To Copyright or Not to Copyright: Pondering the “Writing” Part of Songwriting

Copyrights? For books, it’s a no-brainer. Duh.

For songs? Well, yes, when I first started writing them, about two and a half years ago, my music teacher persuaded me to go through the copyrighting process as each song came out. Obediently, I did…through the first eight or nine songs. Then I got tired. (And it got expensive! $35 per song adds up!)

And I started wondering…what would happen if I didn’t?

Worst-case scenario: I upload one of my songs to YouTube. It goes viral. Everyone starts singing it. A famous singer picks it up, does a cover, makes a million bucks.

You know the part of that scenario I’m focused on? “Everyone starts singing it.” The million bucks? That singer’s welcome to it. Money is not driving my songwriting impulse. Money, apparently, does not figure anywhere in my calculations.

My books? Yes, definitely. I would love to be paid for them. But they represent hours and hours, weeks, months, years of my life. My songs–maybe a few hours each, no more.

Even more than the time differential, my songs come from a place that is wholly spontaneous, unplanned, even startling…unlike my books, which represent a deliberate and highly-planned career shift.

So…by all means, check out my songs as they begin to appear in cyberspace. Let me know if you’d like the lyrics and chords. Sing them, share them, pass them on. I’ll be nothing but thrilled.

And if Emmylou Harris that famous singer out there ever does a Gretchen Wing cover and makes a million bucks…feel free to remind me of this post if you ever hear me snark about it.

Think I’m being naive here? My mind’s still open on this topic, so feel free to chime in.

If The Big-Girl Panties Fit…

It’s concert time again.

A quick retrospective:

2011, Chicken Biscuit: “Which end of the mic do I sing into?”

2012, Gretchen Wing & Chicken Biscuit: “Oh, I get to sing a couple of my songs too? OK…but YOU introduce ’em, I don’t want to talk.”

2013, Gretchen Wing & Chicken Biscuit: “What do you mean, Bill’s going out of town? Who’s going to be emcee? I don’t know any jokes! Oh, s–t…”

2014, Gretchen Wing & Friends: “OK, everyone. At tonight’s rehearsal, I’d like the musicians to be there at 6 so they can get all their stuff ready. Singers, come whenever you need to in order to be ready to start right at 6:30…”

Ah, if only it were that simple. Yes, my “career” as local singer-songwriter-performer has evolved to the point where I think of this weekend’s show as “my” concert. Yes, I am in charge of the set list and the rehearsal schedule. Yes, my face is the only one on the poster.

GW

But oh my, do I have a long way to go before I can be said to be “putting on” a concert! Here’s my To Do list for 2015…just in case I do this again:

1. Start rehearsals in June instead of August.

2. On second thought, start rehearsals in July, but schedule the darn concert for November when there aren’t gazillion other things going on around here.

3. Find the “sound man” with the best reputation in the community, and secure his services several months in advance. Bribe him with pie.

4. Provide binders for all musicians so they can keep track of their music and notes.

5. Fill the freezer with treats for rehearsals, so I can grab ’em and go. (No, I will never let go of my need to feed people.)

I have other resolutions, but I won’t bore you with them. This is just my way of saying: Yes. OK. I get it. If you’re new at something, you can enjoy being helpless and having everyone do stuff for you…once. Once you get halfway good at something and want to run it yourself, be ready to RUN it. No whining.

(Courtesy someecards.com)

(Courtesy someecards.com)

Don’t get me wrong–I am totally looking forward to, and totally humbled by, this chance to share my music with my community. I will be one happy woman on concert night. But for now–I gotta go bake cookies. And I still need to find another joke. And does anyone have any extra binders?

I would love to hear your stories of transition from bystander to administrator of…anything. What lessons did YOU learn? Anything I can steal?

Anne Lamott 2.0: Why I’m Starting to Dig This Blogging Thing

First of all, thank you to all who sent me kind words or plain ol’ “likes” on my last post. I was (obviously) feeling pretty down about my dog and my book and my responses to both. One wonderful response came from my friend Shan Jeniah Burton, who quoted Vulcan wisdom to me:

“You are very adept at listing the questionable decisions you’ve made. But there have been other decisions – many of them – that no one would question. ”

Thanks, SJ. I call her SJ. I have NO IDEA if anyone else does, because, see, we’ve never met. We were both prisoners students in Kristen Lamb’s blogging-for-writers class over a year ago (Hotel Californians, we call ourselves, ’cause we can check out any time we like, but…yeah). Now we’re soul sisters…remotely.

This is why I can say with perfect honesty, 14 months since starting that class in order to kick-start my reluctant, anti-blogging self into doing something I was pretty sure authors just needed to suck-it-up-and-DO, I like my blog. I like this weird way of connecting with people. I have made real–not “virtual,” but REAL real–friends this way. Not to mention how lovely it is to re-connect with existing friends through this medium. Way more room to roam than on Facebook.

Then there’s the “please help” aspect. Granted, this works on Facebook and Twitter too, but I’m thinking I’m going to get a much more meaningful and useful response if I try this here on Wing’s World.

Can anyone advise me on how to get in touch with Anne Lamott? Her own blog does not have a “contact me” button (for obvious reasons; she’s a famous gal!). I’ve tweeted her and left a message on her Facebook page, but never heard anything, and I don’t want to be a stalker about it.

See, I wrote a song that I really want her to hear. It’s based on her famous quote about having only two prayers, “Help me help me help me” and “Thank you thank you thank you.” (That was in her book Traveling Mercies. Since then she’s added a third prayer, “Oh, wow,” which I guess is detailed in her book Help, Thanks, Wow, which is on my reading list.)

I started to write a song about that, but the lyrics got intertwined with another story, that of a friend of mine who died of cancer at age 42, just after delivering a baby. I do not know if my friend actually said Annie’s prayers, but the way she lived in her final year made me think that she might have, and so I wrote the song that way.

Here’s my song, “Help Me Help Me, Thank You, Thank You,” from our little Chicken Biscuit concert on Lopez Island, October 2012. I’m backed up by my friend Bruce Creps, who’s a much better guitarist than I am:

I don’t want Annie Lamott to help me “market” this song. I have zero ambitions for a career as a singer-songwriter; my plate is full! I just want her reaction.

So, internet friends and friends-I’ve-already-met-in-the-flesh (’cause “flesh friends sounds REALLY nasty), here’s my question: Can you help me figure out a way to get this song to Anne’s ears? I look forward to your help, advice, or support in this endeavor.

 

Sure, I Have a Website…Just a Sec…

Last week I launched my nation-wide radio career.

Well, that may be a TEENSY bit of overstatement. But I did do a radio interview with a lovely man named Mark Judkins Helpsmeet, who produces a show out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, called Song of the Soul. http://www.northernspiritradio.org/  He played a half-dozen of my songs, asking me about each one, and about my journey as a songwriter. A journey that is just beginning, I might add, as in–18 months, give or take. An unplanned, and so far, mostly unguided journey, with no particular destination in mind. Especially not national exposure.

Which may explain why, when Mark asked me if I had a website, I choked.

First I said, “No.” Then I quickly amended with, “I mean, yeah, I do…I mean it’s not a songwriting website or anything, but I do have a blog…I mean, I’m a writer, that’s my real career now, so, yeah…” Then I blurted out the URL.

Mark (kindly): Ah, are you sure that’s correct? URL’s don’t usually have @ in them.

Me (not at all flustered, on national radio): Oh. Yeah. Right. I mixed it up with my email. My website is…just a sec…

When I told this anecdote to a friend later, she asked me, “So if you’re starting to get attention as a songwriter, why DON’T you use that to promote your writing career?”

Ummm…because I’m new to the whole idea of self-promotion and still finding my way in the dark an idiot?

So now I’m thinking: Yeah, why DON’T I? The whole singing-songwriting thing is beginning to generate a life of its own. I’m putting myself out there on the stage, relying on a decent voice and a darn good writing style (I’m certainly not relying on my guitar skills!), so why NOT put myself out there in cyberspace as well? Let’s see what happens, shall we?

So, to begin: here are two clips from a recent community concert on Shaw Island, the next ferry stop over. I didn’t realize, when I accepted the invitation to participate, just how GOOD the other musicians were, and I had the interesting luck of following a FOURTEEN YEAR-OLD future phenom onstage–which explains the intro of this first song. My friend Bruce got totally jostled while trying to record me, so if you can’t handle the jumpy camera, just close your eyes and listen, ok? It’s a good song.

The second song’s intro got cut off, but I have to sneak it in here ’cause I’m proud of it. I said, “I wanted to write a good ol’-fashioned My-baby-left-me song, but my baby never has left me, so I had to use my imagination.” 🙂

So, hey. Whether you listened to the songs or not (how’m I gonna know? It’s not like I count YouTube hits or anything), I’d like to hear from you. Why is self-promotion so hard? Is it harder for women, do you think? Does it get easier? Or maybe it should never get too easy? Let me hear!