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#1094973 - 11/03/15 09:06 AM Standard practice? Ethical or not?  
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DonnaMarilyn Offline
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I'm curious about something, and would welcome folks' input. A couple of years ago, I was in a situation that involved an offer of what was termed a 'co-write' but would have meant me paying up front and in full an exorbitant fee ($8330) for production costs. I declined the offer, of course, also for reasons apart from the fee, but I still wonder about the ethics of one element of the proposal.

I'd sent six pieces (2 songs, 4 lyrics) for review to a professional consultant, whom I'll call 'X'. X claimed to have numerous Grammy-award winners as clients.

X was highly enthusiastic about the two songs in particular. The one that X wanted to start with was a polished demo with a professional vocalist, and had already been critiqued (twice) professionally, and approved (both music & lyrics). When sending the song to X, I'd hoped that perhaps I would be pointed in the direction of a pitcher or a publisher. It wasn't with the intention of the song undergoing a massive overhaul.

However, X wanted to re-write parts of the lyric and have the music completely rewritten. In other words, I should scrap the work that my collaborator had done so that X could bring in a new composer to create an entirely new track. I think X was going to do the melody. This seemed odd to me. The notion of dropping the painstaking - and already highly praised - work done by my very good collaborator, and handing the adjusted lyric to a different composer for new music and a melody, struck me as questionable to say the least. X informed me that the original composer would still be entitled to a share of my royalties from the song if it were published. To me, this seemed to make things even more convoluted.

Question: Is what I've described a normal and ethical procedure in the industry?

I welcome your thoughts.

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#1094974 - 11/03/15 09:52 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Preying on hopes and dreams is what I would call that. There is practically no money to be made as a musician or songwriter unless you are at the very peak of the game (same as baseball, photography, football, golf, and other pleasurable hobby-based pastimes). But there is a ton of money to be made supplying services and equipment to all the wannabes. Guitar manufacturers, plugging services, recording studios, camera manufacturers, etc. etc.

My take on Mr X and dozens of others like him is that he is looking for people who dream of making it big and finding ways to separate them from their money by promising some hope of success. Is it ethical? Not sure, but if it is not, he is in the same class as hundreds of others. Is it standard practice? Among those who prey on dreams....yes, probably. Should you have spent the money?...no.

Would his version of your song done better than the one you already had? No-one will ever know, but probably not. Are Grammy winners all successful and wealthy?...no. Are there people in this world who can actually make you and your song successful? Possibly, but they will have a long list of recent successes and be well connected today with people who are in control today, not 10 years ago. Should they be asking for money up front like Mr. X....no, because they will be confident that they will make far more from the royalties and licenses that their connections will get you both.

Is the music business full of liars, cheats and vagabonds? Yes, but so are most other businesses.

Just my opinions!



Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1094981 - 11/03/15 12:19 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Everett Adams Online content
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Amen brother. There are so many scams out there and they take on so many forms it is hard to keep up. They must find a small percentage that fall for their lies or else they would give up and get aa honest job.

#1094991 - 11/03/15 01:43 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Well,
There are two things about that X. One is Let the buyer Beware and As P.T. Barnum put it, THERE IS A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE. And there are stories of people getting ripped off, Scammed by telling them they have won a huge sum of money all they have to do is send a processing fee to get the money.


Ray E. Strode
#1094995 - 11/03/15 02:55 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Colin, Everett, and Ray, thanks for chiming in. smile

Yes, it was clear to me from basically the get-go that the whole thing was a scam.

What I'm curious about specifically, though, is whether it's standard practice (and in my opinion, unethical, even if the original composer would have been entitled to a share of the royalties) to propose stripping the music from an already decent song/finished demo, so that a new melody and music could be created for it by a third party.

Seems to me this ploy is simply one element towards justifying the bizarrely high fee.

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#1094998 - 11/03/15 03:59 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Originally Posted by DonnaMarilyn
...What I'm curious about specifically, though, is whether it's standard practice (and in my opinion, unethical, even if the original composer would have been entitled to a share of the royalties) to propose stripping the music from an already decent song/finished demo, so that a new melody and music could be created for it by a third party....


I wouldn't think that it was that uncommon -- look how many songs Max Martin is co-writer on as the song's producer. However, the original composer should still be listed as a full songwriter, not taking 1/2 your cut! In any case, you made the right decision. Sounds like the new producer wanted 1/2 the song writing, all the publishing and wanted you to subsidize the song's recording and production. I think running away at full speed was the smart thing to do!


"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The 'hard' is what makes it great."
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @ FAWM 2016)
#1095022 - 11/04/15 12:37 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Originally Posted by DonnaMarilyn
Thanks for chiming in, folks. smile

Yes, it was clear to me from basically the get-go that the whole thing was a scam.

What I'm curious about specifically, though, is whether it's standard practice (and in my opinion, unethical, even if the original composer would have been entitled to a share of the royalties) to propose stripping the music from an already decent song/finished demo, so that a new melody and music could be created for it by a third party.

Seems to me this ploy is simply one element towards justifying the bizarrely high fee.

Donna


I don't know how often that is done, but if I had all the tracks from the original recording, I could strip out all the unwanted music in about 60 seconds, so I don't think that justifies an $8,000 fee, although I would gladly accept it.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1095023 - 11/04/15 01:02 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Barry David Butler Online content
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A Scam from the Get Go.
These people are "Dream Busters and Charlatans" ...
It's disgusting but I've actually heard worse things.
NEVER pay for anything.....
They Prey on Dreamers.....and Dreams.
B

#1095025 - 11/04/15 01:46 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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songcat Offline
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Hey Donna, I thought I'd jump into the conversation to give you my take on this being on 'the other side' of the business ;-)

I don't know the exact details of how Mr. X got you to contact him and what was part of the deal other than the production. If he was upfront with you saying that the fee will give you a production and nothing else, fair play. It would be an expensive production, but as long as he doesn't make any empty promises I would say it was an expensive but legit deal.

However, being in music production myself, I know that many production companies promise to 'plug' songs, or act as your 'publisher' if you go with them and in most cases, this is probably nothing but a marketing trick to lurk you in to buying the production for $$$. Some might really have the contacts and can connect you with someone, but they wouldn't be dealing with unknown songwriters online. Their client list should be long enough with established writers to be honest.

Why do they go that route? Because it's in demand. You can't believe how many potential clients knock on our door (virtually, we are online, but you get the message) asking if they choose us to produce their song, will we pitch it for them. The answer is always the same: No, we won't. We make it clear that they pay for the production, receive a professional produced song and then they're on their own. We won't get involved in pitching, promoting etc. their songs. You know what happens in most cases? They turn around and go to the next company which promise them to make them a star only to be disappointed in the end. I'm fine with that, because the ones that do stick with us will get exactly what we promise. I wouldn't know how to explain why Rihanna ended up not listening to the song we produced lol.

As Colin said, only the top few of any highly competitive business actually make a decent living with what they do. If that's your goal, you do need well produced songs, I think nobody will deny this. Will someone just give you a major placement? Probably not, you will have to do the leg work yourself.

To answer your question about if it's legit to change the melody to an existing tune? Well, it's been done many times and I don't see anything wrong with it. Often times, the lyrics are great but the melody not very catchy, so it makes sense to change. What I don't get is, you said: "X was highly enthusiastic about the two songs in particular." So, why did he want to change it? Why not simply produce it with the same melody but a different production. I mean, if everyone is happy with the composition and melody, but the song is a Country tune, but he wants to produce a pop tune, well than produce a pop tune, but without changing the melody, take a fee for the production and leave the copyright to whoever wrote the lyrics and composed the music. Once you place the song with an artists, the list of "collaborators" will grow at that stage anyway most likely by the name of the singer and producer of the final version to be released ;-)


http://songcat.biz - Where Timeless Creations Happen

Contact me at chris.erhardt@songcat.biz
#1095048 - 11/04/15 02:02 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: songcat]  
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Kevin, Colin (again), Barry, and Christian, thank you for your thoughts. Absolutely agree.

Songcat, you hit the nail on the head. If something's so good, why change it?

I reckon X was taking steps to boost potential income by claiming co-authorship on both lyrics and music/melody if the song ended up being published. And all on my dime. tongue

Pretty crafty thinking. grin

As to my original query, I guess the answer is yes, it's all too common. frown Whether it's unethical is subjective, of course. One can only follow one's instincts in this regard.

I'm all in favour of bringing in another composer if the original music really isn't up to the mark. There's nothing wrong with this per se. But in my case, my collaborator and the vocalist had done a fine job (also according to the pro who'd critiqued and given it the go-ahead). But to be honest, I had so many misgivings already about X's modus operandi (there were other factors), that even if I hadn't felt strongly about the high quality of the music & melody (and of course the outlandish fee), I wouldn't have gone ahead anyway with the project.

I initially got in touch with X by way of a website (deep in the excessive wordage was the promise of 'magic' and sure-fire 'success'. laugh ) The production cost was mentioned nowhere on the site, however. It was simply referred to obliquely as a 'creative fee'. I only learned of the actual amount during a phone call. And it was only after I'd declined that X made a quick last-ditch effort to win me over by informing me that the production costs included extras, such as attorney's fees, meetings, travelling here and there, etc. I can't imagine why X thought that info might make the fee more palatable. grin

In any case, it's all water under the bridge. And a useful lesson learned. wink

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#1095057 - 11/04/15 03:26 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Don't know how much of this is still going on in Nashville but the legitimate players know where all the bad apples are.

As a former member here used to say, I don't pay them, they pay me.

Usually, if it sounds too good to be true, most likely, it is.

Nothing wrong in investing in yourself, as long as you are well informed of what and who are investing with.


Ray E. Strode
#1095058 - 11/04/15 03:58 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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DonnaMarilyn Offline
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That's it for sure, Ray.

Luckily, my own instincts were flashing red, plus I got in touch with a couple of reliable sources, who were able to fill me in on a few things relating to X. So I definitely came well informed to the 'decline' decision. wink

Donna

Originally Posted by Ray E. Strode


Usually, if it sounds too good to be true, most likely, it is.

Nothing wrong in investing in yourself, as long as you are well informed of what and who are investing with.


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers


#1095099 - 11/05/15 08:12 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
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> Is what I've described a normal and ethical procedure in the industry? <
No.

Besides, there is a formal flaw in X's reasoning. I assume that you wrote the words, your partner did the music. In this case your partner must agree to have the melody altered. He then is still entitled to a share as co-composer of the song (actually Mr. X would function as an arranger - but, depending on the contract that is agreed on, he might also become a co-composer). Nothing to do with your share as a lyricist.

Fees and royalties for producers and musicians are a different piece of cake altogether. Also, it's not the creators who are supposed to pay any fees but the musicians or their label.

Have fun,
Bernd


Bernd
[url]http://bernd-harmsen.com[/url]
#1095112 - 11/05/15 03:31 PM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: Bernd Harmsen]  
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songcat Offline
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Originally Posted by Bernd Harmsen
Also, it's not the creators who are supposed to pay any fees but the musicians or their label.
Bernd


That is partly true if you talk about the final release to be published publicly. But, at the demo stage, it's usually the writers who pay for the production cost to produce something "pitchable" in the first place unless you're lucky enough to be signed to a publisher who covers the cost or parts of it.


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#1095134 - 11/06/15 02:39 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: songcat]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Originally Posted by songcat
Originally Posted by Bernd Harmsen
Also, it's not the creators who are supposed to pay any fees but the musicians or their label.
Bernd


That is partly true if you talk about the final release to be published publicly. But, at the demo stage, it's usually the writers who pay for the production cost to produce something "pitchable" in the first place unless you're lucky enough to be signed to a publisher who covers the cost or parts of it.


That's a good "partly true" Songcat. A laborer is worth their hire! But in this case, Donna already had a demo, and a good one.

As she says, "It's water under the bridge"...Which, since she lives in Holland, is not a phrase to be taken lightly:-)

But bottom line in this instance..."X" is a predator on dreams...I think Dante covered their eventual destination in the 4th Circle...

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

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#1095139 - 11/06/15 05:08 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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songcat Offline
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Yeah, most likely he was. Even if she didn't have a good demo already, he still would have been a predator on dreams if he promised fame and fortune without being able to deliver.

I think it's important to be upfront and say what will be delivered for how much $.

$$$ will get you a demo of this quality, here are some examples, here are some previous clients... Period. Sounds like fair deal.

$$$$$ will get you a demo of this quality and I might make you rich and famous because 20 years ago I was the assistant engineer of a billboard top 100 song... That may be not so much of a fair deal.

I think we all agree about Mr. X and the fact that most likely it was the right decision to walk away from that 'deal'.

However, I do want to point out that even though Donna had a good demo, there are still cases where it makes sense to do another one.

For example: She has a strong Country demo of a really good song she wrote. However, there is an opportunity for a Pop placement and after consideration, she feels the song would make a great Pop tune as well.

The above case happens more often than you think actually. Songwriters often turn to me to change the genre of a particular song they already recorded elsewhere.

However, that still doesn't give Mr. X any legit reason to change the melody, especially if he said that he liked the original composition.


http://songcat.biz - Where Timeless Creations Happen

Contact me at chris.erhardt@songcat.biz
#1095205 - 11/07/15 12:53 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: songcat]  
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 2,539
MidniteBob Online content
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MidniteBob  Online Content
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Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 2,539
Raleigh, ya'll
Exactly!

You, and other talented folks here..(insert a shout-out to Mike Z) charge for services rendered, at a fair price. Everyone involved knows what they want, and what they'll get, with no worries about being scammed...:-)


Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1095210 - 11/07/15 07:39 AM Re: Standard practice? Ethical or not? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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DonnaMarilyn Offline
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DonnaMarilyn  Offline
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Netherlands
Bernd, Songcat, and Midnite, thank you for the further comments and insights.

Christian, I agree about adapting a song to suit another genre. I've done this two or three times with another collaborator, where we used the same lyric in a couple of different genres.

This wasn't the case, though, with the song in question. The song was already country, and the new music/melody would have been country as well.

By the way, Midnite, I had to smile at your 'Dante' comment. We must be on the same wave-length, because the night before last, Dante's 'Inferno' sprang suddenly to mind (and in a manner entirely unrelated to the current topic), and I jotted down a note to myself to write a lyric referring to one of the circles of hell. grin

Anyway, in an ideal world it should all boil down to transparency: 'what you see is what you get'. smile

Donna


Honour the Earth. Without it, we'd be nowhere.

Life is too important to take seriously.

http://www.reverbnation.com/donnamarilynrichblend

Guild of International Songwriters and Composers



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