songwriting craft

Become a student of the songwriting craft — Indie Music Minute

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I want to talk to you about the number one reason why music artists fail, and I’m gonna be blunt about it: their songs aren’t good enough.

Now, I was a songwriter decades ago and I thought my songs were amazing. My band had fans, and they seemed to think so too. And, yet, we didn’t end up going nearly as far as I thought we would. Why? Because our songs weren’t good enough.

I didn’t learn or appreciate that until years later, after my artist career had run its course and I got a job at Disc Makers. Soon after I arrived, I was sent to the Taxi Road Rally — which is an amazing conference for songwriters run by my friend, Michael Laskow — and I listened to a songwriter named Steve Seskin deconstructing and reconstructing songs and it just blew my mind.

You have to know the classic song structure: verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. You have to know how to lead into a chorus the right way. There’s so much to the songwriting craft, and if I had known this kind of stuff when I was writing songs, who knows… I might be making music for a living rather than selling music for a living.

So my advice to you is become a student of the craft, learn about songwriting, listen to the hits in your genre, and then practice and try to write better songs.

Now, I know there’s gonna be some haters out there who’re gonna say, “Man, that doesn’t apply to me! I’m original and do my own thing.” You know what? That’s fine, but it depends on what your goals are. If your goals are success in the music business, you have to know the rules before you can break them. Remember, a great song does not guarantee success, but a mediocre song guarantees failure.

Mechanical licenses and ContentID

As you probably know, when you record a cover song, you have to apply for a mechanical license to make sure the owner of the composition gets paid for your use of the song. I got a question recently from an artist: “What do I do if I want to post a cover song up on YouTube?”

Actually, with YouTube it’s pretty simple. YouTube is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, so anybody can basically upload any recording of any composition. YouTube then uses its technology, called Content ID, that can identify who owns the recording and who owns the composition (if it’s registered).

Once that info is known, YouTube can place ads on the video you’ve uploaded and the rights’ holders get paid. Our friends at CD Baby allow you to register your YouTube content so that YouTube can identify when your content is being used. So go ahead, upload your content and we can help you monetize it or get the rights’ holders paid.

Professional songwriters offer advice on how to write a 

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About Tony van Veen

Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.

One thought on “Become a student of the songwriting craft — Indie Music Minute

  1. This is great, Tony, thanks! I first met Steve Seskin at a DIY Musician Conference, and have learned tons from him. Still have a ways to go, but just knowing there’s a structure and some guidance is awesome. Thanks again, love the blog!

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