered members. SoundExhchange’s authority to collect for/distribute to these SRCOs comes from a designation by the Librarian of Congress and the US © office.

So, when you’re watching Hulu and an ad comes on with music underneath that has been licensed by a producer of the ad from a label/artist, both the performer and the writer of the song are paide a performance royalty.

Please note, the above really only scratches the surface with respect to licensing. There are, of course, complexities. For instance, when doing a deal for a TV show, you also have to factor in home video, etc.

However, if you don’t understand the above, you sure won’t be able to dive deeper.
Hope this helps. Leave me questions in the comments.

Q&A with Charlie Degenhart

There’s a new EP in town that’s sure to get you groovin’. With a full sound and a whole lot of soul, Charlie Degenhart’s music can’t help but makes you feel good. This week COREnered is flying out to Nashville to talk with Degenhart about how life inspires his sound, and he lets us in on his favorite spot to discover new music.

Charlie Degenhart  
 CharlieDegenhart.com

  1. What is your first musical memory?
    Well, before I was old enough to have the money to buy records, I remember recording songs off of the airwaves by sitting this big old, red-plastic tape recorder I had up against my AM/FM clock radio. I’d be hanging out in my room and when I heard the first bar or so of tune I liked come on the radio, I’d jump up and hit the ‘record’ button on the tape recorder. So you had this ‘indirect’ sound, full of hiss and everything. . .and you’d always miss the first couple of beats, but it didn’t matter. Capturing great songs so that I could play them back over and over was such a rush!
  2. What was the first concert you ever went to?



    My first concert was a free Chicago performance at beautiful Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. . I’m thinking around 1989? (I think I might still be hung-over from that one. . .)

  3. What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration?



    Life. . . that happens to me and that happens to my family and friends. Some folks take pictures with a camera, I use a pen and a guitar to mark my passing through this life.

  4. Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound.



    Describe my sound? Lyrically thick, romantic, groove-heavy, pretty-melody-laden, at times edgy, acoustic-based (yet usually electrified and/or horn-intensified), psychedelic and smart. . . on a good day, that is. (On a bad day? A lot of pitchy noise.)

  5. Stones or Beatles?

    Stones or Beatles? Absurd question. Darkness or Light? How can one exist without the other? Stones for groove and attitude. Beatles for lyrics and melody, and “positivity.” My world would be chaos if not for an equal balance between the two.

  6. What’s your dream collaboration? 



    Easy⎯Daniel Lanois. I love his sonic world.

  7. Do you find the song or does the song find you?



    Songs find me. I keep the pen ready. I watch you all and let you bring the songs to me.

  8. How do you discover new music



    I’d be lost without Grimey’s New and Preloved Music shop here in Nashville. I tend to buy new things on vinyl. Listening on vinyl helps me to maintain a proper reverence for and ritual around the listening experience. Every couple of weeks or so, I’ll go into the store and just ask what I need to have…and their e-mail blasts keep me hip to anything out there I might be interested in.

Tips to Sell More Music Online: Blog Promotion


I6  MP3 Blogs can cause significant music and gig ticket sales There are currently tens of thousands of MP3 Blogs with more springing up each day. If the MP3 blog community embraces your band, you could potentially have thousands of them talking about you and providing MP3s of your songs to hundreds of thousands of music fans. What better way to get the word out than by a real grass roots campaign of music fans talking about you because they love what you do. With the Internet, they have a vehicle to communicate with the world.

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