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Zen's avatar

I've written a few songs over the years, need professional advice...?

Asked by Zen (7743points) September 14th, 2009

Maybe Jack or someone can help. I’m not in the States nor even in an English speaking country.

I have few songs (lyrics and melody, but I’d like to emphasize the lyrics) which I think might be good (read: a hit). I perform and sing and know a thing or two about composing and writing, having studied journalism and working in radio for many years.

My question is this: how can I protect my songs, yet pitch them to someone (and to whom)?


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10 Answers

RareDenver's avatar

Not sure how well this works but I’ve heard that if you post yourself a recording of your song and and don’t open it then it can be used later in a court of law to prove that you recorded it by a particular date.

Sounds a bit far fetched to me but I’ve heard it mentioned.

jaketheripper's avatar

My brother goes to school for music business and told me the first thing they told him in a class on copyright law was that the whole mailing it to yourself business offers no protection at all. maybe it used to work but not anymore.
lol the lawyers were scratchin their heads goin “they can protect their work w/o paying us, we gotta change that”

Jack79's avatar

Wow, I didn’t even know you lived outside the US, let alone that you wrote songs!
Where do you live? Both the law and the market could be different from country to country.

What RareDenver said is true and has been common practice in the UK for donkey’s years. You typically just make a demo of the song and post it to yourself, then leave the envelope unopened. But this is not really such a major issue, as usually there are more than enough songs around, and their success does not really depend on quality, so nobody goes into the trouble of stealing, when they could easily find good songs legally.
I have written more than 700 songs and only one was stolen, and even that was probably done unconsciously (I gave it to a fellow-musician and then in his next album there were a couple of lyrics from my song, but I think they just got stuck in his brain without him realising where he’d heard them).

Anyway, there are plenty of ways to prove a song is yours if this ever becomes an issue. You could just email it to someone you trust and then have them appear as a witness if anything happens and say “yeah, Zen emailed me that song 3 months before the other guy used it”.

As far as making them public goes, now this is the tricky bit. I personally ended up singing my songs myself, which is what most songwriters do, even those who have a really crap voice and can’t play an instrument. Depending on the market where you are, and the style of music of course, you could try get in touch with bands who you know do not write their own songs and might like what you wrote. You usually have to guess who that would be, and most will not be interested, but you may get to meet some peolpe this way and eventually find someone who can help.

There is also the “normal” route of publishing (which is what classical composers still do) but there’s neither fame nor fortune in that, and unless you’re doing it for posterity, it will only cost you time and money and have no tangible results.

AC's avatar

This is from a UK perspective:

Ultimately you need to do something with the information that means it can later be entered as evidence in court. The idea behind the UK postal method is that not only is the envelope sealed but it also has the official date stamp of the royal mail, which is generally accepted as good evidence of when the package was sealed.

When it comes to emailing friends, do you trust them? Not to sound cynical but we’re talking about being absolutely water tight here. Also consider that their character is subject to speculation in court when deciding what weight to give their evidence. Not saying you’ve got dodgy friends (how would I know!) just pointing it out as a consideration before using that method.

Of course there is also the legal method of using a lawyer but of course that will involve cost – which is a bit like the chicken and egg scenario.

Depending how the legal profession works in your country I (as suggested by raredenver) would go with the postal method, just make sure you sign the envelope at the seal so you can’t be accused of sending a blank envelope and then opening it again. Make the opening process destructive in some obvious way so it can’t be argued.

With regard to who to pitch it at there are a couple of sites I’m aware of, these being:

1. BANDIT – this is an A&R newsletter where members of the industry advertise for certain genres of music and you can submit your work to them (having copyright protected it first!). It is a paid service and to be honest the website looks a bit cheap but I hear good things about it. I haven’t subscribed and ultimately you ‘d have to make your own mind up. I think they do a free demo to help you make your mind up. I think they send you a copy of their newsletter with all the entry dates expired but it gives you a flavour of how it works.

Several years ago I turned up at V2 in London (The publishing arm of Virgin) and spoke with the guy that signed the Stereophonics. He didn’t buy my track but he did suggest sending stuff to publications like BANDIT, so I guess it does have a certain amount of reach.

2. TAXI – an online A&R service. Again a paid service and they accept submissions from outside the US. I have no idea how successful they are or how happy there members are. So, again, you’ll have to do some homework and make your own mind up.

Something to consider is that sites like this can help with advice on copyright and a whole host of the other things muscians don’t like to think about.

My only other thoughts are pitch it to the world yourself. If you can record it yourself get your music on itunes or something like that. Do some viral marketing, email the links to friends/family/colleagues – get them to send it on to their friends and so on.

Get on myspace, Youtube and the like. Make it easier for people to find you. Link it all back to itunes or wherever else people can download for a small fee.

Hope that helps and just to reiterate I don’t endorse the above two sites but simply want to make you aware that they exist.

Keep writing and good luck.


Zen's avatar

Thanks guys!

Zen's avatar

I should clarify. @AC Though I appreciate your remarks and perspective, I should mention that I am interested in getting the songs published, bought or covered. Not to record them myself. Certainly not on facebook and their ilk. I prefer to remain anonymous, I just want someone to do something with them because, dammit, they’re pretty darn good.

I’d love to hear my song on the radio – not necessarily me singing it.

Thanks so much guys!

AC's avatar

@Zen Got that and I know what you mean. I guess I’m in a similar position.

I think at some level you may have to consider recording the songs in some format – even if it’s just a guitar and someone singing into a tape recorder, just to give an idea of how it should sound.

A great song is a great song and doesn’t need loads of production etc.

If you simply want to sell your lyrics, well I’ll put my thinking cap on and get back to you.

There are people out there looking for that but I need to do some digging to give you reliable information. It’s been a while since I’ve been looking seriously so will have to reintroduce myself to a few forums and see if they’re still useful.

I think BANDIT might still be useful and worth a look but as I say I’ll get back to you.


Zen's avatar

@AC Thanks.

P.s. I’ve recorded 3 songs with voice and guitar on a 4 track. Okay quality, not so great production. But you get the jist of the song.

Just the lyrics would be great, too. Not only that – I wouldn’t mind if there were more than one version of the song. It’s the lyric that counts for me, less so the melody.

I just happened to have tune in my head when I wrote them. I usually write poetry.

Jack79's avatar

sounds like the way most of us do it :)
So do you know any bands where you are? Any live gigs you could go to and meet them?

Kayak8's avatar

I have copyrights on a number of songs I wrote and it is not particularly expensive or difficult. Although you are not in the US, you can still copyright your material in the US (or any other locale for that matter). Having the official record of copyright is extremely helpful as my band learned this year when a Korean guy from Big Pink Music stole our album and made a digital copy and was selling it online. We were able to prove that we had copyrights to both the individual songs as well as the particular recording of the material.

The mailing it/emailing it to essentially “date stamp” the material is no longer effective as noted above (but I still have a bunch of envelopes from my late teens and early 20s that I have never opened because back then it WAS an ok way to temporarily protect material until you could get the copyright papers turned in.

All the forms and information to do a US copyright can be found here

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