“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.Email this Post