10 Truths For Every Songwriter

This is a guest post by Nick Battle. He is a publisher, producer, songwriter, artist, radio host , author and speaker as well as a great friend. At present he runs a small music publishing company, manages the record producer Kipper (Sting's Brand New Day, Sacred Love, etc.) as well as the actress Elizabeth McGovern’s band, Sadie & The Hotheads, known to US audiences as Cora Crawley of the hugely successful series Downton Abbey. He has also just had a #1 on the U.K. charts with Ant & Dec. Nick Is based in the U.K..


UK Music industry veteran Nick Battle

UK Music industry veteran Nick Battle

  1. The best songs come snaking out of the air, and we are the happy vessels through which they flow.
  2. Sure you can sit right down to try and craft a song-dress it up for the artist you have in mind...a little like a tailor with some silk...but the best songs are gifts. Simple as that.
  3. Never contrive. Always seek to innovate and not replicate.
  4. And be honest with yourself.
  5. Don't let the good blind you from the great. 
  6. Be intuitive both with your music but also with the people you work with.
  7. Don't give away a share of a song unless someone has really earned the right to participate.
  8. The old adage, 'add a word, take a third,' is not only anachronistic, but plain theft.
  9. Always remember whoever owns the rights to your songs also controls what happens to them and where the money goes.
  10. Be smart. Get sound advice. Work hard and stay humble.

-Nick Battle (Chorleywood, England)

P.S. Nick and I both share a need to reach out to our respective communities (call it an age thing), and we each have organizations close to our hearts. Nick started the Gravel Road Trust to help the bereaved after the death of his first wife Lynn. I have been serving on the board and as a client service volunteer at Graceworks in my adopted home of Franklin, Tennessee. Hope you'll check them both out. Thanks! 




Matt Sullivan - Building Your Fan Base Online

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

Truth is Matt Sullivan is my son-in-law and my “go to guy” for all things web. I know, I know, nepotism. Helped design my site and works at Moontoast, a cutting edge company based in Nashville & Boston. But…. how to put yourself out there  on the internet comes up with most every artist I work with and I can’t think of anyone better positioned  to explain the value than Matt. As for the quote…too good to pass up:-)!!


Moontoasts Matt Sullivan

Moontoasts Matt Sullivan

To borrow a quote from Mark Twain,

The reports of the music industry’s death are greatly exaggerated.

Ok, not verbatim, but I believe this to be an accurate quote for the music industry today. While the last 10+ years have been tough for music as a whole, the opportunities for a relatively unknown artist to build a growing, loyal fan base are essentially limitless today. What makes this possible? The same thing that has supposedly “killed” the industry: the Internet.

I will absolutely agree that the Internet has changed the game. Everyone has had to rethink the way they work; from songwriters, musicians, and publishers, to producers and labels. The good news, though, is that if you’re willing to put in the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, you can use the web to build your fan base from the ground up.

No more “gatekeepers”.

Of course, this means the the onus is on you to make it happen. How do you go about it? What are some things you can do to help make that possible? Here’s a quick list of some tools you can employ to help build your fan base online.

Get a Website

First and foremost, you need to have your own website. The importance of this can not be understated. Your identity online begins and ends here. It’s the one place you have complete control over the look, feel, and content. While its imperative to have a social networking footprint as well, Facebook and Twitter may not even exist in 10 years, and you should have a concrete place where your content resides. Remember when brands marketed themselves solely through AOL Keywords?

Your website is where you should spend the most energy. Everything you distribute across the Internet should tie back to it. Find a good web designer that can work within your budget, give you control over updating the site, and is accessible after the initial work is through. Ask around locally, get referrals, and do your research before choosing.

Get Social

The buzzwords the last few years have been “social networking” and “social media marketing.” To simplify it, think of social media in two ways: a way to communicate with fans (building loyalty) and a way to take your art where your fans gather (commerce). Create a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, aYouTube account, and any other social networking accounts that you feel will help you better engage with your fans.

Our startup, Moontoast, helps monetize these social interactions with tools like Moontoast Impulse, a storefront for your Facebook Fan Page. With Impulse, you can sell your music and merchandise directly on Facebook. Your fans can share individual tracks to their own wall where their friends can play songs and make purchases without ever leaving Facebook.

Distribute Your Music

To bypass the “gatekeepers” you need to get your music in front of as many people as possible. You need to convert as many of those to fans as you possibly can. Be creative! A personal example of this:

I love listening to thesixtyone.com. The vast majority of the songs are independent, uploaded by the musicians themselves. One day I was listening to a song by Luke Leighfield and shared it to my Twitter account saying,”Like a mix between Ben Folds and something I can’t place my finger on. By My Side – Luke Leighfield.”

A short time later I get a reply from Luke himself on Twitter: “Is the other bit Toto? Thanks Matt!”

I became an instant fan. Nothing crazy or fancy or expensive, just a simple reply to my random question.


Don’t be afraid about doing it the “right” way. There really is no right way, and the Internet moves so quickly that what you’re doing today will be completely different a year from now. Just have fun with it and keep it interesting.

Good luck!


Eliot Kennedy - Writing Songs For Film

Eliot Kennedy has been one of my best friends since our first meeting more than 14 years ago and I’m still in awe of this guy’s heart and talent. He’s a world class songwriter, producer, arranger, singer, programmer, entrepreneur and one of those people who’s disgustingly good at everything they pick up:-)! From The Spice Girls, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and Mary J all the way to his movie work with Bryan Adams he’s at the top of his game. I had the good fortune to write a number one record with him for Billie Piper called “Day And Night” and he’s written a bunch more before and since. Check out his company,Steelworks as well as his foundation, One Song.He’s one of the first people I thought of when I had the idea of guest blogs. So many writers ask about writing for movies and I knew Eliot would give some great insight into the creative process. Here ya go, thanks El!

Award winner songwriter and producer Eliot Kennedy

Award winner songwriter and producer Eliot Kennedy


I have to admit that as a writer, writing for film is by far the most inspiring. I have written for movies such as:

The Guardian (never let go), A Bridge To Terabithia (A place for us), Step-mom (When The Lights Go Out), Princess Diaries (Miracles Happen) and more notable Bobby (Never Gonna Break My Faith) which was nominated as best song for a Golden Globe and eventually won a Grammy with Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige.

That song was written, like many of the songs I have written for film with my good friend and long time writing partner Bryan Adams. It was by far the most difficult song I have ever written. I think more so because it was the first time I had ever been honest about my faith as a Christian. It is the most honest song I have ever written. And as a result, the most difficult to articulate. And by the far the most personal.

Writing for film can be tough. If you are working with a director that has temped (temporarily edited a song into the film as a guide for what the director is looking for) a song in, and is connected to the song, or the flavor of the song, it is sometimes difficult to get anything new past them. However, it can also be a benefit if the director knows exactly what he is looking for. Honestly, it’s horses for courses. Whatever it takes.

My favorite experience in writing for film was when I was working with Bryan and Hans Zimmer on the Dreamworks animated movie ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron‘. It was a challenging movie to work on, because when we were writing the songs, most of the movie was still unrendered. By that I mean a lot of it was wire frame or not in color. It was difficult to get a feel for the film. However looking at the movie now I feel that we got it right. We did have good direction from the writers and producers of the movie.

I remember one pressure day, when Jeffrey Katzenberg (basically speaking, The Boss) was coming in to hear songs, and Hans was pacing around the studio, Bryan and I had about 10 minutes to come up with something for a key scene. The scene was where the hero character, Spirit, had been captured by the cavalry, and they were attempting to ‘break’ him, so that he could become a cavalry horse. However, as the tag line of the movie said ‘some spirits can’t be broken’ and the horse simply throws off everyone who tries to ride him.

We wrote a song called ‘Get Off My Back’. A southern rocker. A rodeo song. It worked perfect for the scene and got the thumbs up from all at Dreamworks.

However, the real story behind that song came about in the following year. Long after it had been on the cinema, and had been released on DVD to great success.

One day a young American mother was taking her son Chan in to hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Chan had leukemia, and despite traveling all around the USA, no treatment could be found for poor Chan. Chan’s parents (his father was Thai) decided to go back to Bangkok and try alternative medicines. During this period, his mom continued to take him into the city for conventional treatment.

It was on one of these hospital visits, when Chan was waiting for his treatment, that he saw on the TV in the waiting room, the movie ‘Spirit’. His mother noted how much he seemed to enjoy it, in particular a scene where the horse was throwing off the cavalry riders who were trying to break the horse. She remembered how much Chan reacted to the uptempo song, and he smiled.

She asked the nurse if she had the title of the movie, and after the treatment session, she bought the DVD for Chan.

Chan’s mom said that movie kept Chan going for another year. She even bought him the CD as his favorite song was ‘Get Off My Back’ which he likened to his illness. He played that song and watched that movie every day.

He once told his dad to not worry about him because ‘some spirits cannot be broken’.

Sadly, Chan eventually died of his sickness, but his mother wrote to Bryan and myself thanking us for giving her and her husband more time with their son. More time for memories, and more time for love.

You see. Music is more than just the soundtrack to our lives and our memories. It is in our DNA.

It is the language that God gets to speak to everyone in, even if you are not a believer.. It is universal and speaks every language. It has the power to change, and sometimes even save lives.

Music is my life. It is who I am.

If you are thinking of writing for film. Go ahead. The day Bryan and I wrote that song, we were just writing a little tune to fill a scene in a cartoon movie. It went on to have a dramatic effect on a few peoples lives.

You never know what the ripple effects of your actions will have. But be honest. Put your soul into it and only good things can some.

God Bless.

Eliot Kennedy
Sheffield, England

Hit Songwriter Joe Leathers - Road To The Row

I love Joe’s story. I asked him to write a guest blog  because he’s one of the good guy’s and I knew it would be inspirational to songwriters looking to  come to the last great place to be one…Nashville. I met Joe  around 5 years ago and it’s been fun to watch his progress. At a time when so many writers and publishers are bemoaning the state of the business Joe just kept on doing what he does AND it’s working. From the title song of Kenny Chesneys #1 album “Hemingways Whiskey” to recent hits with Tim McGraw and  Craig Morgan , he’s a blueprint for any writer chasing a dream. In typical Joe fashion, I asked him about doing this and got it a day later. That’s what I’m talking about. Thanks Joe!

Joe Leathers

Joe Leathers

Ok, So the Odds are A Million To One, So What!

Songwriting for a Nashville publisher is a crazy, insane, frustrating, whacked out way to make a living. It is also the most amazing experience you can possible have when you start with a blank computer screen, and end up with a song on the radio. I sort of did it backwards. Many of my fellow songwriters moved to Nashville as an aspiring artist or songwriter, slept in their cars for the first week in town and then through sheer hard work and determination found their way through the House of Mirrors that is the Nashville Music Business. I took a different path.

Growing up in Memphis, if you didn’t play guitar, people thought there was something wrong with you. I was always fascinated by the Memphis music scene, I was the 15 year old sneaking into bars so I could watch some band pound it out for 5 hours. I started playing drums, then guitar and then I started playing in any band that would give me a chance. I went to college and instead of moving to Nashville at 18, I found a job, got married and had 4 children. While working for a bank, I still played in bands on the weekends and continued writing songs. I had no classical or formal music training so most of what I wrote was just from the heart, things that were happening in my life. I would say that most, if not all of what I wrote was really marginally mediocre. However, I never quit.

When I was in my 30′s, a friend encouraged me to enter a few songs in the Memphis Songwriters Association Songwriting Competition. Reluctantly, I entered 4 songs. To my surprise, I won two catagories and placed second in the other two. That was rocket fuel, I believed that I could actually almost write a song. Judd Phillips, one of the judges, nephew of Sam Phillips(Sun Records, Elvis) asked me to go to Nashville with him and meet Ralph Murphy at ASCAP. Ralph is the Dean of Nashville Songwriting.
We met and he listened to a few of my songs and encouraged me to continue writing, He told me I was close but not there yet.

In the meantime, some of my friends had heard about my trips to Nashville and my songwriting exploits. Many thought I was crazy, ridiculous, chasing pipe dreams, lying about it, and just in general on a wild goose chase.

In spite of all the comments I heard from people, I pressed on. I visited every publisher who would take my call. I played them songs, played every writers night I could play(sometimes driving 3 hours from Memphis, playing three songs at midnight and then driving 3 hours back to Memphis and then going to work the next morning) and just started weaving my way into the Nashville songwriting scene. About three years into this madness, I was offered a publishing deal at Curb Music. I think one of the main reasons I was offered a deal was not because I was an awesome songwriter, but because I had the work ethic it takes to write relentlessly and get songs to radio.

I wrote every day, something, anything. A riff, a melody an idea, a chorus, anything to keep me in the game. I met and wrote with writers who have have become my best friends. I surrounded myself with writers who were better than I was and that was not hard to accomplish. All along, I had friends telling me I was a moron, I could never beat the odds, I didn’t attend music school, what was I thinking.

Yes, working for a bank and writing a song that will be released as a single to country radio, the odds are  million to one. But I have had songs recorded by Craig Morgan, Jason Michael Carroll, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Steve Holy, Lee Brice, Guy Clark, Chris Kristofferson, Ryder Lee, and more. What is it you want to accomplish? Whatever it is, you can do it, I am proof. Trust me, if you are willing to pay the price to chase down a dream, you CAN do it. So, ready? GO!

Joe Leather
Nashville, Tennessee


Kevin Savigar on the Art of Demoing Your Song

Kevin Savigar is an old friend, world class session player, producer and songwriter. In addition to being Rod Stewart’s longtime keyboardist, he was a co-writer on many of Rod’s biggest hits including “Forever Young” and ” Tonight I’m Yours”. Kevin has worked with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and John Mellencamp to name just a few. I’ve been recommending his new service The Traxmasters to songwriters and thought the topic, and the man, would be perfect for my first guest blog. Thanks Kevin!

Kevin Savigar

Kevin Savigar

I’m often asked by songwriters, both experienced professionals and newbie hobbyists, questions about doing demos of their songs.

Can we get by with just a guitar or piano/vocal version?

How do i decide what genre this song really is so i can get a demo made that i can pitch to labels, artists and managers to maximize by chances of getting my song noticed?

How do we work up an arrangement that sounds contemporary enough to compete in today’s extremely competitive marketplace?

If I am not an artist myself, how do i find the right singer to sell my song?

What makes a great demo?

Who should I get to demo my song?

I may be able to shed some light on these often confusing points. The first thing to do after you are sure you have the song the best it can possibly be, – i.e. no holes in the lyric where you could have possibly gone back and improved it, a melody that is captivating and emotional, a harmonic structure that provides tension and release in all the right places, – is to decide if you should do a demo of it. It is very tempting for a writer to want to demo every song he or she composes. We all truly believe our latest work is the greatest thing we’ve ever done as the excitement factor is still running high. It’s really important to focus on your best songs and be selective to get those ones recorded the best way you can.

Technology has unlocked the door for many of us to be able to produce something decent at home on a laptop with an affordable microphone and some software, but if you are planning on presenting your material to industry professionals you really need to have a high quality, seamlessly arranged and performed recording that will represent your song to it’s maximum potential. In the grand old days of analog technology and record stores, you could get by with a simple piano or guitar/version of your song.

Today you are competing with other writers’ demos that sound like they were recorded and produced in a pro studio with great microphones and a good budget, with much attention to detail, a killer-sounding track and a flawless vocal performance. That being said, depending on your song, a more stripped-down version might be just the ticket. I also think you should get various mixes of your song when you are done with your full demo version so you have options later on. Maybe muting the drums and bass and making a version with just guitars and vocals would be a good option to be able to pitch to music supervisors for film and TV uses (a great income stream for today’s writers and a good way to get your music heard). I like to do different edited versions after I’m finished – lengthening the intro before the vocal comes in and shortening the intro to get straight to the vocal; different stripped down combinations of instruments and vocals – these are all useful to have for future pitches. I also do a mix with the vocal louder as invariably you’ll get asked for that later. It’s important the lyrics are easy to hear and understand.

Are you pitching your song to the country market? Or is it a pop song, americana, urban or electro, dance or dubstep? Are you an artist with your own sound and direction? Do you want a great singer-songwriter version to pitch to film and TV? Defining what genre your song best suits itself to is a must. Is the lyric coming from a male perspective or a female one? Or could it be sung by either, with the lyric working well for either a male or female singer? Perhaps you want to have two versions to open up more possibilities? These are some good boxes to tick while you are deciding which way to go.

Most demo companies can work up a good arrangement if you provide a worktape of the song with a rough vocal and guitar or keyboard. I like to have a conversation with the writers at the outset to find out what direction they want to go, choosing the instrumentation, and defining the genre and gender, along with any production ideas they may have and I might suggest – perhaps giving a couple of comparisons to contemporary hits that would be similar in direction sonically, groove-wise etc.

Choice of singer is the next hurdle. If you are not a performing songwriter you will want to hire a singer who will bring the right tone and emotion to your song, who makes the right stylistic choices to present the song in the best possible way. You want the song to be able to work for a wide range of artists to increase your pitching possibilities. In other words, a good, emotional reading that sticks to the writers melody without too many distracting licks!

I work with a pool of great studio singers, male and female, some specializing in country, others in pop, and I hire who I think will be best suited to the song I’m working on. The client gets to hear clips of the different singers and can choose which one they want on their song.

Well, I hope you found some of this helpful. Checkout my demo service site www.thetraxmasters.com and good luck with your songs!

Kevin Savigar
Los Angeles, California