By Kevin Cornell
As artists and songwriters head down the road of trying to make their passion a career, there are plenty of memorable benchmarks and ‘firsts’ that are going to come up along the way. There’s a special feeling evoked by getting those first social followers, first streams or downloads, and the first time you hear your name being introduced to the stage.
At a certain point, it’s critical that songwriters begin to focus on music publishing. As a company that offers administration (think ‘royalty collection’) and sync pitching (think ‘my song in a movie or TV show or ad or video game or…’ well, you get it), TuneCore knows that music publishing can be a lot for artists to begin educating themselves on. (We think education is key, by the way, and we’ve made sure to offer some resources for that!)
TuneCore also wants to celebrate the songwriters and artists who have found success utilizing our music publishing service, and remind our community of the potential that can be reached independently. That’s why today we’re talking to C.J. King, a TuneCore Publishing artist who has landed sync placements for his songs “Good Day”, “Get Down” and “SWRVN” on hit TV shows like Empire, Wyatt Cenac: Problem Areas, Charmed, HBO movies like OG, and even during the NFL Playoffs.
No small feat, C.J. recognizes how far he’s come from growing up in Atlanta as the son of a church pastor. But he recalls that music was everywhere.
“Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by music. My dad and uncles were all musicians, it was just natural. I started off playing the drums in the church and eventually moved on to guitar, as well.”
It was there that King developed his skills and learned to play the multitude of styles on display in church band performances. “You had no choice but to be versatile,” he says. When it came to songwriting, he sought influence outside those four walls in 70s songs by James Brown and the Temptations. Knowing the energy and positivity that can be summoned in an afternoon at church, it was in those older R&B and funk songs that helped King “understand how they made people feel what they were singing.”
As C.J. went on to pursue music, he found his voice in rapping. With his songwriting still influenced by his gospel upbringing, King began to reach more and more ears in the music industry and local scene. At a certain point, both wanting to expand his reach into the world of sync licensing and wanting to get a firmer grasp on his blooming career, he signed up for TuneCore Publishing after distributing his music with us. He admits, though, that publishing administration isn’t as simple as distribution, and certainly isn’t second nature for most artists.
“It’s so important and isn’t talked about enough. Before [I signed up for] TuneCore, I actually had no idea about publishing or sync licensing.”
But eventually he found his songwriting, production and overall style was appealing to music supervisors working on popular film, web and television projects. It was TuneCore Publishing’s Creative team that helped C.J. get his first $5,000 check from his music.
“It was not the last one either,” King says. “I didn’t realize how much potential income was in the sync industry.” He has since become somewhat of an advocate for the service in his circle of peers, (which we’re always thankful for!), admitting, “I’m probably annoying but I have been trying to put people on the benefits of publishing for years now.”
For C.J., music publishing wasn’t just a breakthrough revenue stream that allowed him to focus on creating music. A married dad with two children, King grew less interested in hitting the road to tour and instead wanted to allocate his energy toward more ‘behind-the-scenes’ work: songwriting, licensing work, and A&R. He’s learned a lot about writing with licensing in mind.
“When I make music, I am already thinking, ‘Where can I hear this being played?‘ and, ‘How does this track make people feel?‘ I want others to hear it and feel some type of emotion or think back to something in their lives. This is key for people pitching your music [for film/TV],” he advises, “They want it to further capture the emotions in the scene.”
When asked about the common misconceptions among his peers in the independent gospel hip hop scene when it comes to music publishing, C.J. cites the mysterious relationships that need to be in place to succeed.
“They don’t think it’s possible unless you have a ‘hookup’. It really is a foreign concept to many in the industry,” he says, but credits working with TuneCore for making the whole process more understandable for him.
Still, it’s teamwork that C.J. goes back to when it comes to independent success. To him, there’s a lot artists need to learn about the industry, and sometimes that just means asking questions.
“There’s a lot that I didn’t understand about this part of the industry, but I learned through not being afraid to ask questions,” he advises. “It takes a team to win at anything in life, and this is exactly what has worked for me.”