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In 1961 when John Lennon was asked where the band name came from he famously replied “It came in a vision - a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, 'From this day forward you are Beatles with an A.' Thank you Mister Man, they said, thanking him.”

That’s about as good a description of inspiration as you’re going to get. Sometimes the best and the simplest ideas just fall from the sky and into your consciousness. And so it is with songwriting. Very occasionally a tune is in the ether, waiting to be born, and you are the lucky person the universe has chosen to receive it.

Some of our most important musical works fall into this category of ‘pure art’. Those are the songs that tend to move us the most and stay with us for a lifetime.

Trouble is, it’s not a dependable source of material. Inspiration like that has never happened to me in a lifetime of waiting and willing it to happen. Surely there are ways to kickstart the creative process, prevent writers block and get some songs happening?

A good place to start...

Well... there is. A good place to start is outlining some of the tricks used by the top pop and rock writers. This is craft rather than art I admit, but so often putting the time and graft in will pave the way for inspiration to follow. The processes I describe here were picked up during co-writing sessions organised by our publisher in the somewhat desperate pursuit of a ‘hit record’. Although a bit formulaic, it worked. And the old band secured several Top 40 hits along the way - a few created in the ways as I describe in this blog.

Of course, no one’s interested in a ‘hit record’ anymore, it’s a meaningless and antique term. But what we are looking for is that song that will separate your band from the hundreds of thousands of other acts all screaming for attention in the same space.

Good bands and good music are painfully commonplace. Great songwriting is still super rare. Songs still matter and can still change lives and start careers.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s begin our step by step journey to writing your best song yet.

Step 1 – Put the guitar down and step away from the keyboard.

We will start with titles and subject matter. When a band writes to a backing track it often produces less coherent writing. So just for once let’s not think about the music until we have written down 50 great titles, each with a strong concept behind it.

See what’s happening? We’ve already created a tension with songs crying out to be written, if the titles are interesting and engaging, and we’re inspired to want to tell the full story.

Write those titles on a large piece of paper or white board and stick them on the wall so they are staring you in the face.

Step 2 - Tempo groove and feel.

Stop and think about tempos. If we don’t, most writers end up defaulting to slower tempos. I think it might be just because it’s easier to write slower tunes. But most commercial hits and show-stopping gig tunes are faster than 120 BPM and often 130 BPM+.

There is a massive mismatch in average tempo of songs written by your average writer, and songs actually consumed and listened to. Stick the radio on and check the BPMs on the playlist. Play a few classic albums and work out how the thing hangs together tempo wise.

Watching the crowd at a big gig will tell you everything you need to know about which tempo and feel holds a crowd and makes them move. Watch the support acts to see what sends people to the bar. Radio programmers are very sensitive to this and they don’t want anyone switching the dial because they are bored by a dirge of a tune.

You might want to use a drum machine or loops to collect a batch of drum feels to use as the basis for the writing session. We have 50 titles there, so let’s have a wide selection, maybe include a shuffle or two and some different time signatures. You can afford to experiment with quirky drum sounds and samples at this stage as we are building the vibe as we write.

Step 3 - Let’s crack on.

Pace is really important in writing. Nothing kills the buzz more than trying to make the first line a masterpiece. Try not to censor yourself and just allow the songs to write themselves. Let’s knock out some tunes quick and come back and re-look at them in a week. You might not be able to be objective on the same day you’ve written a song - don’t be in a hurry to scrap anything.

Now take a title and see if it sits well with one of the drum grooves, try singing the top line lyric over the drums, jam around with it, and maybe try and get a main chorus hook out there first. Find the hook first and then write backwards. Hopefully two or three lines will leap out from your list of titles and pair up nicely with one of the drum loops.

Coming together

When it starts to click together, try and bash out a song fast, without thinking too hard. Trust your subconscious and the most obvious first choice of lyric or melody may well be the one.

Keep it loose, enjoyable and pacey. Aim for half a dozen completed but rough tunes in a day and record them, label them carefully and come back to the file later.

Ah yes you can get the guitar out now. Add licks, keys, bass – knock yourself out. You’ve been pretty disciplined so far, so now you can riff, be loose and find a flow. Try different keys, major, minor and add the underpinning chords to the melody. If you get stuck for harmonic ideas, go back to the greats - Kinks, Beatles, Bowie, Beach Boys will get you out of a rut. But you’ll also have your own references of course.

If you’re on a roll, keep going and you may be doing this for days or even weeks before you come back and sort thought the ideas.

Step 4 - Quality control.

Now the work begins. Sort the songs into piles. A, B and C lists might be a good place to start. In the 80s, most major label acts would have 50 or 60 tunes to pick through before they whittled the section down to an album. These days you may even be looking at releasing just one tune at a time. Let’s make it count.

So after picking our favourite tunes, we now need to refine them into a finished form or maybe even a recorded master.

Looking at how much care a band takes over lyric writing tells you much about their level of respect for their audience and their overall musical standards. Lyrics are everything. Although it is fine to write instrumentals too and that would be infinitely preferable to weak ass lyrics. Of course, this is subjective and sometimes ‘dumb’ is great, sometimes inaccurate grammar works. It’s all about the context and we know substance and meaning when we hear it. That’s probably what will link you to your audience more than anything else.

Having a great title and a strong subject will make completing the lyrics much easier as the song will want to write itself.

Step 5 - Loosely arrange the track.

Don’t be afraid to take away rather than add. You could also consider setting some kind of sonic direction with your choice of sounds and instrumentation. Keep it bare and leave space as it’s just a sketch at this stage.

Step 6 - So we’re done right?

Well, yes and no! If you have taken a song as far as you can, and you’re digging the result, you now have the option of rehearsing it up and sticking it in the set. Or you can bring in other people to see how much further you can go with this thing. Maybe consider co-writing with an experienced commercial writer who could pull out another hook or two and refine the lyrics, and then the right producer could help you fine tune the arrangement, and a decent engineer can help you realise an ambitious sonic vision.

These days it’s easy to find and work with top professionals. Sometimes it costs a little bit but often it’s much cheaper than you would expect, and you’ll be surprised at what you learn by hanging with experienced pros.

I come back to my earlier point - great songs are rare. They change the world, they change lives and they start careers. That has got to be worth that little bit more effort hasn’t it?

If songwriting is an important part of your life, remember you can study a flexible BA (Hons) or Master's Degree course with a focus on composition and production at WaterBear the College of Music, Brighton.

Musicians and creators pour an enormous amount of time, effort and passion into creating unique music and songs for their fans to enjoy. The last thing you want is for your original creations to be copied, ripped off or used without your permission. When you create something new, it comes with automatic rights and copyright is a type of intellectual property. This guide will unravel the mystery around copyright and help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of intellectual property theft.

What the law says about copyright

According to gov.uk:

Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission. You get copyright protection automatically - you don’t have to apply or pay a fee, and it usually lasts for 70 years after the creator’s death. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK so you automatically get copyright protection when you create unique musical work.

Copyright prevents people from:

You can license the use of your work if you own the copyright. For example, you can register your work with a licensing body who will collect royalties for you. You can also sell or transfer the copyright of your music to others.

Licensing bodies

Licensing bodies manage writer’s and composer’s rights and royalties on their behalf, meaning they can collect money for these creators and pay royalties to them. They also help artists have an extra level of protection over their intellectual property. When you register your music with them it is recognised, carries weight and is date stamped. It’s like having a giant in your corner backing you up.

Here are some of the most recognised licensing bodies in the UK…

PRS for Music

PRS for Music is the home of the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and they represent two kinds of rights for songs and compositions. Their aim is to see composers and producers get fairly paid wherever their music is being performed and copied. PRS for Music gives you the ability to register your songs, amend your songs and report live performances, and allows them to license your music to businesses and collect royalties from around the globe for you.

PRS

PRS focuses on performing rights and collects royalties on behalf of their members whenever music is broadcast on TV, film or radio, streamed, downloaded, or performed or played in public. It is owned and governed by its members.

MCPS

MCPS focuses on mechanical rights and collects royalties when music is copied physically (e.g. onto CDs, vinyls and DVDs), used in TV, film or radio, or streamed or downloaded. It is owned by the Music Publishers Association.

To use the services of both PRS and MCPS you need to sign up for PRS for Music. They charge a one-off membership fee of £100 and admin fees are deducted from royalties by percentage for the services provided.

PPL

PPL is a separate organisation that manages the rights of sound recordings on behalf of performers and record companies. They license the use of recorded music and although they are based in the UK, they collect royalties from around the world.

To use the services of PPL you can register free of charge. PPL deducts a percentage of your royalties to cover the service e.g. international collections stand at 7%.

Practical ways to protect your work(s)

If you decide you’re not ready to sign up to a licensing body, or you want to gain as much protection as possible against intellectual property theft, here are some ways you can prove the copyright of your music belongs with you.

Mark your work

The UK government states, ‘You can mark your work with the copyright symbol (©), your name and the year of creation. Whether you mark the work or not it doesn’t affect the level of protection you have.’

This is a deterrent of intellectual property theft.

Date stamp

Date stamping is about proving when you wrote a piece of music or a song. In proving that you wrote it prior to someone else, you are showing that the copyright belongs with you.

Let’s nod back to pre-internet days when people would date stamp their work through sending CDs and cassettes to themselves via recorded mail and leave it sealed should they need proof of the date of its creation. People even stored their recordings with their bank! These are still legitimate ways of time stamping your material, as long as they remain unopened.

Shortly after the internet was rolled out to the masses, people started emailing recordings of their tracks to themselves for the same reason. This is another way to prove the date you have written the music. If a recording comes out after this date claiming to hold the copyright, you have proof to the contrary.

Keep evidence

Every piece of recording, writing and editing throughout the process of creating a unique piece of music builds a picture of its authenticity. Save and keep lyric edits, notes, amendments, riff ideas, previous versions and alternations while you are going through the creation process. If they are recorded and time stamped - even better!

Find PRS for Music, PPL and government guidance on copyright here.

Writing music for film and television can seem like a book of seven seals.  We collectively watch a huge amount of content. And, whether it's on the big or the small screen, not much is generally known about the actual work of writing music for film. So, lets take a look at some of the principles and misconceptions behind making music for film.

Tip.1 - if you want to understand music for film, you first need to understand film

Unlike music that is made to be listened to on its own, music for film and television is a narrative . It helps tell stories. If you want to learn about it, a good place to start is to study how stories are told. In particular you might want to look at key concepts such as 3-act structure, character development and the famous “hero’s journey”.

Another important aspect of making films is how they are edited.  Pay close attention to the transitions between different shots next time you watch a film or a TV show. How often do cuts occur?

Is there a rhythm to them or do they seem chaotic and random? Do the changes in the picture happen in time with the music. Do they seem to have their own logic? All these questions can help you understand how music and the grammar of film (editing, lights, camera angles etc) work together.

Here is some Suggested reading on storytelling and filmmaking.

The Hero’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker.

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet.

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

Tip.2 - most film/TV music does not have a blockbuster epic orchestral Hollywood sound…

Only a small fraction of film and TV music has the classic, recognisable big budget Hollywood sound that includes a 90-piece orchestra and expensive-sounding electronics. In reality there are many different styles of writing music to picture. And, many successful composers from a range of different musical backgrounds.

A common beginner’s mistake is to put a lot of effort into emulating a default Hollywood style - an exclusive 0.5% of the total film-musical output. By way of example, there are hundreds of YouTube videos explaining how to recreate certain aspects of Hans Zimmer’s sound.

A much more interesting route to go down is to work out what your own musical background can bring to the table for film/TV. Maybe you play a particular instrument that can be used for good effect on intimate dramas. Or perhaps, you’re really good at creating ambient textures. The point is to find a way that is personal and unique to you which you can use to differentiate yourself and find a niche that speaks to your inclinations and abilities.

Tip.3 - …but it helps if you know your way around writing orchestral music (using samples if necessary)

Having recognised that there are many different ways of approaching film music, it’s nonetheless very important to acknowledge that there is an existing tradition behind this variety. Film music as we know it began in the 1930s. Viennese light classical composers such as Erich Korngold moved to LA and brought with them their knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration.

Because of these historical roots in classical music, there are certain stylistic conventions that are taken for granted. String sections, for example, are the most used instrument type in film music by far. This is due to their versatility, and the long history of strings being used in film music.

It is therefore essential to have at least a basic grasp of what sections constitute an orchestra. Namely woodwind, brass, percussion and strings. Research how to produce some, more or less, convincing sounds with it. Granted, if you’re starting out you’re most likely to use sampled (virtual) orchestral instruments to begin with. But it still makes sense to get to know this way of working as samples are used even in high-end productions these days (including Star Trek Discovery).

Tip.4 - the more you know about, and can write, different musical styles, the better

Now that you know a few basic things about the orchestra and the use of samples, it’s time to broaden your horizon. Always keep an open mind and learn more about musical styles, instruments or production techniques. Whether it’s a student film that requires you to dig out some 1960s Motown records for inspiration or an advert that needs to be scored in an uplifting EDM style, you can never go wrong by being able to quickly and convincingly mimic a particular musical tradition.

Top tip: practice analysing and recreating short pieces from 5 totally different musical styles with 48h deadlines. This will give you practice in responding to a brief/request for a demo outside of your comfort zone!

Tip.5 - composing for media is all about relationships

I often get asked how easy it is to get a foot in the door in the film/TV/media scoring industry. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer! Writing music for media is not like medicine or law. An exam cannot prepare and qualify you for the world of work. Instead, composing for film is much more like acting, where even talented newcomers need to spread their skills far and wide to get noticed at the beginning.

Films are made by people, however, and it’s this knowledge you can use to your advantage. By collaborating at an entry-level with emerging or student filmmakers you can gain experience, make a name for yourself in a small community, and build your portfolio at the same time.

For example, you might consider approaching a film college or course near you and offer to do some music for free for their student films. Some graduation films end up having a good run on the festival circuit. They can end up being seen by quite a large number of people in the industry, so your energy is unlikely to be wasted completely.

Here are some film colleges.

London Film Academy.

University of the Creative Arts.

Central Film School.

London Film School.

Ravensbourne University London.

Robin Schlochtermeier is composer for film, television and advertising based in London, UK.www.robinschlochtermeier.com

If you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician,  Order a Prospectus or Apply Now.

Publishing is a subject close to my heart as my first publishing deal directly resulted in me buying my home. It can be incredibly lucrative. It’s important that we, as artists, understand what a publishing deal is, and how it benefits our career.

What is a publisher?

I’m convinced that a lot of artists sign publishing deals without really understanding what it is that they are signing. We need to get the basics down, so lets recap on the history. The sale of sheet music predates the sales of physical records. That means the publishing industry is older than the recorded music industry, and that's why a record company is still a separate entity to a publisher.

However, things can get a little bit blurry with the “360 deal” whereby a company will represent an artist in all aspects. For instance, label services may include publishing, but it is still helpful to think of the disciplines as separate. To make it completely clear, we can still split recorded music and songwriting into two distinct categories, the rights for the song live with the publishers, whereas recorded music rights live with the labels.

Currently, it might be that you are publishing your songs through a self-owned label or personal artistic brand, however, sooner or later you may do deals. You may even sign with a holistic a music industry company that offers to publish alongside managing your recorded rights, however, in your mind, these royalties need to remain split as they are collected and distributed in different ways.

You and the publishing deal

When you write a song, assuming you haven’t stolen it from anywhere and it’s your own work, then the ownership of that song lives with you. A lot of bands get hung up about songwriting splits and this is probably a subject for another video. For now, I’m going to assume that you own 100% of the song, everything from the top-line, the lyrics and the backing track.

 So, what are we going to do with it? Well, you have a few options, you can publish it yourself, you can do an admin deal or you can do a co-publishing deal. It’s through one of these three structures you will collect royalties, and for your clarity, the royalties are broken down into three different types.

Mechanical royalties

These are paid on the manufacture, distribution, and sale of physical formats, such as CDs and Vinyl. A percentage of the overall sale goes to the writer.

Public performance royalties

Paid to the writer, with the logic that although the writer may not be there on the night of the performance, it is fair to remunerate them for their work. It’s the venue that pays the performance royalties.

Syncs and licensing

This is for when your material appears on TVs, adverts or films and the like.

Publishing yourself

If you currently do not have a publishing deal and you are self-releasing, then, whether you know it or not, you are your own publisher. To collect your royalties, you can sign up to PRS who will collect your performance royalties and mechanicals. You can sign up for PRS for music by following this link www.prsformusic.com/join. It does not cost too much and it’s a great investment for your career.

You may be wondering, if it’s so easy to do this then why do I need a publishing deal? To answer this let’s think logistically. If you are releasing music in a multitude of territories it can be tough to collect all of the associated royalties. Having a publisher on board who has offices in the States, Europe, or wherever it may be to collecting these for you will be incredibly helpful.

The admin deal

You may consider the halfway house, which is an admin deal, you typically pay 10-15% for the publisher to collect royalties on your behalf. It’s of benefit as they will act professionally and collect royalties from other territories. However, they will not push to maximise the commercial potential of your songs, if you want that and you want the publisher to champion your act, get you some syncs, an advert, or even push the record company to support your band, then you need a co-publishing deal.

The co-publishing deal

Typically in this deal, 75% of the publishing rights are retained by the writer, whereas 25% are awarded to the publishing company and they give you an advance. The advance is an interesting topic, it’s against your future earnings, so you will not get paid anything until that advance is recouped. It is just a loan to you against future earnings, an advance can be anything from a few grand to six figures plus, it can be really useful to keep the band moving in the leaner times and it’s a great investment in your future.

Additionally, that means the publishing company has a vested interest in maximising your revenue as, if you don’t earn any money than a publisher will not recoup. So, how does a publisher do that? One thing that is overlooked is the revenue benefits of organising co-writes with people that have a track record, this can turbocharge your career. There are other obvious quick wins like placing your songs in adverts, films or computer games.

You need to be really clear about this, if you take that money, you are not going to receive a penny more until that loan is paid back. Now, there is a difference between an advance with your publisher and an advance with your record label. Due to the costs associated with a record deal, a publishing deal tends to recoup faster than the record deal. This means you may be in a cycle of permanent debt in both a major and indie label deal. However, you could be recouping on your publishing fairly quickly, one advert or placement in a film may become a good earner and you will be in the green. 

 In my career, the critical first hit was engineered by our publishing company who organised co-writes. Without that happening in the early nineties, I wouldn’t be here talking about this stuff now. I hope you can see the power the right publisher at the optimum time has for your project.

Making this happen for you

It’s important to understand the normal sequence of events, although it’s not impossible for a publisher to come in early days, take an A&R role and see the potential in a band, and sign them, the set up is very atypical. Usually, its the last thing in the chain, publishers will want something there for them to collect. It’s down to you to prove the concept!

You need a growing and significant audience, some radio action, management, an agent and a buzz around a band, it is normally at this point that a publisher gets involved. I’m sorry if this seems like bad news, as I know we are always looking for a quick fix, unfortunately, publishing is not one of those. It’s most definitely something to be aware of, publish yourself, and put it in your own structure. The timing for signing with the right publisher is going to be one or two years down the line when the act is hot and happening. However, the good news is that when it comes to it, you are in a position to not only maximise your advance but to improve the terms of the publishing deal. A publishing deal is normally a 75/25 split however it can be as low 90/10 in favour of an established artist. 

 So, what happens if you are a songwriter but not a performing artist? You’ll be pleased to know that there are a lot of people in that position who become professional songwriters. The usual route is that they write songs with artists that go on to be successful and score a publishing deal off the back of this work.

This strategy is great,  as you could easily work with hundred’s artists and maximises your chance of success, it only takes one hit for your career exponentially grow. That being said, if you are serious about writing, there has been a cultural shift in the last fifteen years and its essential that your music production skills are superb. You need to deliver finished records, not demo’s!! People don’t have the imagination to say “I can hear it’s a great song and will be huge with production.” It needs to be finished and ready to go. You have to get solid at music production!

I want to help you with your songwriting. My aim is not to help you write an average song but a career-defining hit!

I’m lucky enough to of had a lifetime career in music. My career goes back to the early '90s and due to this, I have written music with some of the most talented names in the field. I have studied with the masters and picked up a few of their tips. This is the stuff that no one told me about, I just saw them do it and took notes. In this blog, I want to share with you all of the unspoken nuances of professional songwriting.

In the early nineties, I had the privilege of writing and working with the legendary Jim Vallance. Vallance wrote hits for Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and most notably he was a co-writer for the Reckless album, which was a collaboration between himself and Bryan Adams. Vallance has evidently written with an enviable list of artists.

When I was 21 years old, I turned up to Jim’s studio and got a complete shock. Vallance wrote songs in a way that I was yet to experience and that was between office hours. Every day we worked from nine to five with an hour off for lunch and aimed to write four to five songs a day. We did this methodically, we never placed a value judgment on a song whilst it was being written, it was carefully catalogued and reviewed a week later.

Vallance felt that you couldn’t be objective about a song at the point of its conception. We reviewed the tracks a week later and we were always much more objective. The astute ethos of Jim’s was well placed, the songs I thought were the strongest turned out to be weakest and the weakest became the strongest. The moral here is to write methodically, allow inspiration to be realised and let the process keep you writing all throughout the day. Catalogue all those songs and come back to them a week later.

This is an extreme production line process of writing songs but what about the other side of the coin. I think the reality for most artists, myself included, is that the Jim Vallance model is too constraining to fully access the creative process. The actuality is that most artists write fairly average songs and get a little boxed in. Habit leads us to always start from the same point. So it is always a strummed acoustic guitar pattern in either a major or minor key, it's a bit “droney" as it’s started from the verse and this leads to the technical problem of the artist trying to stitch on a chorus that never quite works as intended.

So, what do the pro’s do about it? Simple answer, they start varying their songwriting methodology and start songs from different angles. I’m going to give you a few suggestions. The key question is how can we look at writing differently and come up with something a little wild?

Here are my suggestions to get you started:

(1) Create an inspiring place to work

At WaterBear we have a resident artist, Jim Sanders. He provides all the wall hangings, stencils that complement our visual aesthetic. This sends the message that this is a creative place. I implore you to do the same.

(2) Start with the chorus

Don’t box yourself in by starting with the verse and having to glue something on the end of it that may or may not fit. Start with the HOOK.

(3) Think about tempo and feel

Now its generally accepted that writing up-tempo tunes are technically harder than writing downtempo ones. If you have a lot of slow material then its time to think about the BPM and shifting it up a little bit.

(4) Use classic feels

Whilst we are on the subject of tempo and groove, think about starting with classic feels. This could be a “4 in a bar” Motown feel, a shuffle or a marching snare. Use this as a starting point for a song and see what lyrics emerge.

(5) Dream Diary

Start cataloguing your dreams, analyse them and see what you can pick out for subject matter. Work with the unexpected.

(6) Keep it unexpected

Try the Dadaist or Bowie approach where you cut up random words and stick them in a hat, pull them out in any order and see what lyrics emerge. So you get the idea, vary the approach try different starting points and you will be amazed by the results!

I want to leave you with a final thought about songwriting. There is something that used to happen in the past but doesn't so much happen anymore, and that is the A&R process. What tends to happen these days is that the arbiter of what makes a song good is the artist. We decide if a song is good enough to go on an album and this means we are not accountable to anybody.

We need to apply that extra layer of accountability stipulated by A&R, and ask ourselves the difficult questions such as “is this song as good as it could possibly be?”, “can we take it any further?”. We have to apply the answers to our work and recognise that this is the process needed to take our songs to the next level. We all know there are thousands and thousands of bands out there, how do we step up, compete and have the hit songs?

These days A&R personnel are literally like unicorns, I’ll admit I don’t really know any that operate in the music business I recognise. We have to A&R ourselves however that role has largely been taken by the producer. This means it integral to understand the differences between our engineers and the producer.

An engineer is someone who will make your band sound good sonically, however, we need more than that. We need someone who is going to second guess every single note we play, every aspect of the arrangement, every aspect of the top line and contribute to the songwriting. In an ideal world its the extra member of the band that has an objective view and takes the song to the highest level it can be.

Here are the links to some producers based in the UK we recommend that will be able to do that job for you;

Jag Jago (The Maccabees, Ten Tonnes, Jessie Ware, The Magic Gang)
www.jagjago.com

Ben Thackeray (My Bloody Valentine, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Nylo, Gruff Rhys)
www.milocostudios.com/engineers-producers/ben-thackeray/

George Donoghue (The Rocket Dolls, River becomes Ocean, Codename Colin)
www.georgedonoghue.co.uk

Thank you so much for reading this blog. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more industry advice and tips.

If you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at WateBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

In this blog I want to discuss why your songs are failing and more importantly what you can do to write killer hits. Now I’m not saying that your songs are bad, however there are two fundamental challenges that you must face in order to perfect your craft and write a career-defining track.

Firstly, GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!! Think about it, there are so many bands at your level and that makes it incredibly hard to stand out. This means you need to be writing excellent tracks to have a competitive edge.

Another challenge is that if you are a competent musician or a competent singer you can make average material sound great. This may win the applause of those close to you, be it friends or family but you will hit a glass ceiling as the songwriting is perhaps not as good as you think it is. Ultimately what you are trying to get across to your audience may not translate.

Now I know that all of this may seem a bit negative or challenging however don't despair!. I want to show you how we can raise the bar instantly.

Tip.1: understand the difference between art and craft

As mentioned, a competent musician/singer can make average material sound great and from these releases everyone around you will offer praise and support. However you may find the industry does not share the same esteem.

Conversely, this is where people who don't sound that polished have an advantage over you. As they have to rely on the power of their songwriting to break through. Think of “Should I stay or should I go” by the Clash or “Common People” by Pulp, it could be argued that the most proficient musicians did not write these songs but instead the most gifted songwriters.

For me, that’s the difference between art and craft. I know you can play, but lets get stuck into the songwriting. You, my friend are an artist and the audience demands substance and depth from their entertainment.

It’s time to zero in on your lyrics and think about how it represents the audience. And, before you do anything else put down the guitar, switch off Protools; write down 50 great titles that hit the nail on the head and these will be the basis of your next batch of songwriting.

We now have an amazing opportunity to not only come up with some great titles but also a career defining song and message, which introduces your band to the world. Think of “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “Killing in the name of” by Rage Against the Machine or “Fight for your right” by the Beastie Boys.

Tip.2: co-writing

Let me tell you a story, my band Little Angels’ first album came out in 1989 on a Major, it had two singles which did not take, and we were in serious trouble. Major labels do not take kindly to bands that do not have hit records. Co writing saved my bacon and saved my career and we got our first hit, and many hits afterwards.

During that time, bands routinely wrote with people like Diane Warren, Jim Vallance and Desmond Childs. That’s how it worked, there was a culture of co-writing. You may ask “how do you get co-writes?” Well maybe your publisher sets it up, but usually you go see a band live, you get chatting and ask if you fancy writing some songs then you sit down and you write those songs. It really is that simple!

Most bands I speak to today see co-writing as a sign of weakness and this needs to stop. Co writing is a learning opportunity and its a chance to inject some pace and energy into your practice. Don't write one song a month, write five songs a day. Write from different angles, write with other people, that’s how you will get a career defining track.

Tip.3: eliminate writers block

How are we going to do that? We are going to set ourselves up for success like a professional writer using process; from Tip.1 we already have fifty great titles. So we need to allocate some time to do the writing, we are also going to research some tempos and grooves and join the two together. We will write some songs and get the creative process going. I can assure you that out of that process of craft that art and inspiration will follow and great songs will emerge!

Thank you so much for reading this blog. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more industry advice and tips.

If you interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician please join us at Watebear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus

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