Randall Wixen’s 10 Tips For Songwriters

Screen shot 2014-06-16 at 3.00.43 PM1111Randall Wixen founded Wixen Music Publishing in Los Angeles in 1978 as an alternative channel for publishing administration, copyright management, and royalty compliance review. With sister company Wixen Music UK Ltd. in London, the companies have administered the song catalogs of artists including George Harrison, The Doors, the Black Keys, Tom Petty and others. “Randall Wixen is that rare man of integrity in a business that I’m not gonna call crooked, but I’m not gonna call it anything else,” Petty has said.

Wixen is also the author of The Plain & Simple Guide to Music Publishing, which is now in its third edition (Hall Leonard). The book offers advice on protecting and profiting from music copyrights for the lay musician and/or songwriter, with enough substance to be helpful to those already in the business. Topics include the growing importance of streaming and subscription models, a discussion of new compulsory license media, the impact of copyright terminations and reversions, updated advice on current license prices, as well as all the basics of copyright and rights management.

Wixen offers 10 tips for songwriters at all stages in their careers:

1. Keep knocking on doors. The worst they can do is slam it in your face, and if they do, go onto the next one. Nothing happens if you don’t keep putting yourself out there.

2. Streaming is becoming more and more important. Even though it is really hard to make any significant money at it at this stage, make sure you’ve set up some sort of path for your money to reach you, either through an organization like NMPA/Harry Fox, or via a private company like AdRev.

3. Don’t make long-term or “perpetuity” deals. If you find you’ve made a mistake, you’d like it to expire someday.

4. Know the ins and outs of how copyright works and use it to your advantage. Take a course in copyright law or music publishing, or read and understand a good book on the subject. Otherwise you’ll end up with 10 co-writers you never met on a song that you and your brother wrote by yourselves.

5. Remember that music has a value. The intangible value of “exposure” has to be closely analyzed and weighed. Every time someone gives music for free, it just reinforces the idea that music has little or no value and makes it that much harder for you and other writers to get paid a fair amount for your work in the future. No one flips burgers for promotional value.

6. Keep a copy of everything you ever sign, and all your copyright forms and clearance confirmations. You’ll need them someday.

7. Don’t sign a deal with a publishing company or a manager because you “like them.” Sign a deal because of what they can do for you. You’re not looking for a friend (if you find one, that’s great), but rather for someone who can actually do something for you. Ask for references, and talk to them.

8. Don’t buy the Bentley. The wave ain’t gonna ride forever. Save some money for that age when your tattoos will look ridiculous.

9. Leave your ego at the door. All of your friends will love everything you do. Find people who will tell you the truth about your songs and seek their feedback.

10. Back into a co-write with a famous artist or writer that you meet. They get writer’s block too and would love to coast along on your brilliance. “Hey Mr. Superstar, I’ve written this amazing chorus, but I just can’t seem to come up with verses that work. Want to try and finish it for me?”

Wixen, a Los Angeles native, is a graduate of UCLA. He is also a freelance journalist with articles appearing in publications such as The Los Angeles Times, CMJ and New York Rocker.

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