Music Business

Lyric Sheets: Which Songwriter’s Name Goes First?

by Marty Dodson
Apr 10, 2018

My first publisher, Kim Williams, was an inspirational person in many regards.

He taught me many powerful lessons about writing AND about life. Kim had been an electrical engineer and had been burned over most of his body. He spent over a year in the hospital and wasn’t given much chance at survival. When I met him, he was writing three times a day and had already had songs recorded on over 100 MILLION records. He was ASCAP writer of the year the year he signed me. He was on TOP of the mountain.

That year, he had a #1 song with Reba called “The Heart is A Lonely Hunter”. At the #1 party, Reba came up to him and said “Kim, you’re the hottest writer in town”. He smiled a crooked smile through his scarred face and said “I’ve been hotter”. That’s just the kind of person he was. Unafraid to poke fun at himself. Not taking himself too seriously.

Early in my time working with Kim, I turned in a lyric sheet. I had always generally alphabetized the writer’s names on my lyric sheet. Conveniently, this strategy most often put MY name first.

That day, he pulled me aside and said, “Here in our office we put our name last.”

I said “Ok, why?”. He said, “It reminds us of our place.” That really struck a chord with me. Because I NEED reminding of my place. It’s not hard for me to start thinking more highly of myself than I should. So, to this day, I ALWAYS put my name last on the lyric sheet. It reminds me that I am no better than any co-writer, no matter how many or few cuts they have had. I am in the room to serve the song, not to serve my ego. I will give it everything I have.

Some days, I will contribute the most to the finished product. Other days, I will contribute the least. Either way, my name goes last on the lyric sheet. You may have a different method of keeping yourself in check. I recommend that you find a way to remind yourself that you are no better and no worse than anyone else you may collaborate with. For me, it’s a daily exercise of asking myself, “Whose name goes first?”

Write on! Marty

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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