WCS in Music and Film
Musicians write songs for a myriad of reasons: performing, recording, Film/TV placement or simply for catharsis. West Coast Songwriters’ are no different except they also have access to some of the best producers, arrangers, engineers, voice coaches and music supervisors in the industry. At the Annual WCS Music Conference (held the second weekend in September) industry professionals from around the world meet songwriters, listen to songs, give advice and often remember songs for later use in their productions. This kind of expertise is not easy to find and it’s important to find advocates who truly believe in the West Coast Songwriters organization and love attending the conference and song screenings to find talent.
Music Supervisor, Marcus Barone, is no exception. Marcus operates Film Music Group /First International Pictures and supervised Decoding Annie Parker starring Samantha Morton and Helen Hunt and Dumb and Dumber, King Pins. Marcus used a number of WCS members and Bay Area/NorCal artists/licenses for this project. More recently, Marcus supervised the music forJUNCTION, with over ¾ of the soundtrack coming from his clients and West Coast Songwriters members.
Getting your song placed in a Film/TV show gives you tremendous leverage in terms of exposure to a mass audience. Music placement not only increases visibility of your work but can also be lucrative. With the democratization of the music supervision industry it has become easier, yet harder, to place music in film. What is important is to have the access to those who make the decisions and this can be found through West Coast Songwriters.
Having access to an industry great is one of the tangible benefits of being a WCS member and attending the conference epitomizes the raison d’etre of the organization. Whether or not you aspire to write specifically for the visual media, be it Film/TV or advertising, getting your songs placed is one of the best launching pads for your music career. The beauty of this is that Film/TV transcends every kind of time, place and genre imaginable. Your songs, if well written, will inevitably match one of these elements sooner or later whether your style is folk, pop, rock, jazz blues or Americana. There is a place somewhere for your music. Your forte is writing and performing these wonderful songs while West Coast Songwriters membership and conference attendance opens the door to many opportunities.
Let’s congratulate all the WCS members for their song placement and offer great thanks to Marcus for placing their songs in his latest film.
Stephanie Madison Vocals/co writer "How Old Were You"
Bernadette Conant "Will You"
Beverly Frentress "Time Out"
Gary Nobile "NYC Jane" "Black Dawn"
Robert Crane "Powerless"
Josh Friedman Co writer "When You Lift Me Up" "The Runaway" "Black Dawn; guitar work on score; Recording: Additional Songs Film Credit
Jacquie Joshua "The Runaway" Co Writer Vocals
Iari Melchor "When You Lift Me Up" Co Writer Vocals
Joanie Crombie Vocals/co writer "How Old Were You"
Ian Crombie "Love's Like Lightning"
CONTACT MARCUS if you need production for TV. Special WCS rates!
American Idol meets WCS
It's been a great start to 2014 for West Coast Songwriters Members!
WCS Members have sold their holiday albums and those New Year's Resolutions are being adhered to about those promises to spend an hour a day working on songwriting, right? And then there's the Grammy's and New Season of American Idol to watch. This year, WCS is thrilled to have been a part of both!
On January 15th the 13th Season of American Idol began with a bang. With the second stop in San Francisco, two West Coast Songwriter members spent hours upon hours waiting for their turn to stand in front of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. to prove they deserved a chance to go to Hollywood - and they both succeeded!
David Luning and Remi Wolf were both accepted. Out of thousands of people, the chances of acceptance are slim. But the talented and inspirational WCS members stood in line for the 19 Gold tickets to Hollywood. We knew they would make it. Both David and Remi are talented, confident and well rounded singer/songwriters and we love them!
And let's not forget the past...singer/songwriter Michael Jade (Winner of the WCS Song Contest in 2010) Made Top 40 in American Idol Season 10! Steven Tyler stated "Get Michael Jade on your radar immediately"!
And there's more! Did you see the Grammy's? Sunday night Sara Bareilles up for a Grammy for her song Brave had the great pleasure of performing a duet with Carol King. Sara received her first music award through the WCS International Song Cost in 2007 - with her now famous Gravity. Sara followed on with a benefit concert for WCS in 2011.
All of us at WCS cheer on these great performers and look forward to seeing more of you following your dream!
The do's and don'ts of co-writing
Looking back over twenty years to my first songwriting efforts, I remember my creative process as so personal and fragile that I was dead certain I would never open it up to another songwriter. This would have seemed like co-painting or more like co-dating...just not going to happen. However, two things DID happen. One, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, the co-writing capital of the world, and, two, I wrote a lot more songs which stopped me from thinking of each of my song children as untouchable and precious. Ultimately, I simply wanted to create more and better songs and co-writing became a big part of the process. Over the years, I’ve experienced (sometimes the hard way) a few of the big “dos” and “don’ts” of co-writing and thought I’d cover a few.
1. Decide in advance if you’re going to bring ideas or start “cold”
There are advantages to both approaches. If you’re new to the co-writing process or possibly a little nervous about how your upcoming session will go, preparing in advance with anything from a list of song titles to lyrical and/or musical hooks can go a long way towards a smooth-running session. However, as a more experienced writer, I go into sessions with younger artists without preparing ideas because I anticipate that our initial discussions and time spent getting to know each other will provide the material for our collaboration. All this to say, there is no “right” way to do this.
2. Show up on time and ready to work
I know we’re all artists and we’re all supposed to be flaky, creative types but you’re now writing to hopefully generate income from your music so it’s also a business. Treat it that way. You wouldn’t show up late for work or cancel because you didn’t feel like going so don’t do it with your co-writing sessions either. Showing respect for the process and your collaborator goes a long way towards setting the tone for a productive co-write.
3. Make a plan on how you’ll both promote the song
The reality of the music business is that collaboration doesn’t end with the finished song. There will be subsequent discussions about demo costs, pitch opportunities and any one of a number of other details.What this really means is that in order to make yourself an “attractive” co-writer, you should remember to bring as much to the table as possible. This could mean bringing an industry connection or pitch opportunity or even having a recording studio where you and your co-writer can do the demo for free. It’s helpful to remember that the actual co-write is easy/fun part and it’s all the other parts of the process that ultimately make for a successful collaboration. Truly successful collaborations often extend beyond just writing the song.
4. Discuss percentages for each co-writer
After writing close to a thousand songs, my assumption is that all my “from-scratch” collaborations are even splits. This means 50/50 if there are two of us, 33/33/33 if there are three of us, etc. I consider it bad karma (and frankly exhausting) to count words or try and figure out who created what when the song is done and then try to adjust percentages. Just know that some days you’ll contribute more and some days your co-writer(s) will and that it all evens out in the end. If the song is brought to you mostly (or even partially) finished, then be clear on what the split will be in advance so there isn’t a misunderstanding later on. It’s simply better to just deal with this stuff. Also, it’s considered bad form when discussing your collaborations later to state that you “really wrote most of it” or any variation thereof. The bottom line is that without your collaborator the song wouldn’t be the same song that it is no matter what was directly or indirectly contributed.
Putting the business aside again for a moment, the collaborative process, at its root, is about trust and chemistry. The following “don’ts” are suggestions about how to avoid damaging or compromising that trust.
1. Don’t ever criticize a co-writer’s suggestion
This is the ultimate vibe killer. There is vulnerability in trusting someone with your ideas and it only takes one “that sounds stupid” or “that’s a bad idea” to kill the goodwill that should be part of the process. This is not to say that you won’t hear (and suggest) dumb things in the process of a co-write. It happens all the time but it’s enough for you to simply say you’d rather keep looking for another idea or try something else at that point in the song. There’s no percentage in saying someone’s idea is “bad” or “wrong.” First of all, this is art and it’s subjective but more importantly (and I’ve seen this more times than I can count) you could crush an admittedly weak idea that was only going to be a stepping stone towards a truly great one. Be patient with your collaborator and yourself and you’ll be amazed at the results.
2. Don’t insist on one of your ideas if your co-writer doesn’t seem interested in it
You may be in the middle of a co-write and come up with a snippet of lyric or melody that you absolutely love but for some reason your co-writer just doesn’t get it. My suggestion is to make your best case for it and if your co-writer doesn’t like it, let it go. It’s that simple. There are too many ways to write a song to derail the process over a simple disagreement. The key to collaboration is making sure you’re both on board with an idea before moving forward. That being said, if you feel your collaborator consistently doesn’t like ideas that you feel are strong, there’s no rule that says you have to keep writing with this person.
3. Don’t edit too harshly early on in the session
There’s real value in keeping a co-write moving along. Squeezing too hard on a single line or section of the song too early in the process can take all the creative energy out of a session. Better to either keep in a “good enough” line with the understanding you’ll come back to it when you begin to review what you’ve written or take a break if the line just isn’t coming. There will always be time for editing but I’d suggest not going too deep on that front at the expense of getting the shape and form of the song together first.
4. Don’t push too hard to collaborate with a more established/successful songwriter
As songwriters, we all know who the hot/marquis writers are. We hear their songs on the radio, meet them at music conferences and, in some cases, came up with them from when they were “nobody.” The unwritten rule I’ve observed is that it’s better to be asked to co-write by a more established/successful writer than it is to ask them to co-write yourself. If your personality is such that you just can’t wait for that to happen, my recommendation is that you should ask once, politely and don’t take it personally if the writer isn’t interested or doesn’t have time. It’s abundantly clear what you, as the less experienced/successful writer, stand to gain from the collaboration but it’s up to the more successful writer to decide if your talent, motivation and, yes, connections warrant them taking the time to collaborate with you. It’s simply the law of the jungle. Hopefully, you’ll be in a position to write with a less experienced/successful writer yourself one day and you’ll treat that writer exactly as you’d hope to be treated yourself.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of co-writing rules but simply a few guidelines to help those new to the game to understand it a bit better. The best kinds of co-writes are the ones where both collaborators feel like they’ve written something better than either could have written alone.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. Go to http://www.educatedsongwriter.com/webinar/ for the latest schedule.
What happens at the Berkeley Location?
Chapter Manager: Nomi Yah
West Coast Songwriters Berkeley chapter has been hosted for 24 years at the legendary Freight and Salvage. The current location at 2020 Addison street is one of the premier performing venues in the Bay Area, with state of the art Meyers Sound system, new grand piano, and acoustically-designed theater. Located in the Theater District across from Berkeley Jazz School and Berkeley Repertory Theater, surrounded restaurants and bars, around the corner from downtown Berkeley BART station, walking distance from UC Berkeley campus and Berkeley High School.
Because of it’s central location and reputation of the venue, the Berkeley chapter has a wide variety of songwriters performing each month, from teenagers to senior citizens, from emerging talent to seasoned professionals. There are usually 2 or 3 judges from the music industry and these have included Steve Seskin (Grammy-nominated, 7 number 1 hits), Larry Batiste (multi-platinum songwriter, previous president of Grammy Association), Andre Pessis (Grammy winner, 16 hit songs, previous president of Grammy Association), David Sikes (bass player for Boston), Bill Spooner (songwriter and founder of The Tubes), Phil Nudelman (lead singer and guitarist for Foghat), Freddie Stone(songwriter and original member of Sly and the Family Stone), and many others.
Berkeley is the only chapter to offer a lyric contest, in addition to awards for Best Song and Best Performance (winners get 3 hours of studio time from our sponsors Ben Leinbach’s Old Bull Studios and Kevin Harris Music Production Studio)
Each WCS Chapter has something different to offer, so be sure to visit all of them for a well rounded experience~
Hope to see you there.
With many thanks to Mark Cawley for sharing his latest blog
On A Dig
I'm getting ready to do a couple of workshops in the coming months which is something I haven't done in a while so I started thinking about what I could share. I've been coaching songwriters and artist for over 3 years and this week was a typical schedule with clients in the US, UK, Australia, Spain and even Singapore. It's been a fantastic learning experience for me and keeps me digging for new things to spark creativity for my clients as well as myself.
The Book Of John:
I thought I'd take a look at some other writer’s workshops and came across a series of John Mayer’s Berklee talks. The series I watched on YouTube has eight episodes with a few of those being performance based. Over the years I read and heard most everything I could get my hands on that has to do with songwriting but these have been a revelation. John is a fantastic hands-on, great teacher. You can tell the students are in awe and he works 'em like an audience sometimes. He can come across as one part cocky guitar hero and one part awkward nerd but, his insights and instincts are always from somewhere way down deep.
He talks about attending two semesters at Berklee in Boston (a little longer than I went, back in the day) and how it shaped his writing. He mentions his first semester was spent trying to be the best guitarist in the world and feeling he failed miserably. The second semester he went back with an aim to write songs. To please people - not other musicians. It was a transformation.
My Own Transformation
I had much the same experience with learning. Set out to be a hot-shot-bass-player who could make other musicians’ jaws drop and cause them to heap all sorts of praise on my ability to play everything I learned, as fast as possible. Technique over taste. Somewhere along the line I realized that writing songs was what really connected me to people.
I'm paraphrasing but John talks about losing the need to tell someone you're great and learning to trust people to let you know if you are. I loved this. His advice was to trust the people who are going to listen to your music, they'll let you know if they love it or not and when they do it's worth more than every compliment you ever got about your fleet fingers and theory re-call .
When someone comes up and tells you what a song of yours meant to them, maybe they were going through something traumatic, maybe they made love to it, cried to it, danced to it or we're comforted by it, It's a high like nothing else. I've had those moments and I wouldn't trade them for a million "dude, you absolutely shredded"!
More Books Or Real World?
One last note, I'm not knocking going to a place like Berklee, in fact I wish I had stayed longer. John puts it in great perspective by saying the things he learned there he looks at as information. What's made him an excellent songwriter is his ability to turn information into inspiration.He feels you should get as much information as possible and then... go out in the world to gain inspiration and then you'll have something to write about. Amen.
He inspired this 'ol boy today check it out!