“Write with me”

Via David Bruce Murray, it looks like Chris Allman, of original Greater Vision fame (and more lately of this transfixing clip), has launched an ala carte co-writing and publishing business called, Write With Me.

DBM runs down the particulars of the service and raises some good questions about who owns what publishing rights in this sort of arrangement. The ins and out of the publishing and rights management business are always things I consult friends or contacts in the bidness about, and when I ran this Allman thing by an established songwriter and publisher friend of mine, she replied:

Well, I think it’s interesting.  I’ve heard of similar things before but never at such bargain prices … makes me skeptical of the caliber of “professional” writer being offered for sale here.

I was once offered $500 a day plus travel expenses to write with a singer/songwriter looking to co-write great songs for his record. It was to work just like a regular co-write (I would keep my publishing, he would keep his). I thought it was an interesting offer and I would have done it if my schedule had permitted. A friend of mine who is an established CCM writer was once offered $750 a day to do the same thing; he did it and said he would do it again, if offered.

I will say that if the $50 a month deal includes a demo, that’s quite a deal just for the demo alone.  (IF the demo is half decent.)

This business about the quality of the demo is important. Demos aren’t just the way you get your songs heard; they send important signals about your seriousness and credibility as a writer. Southern gospel is infamous throughout Christian music as the genre in which people record themselves humming a tune in the shower and then send the recording off, as is, to record companies and publishers. Of course it’s possible for great songs to come from this process, but in general, if you’re a publisher looking for music and you hear hoof beats, why think zebras?

So while DBM has a point about rights and royalties, this presumes the songs will get picked up and cut and released. If I were a songwriter wanting experience and a foot in the door, I might try the Allman thing. But before I even started worrying about royalties and rights, I’d first want to know I was getting my money’s worth. Have these writers (not Allman necessarily, but the “other writers” that the site makes reference to) had cuts - if so, what were they? If they’re not pretty recognizable and verifiable successes, then it seems like the customer here would essentially be paying to write with equals more or less (as judged by cuts anyway).

As for Allman himself, he’s made a genuinely intriguing move. I do fear this may be the songwriting equivalent of custom recording companies that will have the effect of glutting an already saturated and creatively impoverished industry with more mediocre songs. Of course I could be – and hope I am – wrong. Better music is music, no matter what process it comes out.

But I confess, I wonder if Allman’s not squandering his own talents a bit by spending so much time and energy writing with people who probably aren’t going to bring much to the table.  (I mean, does he accept everyone with the cash to pay or is there a screening process?)

And this leads to another point: doesn’t it seem like there are an awful lot of mid-tier (and lower) writers out there who are making bank teaching others to do what they can’t even do themselves?  I mean, Chris Allman is a fine writer, but I don’t think anyone would consider him a real player in the industry as a songwriter. Same goes for someone like Jeff Ferguson, who has made a mint off of his “You Can Write A Song” seminars with Clint Brown. Brown, of course, is an established P&W guy, and Ferguson has his own ministry, plus a couple of solid Greenes cuts to boot. But still, it’s pretty amazing how many people flock to these guys’ events based a comparatively thin resume in the songwriting and publishing department.

The real doozy here may be Embassy Music’s Darwin Moody, who has by all appearances made a fine living for years now holding how-to seminars for would-be songwriters, yet his biggest claim to songwriting fame seems to be a co-write with Ann Ballard on the Cathedrals’ now long-ago “Scars and Stripes.”

If you scratch the surface, this sort of thing is everywhere. My songwriter friend told me she recently heard of seminar that promised a bunch of big name songwriting clinicians, only to have them show up, sing a couple of songs, and leave the teaching to the local church staff who had no real knowledge of anything beyond a layman’s comprehension of the music business.

I’ve wandered kind of far afield from Allman, and my point is not that Allman’s service is of this caliber necessarily (too soon to tell, of course). And even if it turns out to be a songwriting sweatshop, he and and all these other people have every right to be doing what they’re doing. But it does serve as a reminder how many people are  out there desperate for any foot in the door they can find, no matter how credible or not.

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  1. Chris Allman wrote:

    Right away allow me to thank you for taking the time to write about our venture. You pose many questions that I would love the opportunity to answer. One thing I would like to begin with is… if you are familiar with anything I’ve done you’ll notice that it has never been low quality. I have a small Pro Tools set up and will do the demos myself. Rest assured that they will be more than adequate for demos.

    As far as publishing goes,many “would be” writers don’t have any idea about publishing their songs, therefore we do offer this to the writers. We only expect to retain the publishing for songs upon which we actually colaborate. Will we benefit? Only if we do our job as a publisher. Therefore the writer will benefit as well.

    The price is very reasonable and for a good reason. We sincerely are looking to help writers hone their skills. I am fully aware that not everyone who seeks our service will bring promise as a writer and our integrity begs that we be honest with those whom we feel do not have the potential to advance. We will not continue to take payment from those whom we feel we cannot help.

    As far as my being a player in the industry, all I can say is… I am blessed to have accomplished what I have. Anyone can go to the portfolio page on our site and see the cuts we’ve had. Maybe you haven’t taken the time to go there… I would ask that you see for yourself. For the past seven years I have been very busy planting and building a church in Burlington, NC and therefore haven’t pursued my carreer in writing. My focus has been elsewhere. Now I’ve been blessed with the time to commit to writing and, I feel, God has inspired this venture. It would be easy to only write for self but I feel more compelled to help others as well.

    As far as my credibility, I would suppose those whom I have been priviledged to be associated with over the years and with whom I still enjoy a relationship would lend positively to that.

    I would be happy to answer any concerns or questions in regards to our site. Anyone can mail me at chris@chrisallman.com

    Thanks once again for helping us get the word out! Blessings!!!

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Chris has added a FAQ to his website addressing the points I raised as well as other questions that may arise.

  3. Auke wrote:

    Man i wished Chris would join a quartet again…what a unbelieable tenor…the best to come along in a long time (back then, and maybe till date).
    Chris Allman,Terry Franklin,Jonathan Pierce….all these amazing tenors not active in SGM (well not singing in groups that is).
    Someone asked me just yesterday who i would love to get back in a quartet again who’s now doing something else (solo/pastoring/musicministery)..i could form a Qt…man…look out SSQ and GVB!
    Imagine this…Chris Allman (tenor) Terry Franklin (lead) Ivan Parker (baritone) and that bass singer that sang with Chosen Few Scott Drake…??
    Well keep dreaming…i loved that group Chosen Few…their CD’s Great Big God and Little Things are till date two of my favorite albums.


  4. Kalkavan wrote:

    Vanity Press is vanity press. Online “schools” are online “schools.” Writers Digest has turned this into an art form for funneling cash from wanna be writers hoping to cover dead trees with their pros. You pay to play. Nothing new. No need for justification. It’s just Beniss.

    The internet allows everyone from the least to the greatest to take a shot at lesson three of Economics 101: Economy of Scale.
    Drag a net through enough you’ll snag enough to turn a profit.

    What you will get when you pay to play. A chance to stoke your fantasy. A chance to be separated from a measure of cash over time. And, that’s the internet secret. Make the price low enough that the buyer doesn’t really notice so they keep playing.

    Keep’um staring at that screen. Give’em a forum. Let’em talk to each other. Addiction baby. Fantasy plus computer plus “interaction” = addiction = cash flow.

    Sing oh sing ….

  5. cdguy wrote:

    You may be interested to know that, although Jeff Ferguson may not have many cuts in SG, he has done quite well in p&w and choral music. He has a solid background in Christian songwriting, and is a valid source of info on the subject.

    He’s just not known in sgm circles, but that shouldn’t negate his validity as a Christian songwriter and teacher of that art.

  6. quartet-man wrote:

    Auke said: “i could form a Qt…man”

    HEY, I know I am overweight, but I would hope I don’t weigh as much as those guys all together. ;-)

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