Songwriting Basics

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Songwriting

Whether you're aspiring to join the ranks of professional song writers or simply want to find an open mic at which to play your latest tune, a large and varied songwriting community exists to satisfy song writers of all skill and experience levels. The Internet contains a wealth of information applicable to everyone, from the dabbling novice to the meticulous expert.

Songwriting Basics

Many publications about the songwriting community are good for beginners and those seeking a general overview. The sites below offer a wide variety of information about the craft, with facts on some established artists and the business of songwriting.

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  • A number of comprehensive online-only magazines serve as equal parts encyclopedia and community guide. These, and their print counterparts, are good for general overviews on the songwriting community and for researching business, publishing, and licensing.
  • Online versions of popular print magazines often have the most resources and clearly presented information.
  • The online versions of songwriting magazines are often mainstream but with a decidedly country bent.

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The Craft of Songwriting

As with poetry, prose, and other forms of writing, there are many schools of thought on song composition. While it is ultimately up to the artist to make or break these rules, understanding the form is the first step to making great work. In lieu of attending a university for a formal music education, you can use the Internet for educational resources, including online study programs.

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  • Many of the more respected music schools offer online songwriting and music instruction.
  • If you plan to attend a songwriter conference and/or workshop, always read up on the faculty before signing on.

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Performance Opportunities

If you're ready to move beyond playing for your friends or busking at train stations, you'll need to seek out more professional venues, such as clubs, theaters, and cafés. The sites below offer a range of resources for taking your songs to the public and for finding out where up-and-coming artists are playing.

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  • Open mic nights at local clubs and cafés, where writers can sign up to play their originals, often serve as auditions for club bookers. They are also a great way to connect with your fellow musicians. Peers are often the best sources of information and inspiration.
  • For the price of a usually modest annual membership, various songwriter associations offer special showcases that are a good middle ground between open mics and actual club shows. They also can provide access to often hard-to-contact music business professionals.
  • Regional associations can be a great way to connect with your fellow artists and industry reps. Many hold showcases, host monthly open mic competitions, and provide insider status in the sea of opportunities and opportunism that goes hand in hand with the music industry.
  • There are songwriting associations in most countries and states. The sites listed below operate from areas with rich songwriting traditions.
  • Most established songwriters are members of multiple associations-locally, regionally, and nationally-which is useful for touring.

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Songwriters' Festivals and Songwriters' Conferences

Songwriting conferences allow songwriters the opportunity to network with a wider circle of contacts. Most of these gatherings feature listening sessions with music buyers and record label heads, as well as performance showcases and panel discussions with professional artists and music business representatives. The sites listed below offer information on upcoming festivals and conferences, as well as archives from past events.

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  • While a select few songwriters are often discovered at these events and score a coveted record deal, these conferences are networking opportunities for all levels of working artists first and foremost.
  • Many of the regional associations listed above host their own conferences. Note that the sites below are larger events geared to the global songwriting and folk music communities, rather than the pop, indie, and rock and roll communities.

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Music Publishing, Music Licensing, and Music Copywriting

The business arm of songwriting is as varied as the creative side. Artists who have moved beyond playing for tips are best served by joining a performing rights organization and learning about copyright laws, standard publishing deals, and the intricacies of music licensing. If you are actively recording your work for radio and television broadcast, you may want to register your songs. Likewise, if you need to find out who wrote and owns one of your all-time favorites, you will most likely find the information at a performing rights organization.

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  • A performing rights organization (PRO) is designed to represent songwriters and publishers and protect their right to be compensated for their music. Performers, writers, and publishers join and register their work with the PROs, while music users buy licenses from the organizations for the rights to use the work.

  • Read up on all the PROs to see which is best for your kind of music and your goals. The sites listed below highlight the industry standards.
  • Memberships to these organizations come with many other benefits, including industry discounts, insurance, travel discounts, and regular meetings and networking events.
  • You can join, pay dues, look up song credits, and register songs online.
  • Publishing rights organizations all have valuable search engines you can use to find song credits by affiliated member artists.

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Songwriters, Song Lyrics, and Song Arrangents

There are many sites devoted to song lyrics and chords by established artists. It is easy to use these directories to search by artist name or song title and get a full arrangement of a song. The sites below either feature catalogs of work or publishing and copyright information, and they are frequently updated.

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  • Some sites feature lyrics and chords with arrangements contributed by musicians other than the author of the songs or lyrics. These may or may not be entirely accurate but are still very useful.

  • If you do your own search, remember to choose sites that are frequently updated.
  • There are hundreds of Web sites that provide lyrics to popular songs, but many of them are input by users and aren't always accurate. The ones we've included here are normally reliable, but if you think a lyric might be wrong check another lyric site to see if it matches up.

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