This past weekend, I was going through some old files. I found the document pictured here in a folder of papers that I took from my dad’s house after he passed away.
My grandmother “Irene” was the first person to ever really encourage me to pursue writing. She would send me blank notebooks that I would fill cover-to-cover with poetry and short stories. She would send them in to her local newspaper and get them “published”, always sending me copies of the newspaper clippings of my work. She was always encouraging me to write and trying to expand my vocabulary by getting me to help her with her crossword puzzles or quizzing me on words from the word game in “Reader’s Digest.
I remember as a young child that she would tell me how she had one song published and that it was going to get recorded someday. She had seen an ad in the back of a magazine and paid this man $45 in 1958 to put a melody to her lyrics (poem). In todays dollars, that would be around $327. A lot of money.
I had never known that the name of the song was “True Love” or what became of it. It broke my heart just a little bit to be the one to unearth this little piece of family history. If my grandmother had simply paid someone to put a melody to her words, I wouldn’t be bothered at all. That’s a fair exchange.
I don’t know what the original ad said that my grandmother responded to. I do know that one line buried in the middle of this piece of paper gave her a false hope that was never going to happen. The contract asks the author to “permit the song to be played in dance halls, etc, and on radio and television”.
The only way that was ever going to happen was if the company did anything to promote the music to dance halls, radio and television. According to a little “Google sleuthing”, they did not. They took people’s money, spent a couple of minutes coming up with a melody and moved on to the next one.
The scam my grandmother fell into was relatively minor. It did at least give her joy to be able to say she had one song published. But, I hate to see anyone given false hope in that way. If the company had worked the song and it even had the slightest chance of being played somewhere, then it’s success would have depended on the quality of the song and on the song finding an artist to connect with it enough to want to record it.
Clay and I started SongTown, in large part, to help people avoid scenarios like this one. The scams have evolved. But they are still alive and well. I have had a “producer” (a guy calling himself a producer) come knock on my door while I was writing to ask me to “Come tell this girl she is amazing!”. The girl in question was in a line about 20 deep that he was running through his “studio” (A small office with a microphone set up in one room) singing to “Pro Nashville Tracks” (Karaoke Tape). He was promising to get their songs in front of “big players” in the music business. He didn’t take the tapes anywhere. He charged $350 to put a vocal on a Karaoke track and called in the next girl. They were all “amazing” according to him.
We have run across others that charged $2500 for a demo on one song AND took all of the publishing on the song in exchange for pitching it. In fact, the company paid $450 for the demo and probably never pitched the song at all.
We are very careful not to promise anything we can’t deliver. Our promise to you is that we can teach you to write better songs. Whether you are writing for your own pleasure or trying to write commercially, the best thing we can do for you is to teach you the tricks of the trade so that you can write the very best song you are capable of writing. We don’t promise you that we can get your songs played anywhere or that we can give you a magic formula that will allow you to write hit after hit. The only “big players” in the business we talk about are the ones we bring to our webinars and put on camera for you to see.
We do that so that you know we are doing something REAL. You get to see the publishers “pass” or “take copies” of songs. You see how it really works with the real people in the business.
Don’t let yourself fall prey to scams. Promises of quick success or fame and fortune ARE too good to be true. The secret to this business is to keep getting better at the craft of songwriting every single day and to work your tail off. Not glamorous. No promises of glory. But that’s the REAL story now and that’s the way it’s always been.
Write on! Marty Dodson