Cliff Goldmacher

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

Publishing Deals: A Songwriter's Dream and Dilemma

Music Publishing Deals: A Songwriter’s Dream and Dilemma

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

If you’re a songwriter in the early stages of your career, the idea of being hired as a staff songwriter for a publishing company is akin to winning the lottery. It’s the Holy Grail you dream of finding. It means industry recognition and validation of your talent, and it carries the promise of cuts, movie placements, and other exciting possibilities.

However exciting a deal may be, it’s important to keep in mind that entering into a relationship with a publisher is serious business. As with any business relationship, it’s essential that you, as the songwriter, understand what you’re giving up as well as what you stand to gain by signing over any of your copyrights to a music publisher.

What is a Publishing Deal?

In general terms, a typical publishing deal involves the assignment of some part of the ownership of your songs to a publishing company in exchange for a monthly payment, known as a draw. The publisher might also use their industry relationships to provide co-writing opportunities, or they might use members of the publishing company’s staff to pitch the music to their industry contacts.

(I’m aware that there are many variations on this arrangement, such as no draw in exchange for giving up less ownership of your copyrights to the publisher. But, for the sake of this article, I’m going to paint in broad strokes.)

As with any arrangement, there are potential benefits and potential drawbacks, which I’ll address here.

The Pros

Advantages of a publishing deal include:

  • A Draw – Committing to a full-time career in music is hard, especially if you don’t have money coming in to pay the bills. If you’re just getting started and don’t have money coming in, the monthly draw provided by a publisher can ease that burden. Some draws are large enough to allow you to write full time; most are more modest, which results in you splitting your time and income between songwriting and a part-time job.
  • Demo Budget – Making high quality recordings of your songs is not cheap; having a publisher foot the bill for these recordings can help out quite a bit.
  • Song Pluggers – These are employees of the publishing company whose only job is to find opportunities for your songs.  Having a team of staffers dedicated to this task means you can focus on writing music.
  • Clout and Connections – The credibility that comes from signing with established music publisher is a powerful thing. It can open doors to meetings, co-writes, and powerful industry connections. Moreover, the publishing companies rely on their relationships with record labels, producers, artists, and a variety of other music business decision-makers. Those relationships take time to build, and they can be key to landing placements. For a new songwriter who hasn’t had the opportunity to network much on his own, this can make a big difference.
  • Validation – The validation that comes from a publishing deal is what most beginning songwriters long for. If you’re in the early stages of your career, you’re most likely writing songs behind the scenes and working in obscurity. You might not have received praise and recognition from anyone in the industry. In addition to being nice to hear, I’ve found that validation leads to an improved work ethic and, occasionally, inspiration.

The Cons

This is where I’d recommend paying close attention. I know the idea of being able to write songs and have your publisher take care of all the details is an appealing thought, but the reality is a bit more complicated. This is a business, and it helps to remember that a publisher is giving you something in order to get something.

  • Your draw & demo budget are essentially loans. The money that makes up your draw and your demo budget is money that the publisher will recoup from your share of the rights as soon as your songs start generating income. Additionally, even after you’ve paid back the money they invested in you, the publisher will continue to own the rights to your song (whatever percent you signed over) and make income from it. It’s also worth noting that the publisher usually owns the recording they paid for you to make; this means that there is no master fee payment for you, the songwriter, if that recording ends up placed in a film or on TV.
  • Your songs still have competition. Even though the idea of a song plugger working to get your songs heard is comforting, the reality is that, in most publishing companies, there are many more signed writers than there are pluggers. In other words, while your songs are your top priority, they may be among the hundreds (or thousands, if you count the back catalogs of most publishing companies) that the overworked song pluggers have to consider for every pitch opportunity.
  • Validation is NOT enough. As a songwriter, I understand how good it feels when someone in the industry tells you they love your songs. In and of itself, this is not enough of a reason to give away your publishing. As a writer, you should be working constantly on your craft, using resources like song critiques, songwriting organizations, and your peers for feedback; if you’re doing this, you’ll know when your songs are good, and you won’t need a publisher to tell you so.

Your Options

My intention is to empower, not discourage, you by showing that a publishing deal isn’t the only (or best) answer to your songwriting prayers. Ultimately, the most sustainable career as a songwriter is built by learning to do things for yourself.

Here are some steps to get you there:

  • Be your own publisher. You don’t need an established publisher to publish your songs. It’s a relatively simple proposition to start your own publishing company through one of the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC). A simple phone call to one of these three organizations can get you started.
  • Put yourself on a regular writing schedule. If you want to be a professional songwriter, act like one. Set aside regular times to write, and treat it like a job. Folks in the working world don’t skip work because they “don’t feel like it”; neither should you.
  • Demo your songs. Develop a relationship with a professional recording studio. When you’re absolutely certain you’ve got a song that’s ready for prime time, spend the money to make a broadcast-quality version suitable for a variety of uses, from pitching to artists to placement in film and TV. And speaking of pitching…
  • Pitch your songs. Actively look for opportunities for your songs. It’s one thing to write a good song and have a great demo, but if no one hears it, it can’t possibly generate any income for you. This isn’t the glamorous, romantic part of the business, but I promise you, the overwhelming majority of successful songwriters—even those with publishing deals and song pluggers—spend a lot of time pitching their own material. You need to do everything in your power to get your songs heard.Also, as I mentioned above, no one will make your songs a priority more than you will.
  • Network. Another less-than-pleasant reality for the gifted, introverted songwriter is that there is no substitute for the relationships you make in the industry. Get out there and meet people. This doesn’t mean you have to be fake or stay up until 3 a.m. drinking every night (unless you like that kind of thing). It does mean that you have to find opportunities to interact with the decision-makers in the music industry. I recommend attending music conferences, songwriter festivals, and some of the events sponsored by organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) or the Songwriter’s Guild of America (SGA).
  • Sign an admin deal. If you’re starting to get some cuts and placements for your songs and the subtleties of copyright law, royalty statements, and licensing feel like too much to keep track of or negotiate, you might consider signing with a publisher to administer your copyrights. In other words, instead of giving away ownership of 50%-100% of your copyright, give a copyright administrator 15%-25% to “mind the store” while you’re taking care of the other stuff. If you’re making money from your songs, you’ll have no trouble at all finding an experienced publisher to administer your copyrights.

Again, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve kept this article and the terms of a publishing deal very general. In reality, deals range from basic copyright administration all the way to full ownership of your publishing, and there are reasons for and against all of these arrangements. Music publishers provide a valuable service in our industry, but signing a publishing deal isn’t always your best option.  If you’re considering a deal, be absolutely certain you understand what you stand to gain (beyond the simple validation of your talent) and what you’re giving up to get it.

In the world of professional songwriting, there is no one way to achieve success. Regardless of the path you take, the more you understand and can do on your own, the better off you’ll be.

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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What To Do AFTER You’ve Finished Writing a Song

What To Do AFTER You’ve Finished Writing a Song

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

Whether you’ve spent ten minutes or five months working on a song, there’s a sense of satisfaction and relief that washes over you when you know, without a doubt, that it’s done.

But… now what? Time to kick back and relax? Or, maybe you’re headed out to celebrate with friends. Not so fast! If you think your work is over when you’ve finished writing the song, you’re sorely mistaken.

Finishing a song is a victory, but it’s not the final step in the process if you want your music to generate income for you. Here are six steps that you can take after finishing a song to help you transform your songwriting into a profitable business and position yourself for opportunities that may arise.

Finalize Your Lyric Sheet

Once your song is done, it’s a great idea to create an accurate, final lyric sheet.

You should write out every word of the song exactly in the order it’s sung. Yes, this means avoiding shortcuts; no writing “repeat chorus.” Writing everything out reduces the chance of error, omission, or confusion and makes it easier for demo vocalists to accurately read the lyrics as they sing the song.

How you format the lyric sheet can also make a difference for the vocalists. I’d recommend indenting your choruses to make them easily distinguishable from your verses and bridge. I’d also ensure that your lyric all fit on one page; you might have to single-space the lyric, combine shorter lines, or decrease the font size to do this (but not too small). If you still can’t fit your entire lyric on one page, you might seriously consider additional editing.

Lastly, you’ll want to include all the pertinent information about your new song:

  • The date of creation (D.O.C.)
  • The name of the writer (or writers, if you co-wrote the song)
  • The publishing information
  • The performing rights organization (PRO) you belong to

Including this information on a lyric sheet means the information is at hand when you submit it to a record label or music supervisor. If you need an example, my lyric sheets look like this:

©3.1.12 Cliff Goldmacher, Famous In France Music (BMI)

Create A Definitive Rough Recording

Now that your song is done, you’re going to need a recording that captures its melody, lyric, and chord changes. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no Grammy for best rough recording; a simple guitar or piano and vocal recorded directly into your smartphone or laptop is perfectly acceptable.

This recording is useful for a couple of reasons. First, it will prevent you from forgetting how your song goes. This may sound silly to those of you who’ve only written a few songs; but, as you begin to write more often and start to build your catalog, you’d be amazed at how quickly these little buggers can erase themselves from your memory. Second, if you choose to take your song to the next level, this recording will serve as reference for the demo vocalists and session musicians.

Schedule A Demo

Speaking of bringing your song to the next level: it’s time to decide if this song is currently worth a further investment of your time and financial resources. If we’re honest with ourselves as songwriters, we have to admit that not every song we write is worthy of a demo. However, if you believe that this particular song is genuinely ready, it’s time to record a demo.

Since you’ll be presenting this to the music industry at large, the quality of your recording will reflect your talent and your dedication to your craft. This is not the time to hope that music business professionals will be able to “hear through” your rough recording. So, unless you’re prepared to spend the necessary time and effort learning to sing, play, and record your own songs at the highest level, I’d recommend using a professional recording studio, a trained demo singer, and at least one session musician. Yes, that means investing more money in your song, but—in this case—it’s probably best to leave the recording to the pros. You can spend your time writing more music.

Whether you work with a studio or go the DIY route, I would be sure to obtain two high-resolution versions of your song: one with vocals, and one without. Instrumental versions of your songs are great to have, and this is the best time to get one!

Catalog Your Mixes

Ideally, the recording studio will have provided you with high-resolution files of your song. It’s important that you know how to embed necessary metadata (the song title, copyright details, contact info, and so on) and how to convert the high-resolution files (like .wav files) to lower-resolution files (like mp3s, which are easier to email). Both of these steps should be doable in iTunes or similar programs; instructions for your specific program can be found online. While these may seem like daunting tasks, they are important skills to learn. Think of them as preparing your product for shipment and including your return address.

You’ll also need to store the files where they’re both safe and easily accessible. This way, when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll know exactly where to find them. I can’t think of anything more depressing than an artist, label, or publisher asking for a copy of your song, and you not being able to find it.

Create A Backup

Now that you’ve got your songs and all the accompanying information properly labeled and stored, it’s time to set up a reliable backup system. Learn how to back up your computer to a separate drive or cloud storage system. Remember, it’s not “if” your hard drive—with all your rough recordings, lyric sheets, and finished demos—fails, but “when”. My motto is: if it doesn’t exist in two places, it doesn’t exist.

Under no circumstances should you go without some kind of backup. That’s simply a recipe for a catastrophic event.

DON’T brush this off as an unnecessary step or a waste of your time, and don’t put it off until you have x number of songs finished. Make it a part of the process for each and every song. You made a significant investment to write and record those demos, and your songs themselves are irreplaceable; why wouldn’t you want to protect them?

Pitch Your Song

I know this sounds obvious, but once you have a finished demo of your song, you can’t expect if to make money if it just sits on your computer. You have to get your music in front of people!

While I was a tiny bit guilty of this early in my career, it still amazes me how many songwriters make little to no effort to get their songs out there. They make a variety of excuses, too. “But I create music… I’m not a salesman!” To these musicians, selling music might as well be selling dirt. It lacks all the charm and creativity that they associate with being a musician. It might not be exciting, but it is essential if you want to make a career as a songwriter.

Other songwriters, who are willing to promote their music, tell me, “I don’t know where to start.” I’ll admit that it can be a bit daunting figuring out who is looking for what you’ve got, so I’ll give you a few places to look. Start with reputable pitch sheets, such as Song Quarters and Row Fax, which can provide you with the information you need… for a fee. You could also turn to organizations like Taxi that will do the pitching for you… again, for a fee. If neither of those options appeals to you, your best bet is to get out there and meet the decision-makers yourself. Travel to New York City, Nashville, or Los Angeles; attend music conferences and workshops. There are opportunities to network if you’re willing to look for them. (When networking, be sure to avoid these common mistakes!)

As I said at the beginning of the article, completing a song is a victory. It’s a remarkable accomplishment! Don’t ever forget that, and don’t think I’m saying otherwise. I’m simply saying that, if you want a career as a songwriter, it’s not the last step… but the above six steps will help you get there.

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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5 Dangerous Networking Mistakes… and How to Avoid Them

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

How do you—a new songwriter or musician, with talent and drive oozing out your pores but no open doors in sight—meet the decision makers, the movers and shakers, the powers that be? How do you get your work and your talent in front of the people who can make you successful?

That is, arguably, the greatest mystery of the music business.

What’s the second-greatest mystery? Why so many songwriters, once in contact with those elusive industry influencers, throw common sense out the window and behave in ways that can only hurt their reputation and their chances of succeeding in the industry.

In my years as a professional songwriter and producer, I’ve been on both sides of that equation. I’d like to use that experience to help you avoid some of those common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Losing Your Patience/Cool

If you plan to be in the music business for longer than this week, here’s my advice: take a deep breath, and learn to be patient. Patience, more than anything else, is essential for a long and healthy career as a songwriter.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that you might wait years before the networking seeds you plant bear any fruit. Instead of obsessing over each delayed or rejected submission and melodramatically anguishing over the state of your career, funnel that energy into honing your craft, and trust that your talent will prove itself and find a home in time. You’ll save yourself some heartache and better prepare yourself for success.

It’s also vital that you not be impatient. Becoming impatient with someone—whether a publisher who isn’t returning your call or a record label exec who misplaced your submission, again—can only end badly for you. No matter how many justifications you have for losing your cool, doing so brands you as unprofessional… not just to the particular person you had contact with, but with everyone in their network. Yes, that’s right: music industry people compare notes. The last thing you want is for your name—and your explosion of impatience—to be the topic of conversation at lunch or happy hour.

Again, my recommendation is to take a deep breath, and learn to be patient. Odds are, no one is purposely avoiding you and your songs. Instead, they’re likely flooded by submissions for a number of projects and will get to yours in time.

(Bonus tip: the best way I know to not become impatient is to have as many irons in the fire as you can at any given moment. This means you’re never waiting for “that one thing” to come through.)

Mistake #2: Submitting Too Many Songs

You’ve just had a really nice interaction with a publisher, and he expressed interest in hearing some of your songs. You drive home in a daze, with your head up in the clouds; when you get home, you open up your laptop to send him a couple songs. Wait a minute, you think. Why send him just one or two songs? I should send him everything! That way, I have better odds of him finding something he likes, and hitting a home run, and… YES! Send them ALL!

While I understand the temptation to send this individual every song you’ve ever written, including a few that aren’t finished yet, restraint should be your default setting. Let me say it another way: it is NOT a good idea to send more than requested, even if you’re confident that all of your songs are great songs.

Why is that, you ask? Let me tell you.

Imagine the desk in that publisher’s office… maybe a nice, big, wooden one, with a picture of his family in one corner and his computer monitor in another. Wait, you said wooden… you’re picturing a clean desk, one where you can see the top? Wrong. Try again. Add stacks of CDs, covering every last inch of the desk, spilling over onto the bookcase behind and the floor next to it. That’s a little better. Now, that computer you imagined? It has his email accounts on it, each of which has an inbox filled with submissions. Dozens or hundreds of emails with song files attached or links to websites, emails waiting to be read and music waiting to be listened to.

The publisher arrives at work in the morning, and looks at his stacks of CDs and his overflowing, ever-replenishing inboxes. He picks up two CDs; one has two songs on it, and one CD has nineteen songs. Which one do you think he plays first? If you guessed the CD with two songs, you guessed correctly. He can listen to the submission quickly (because there is less to listen to), decide whether or not he likes the music, and move on to the next submission. Pick, listen, decide, repeat. Believe me: if a publisher likes what he hears, he’ll ask you for more. But, if you overwhelm him from the start, you might never get listened to at all.

It’s always better to start small and build up rather than the other way around.

Your best bet is two or three songs on a CD (or in separate emails, if you’re certain he accepts submissions by email). Unless they are requested, there’s no need to include lyric sheets, your biography, or photos. If he likes what he hears, he’ll ask you for more.

Mistake #3: Telling Someone You Have a Hit/You Are A Great Songwriter

The hallmark of a novice is informing the industry person you’re talking to that you’re a great songwriter and you’ve written a hit song… or, it would be a hit if only it got a chance. You’ll do more harm than good by coming on so strong, even or maybe especially if what you’re saying is true.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in your work or be confident about what you’re doing. Instead, it means that you should approach someone, who you want to listen to your music, with humility and an understanding that your music isn’t the only music in their world. I’m a big believer in the “talk softly and carry a big stick” approach when meeting with anyone in the industry. Let your work do the talking.

So, what do you say? Two great options are, “I think I’ve got a song that’s appropriate for your artist,” or, “If you’re looking for songs, I’d like permission to send you a song or two.” These statements suggest that you’re a songwriter, that you have done your research (you know who their clients are), and that you respect their work and their boundaries (by asking for permission and not flooding them with submissions). Similar statements will go a long way towards establishing your professional bona fides.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to Use Common Courtesy

What am I talking about here? Don’t just talk about yourself. Don’t interrupt. Put others’ needs first. Basic common courtesies that we were (or should have been) taught as children… but that often fly out the window, even at music conferences.

The temptation to launch into a ten-minute bio seems to be too great to resist in many cases… but it’s seldom the right time for unsolicited personal information. Given that networking relationships—the healthy ones, that is—take time to develop, your best bet would be to get to know a little bit about the person you’re talking to. In time, they will want to know a little about you as well.

If you find yourself with a private moment to chat with a publisher, A&R rep, or music supervisor, start by asking them a few questions about themselves. You might learn something important, and you’ll probably stand out as one of the few people they met who didn’t shamelessly plug themselves.

Mistake #5: Not Following Up, or Following Up Too Much

You’ve got the beginnings of a nice relationship with a publisher, and he asked you to send him some music. You happily complied and sent a couple of songs—either by mail or email, whichever he preferred. And then you waited, patiently… so patiently that you didn’t follow up. You might as well have not sent anything at all.

Without a brief, to-the-point follow-up email or even-briefer voicemail, your music is likely to get lost at the bottom of a pile of submissions in that publisher’s office. (Remember those piles on the desk? Your music is buried in one of them.)

It’s perfectly acceptable, if not the norm, to follow up on your submission a couple of times. Doing so lets you confirm that it has been received and listened to, and it can act as a gentle reminder to the publisher that requested it in the first place (since he genuinely does have a lot on his plate).

With that said, you need to be judicious in the timing of your follow-up inquiries. There’s a fine line between professionally following up on your submission and becoming a nuisance. Following up too often, such as every day for two weeks, will be more damaging to your reputation and career than not following up at all.

The key is a quick, polite inquiry every couple of weeks and not getting discouraged if it takes several attempts. (Remember Mistake #1!)

It’s also worth noting that, sometimes, you don’t get a response, ever. If you’ve done your job by submitting properly and following up after reasonable time frames, it’s okay to write off a submission. There are plenty of other opportunities out there, and there’s no point in getting discouraged by one that doesn’t come through.

Hopefully, by listing common issues and recommending viable alternatives, this article helps you successfully network in the music industry. By understanding some of the elements of the business side, you can greatly increase your chances of getting your music out there.

And, if you’ve made these mistakes before, don’t despair. Having personally made almost every one of these mistakes early in my career, I can safely say that there is hope and a chance at recovery, even if you’ve slipped up a time or two (or three).

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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How To License Your Music for Film and TV

How to License Your Music for Film and TV—Four Tips to Improve Your Odds

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

I’ve been lucky enough to have song placements in both films and television shows, and I’m deeply grateful for those opportunities. While I can safely say there is no magic potion to guarantee a placement, there are certain things that you, as a songwriter, can do to improve your odds. A few of my best tips are below:

Make Sure Your Song Is Professionally Performed and Recorded

This may sound obvious, but—when you’re pitching to film and TV—there is absolutely no room for a poorly sung, poorly performed, or poorly recorded version of your song. Why? You only have one chance to make a first impression.

Put yourself in the position of the music supervisor or studio executive who is listening to hundreds of songs for a project. If the recording sounds like it was done by amateurs, or if the voice makes you lunge for the mouse or volume control, you’re ready to move on to the next song… regardless of whether or not you’ve heard the melody or lyrics, and regardless of how wonderful the song may be.

In the end, you don’t want a poor recording or performance to bias the listener against your fantastic song before they have a chance to actually listen to it. This means that, if you want someone to give you money for your song, you might need to invest some money to present it in the best possible light.

Do Your Homework

Randomly submitting songs in hopes of landing a placement doesn’t make much sense, and it’s a waste of your and the recipient’s time and energy. Pitching for opportunities that you aren’t a good fit for is not a sign of a professional, and doing so frequently can damage your reputation. By doing a little homework before submitting your song, you can avoid this waste and preserve your reputation.

You need to find out which music supervisors are looking for music and which projects they need music looking for. Good places to start are industry pitch sheets and industry magazines, which often contain information on upcoming projects and who is looking for what. Once you know what the projects and who the contacts are, find out all you can about exactly what the contacts are looking for. Make sure your song fits those criteria.

Make Sure You Have Complete Ownership of the Recording

In order to give permission to a film or TV show to use your music, you will need to own your recording. Don’t let your pitch plans be derailed (or even delayed) down the line by musicians who won’t allow you to use their recorded performance, or by studios who stake a claim in your master recording.

You can avoid this by obtaining the necessary releases up front from all session musicians and singers involved in the project and by making sure that the studio where you record gives you full ownership of the master recording.

Having your songs “free and clear” for use also tells music supervisors that you’re a professional who knows what to do and who values their limited time. That’s a good impression to make.

Be Known For A Style of Music

While it’s good to be able to write in a variety of styles, you and your music will be easier to remember if you become known for specializing in a particular style, especially if you’re known for doing it well. Since music supervisors are often asked to gather songs by style, being known as a “go-to” person in a style increases your odds of being remembered when the time comes.

When it comes to placing songs in film and TV, being a great songwriter is often not enough. You need to be a savvy businessperson who is willing to take care of the unromantic day-in, day-out details of a career in music. You need to do the work, including the above steps.

That being said, there is no greater thrill than turning on your TV or going to a theater and hearing one of your songs playing. Somehow, it makes all your effort worthwhile.

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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Time To Make A Demo? Six Ways to Know If Your Song Is Ready

Time to Make a Demo? Six Ways to Know If Your Song Is Ready

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

written by: Cliff Goldmacher

While our instinct as songwriters may be to love all of our songs equally, the reality is that some of our songs are simply better, or more commercially viable, than others. The problem is knowing which songs those are.

This knowledge becomes incredibly important when you, the songwriter, are considering making a professional demo. How do you know which songs are good enough to invest your time and money in making a high-quality recording, and which need a little, or a lot, more work?

The below steps should help you make that decision.

Make A Rough Recording

One of the first tests I’d suggest is to make a rough recording of your song. Given that you’re not trying to win a Grammy award with this recording, it can be as simple as a bare-bones guitar and vocal recorded on your smartphone.

Rough recordings are useful because they let you hear your song as a listener would. This is entirely different from listening to your song as you’re playing it. I’m always surprised at how tweaks and adjustments present themselves when I sit back and listen to a rough recording—problems I never noticed while I was playing and singing the song.

Put It Away For A Week

After creating a song, there’s often a rush of enthusiasm. This is a good thing. I certainly hope you’re pleased with what you’ve written.

However, it’s still a good idea to have a short “cooling off” period of, say, a week or so, in order to make sure what you’re feeling is true love, not infatuation. After a week, go back to the song. If that same excitement is there, you’re on to something.

Have a Professional Critique Your Song

Getting an experienced songwriter or music publisher to give you their professional opinion can bring valuable insight into the way the industry listens to songs. After all, if your goal is to have a song that is commercially successful, then a professional opinion can be very useful.

That being said, songwriting is still an art, and you should never blindly agree with something just because a professional said it. The music business is filled with stories about publishers and A&R reps passing on songs that went on to become huge hits. In other words, a professional critique should be taken with a large grain of salt and appreciated for what it is (industry insight) and what it isn’t (the final word on whether or not your song is good).

Play It For Your Songwriting Peers

It’s especially easy to find a group of songwriting peers to bounce ideas off of when you’re living in a music city like New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. However, organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) have chapters in many cities, which means you can find songwriting peers even if you don’t live in an industry town. A songwriting group can be a good place to play your song and get outside perspective from people who understand what songwriting is about.

Again, it’s important to remember that you won’t—nor do you have to—agree with everything that’s said, but there might be a helpful gem or two that can make all the difference. The risk with any feedback in the early life of a song is that the wrong word or a mean-spirited comment can be devastating. To that end, protect yourself by making sure your group’s members are constructive in their criticism. Also, it’s a good policy to develop a thicker skin for these situations. The more songs you write, the easier this gets.

Play It For An Objective, Non-Musician Friend

It’s been my experience that fellow musicians and songwriters tend to listen to songs in a certain way, often paying attention to details that only other musicians and songwriters would appreciate. This can be useful (thus the above tip), but as a rule, songwriters aren’t really music buyers.

Playing your song for a trusted, non-musician friend—someone who can tell you exactly whether they like the song or not (i.e., “the song feels long” or “I don’t understand the story” or “it makes me want to get up and dance”)—can be a helpful way of seeing whether or not a song is working.

Play It Live

If you’re a live performer as well as a songwriter, you’ve got a valuable tool at your disposal. There’s nothing quite like gauging the response—or non-response—of a live audience to see whether a song is working or not.

Often, the things that you thought would work while you were writing the song don’t pan out, while other things you barely paid attention to go over beautifully.

A word of warning, though: don’t assume that, just because a song is working live, you’re all set. It’s still well worth your while to use some of the earlier suggestions (especially the rough recording) to make sure that when you listen to your song objectively, it’s doing what you want it to.

One Last Note

As a producer, it’s clear to me when a writer knows their song is ready. I can tell that they’ve done the necessary work, including some or all of the above suggestions. This makes my job easier, as my focus goes from doing damage control or overhauls to simply polishing an already-beautiful gem.

In the end, no one else can tell you whether your song is finished and ready to be professionally recorded. In most cases, you’re the one spending the money for the demo and the one who has to be excited about pitching it, so you should be as convinced as possible that your song is ready for prime time. At the end of the day, the decision is—and should be—yours.

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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Talent Isn’t Enough To Make It In The Music Business

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

I’d like to begin this article by saying that I’m not a cynic. On the contrary, I’m a big believer that if your dream is to have success with your music, then, in time, you will find that success.

However, I am a realist.  There are rarely shortcuts in our line of work, and being a gifted songwriter or performer simply isn’t enough, in my experience, to guarantee success. It takes a combination of factors—including patience, perseverance, and, most importantly, an undeniable work ethic—to rise above the masses of musicians hoping to get their songs out in the world.

Here are four reasons that talent isn’t enough to make it:

1. There are lots of talented people

If I’ve learned anything after living in Nashville and New York City over the past almost twenty years, it’s that, at a certain point, talent is the least common denominator. In the big music cities, the pool of gifted songwriters and performers is deeper and wider than we can possibly imagine. This is a good thing; it gives us ample opportunities to learn from each other and improve. But the flip side of this is that talent is only a starting point; it’s all of the other things you do that will separate you from the pack.

2. Talent is Something that you’re given, but it’s up to you to develop it

There’s a reason talent is also referred to as a “gift.” The spark that makes us creative and intuitively wired is something that we don’t choose; we just get it. But just because you’ve got a gift doesn’t mean that you don’t need to develop it or spend time understanding it. That part is actually work, but what happens when you do this work is that you will develop the ability to turn something that was unpredictable into something you can do consistently in order to make a living.

3. You’re running a business

Being a talented songwriter or performer without taking the time to understand the music business is the equivalent of a company that makes a great product that no one will ever hear about because they have no marketing department. In other words, writing the songs is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to remember that, like any business, you’ve got to learn the landscape, know who the major players, are and set specific goals along the way in order to get to the next level. I’m not saying this is easy, but I am saying it’s essential.

4. work ethic is everything

The dangerous myth about the music business is that it’s an exciting, creative world where people make beautiful music, go to parties, and wake up one day to their song playing on the radio. The gritty, unglamorous truth is that just like any business. There are mundane, yet necessary, things you have to do day in and day out in order to get your music out in the world.

There is some glamor and excitement in the music world, but there’s a lot of uninspired work that needs to happen as well. Make sure you’re prepared to do that stuff, too. Having a solid work ethic and a willingness to get up every day and work towards your goal will eventually get you there. It’s not always clear along the way how these little things help, but believe me when I tell you that they do add up and, in the end, make all the difference.

Talent is a wonderful thing and should never be taken for granted. I’m here to remind you to enjoy your gift for the amazing thing that it is. However, I’m also suggesting that this talent is only one part of a bigger set of conditions that need to be met in order for you to successfully get your songs out in the world and make a living doing it.


About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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Six Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

Six Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

As passionate as we are about our songwriting, the reality is that sometimes it’s difficult to motivate ourselves to write. Whether it’s the fear of plumbing our emotional depths or just good old fatigue after a long day, there are often obstacles to overcome when it’s time to write. While flashes of inspiration are great, we can’t always count on the muse showing up on our schedule. Instead, we’ve got to make our own inspiration. I’ve put together a list of a few things that should help you keep your creative fires lit:

Set up a place at home to write

As simple as it sounds, having a place to go where you can focus and be creative can be motivating. Even if it’s just a small desk and chair in a corner of your living room, the fact that you’ve dedicated it to your art will serve as that little push you might need to write. Keep your writing tools—rhyming dictionary, guitar, laptop, etc.—out and easily accessible. It’s amazing what a difference putting your guitar on a stand versus keeping it in a case can make.  Make things as easy as you can for yourself, and you’ll be much more likely to dig in.

Set up a time of day to write

Routine can be a good thing, even for something as artistic and creative as songwriting. If, for example, you know that every day at 7pm you’re going to write for half an hour, then you’re more likely to do it. They say it takes a few weeks of consciously making yourself do something before it becomes a habit. A daily time to write will go a long way towards the healthy habit of songwriting.

Keep a file of unfinished songs

One of the hardest things about writing is starting with a blank page. By keeping an organized file of your unfinished lyrics and rough recordings, you won’t have to climb the mountain from the bottom every time you sit down. While sometimes it feels good to start with a fresh idea, don’t forget to check your unfinished ideas from time to time. It’s remarkable how a few days or weeks can add the perspective you need to see a partially finished song in a new light and finish it.

Find a co-writer

Nothing motivates more than accountability. If someone is counting on you to show up and work, you’re more likely to do it. Not only that, but halving the burden can make writing a much more approachable pursuit. This is one of the many benefits of co-writing. Other advantages include having someone whose songwriting gifts compliment your own in such a way that you both get a better song than you would have separately. If you haven’t co-written yet, this is as good a time as any to give it a try. Even if it’s not a perfect experience, we all benefit from observing firsthand someone else’s writing process.

Give yourself an assignment

Sometimes the idea that you can write about anything is just too much freedom. Often, it’s easier to write if you have some guidelines. For example, if you tell yourself you’re going to write a song with one chord you’ve never used or a song about a topic you’ve never covered, you’ll find it’s easier to get to work. Anything you can do to give shape and structure to what you’re attempting to write will make the task that much simpler.

Tell yourself you’ll only write for five minutes

This is one of my all-time favorites. On days where you’re really struggling to make yourself write, tell yourself you’ll sit down for five minutes. That way, if nothing is happening after five minutes, at least you’ve tried. It’s astonishing how often those days are the days where the breakthroughs happen. Taking the pressure off of yourself may be all that you need to get on a roll. That being said, if it’s just not coming, stop. There’s no point in making yourself miserable. There’s always tomorrow.

Conclusion

Being a songwriter is a gift, but, as with most gifts, some assembly (otherwise known as work) is required. My hope is by suggesting a few ways to lessen the burden of getting started, you’ll be able to write more consistently and enjoy the accompanying results.


About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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The Differences Between Songwriting in New York City vs Nashville

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities. While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences. By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

Differences Within The Similarities

In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other. One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations. The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres than the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York. There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village.

Finding The Songwriters

One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate. Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters, and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there. New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious. In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go-to people on every trip. This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community, even though I had to discover it little by little. I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.

Co-Writing

Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville. It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week, where they meet with a different co-writer every day in a publishing company office on Music Row. This happens for several reasons. First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfill. The more songs you write, the more quickly you’ll fulfill your quota. Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers. As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” co-write. Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a co-write, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with. The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule.

This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers, who either are artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.

Lyrics

Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York, I’ve noticed that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly. In Nashville, the story is king. This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete, and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story. New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers, has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together.

Please don’t misunderstand. It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song—but it’s a different skill set. I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun. Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s. In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.

Labels

Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists. This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities. The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects. In New York, bands tend to write their own material, and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs. Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York, allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts. Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write or co-write their albums as well.

You Can’t Lose

At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create. Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter, and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan. In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song. What I mean by this is that, somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song. So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa), I’d highly recommend it. Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.

Good luck!

About Cliff Goldmacher

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.





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