"Title Writers, A cautionary tale"

                                                            BEWARE OF “TITLE WRITERS’, A CAUTIONARY TALE.
                                                                        JUNE 30, 2014
 
You’ve all had it happen. Someone knows you are interested in songwriting, comes up to you at a party and says “Here’s you a title for a song…” and begins to tell you their ideas. Most are totally horrible, you are embarrised to even listen to it, others are the “water cooler conversation”, from a sit com that was on last night, some are recycled things you’ve heard a thousand times before and was a big hit 20 years before they were born. Almost none are remotely usable. Every once in a blue moon, someone actually has something that is not totally horrible. Beware of those, they can get sticky. That is this tale.
 
I was recently “Facebooked” by a friend of mine about a title he JUST HAD TO WRITE. Someone had given it to him and he didn’t know how to write it himself. It was a regional song idea, about my home state, of ALABAMA. Being from Colorado, he had only been to Alabama a few times so needed an “expert.” The idea, BAMATIZED, was a phrase I had heard somewhere in my life. Growing up around drinkers, bars, music, boats, crazy people, you hear about everything. There is nothing new under the sun. So I turned the idea down a few times. But I liked my friend, so I offered to get together with him to see if we could write something.
 
At our session he threw out the idea again, which I promptly turned down, again. I was just not sure I could do anything with it, making it cool, finding an approach, etc. If I can’t find a “pathway on an idea”, I don’t write it. He threw out several other ideas, which I also promptly… threw out. Happens sometimes. When you write a LOT of songs (over 2000 in the past 14 years for me) you find you have written about everything many times, and a lot of subjects just have no interest to you. I decided I had to live up to my own hyped up reputation, and so we went back to the “BAMATIZED” idea.
 
As I started thinking, personal experience started coming into play. I have a friend and client who has been making pilgrimages to Nashville and he is from Boston. That is what jumpstarted it. Then I thought back to a few years ago where I was playing at the Florabama, a beautiful area of Perdido Key Fla/Gulf Shores Alabama, and recalled a day where a group of Northerners were in that beach club. We were all complaining because the BP Gulf oil spill, had run off tourism from the area and everything was dead. But there was NO OIL ON THE BEACHES AT ALL and it was PERFECT. But nobody came. The Northerners, from New York and Boston, all commented on how this was paradise and that we should be proud of that. Was a great time and we all ended up buying drinks and I made up songs for them all night. Was a lot of fun and part of the great thing about being me.
 
So I put a lot of that in, including experiences from around the state. I made the character, leaving the snow of Boston, to find paradise in the Magnolia state. I put all kinds of local and regional references in and thought “This could make a cool song to play down there.” Also, in the back of my mind was a band, headed by one of my oldest friends, that play that region. He and I had been working together on his songwriting and I thought, “this could be a cool little song for them.”
 
To make a long story as less long as I can make it, I wrote the majorty of the lines, the music, the groove, the feel, everything, with my friend providing commentary and direction on things he liked and didn’t like. We shaped it up in about thirty minutes and were pretty happy with it. Over the next few days he sent suggestions which played a big part in developing and smoothing the song, I tweaked it and we got it right in the ball park. I even slipped in a little “Sweet home Alabama” tribute three notes to drive the point home. It was cool, fun, really turned out well.
A few days later I was recording a guitar vocal, sent it out, and then made a little “magic pitch.” As it turned out, I was opening a concert FOR that band  IN ALABAMA and went down and played it for the first time in front of them and a home town audience that loved the song. It was one of those things that got an immediate reaction and people were really into it, asking where they could get copies of it.
And the thing I wanted most to happen, the band approached me asking “Can we do that song?”
BINGO!!! THE MAB STRIKES AGAIN!!!!

 
I let my friend know that it all went well and we would see if they will follow through. All was good. Then it happened.
 
Another woman hits me on FACEBOOK, telling me that she is one of the writers on BAMATIZED and she had a few suggestions to make. Now I knew that someone had mentioned this title to him but had no idea they were going to claim part ownership.  I didn’t know her, she was not there, and outside of the title, had nothing to do with the song. But I am IMMINENTLY FAIR and immediately included her as a writer on the song. This is where all writers need to be AWARE OF. If someone gives you a title and you write it, THEY ARE PART WRITER ON THE SONG, FOR BETTER OR WORSE. If they tell you they don’t want any part, that is fine. But I would include them anyway. Just works out better.
As far as her “suggestions went’ I didn’t really care for them, but they were small so I worked out a way to placate her.  Everything seemed fine.
 
Then it got weird.
 
On one hand, as the band started working the song up, making some of their own changes, even to a point that I added my friend as a co-writer to ensure they would stay involved in the song. This is a fairly standard practice, where an artist is made a part of something to keep it up on their interest of involvement. A lot of hit songs have developed that way. If you are a big part of a song, I have no problem including you. This is the real world, not a perfect world.
But at the same time, the ‘other writer” suddenly was reserving domain names, web sites, copyrights, trademark registrations, etc. All kinds of the legal mumbo jumbo I HATE ABOUT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. These are all very valid considerations, but NOT AT THIS TIME. So everything continues, but I got very gunshy of continuing involvement in this song because I see more red flags than a bull in Mexico City. I hope it will all work out, but if too much confrontation happens EARLY in a song the only result will probably be that song is dropped into the dust bin of songs in history that didn’t work out. A good idea at the time. To be totally fair with her, there were no bad intentions in any of this. She was just over excited and wanted a lot of things to happen. She is a sweet person and very well intentioned. Just a little naive about the current music business, money and how things work. No problem,just have to remain calm.
 
The cautionary tale, is that if you discuss a song with someone, even if you don’t end up writing it, THAT IS AN IMPLIED TRUST OR CONTRACT. Make sure you are honest and direct with them. “How much do you feel involved in this?” is a great question to ask. Can save a LOT of trouble in the future.
Always be yourself, be honest, and include people that are important to the song. Even if they didn’t write the actual lines or notes, sometime creative energy takes other forms. Sometimes that performance pushes a song “over the edge” in interest. Sometimes the “people behind the scenes” are as responsible for the success as anyone up front. Never forget that. It takes a team to do music. Even if sometimes they get a little overactive.

Good luck and write some good uns'

MAB

 

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