Should lyrics really get 50 percent?

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May 12, 2018, 09:19 AM

Ethan,

You answered your own question. Failure is an orphan, success has a thousand fathers. If something is working, everyone wants a piece regardless of what they actually did. I think you have to make your own decisions as to what any part of a song is worth to you. If you don’t feel lyricsts are worth it in your music, tell the people you work with that. Just like telling a publisher that they are not worth half the song, which is what publishing is. They will simply tell you, “NEXT.”

Each aspect is going to be different, but in my 40 plus year career in the music business, I have never seen anyone successfully try the “unequal shares” and get anywhere outside the really big writers/artists/ publishers/record labels. But you are always welcome to make your own rules about your own music.

The actual “rule” rather than the exception, are weak lyrics, weak melodies, instant cookie cutter songs, with the same loops, used on thousands of other songs, not the unique memorable music and lyrics that make for a classic song. There are thousands of forgettable songs uploaded to the Internet every few minutes. They are all equally forgettable. A few will make it up the ladder, usually due to the “celebrity aspect” of the artist.

So you’ve answered your own question? Are lyrics worth 50%. You seem to think not, so don’t give out 50% of your songs to anyone else.
Problem solved and question answered.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 03:02 AM
MBarne4908 - 12 May 2018 09:19 AM

Ethan,

You answered your own question. Failure is an orphan, success has a thousand fathers. If something is working, everyone wants a piece regardless of what they actually did. I think you have to make your own decisions as to what any part of a song is worth to you. If you don’t feel lyricsts are worth it in your music, tell the people you work with that. Just like telling a publisher that they are not worth half the song, which is what publishing is. They will simply tell you, “NEXT.”

Each aspect is going to be different, but in my 40 plus year career in the music business, I have never seen anyone successfully try the “unequal shares” and get anywhere outside the really big writers/artists/ publishers/record labels. But you are always welcome to make your own rules about your own music.

The actual “rule” rather than the exception, are weak lyrics, weak melodies, instant cookie cutter songs, with the same loops, used on thousands of other songs, not the unique memorable music and lyrics that make for a classic song. There are thousands of forgettable songs uploaded to the Internet every few minutes. They are all equally forgettable. A few will make it up the ladder, usually due to the “celebrity aspect” of the artist.

So you’ve answered your own question? Are lyrics worth 50%. You seem to think not, so don’t give out 50% of your songs to anyone else.
Problem solved and question answered.

MAB

Wut? I didn’t ask the question, lol. I just posted for the first time in this yesterday…unless I’ve smoked so much that I just can’t remember starting this thread…in which case….####

But…I don’t tend to think of things in the way they are or have been. I’m gonna be graduating next semester with my economics degree, and actually all the classes I have left are minor classes—so I’ve really finished my Econ schooling I guess. I don’t say that to be like “oooh I know what I’m talking about” all I mean is, economics is the study of theoreticals and the way things should logically work—often despite how we as humans/consumers choose to actually make decisions.

I appreciate your experience, and I’m just some dumb kid that doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but in school I just kind of find that I have a unique perspective from my music oriented classmates. We study all kinds of industries, and my classmates are used to studying one—and at one that, from my very brief experience in it/around it, seems to function pretty terribly. Artists to make what their labor is worth, so there’s the firstborn of what we would call market inefficiency, the government hasn’t properly regulated the pricing of the material, and it uses antiquated systems like what this post is about. Can you imagine if you worked in the furniture industry and you had a partner that helped you make chairs, except you owned the company and actually make everything about the chair and all your partner does is carve a pattern on it. If the market dictated that you split the profit with your partner 50-50 “because that’s what people do” you would be like, wait a minute, that’s ###### stupid lol.

My original point was that there are some cases where lyrics are worth more than 50. Think about songs that are iconic for the things they stand for, like the star spangled banner, or amazing grace or something like that. The words are what make he song. There are also songs that have terrible lyrics and they don’t deserve 50. Just saying “screw it, it all balances out in the end” is a really poor system of allocating value.


On a side note, now that I’m thinking about the market inefficiencies, the biggest one in my opinion is the failure of producers (I mean artists, producers in the sense of producer-consumer) to capture consumer surplus in the live entertainment industry. This is evident because of the existence and growth of ticket resellers like TicketMaste (just a random example)r. If the music industry was good at valuing its own products, ticket master couldn’t capializs on existing consumer surplus. If anybody ever wants to talk about this stuff, I’m such a nerd about it lmao.

 
     
Ethan Murrell Joined Feb 17, 2017
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May 13, 2018, 09:01 AM

Ethan,

Congratulations on your continuing education. Usually the first couple of years after college, are spent finding out that every single thing you learned in college is totally different than the real world. You should study history in order to keep from repeating it.

The history of the world, especially technology is replete with the stories of partnerships, and people who did very little yet received great parts of companies, businesses, ideas, that they had very little to do with,and also even more studies of people, particularly creators, that were responsible for huge breakthroughs that they received nothing for. Ever hear of Nicholai Tesla?

In the “Theoretical” world, it is true that every thing should be perfect, and anyone who contributes should be paid equally, equal credit, etc. The truth is that if you were a creator, say a songwriter in this case, and felt someone didn’t contribute enough to justify an equal share, but you might find out that their contribution, contacts, political involvement, provided an open door for the REST of a career, that is why you have to look BEYOND the song.

But again, these are things you find out one way or another. The real world works in a very different way than the theoretical. And of course that is what most of that is. A theory. Hopefully you will be out there learning on your own and finding your own pathway. Maybe you will revolutionize something and that will be cool. All I suggest is to keep your eyes and ears open, learn to be flexible and reactive to other situations. Because they are going to come your way whether you believe it is correct or not.

That’s real life.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 10:59 AM

In my case, the relationships with my co-writers are more important to me than a few points of the publishing and equal splits are the way to go. It’s easy to pick apart an existing work and assign credit (or blame) to the individuals responsible for it’s creation. Trying to do the same with a new or future work is much more difficult and, IMO, a complete matter of opinion. Turn it around. How would you feel if a collaborator didn’t consider your contribution worthy of an equal split? We all have good and bad days. Maybe one writer will be on a roll and contribute the lion’s share. Next time the opposite might apply. The important thing is making sure there will be a next time. That probably won’t happen if you devalue you co-writer’s efforts. Music is a “people” business and word gets around.

[ Edited: 13 May 2018 11:08 AM by LoRez]
 
     
LoRez Joined Jan 14, 2018
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May 13, 2018, 11:18 AM

LoRaz,

That is EXACTLY CORRECT. Songwriting is almost never a 50/50% proposition. WE call it the “WHO GETS THE COFFEE” senario.

There are times, you come in, are writing with one or more writers, maybe an artist, and you are ON FIRE! You nail every line, every note, it is just amazing, everything is working. And the other people get very little in the song. They go “get the coffee.”

There are other times that you come in and have NOTHING. You can’t seem to find even a word that works. Things you throw out there are completely thrown OUT, and you even realize AT THE TIME YOU SAY THEM how stupid they really are.
You go get the coffee.

It all evens out over time.

I know of one number writer that was just starting out. She had never really written much, but a huge number one writer with tons of mega hits, took her under his wing and they wrote 18 songs. She contributed to some of them in varying ways. But she will even say it wasn’t a lot.
On the NINTEENTH song, it was her initial idea, but aside from that, they didn’t include a lot of what she did. But they all agree that had it not been for that INITIAL idea, they would not even have gone in that direction. The result was a HUGE number one for mega country artist GEORGE STRAIT. “IF I KNOW ME.”

The RELATIONSHIP is everything, which is why most of the music college graduates dissappear from the scene very quickly. They are not taught that EVERYTHING in the music business is TEAMWORK. There are NO SOLO CAREERS. None. Ever. NADA.
That is when THEORY RUNS INTO THE BRICK WALL OF REALITY.

Because people come in with these silly Uneven splits, “who did what”, obsessing on who gets credit, silliness” and those people never get another writing appointment, never get another listen from any industry person, and end up driving a pizza delivery vehicle.

“How do you get the theoretical scientist off your front porch?”
“Pay him for the pizza”

Everybody who tries to do this, learns this at one way or another. Usually it is one of those lessons that is learned the hard way. After their career and all their relationships are burned away.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 11:29 AM

I love the contrast between Ethan’s fresh take on this and MAB’s experience. I think both are right - MAB when he describes how things are and have been, Ethan, when he says, “I don’t tend to think of things in the way they are or have been.”

The whole concept of co-writing as the norm and a necessity if you want to have a song picked up seems to me to be completely screwy. As MAB describes it, it’s more about creating relationships and following Nashville norms than it is about the music itself. Those are very good reasons for doing it, but have nothing to do with creating better songs. It’s just the way it’s always been done and you need to fit in. But the world changes and, at some point the system will probably collapse under the weight of its own irrelevance to the efficient production of good songs. MAB himself has pointed out that few songs from outside writers get picked up any more. I hesitate to call MAB a dinosaur - if he were, I’m sure he would be purple and fluffy - but I wonder if the co-writing system won’t go the way of travel agents.

Discuss. LOL.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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May 13, 2018, 12:15 PM

Gavin,

Check your music history. Co-writing is actually the NORM in writing. In the 1700’s, you rarely had a composer writing the lyrics on Operas or musical compositions with lyrics. They had people that were called LYRICISTS. In Broadway, you even had a third writer, called a LIBRETTIST, which wrote the script of the play. All through the 1800’s, 1900’s, 10’s, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s into the 60’s, you had one person who did music another that did lyrics. You have almost NO solo written songs, even people like Cole Porter, George (AND IRA) Gershwin, were always teams. Solo writing was not even considered.
The era of the BRILL BUILDING, Lieber AND Stoller, Carol King AND Geoffery Goffin, were the norm, not the exception. Motown, while you had Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and a few others, most were teams like Holland, Dozier Holland.

In the 60’s and 70’s songwriting teams gave way to bands, but again you usually had multiple writers on any song. Dylan broke away and ushered in the singer/songwriter era of Carol King and James Taylor, but if you read their biographies, you will hear of the times they were starting out, where they sat with other writers and contemporaries, and bounced ideas, even making suggestions. They didn’t CALL it co-writing, but actually was exactly what it was. Carol King said James Taylor made so many suggestions to “YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND” it should have been a co-written song.

The king of country songwriters, Hank, Williams Senior, had a publisher named Wesley Rose. Wesley was a major songwriter from the Big Band Era with dozens of big band standards. I’ve met people who knew them both that said Wesley was actually a co-writer on many of those legendary songs, but in those days there was a different publisher/writer relationship and since the main money was in publishing, the publishers would not take writers credit, because they made enough money in publishing. But they contributed as much to the song itself as a co-writer would. There are tons of examples that artists like Sinatra and Elvis, received writers credit on songs they did not write a word on, yet, their performance and delivery of that song was so unique that they included the singers in it as writers.

One of Elvis’s biggest hits was “AMERICAN FOLK TRILOGY” and was credited to writer MICKEY NEWBURY. But Micky did not write ANY of those songs. They were DIXIE(Stephen Foster), ALL MY TRIALS,(Bob Gibson) and “THE BATTLE HYMM OF THE REPUBLIC” (Harriet Beecher Stow AND William Steffe) . All were American standard folk songs, but Mickey got credit for putting them together, and subsequently all the royalties involved, which were substantial.
Up until the copyright era, most songs were actually old folks songs passed down from generation to generation, with lyrics from someone in different eras, so no one actually even knows who wrote the original song. So some songs probably have HUNDREDS OF CO-WRITERS. Including the STAR SPANGLED BANNER, which was a two centuries old ENGLISH DRINKING SONG! You Englishsters have to love that one, Gavin, old boy!

The point is that most songs throughout history were CO-WRITTEN. So it is not strange at all. What is actually strange is that anyone thinks they can do everything. Some can but once again, you need PEOPLE to get a song from inside your head to outside with the public. You need people who can give unbiased critiques, publishers, people who do something you can’t promoters, business people, and in the reality of the music BUSINESS, you need co-writers. Without that you have a nice song for your computer or your recording. 

I have a quite different take on it. I think the inherent weakness of most of today’s beginning and amateur writing comes from people who DON’T co-write. I have listened to literally tens of thousands of artist writers, and probably hundreds of thousands of songs. In Nashville alone I have spent an average of four days a week, five hours a day or night, for 30 years, dealing with songs, artists and writers. And I can almost ALWAYS tell the solo writers. They are unskilled, repetitive, write things that are so insular that NO ONE is particularly interested in it, (you can always tell that by the number of people on their cell phones totally tuned out of anything that is going on.) and basically are simply retreads of existing songs. Every time I hear someone get all up in arms about copyrights I can almost always show them where their melody or idea was written and a hit before they were even born and actually THEY are the ones stealing something. They may not know it, but they pick stuff up all the time without knowing.

When I work with new writers, I give them a check list of things they are going to hear when they go out to listen to other writers. I can pin point exactly where their shortcomings are, how they got there, where they missed and ran off the rails, and they never let me down. Most people hear every single mistake you can make within about 20 minutes. From there it’s just hearing the same mistake, same songs, same rhymes, same melodies over and over and over again for the rest of the night.

So no one has to co-write. But that, is HOW YOU LEARN. It is hands on and you learn by doing it with other people. It provides insight, discipline and is the only way you are really going to advance beside yourself.

What if you were wanting to play a team sport like baseball but only ever practiced by yourself in your back yard. How effective do you think you would be when you actually had to get on the field?
Songwriting is exactly like that.

ANYONE can write a song. Anyone. We start rhyming at 5 years old with Doctor Suess.

Writing a song that SOMEONE CARES ABOUT ENOUGH TO LISTEN TO OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND ACTUALLY PAY FOR IT, is another proposition all together. And that is not something you learn in a classroom. You learn by doing. And co-writing is the principal way that you get to do it.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 12:45 PM

Ha, I knew that would get you going, MAB!

First of all, call me English again, and I will personally drive the six hours to Nashville and kick your ####! :)

Have you ever actually read an opera libretto? Those guys didn’t deserve anything. LOL.

I absolutely agree that there have been some great collaborations between great lyricists and composers. Rodgers and Hammerstein is one you didn’t mention. However, these were clear cases of brilliant composers who couldn’t write lyrics teaming up with brilliant lyricists who didn’t write music. P.G. Wodehouse, probably the greatest ever writer of English prose, wrote for musicals.

What you seem to describe as happening in Nashville today is a bunch of people who can both play and write lyrics reasonably well sitting down together and magic somehow ensuing. These people are not Noel Coward or Gershwin or Porter or Leonard Bernstein and what they produce is not West Side Story. Mostly, it’s serviceable but disposable.

I’m not saying co-writing is wrong. What I am saying is that co-writing as the only way to write a good song is nonsense, many allegedly co-written songs were really written by one person and, unless one is clearly a specialized lyricist and the other a composer, it’s sometimes just a sham built on a foundation of commercial considerations, ego and “the way it’s done.”

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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May 13, 2018, 01:00 PM

Gavin, ask yourself this. In life, technology, research, genetic exploration, robotics, communication, etc. are there MORE or LESS people involved doing it? While robotics, drones, computers, etc. are making many things more efficient in certain ways, there are actually MORE people involved in every industry. It’s just now that more and more are freelancing and working on their own, BUT ARE HAVING TO PLUG INTO LARGER ENTITES to be involved.

I may be a dinosaur, but there are still those around. Ever hear of birds, or reptiles? Direct descendants. So we may change, but we don’t go away.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 01:27 PM

Ask yourself this, MAB. Would Rembrandt’s paintings have been better if he’d got somebody to help. Would Van Gogh’s night skies have benefited from letting the guy he bough his paint from have a go at adding a few stars? Come to that, would Bridge Over Troubled Water have been more beautiful if Paul Simon had said, “Hey, Art, why don’t you write the second verse?” We can all play the analogy game.

I would never call you a reptile, despite your referring to me as English, which is surely just as bad LOL. Besides, if you check your family tree, reptiles are not, strictly speaking, descended from dinosaurs, so I will think of you from now on as a bird, a mixture of crow, for its intelligence, nightingale for its singing, mynah bird for its loquaciousness, and peacock because those guys know how to put on a show.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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May 13, 2018, 02:17 PM

I like that. Painting is a different art form. Not really comparable. But co-writing to me has always been the key to getting anywhere in this business or in my development as a writer and an entertainer. The Rogers and Hammerstein is one of my favorite examples, but I just wanted to briefly touch on many areas. Also the Bernie Taupin, Elton John, Lennon and McCartney, Richards and Jagger, it goes on and on.

If anything, what I see is the current and continuing crop of solo writers (and there are a ton of them, especially in rock, pop and alternative) are overall a weaker and weaker contingent, even though some are doing quite well, I don’t think they are anywhere near the quality of the teams that happened the eras before.

But it’s always going to be an aggreeable dissagreements, mostly based on personal experience. And nothing is about ONE SONG. It’s about a LIFETIME of work. And that takes other people.

Maybe if ol’ Van Gogh had brought in some help he would’ve been able to keep both ears.
MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 02:40 PM

It is a different art form, but no further from songwriting than robotics or genetic engineering :)

Anyway, it seems to be the way it’s “been and has been” a lot of the time. Got to go now, John Grisham’s on the line asking if I’ve finished writing my bit of chapter three of his latest book.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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May 13, 2018, 02:44 PM

Tell him I said hi. And waiting on his comments on the re-writes.

Hey I thought you WERE English. Sorry for my besmirching your liniage.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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May 13, 2018, 02:50 PM

Don’t worry, it’ll wipe off.

I’m Scottish, but, in case any of the English folks here read this - I’m joking. I love you really.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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May 13, 2018, 03:03 PM

You too my friend. Always enjoy getting the notices that you’ve responded to some post. Always have some pretty good conversation going on.

What is funny right now is that while I’m writing you this, I’m actually in a three way co-write. I generally write some stuff down, then give it to the other people, let them tweak it, then move on. In most of the songs I write I am like that I am teaching the PROCESS of songwriting, and how it pertains,finding the overall hook, character development, subject matter, tone, attitude, groove and melody, avoiding second verse hell, elements of bridge writing, and twist on the tale or rope of hope sentiment. When they are catching up, I will write a few lines over here.

On to the second verse.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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