Songwriter

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A songwriter is a professional that writes lyrics or composes musical compositions for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated with writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter that writes the lyrics/words are referred to as lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that songwriting is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. [1] For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be written by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. [1] Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers. [1]

Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a "libretto" and their writer, as a "librettist". The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression. Rappers can also create lyrics that are meant to be spoken rhythmically rather than sung.

Song composition for voice(s)

A song is a single work of music that is typically intended to be sung by the human voice with distinct and fixed pitches and patterns using sound and silence and a variety of forms that often include the repetition of sections. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Contents

The old-style apprenticeship approach to learning how to write songs is being supplemented by university degrees and college diplomas and "rock schools". [1] Knowledge of modern music technology (sequencers, synthesizers, computer sound editing), songwriting elements and business skills are now often necessary requirements for a songwriter. Several music colleges offer songwriting diplomas and degrees with music business modules. [1] Since songwriting and publishing royalties can be substantial sources of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record; legally, in the US, songs written after 1934 may be copied only by the authors. The legal power to grant these permissions may be bought, sold or transferred. This is governed by international copyright law. [1]

A royalty is a payment made by one party, the licensee or franchisee to another that owns a particular asset, the licensor or franchisor for the right to ongoing use of that asset. Royalties are typically agreed upon as a percentage of gross or net revenues derived from the use of an asset or a fixed price per unit sold of an item of such, but there are also other modes and metrics of compensation. A royalty interest is the right to collect a stream of future royalty payments.

Songwriters can be employed to write either the lyrics or the music directly for or alongside a performing artist, or they present songs to A&R, publishers, agents and managers for consideration. Song pitching can be done on a songwriter's behalf by their publisher or independently using tip sheets like RowFax, the MusicRow publication and SongQuarters . [1] Skills associated with song-writing include entrepreneurism and creativity. [2]

Artists and repertoire (A&R) is the division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters. It also acts as a liaison between artists and the record label or publishing company; every activity involving artists to the point of album release is generally considered under the purview, and responsibility, of A&R.

A tip sheet is a publication containing the latest information, tips or predictions for a particular industry. Tip sheets are commonly published to impart business or stock market information, music industry songwriter leads, and tips on horse racing results.

MusicRow is a Nashville music industry trade publication providing reviews, breaking news, and in-depth coverage for more than 30 years. The publication delivers online content in addition to six annual print magazines including its InCharge, Artist Roster and Publisher directories. MusicRow Enterprises is also home to song pitch-sheet RowFax, and the MusicRow radio chart.

Staff writers

Songwriters who sign an exclusive songwriting agreement with a publisher are called staff writers. Being a staff writer effectively means that, during the term of the songwriter's contract with the publisher, all their songs are automatically published by that company and cannot be published elsewhere. [1]

In the Nashville country music scene, there is a strong staff writer culture where contracted writers work normal "9-to-5" hours at the publishing office and are paid a regular salary. This salary is in effect the writer's "draw", an advance on future earnings, which is paid on a monthly basis and enables them to live within a fixed budget. [3] The publisher owns the copyright of songs written during the term of the agreement for a designated period, after which the songwriter can reclaim the copyright. [3] In an interview with HitQuarters, songwriter Dave Berg extolled the benefits of the set-up: "I was able to concentrate on writing the whole time and have always had enough money to live on." [4]

HitQuarters

HitQuarters is an international music industry publication and contact database founded in 1999. It is noted for its in-depth interviews with industry figures, as well as its A&R and manager contact directory, free artist promo pages and song sale facility, demo reviews and A&R chart, and is the sister site to the songwriting tip sheet SongQuarters. The site has been sporadically active since May 2017, and no posts have been made on its Twitter and Facebook accounts since March and May 2015 respectively.

Dave Berg (songwriter) American musician

Dave Berg is an American country music songwriter. His credits include the Number One country hits "If You're Going Through Hell " and "These Are My People" by Rodney Atkins, "Somebody" by Reba McEntire, and "Moments" by Emerson Drive, as well as Top 10 country hits "Stupid Boy" by Keith Urban, "Don't Make Me" by Blake Shelton, "What Kinda Gone" by Chris Cagle, and "It's Good to Be Us" by Bucky Covington. Berg has also co-written songs for a wide array of artists such as Jewel, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett, Darius Rucker, Meat Loaf, Tim Armstrong, Sarah Buxton, Ty Herndon, and others, including the 2013 single "Better" by Maggie Rose. Dave Bergs' songs are represented by Downtown Music Publishing.

Unlike contracted writers, some staff writers operate as employees for their respective publishers. Under the terms of these work for hire agreements, the compositions created are fully owned by the publisher. Because the recapture provision of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 does not apply to "works made for hire," the rights to a song created under an employment contract cannot be "recaptured" by the writer after 35 years. In Nashville, young writers are often, strongly encouraged to avoid these types of contracts.

In the copyright law of the United States, a work made for hire is a work subject to copyright that is created by an employee as part of his or her job, or some limited types of works for which all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation. Work for hire is a statutorily defined term, so a work for hire is not created merely because parties to an agreement state that the work is a work for hire. It is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author. In some countries, this is known as corporate authorship. The entity serving as an employer may be a corporation or other legal entity, an organization, or an individual.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Copyright Act of 1976 United States law

The Copyright Act of 1976 is a United States copyright law and remains the primary basis of copyright law in the United States, as amended by several later enacted copyright provisions. The Act spells out the basic rights of copyright holders, codified the doctrine of "fair use," and for most new copyrights adopted a unitary term based on the date of the author's death rather than the prior scheme of fixed initial and renewal terms. It became Public Law number 94-553 on October 19, 1976 and went into effect on January 1, 1978.

Staff writers are common across the whole industry, but without the more office-like working arrangements favored in Nashville. All the major publishers employ writers under contract. [4] Obtaining a staff writer contract with a publisher can be a first step for any professional songwriting career, with some writers with a desire for greater independence outgrowing this set-up once they achieve a degree of success. [4] Songwriter Allan Eshuijs described his staff writer contract at Universal Music Publishing as a starter deal. His success under the arrangement eventually allowed him to found his own publishing company, so that he could "...keep as much [publishing income] as possible and say how it's going to be done." [5]

As musicians

Songwriters are also often skilled musicians. In part, this is because the process of "working out" a song or arrangement requires a songwriter to play an instrument, typically the guitar or the piano, to hear how the chord progression sounds and to hear how well a given set of chords supports a melody. In addition to selling their songs and musical concepts for other artists to sing, some songwriter-musicians create songs to perform themselves. Songwriters need to create a number of elements for a song. At minimum, a songwriter must prepare a lead sheet for a song, which consists of one or more pieces of sheet music with the melody notes and chord progression indicated on it.

The songwriter may expand upon the melody and chord progression by adding an instrumental melody (which may occur before or after the vocal melody, or alongside the vocal melody) and creating a more complex song structure (e.g., verse, chorus, bridge, instrumental solo section, verse, etc.).

Producer / songwriters

With recent technological improvements, a songwriter can now create commercially viable music almost entirely on their laptop. This technological advancement has made the producer/songwriter role a much more popular occurrence. Perhaps because the role of producer isn't generally understood by the public, the average listener doesn't know when an artist also takes on the role of producer.

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys is one of the earliest and most widely known examples of a songwriter turned music producer. Within two years of the band's commercial breakthrough, Wilson had taken over from his father Murry, and he was the sole producer of all their recordings between 1963 and 1967.

A beatmaker is a songwriter who creates and composes music or beats for a song, often laying the groundwork or 'musical bed'. Then a composer who specializes in melody will create the top-line for the track. Tools typically used are keyboards, drum machines, softsynths and digital audio workstations. Beat makers or composers aren't necessarily record producers by definition or acting role since they generally do not work directly with an artist in a recording studio that oversees the production and recording of the final product. However, record producers can be involved in co-writing songs as the composer wearing two hats as the producer and songwriter as they may write and compose the original music such as the beat and then oversee the production that takes control of the recording sessions with the artist and engineer all the way down to the mix stage. They are referred to as Record Producer / Songwriters as they generally receive songwriting and production credits for both roles. This is especially true for R&B, hip-hop producers in urban hip hop production, when composing the original music as the co-writer is integrated into their traditional role as a Record Producer, such as Rodney Jerkins, Dr. Dre, Timbaland or Pharrell Williams, opposed to a rock producer that may rarely contribute as a co-writer of a song.

Singer-songwriters

Many singers also write songs for themselves, and as such, they are usually referred to as singer-songwriters.

Co-writing

When a song is written by more than one person, it is co-written, or written jointly or in collaboration with another author. [6] Co-writers create songs in different ways. Some co-writers use a "stream of consciousness" approach, throwing out every single line or word or rhyme that comes to them. By letting ideas flow, this generates potential lyrics and song structures more effectively than trying to writing the song by discussing options. Co-writing can help two creators with different talents and strengths to create a new song that neither could have been able to devise if they were working alone. [7] The first step in co-writing is to establish the division of the contribution between co-writers. In copyright law, there is no distinction of importance between the lyrics of the song or the melody of the song, therefore each writer is given ownership equally over all of the song, unless another agreement is arranged. [8] "Phantom" songwriters are those who provided small contributions to the song, such as a band member who suggests a line for a verse or a session musician who informally proposes a chord progression for a coda. Once a songwriter is acknowledged as a cowriter on the project, this is almost impossible to undo, so "phantom" songwriters are not usually given credit.

Top-liners

A top-liner is a songwriter who writes a song over a pre-made beat. Top-lining differs from songwriting in that the writer is not creating a song from scratch, but rather creating lyrics and melodies over an existing music genre, tonality, harmony, rhythm, and form of a song. [9]

In modern commercial writing, it is a common practice for the musical track to be produced first without any vocal melody or lyrics. This is partially due to the rise of portable music production equipment and digital audio workstations that are designed for the swift arrangement of electronic music, such as Ableton Live. [10]

The top-liner usually is also a singer, and will sing over the track as the demo singer. If the song is for a particular artist, the top-liner may sing the demo in that artist's style. Topliners often work in groups to co-write. Sometimes producers send out tracks to more than one top-line writer so that the producer or singer could choose the best option. Since the track is the same, melodies by different writers can sometimes be very similar. Occasionally, the producer might choose a few lines of melodic or lyrical ideas from one top-liner without properly crediting or paying them. These situations sometimes result in legal battles over ownership of the melodies or lyrics. [11]

There is a way to prevent such legal battles. A songwriter can commit their "intent to make a song", which prevents any of the parties ripping the song apart. Some artists send out a legal disclaimer making clear that if their melody isn't used after doing a topline, it reverts to them, and the track back to the track writer. [12]

Related Research Articles

Musical composition aesthetic ordering and disposing of musical information

Musical composition, or simply composition, can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece, or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other instrumental musicians or singers. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all, and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing and/or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.

Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols to indicate the pitches (melodies), rhythms or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Arabic or other languages – the medium of sheet music typically is paper, although the access to musical notation since the 1980s has included the presentation of musical notation on computer screens and the development of scorewriter computer programs that can notate a song or piece electronically, and, in some cases, "play back" the notated music using a synthesizer or virtual instruments.

A fake book is a collection of musical lead sheets intended to help a performer quickly learn and perform new songs. Each song in a fake book contains the melody line, basic chords and sometimes lyrics – the minimal information needed by a musician or small group to make an extemporized arrangement of a song, or "fake it". The fake book is a central part of the culture of playing music in jazz, where strong improvisation abilities are expected from "comping" rhythm section players and "lead instruments" which play the melody and improvise lengthy solos over the chord progression.

Holland–Dozier–Holland was a songwriting and production team made up of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. The trio wrote, arranged and produced many songs that helped define the Motown sound in the 1960s. During their tenure at Motown from 1962 to 1967, Dozier and Brian Holland were the composers and producers for each song, and Eddie Holland wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocals. Their most celebrated productions were singles for the Four Tops and the Supremes, including 10 out of the Supremes' 12 US No. 1 singles, such as "Baby Love", "Stop! In the Name of Love", and "You Keep Me Hangin' On".

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the twelve-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually a guitar solo in the song. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or the solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

The Roof (Back in Time) single

"The Roof " is a song by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey, taken from her sixth studio album, Butterfly (1997). It was released as the third single from the album in Europe, on March 20, 1998 by Columbia Records. Similar to the treatments of "Butterfly" and "Breakdown", "The Roof" received a limited worldwide release due to Carey's conflict at the time with Sony. The song was written and produced by Carey and Trackmasters, and is built around a sample from "Shook Ones part II" by Mobb Deep. The song's lyrics recount an intimate roof-top encounter between lovers, and how the memory affects the protagonist. The extended remix features a rap verse by Mobb Deep; both versions were well received by contemporary music critics.

Breakdown (Mariah Carey song) song by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey

"Breakdown" is a song by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey. The song features rap verses by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. It was released on March 22, 1998, by Columbia Records as the fourth single from her sixth studio album Butterfly (1997). Similar to the treatments of "Butterfly" and The Roof", "Breakdown" received a limited worldwide release due to Carey's conflict at the time with Sony. The song's lyrics describe the emotions someone feels when their lover suddenly stops loving and leaves them, and the pain, or breakdown, it causes the person. The song was well received by contemporary music critics.

In the music industry, a music publisher is responsible for ensuring the songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Through an agreement called a publishing contract, a songwriter or composer "assigns" the copyright of their composition to a publishing company. In return, the company licenses compositions, helps monitor where compositions are used, collects royalties and distributes them to the composers. They also secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television.

Lead sheet

A lead sheet is a form of musical notation that specifies the essential elements of a popular song: the melody, lyrics and harmony. The melody is written in modern Western music notation, the lyric is written as text below the staff and the harmony is specified with chord symbols above the staff.

A publishing contract is a legal contract between a publisher and a writer or author, to publish original content by the writer(s) or author(s). This may involve a single written work, or a series of works.

Denny Randell is an American songwriter and record producer, who is best known for his songwriting collaborations with Sandy Linzer and Bob Crewe in the 1960s and 1970s. He co-wrote hits including "A Lover's Concerto", "Let's Hang On!", "Working My Way Back to You", and "Native New Yorker", and was nominated with Linzer for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) in 2012.

Bill Martin MBE is a Scottish songwriter, music publisher and impresario. He has been presented with three Ivor Novello Awards, including one as Songwriter of the Year.

Chord chart form of sheet music

A chord chart is a form of musical notation that describes the basic harmonic and rhythmic information for a song or tune. It is the most common form of notation used by professional session musicians playing jazz or popular music. It is intended primarily for a rhythm section. In these genres the musicians are expected to be able to improvise the individual notes used for the chords and the appropriate ornamentation, counter melody or bassline.

Wayne Wilkins is a pianist, record producer, songwriter, record engineer, and record mixer. Wilkins has produced such tracks as Natasha Bedingfield "These Words," "Single" and "Love Like This"), Beyoncé, Cheryl Cole, and Jordin Sparks ("Battlefield").

Stargate is a Norwegian record producing and songwriting team composed of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, based in Los Angeles. The team's genres include R&B, pop and hip hop. Stargate was established in Trondheim, Norway. They have produced and written or only produced for Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Samantha Mumba, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, Katy Perry, Coldplay, P!nk, Sia, Kylie Minogue, Carly Rae Jepsen, Wouter Janssen, Lionel Richie, Mustard, Justin Bieber, Rob Fusari, Khalid, and others.

Lotti Golden American musician

Lotti Golden is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, poet and artist. Golden is best known for her 1969 debut album, Motor-Cycle on Atlantic Records.

Justin Parker is an English songwriter and record producer best known for his work with female singer-songwriters such as Lana Del Rey, Bat for Lashes, and Banks.

<i>Closer</i> (Oh My Girl EP) 2015 EP by Oh My Girl

Closer is the second extended play (EP) by South Korean girl group Oh My Girl. It was released by WM Entertainment on October 8, 2015 and was distributed by LOEN Entertainment. The album contains five songs, including the single of the same name. Oh My Girl promoted the album with a series of televised live performances of "Closer" on South Korea's music shows. "Closer" was positively received by several American music critics, making the K-pop top 20 year-end lists of Billboard and Noisey.

"Why Did You Do That?" is a song recorded by American singer Lady Gaga, for the 2018 film A Star Is Born and its soundtrack of the same name. It was written by Gaga with Diane Warren, Mark Nilan Jr., Nick Monson and Paul "DJWS" Blair and also produced by them, except Warren. The song appeared in the film during a sequence when Gaga's character, Ally, performs it on Saturday Night Live, watched by her husband Jackson. Later Jackson berates Ally for selling out with the trite lyrics of the song, but she defends the song choice. "Why Did You Do That?" was written by the songwriters to portray a retro and modern feel in the track, and was recorded while Gaga was on her Joanne World Tour.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "How to pitch your songs to industry insiders". EMusician. 1 July 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-07-24. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  2. The quaternary entrepreneur, Gian Paolo Prandstraller - 2009
  3. 1 2 "Interview with Roger Murrah". HitQuarters. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 "Interview with Dave Berg". HitQuarters. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  5. "Interview with Allan Eshuijs". HitQuarters. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  6. "Definition". 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  7. "Co-Writing". 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  8. "Music Connection". 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  9. Samama, Benjamin (2 March 2016). "What's the Difference Between a Songwriter and a Topline Writer?". sonicbids.com. Sonicbids Inc. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  10. Dee, Mella. "Toplining – What it is (and Isn't) and How to Become a Topliner". Mella Music. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  11. Seabrook, John. "The Song Machine". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  12. Lindvvall, Helienne. "Behind the music: Why topline melody writing creates disputes between artists and songwriters". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2018.