A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post about my recent experience of shopping one of my new songs around, “I Will Fly”. In case you missed that post, I talked about how the original version was accepted by about half of the places I sent it to and rejected by the other half due to vocal and production issues. Read the full post here.
So, even though my producer, Gary, and I were pretty pleased with our 50% success rate, we decided to do a second version of the track using a different vocalist (I sang on the original version) and make some changes to the production to make the track sound a little more current and fun.
The very first song I licensed back in 2002 I performed the vocals on. But over the years, about 75% of the tracks I’ve licensed have featured different vocalists. My vocal range is fairly limited, and I can usually tell right away whether or not my vocals will work for a song. When in doubt, I bring on someone else who can handle the vocal duties better than I can. This has almost always proved to be a good idea, and I’ve gotten a lot more placements than I would have otherwise. By using different vocalists, as opposed to trying to sing everything myself, I’ve expanded my catalog of songs that are licensing appropriate greatly.
As an artist, I aim to write songs that are a reflection of who I am as a person and songwriter. But as a professional songwriter licensing my music, my sole aim is to write and produce music with the best chance of getting licensed. Of course I try to write songs I genuinely like and feel good about. But ultimately, I want to write and produce songs that work. I’m not trying to change the world, at least in the context of songs I write for licensing. What I am trying to do, is write really good songs and deliver really solid performances, so that they’ll stand the best chance of being used in tv shows, films, ads and so on.
Some of the songs I write, I know right away won’t work for licensing. If I write a song that I fall in love with, but I know it won’t work for licensing, I still finish it. Some of these songs end up being released on my CDs and digital releases, and other times, nothing comes of them at all. They just get stored on my hard drive in my digital vault of music that may or may not ever see the light of day. The point is, I’m not only writing songs for licensing, I’m simply trying to write the best songs I can, and then figure out how to best monetize them and best put them to use. But I recognize the difference in terms of what songs have the best chance licensing wise, and which ones are better to use for other projects, and I pitch them (or not) accordingly.
I recently interviewed the CEO of Crucial Music, Tanvi Patel, for my podcast. During our interview, I asked Tanvi what types of songs work best for licensing. Her response was that, “a great song is a great song, whether it’s used in licensing or on the radio”. The one caveat she mentioned is that songs used in the context of licensing, need to work “within the scope of licensing”. By this she meant that lyrically and stylistically they need to be aligned with what works for licensing. In other words, a great song is a great song, but there are a few considerations when it comes to what works best for licensing.
See my free course on “How To Write Songs For Licensing”, for more on this topic.
So, back to my latest song and using a different vocalist. The bottom line, is that if I’m writing a song with the goal of licensing it, I want to cover all my bases, licensing wise, and make sure it has the strongest chance of being licensed based on what I’ve seen work, over and over, with other songs that have been licensed.
I want to make sure the following things are in order:
For my latest track, “I Will Fly”, based on the initial feedback we received, we felt it would be safest to have two different versions, for anyone who didn’t take to my admittedly quirky voice. Some people love my voice, and others don’t appreciate it as much. I’m not attached one way or the other. I just want to do what’s best for the song and what will generate the most deals and ultimately the most placements.
Since we changed the production, we’ve added two more deals, for a total of six now in just two weeks. Gary (my producer) and I agreed to give the vocalist a percentage of any back end money we made in exchange for our vocalist singing on the track. The vocalist was happy to do this, to build his resume, get additional exposure and to, most likely, make money on the back end.
So, without further ado, here are the before and after versions of my latest track, featuring myself singing on the former and vocalist Travis Nilan, singing on the latter.
"I Will Fly" Original Version [Before]
"I Will Fly" Featuring Travis Nilan [After]
What do you think of the track? What do you think of the vocals and production? Let us know in the comments!
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.