“We just wanted to say thank you”

A gospel-music songwriter passed along this link recently about Rascal Flatts’ treatment of its songwriters. Money quote:

 Band members Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus wanted to recognize the 80 or so songwriters who have contributed work to the group’s six studio albums. So the guys booked the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum and threw a big party with food, plaques and singing.

“We just wanted to say thank you,” LeVox said. “We don’t just have professional relationships with these cats, we have personal relationships with them, too. We are always touring and they are always writing, and they are always traveling and we are always traveling, and after 10 years of being able to do what we love to do it’s a big, huge milestone. We just wanted to get them all in here to say thanks for a wonderful 10 years.”

But the trio did more than that: They asked the writers to each bring along two songs to pitch for the band’s next studio CD.

Until Taylor “Maybe She’s Not the Best Technical Singer” Swift at the Grammys, I would have said that Rascal Flatts is probably the most pitch-challenged act in country music today, but they get major props for treating their songwriters so well.

Perhaps needless to say, this contrasts mightily with sg. My gospel songwriting correspondent,  who writes for top-tier groups, had this to say:

If, like we all are fond of saying, it all begins with song - then wouldn’t it behoove artists to treat songwriters like Rascal Flatts does?  I can’t tell you how often artists contact me - desperate for “hit songs” - and then, after I send them a stack of my latest/greatest, I hear nothing…(crickets)…not a “thank you” - not a “I got them and will give them a listen” - nothing.  Total silence.

I do understand that it can be awkward to respond, specifically, to a writer about his songs - especially if you don’t love them all.  But I’ve had scores of artists who’ve gone on to record my songs - even singled them - and I wasn’t extended the courtesy of a single note of thanks or even a copy of the product itself.  I’ve joked that I’ve actually spent more money purchasing CD’s of my songs than I’ve made from royalties off those songs - assuming that I was even paid royalties!

I don’t know if artist in SG are ignorant, rude, over-extended, or a combination of all three.  But I do know that what Rascal Flatts has done should serve as an indictment to all artists who take for granted the hands that feed them.

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  1. musicmantoo wrote:

    It’s amazing to me how little song writers are appreciated. I don’t know who made the comments above…but they’re right. Give me that ‘perfect’ song and I have something I can try to do justice with. I know some amazing writers…and though I try to make it a point to thank them all…I’m sure I have not appreciated them as I should. I wish I had that talent…and appreciate those who do.

    And on the subject of “assuming that I was even paid royalties”, that’s a whole article in itself. Artists are quick to point out when we’re not compensated fairly (or at all) for what we deliver…stop and think about that writer and what they should be receiving!

  2. jgurnett wrote:

    I have a good friend who wrote “Summer Nights” for Rascal Flatts and has two cuts on Lady Antebellum’s newest CD. He speaks very, very highly of the country acts he’s worked with. It’s a completely different world in how they treat songwriters compared to SG.

  3. JulieBelle wrote:

    Maybe one reason SG is struggling is because they poor mouth their fans (they don’t have any money, etc) and can’t give them the time of day at a concert or berate them for not buying their latest cd, treat their songwriters badly (if they pay them at all), and treat the people whom they have working (or volunteering their time to help them) badly or pay them pitifully, while they drive the cadillacs, bmws, mercedes, etc. Put all that negative out there and it’s bound to come back to you in some form or fashion.

  4. Casual Observer wrote:

    This disregard for writers goes beyond artists themselves. For many years The Singing News has awarded artists AND writers of #1 songs with commemorative plaques. They’ve recently changed their policy and now they only award plaques to the artists. They do allow the writers to PURCHASE those plaques. Generous gesture, huh?So what does THAT say about the value of writers. Without the song there would be no #1 to celebrate.

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    #4, What I think you meant and what it sounds like you said are different. You said “So what does THAT say about the value of writers. ” Really it is more “So what does THAT say about their perception of the value of writers, (or at least by their deeds how they appear to value writers)

  6. Casual Observer wrote:

    Thanks quartet-man. You’re correct. That’s what I meant to say.

  7. wackythinker wrote:

    #4 - #5 — By their fruits you shall know them?

  8. Extra Ink wrote:

    All you can say about this move by Rascal Flatts is CLASSY.

    I will have to agree with the songwriter you quoted. It’s just pathetic how songwriters are treated in SG music. I think a lot of people in the industry are in dire need of some etiquette training in how to deal with the hands that are feeding them.

    I have pitched many songs to groups in the genre, and the silence coming back was deafening. However, my experience is that if a group actually cuts your song they will usually make contact.

    I will have to say that the one song I pitched to the group the Inspirations several years ago was rejected, and I received a rejection note in the mail, which I appreciated very much actually. At least it was an acknowledgement that they were breathing, and that I was breathing.

  9. Dianne Wilkinson wrote:

    In response to #4, I didn’t know how many people knew about the new Singing News policy to only award the artists on the Song of the Year award. But at the time, I was not aware of that policy at NQC 2009 when I walked right up there on that stage and accepted that award. If my co-writer, Rusty Golden, had been able to attend and had gone up there with me, BOY would we have been embarrassed! I’m sure now that the Booth Brothers graciously allowed me to receive the award and give an acceptance speech. Since there were other writers of nominated songs there with me in the artists’ circle, I’m pretty sure they didn’t know about the policy, eihter. This will not necessarily affect the writer if he/she performs with the artist who WINS. But Rodney, Hon…if you win next year for “He Locked the Gates”…don’t go up there! Anyone can set policy for their organization, of course…but I would just recommend making it known to people who would be affected. I will mention that due to the generosity of the Daywind folks, I still have the award I received that should have gone to the Booth Brothers, and the Booth Brothers have one as well.

    This is a good time to say “bravo” to the folks who are in charge of the SGN awards (the Unthanks). They wisely award a writer who is also an artist/performer, and have a separate category for the non-performing writer. Obviously, I think that’s wonderful!

    One final note…secular music awards programs such as the CMA award the Song of the Year to the writer(s) exclusively…the artists are awarded with Single of the Year. I hope it doesn’t sound whiney to say that I feel that to be appropriate. I’ll close by saying that for me personally, the rewards of being able to write Gospel songs and have them recorded, and the relationships I have in the SG business, far outweigh recognition of any kind. I’ve been blessed to be involved in that since 1976, and it’s been JOY UNSPEAKABLE!

  10. Charlie Sexton wrote:

    Dianne Wilkinson is a class act…

  11. LeeAnn Mills wrote:

    To Joel and Wayne, great song, Born to Climb. LeeAnn

  12. LeeAnn Mills wrote:

    Gerald, I love it had to be love, my fav on new project, LeeAnn Mills

  13. quartet-man wrote:

    Songwriters are far too unappreciated. I would say at the very least it is a partnership. A great artist or group can make a big difference in a song and the more popular they are, the larger their platform is and the more people have a chance of hearing it.

    A great artist or group (as well as instrumentalists and producers) can really enhance a song and make it shine. On the other hand, a lousy song although might be able to be salvaged (I started to use the word saved and thought better of it ;-) ) , but the artists skills alone probably won’t make it a whole lot. However, we have probably all heard songs that were great, but performed by artists who could not sing. Even then, the beauty of the song can shine through in spite of the artists, but if performed by the right artists are even better. I might be wrong, but I think a lousy song performed by great artists probably won’t rise as high as great songs by lousy artists (within reason of course. If the artist cannot sing at all, then maybe not). However, it would also depend on the amount of the artists audience though. So, although artists are the ones in the public eye and important, they need a good song to have larger success. Each part of the equation (artists, songwriters, instrumentalists, producers, engineers, and even people who design the CD covers, promoters etc.) have a role in the success of an artist and many have a role in the creation of the songs we enjoy.

  14. quartet-man wrote:

    I meant to say initially, that Dianne is on my short list of great writers. We Shall See Jesus, High And Lifted Up, Boundless Love, Homeland are among my favorite songs she has written and I am sure there are others not coming to mind at this moment. She also seems like a great person.

    I also didn’t mean to diminish the artists roles in a song. It is just that they get the attention because they deliver the songs and are in the public eye. The better the delivery person, the better the results of course. Artists can enhance a song. One example is George Younce’s bass part on Step Into the Water. Kirk Talley himself talked about how much that contributed to the song. I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful as it would have been had they sung it straight. (No pun intended. ;-) ) It is still a good song and I am sure would have been successful, but probably not as much so. It just seems a bit empty when the bass sings the same rhythms as the other singers.

  15. Casual Observer wrote:

    Dianne - I think you misread my comment (#4) - I wasn’t referring to Song of the Year awards…I’m talking about the plaques they used to mail out for each month’s #1 song on The Singing News Top 80 chart. They still give them to the artists but no longer give them to the writers.

  16. Dianne Wilkinson wrote:

    To #15…well, Casual Observer, just call me Paul Harvey for giving out the “rest of the story”!! I HAD heard about the plaques…but I did misread your post, I suppose because the other issue was so fresh in my mind. I’m still glad I shared what I did about the policy on the Song of the Year awards…not to be critical (again, companies can set policy however they want to), but I think the writers need to know. To all of you who post regularly to this site, please pray for all the Gospel songwriters. I’m firmly convinced that we don’t have long to get the message out…and I say, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus” EVERY day…so we have a huge responsibility to write the Gospel “right”. MANY thanks to all of you for your kind words and encouragement…God bless you. Dianne.

  17. Casual Observer wrote:

    Well said Dianne. You’re the “real deal”

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