MAB'S MUSINGSOct. 19, 2017
THE COPYRIGHT CONUNDRUM PT. II
(I'M STEALING MY SONGS!!!!)
Yesterday, I dived into the subjects of "Copyrights, registrations, song theft", etc. It is my contention that too many people get too worried about all this too early. Everyone writes songs they think have never been done before only to find that there are literally thousands that are just like theirs often written before they were born. And there are MANY, MANY STEPS that writers have to take BEFORE they are in danger of being ripped off. There are many, many, songs that sound alike, and changes are often made even at the last stages of recording. So making sure that songs are finished, are tweaked and have professionals look at them before going to all the copyright steps are a good idea.
And most of the "Song theft" that goes on is simply us picking up pieces, lyrics, melody, chord progressions from other songs subconsciously. It can't be helped. Sometimes we even STEAL FROM OURSELVES.
So this is a story about that happened to me.
In my teaching/mentor business, I write songs with people demonstrating the approach on subjects, building storylines avoiding "second verse hell", building melodies, and wrapping it all up in a very tight package, and doing it in a short time frame, that most of us have to deal with whether we are coming from out of town or trying to sandwich multiple appointments in a day or two.
Several years ago, I worked with one of my friend/clients, from East Tenn. Jim Potter. Jim is a great guy who would come in with some ideas, and we would work those into songs. Not playing an instrument, he depended on me to find some melodies, grooves, and take what he had already done and find the "special areas of the song" that took it to the next level. On many occasions over years we wrote many songs and actually recorded a few. A great guy.
Being a former Marine, one day he brought in an idea, SOLDIER'S LAST LULLIBYE, which was a tribute to the song "TAPS", that was played at Military funerals.
At the time we were in the middle of the Afganistan and Iraq wars, and I am very hestitant to jump into places that EVERYONE seems to be writing about. Everyone at that time had military themed songs, 9-11 was not that far away and there was a lot of those song out there.
But Jim, had a personal involvement, having served in those areas and so we wrote the song. SOLDIER'S LAST LULLYBYE, went very well, and in a couple of hours, we had a very nice song, melody, groove, all fell together great. We did a work tape and he went on his way. I would not hear from him for about 5 years.
In the meantime, a couple of years past that, another friend/client, BIG ED MOORE, from California, came into town from attending a funeral for an Uncle of his. He had been a WWII veteran and Ed was interested in TAPS as well and he wanted to write about his experience.
Now at this time I have written a few hundred songs and I am embarrassed to say I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE FIRST ONE. This is just due to writing songs all the time, and sometimes years will go by until someone brings them back to my attention.
The song I wrote with Ed was called 24 NOTES. (24 NOTES are how many notes are in the song TAPS). It turned out great, and we both were really happy with the outcome. Not only that, but before the week was out, we went to the studio at JAY'S PLACE and recorded a full recording on it. We were really proud of it. And then Ed went back to California, and eventually recorded it on a band he was producing, BOOTHILL BANDITS, that would be turned into a fund raising song for a charity BUGLES ACROSS AMERICA. It all turned out very well.
Fast forward a couple of years and JIM POTTER shows back up, wanting to do a recording of the FIRST SONG, SOLDIER'S LAST LULLYBYE. THEY WERE VIRTUALLY THE SAME SONG!!!! It was not until I put them both side by side I realized that I had subconsciously lifted melody, groove and elements of the first song and put it into the second. TOTALLY BY ACCIDENT.
I was quite embarrassed, and had to rush to find ways to redeem the situation. What we did was get into the studio, get together with the musicians, played each song and find ways to make them be different. Luckily these guys are AMAZING, and by shifting some melodic placement, different feels, readjusting some chord patterns, and the songs sounded very different. All things worked well.
The point is that I even subconsciously lifted songs FROM MYSELF. It is easy to do. Only so many notes, so many chords, so many ways to say the same thing. And if you visited some of my writing sessions, you would find that some songs often start out very similar. But as time goes on, as they are performed, as lines are changed, as notes are adapted, as other people add and subtract from elements of the song, they change. And you end up with totally different approaches on the same thing.
This is one of the reasons for waiting until songs are really FINISHED before going through the copyright process. Often lyrics, melodies or ENTIRE sections of songs are changed right up until they are released. I have multiple versions of some songs, leaving out bridges, changes in lyrics on verses, etc. Some is ARTISTIC LISCENCE with the artist. I have had male songs recorded by females and the gender and age has to be changed. It happens. And that is what you have to be concerned about the copyrights on them. Usually if they get to that stage, they are going to take care of the copyright registrations before all that happens.
So again, write more songs. Tweak them. Work them. Find the different places to take them. Then work on the legal trappings at the right time. Sometimes you can predict where it is going to end up.
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