Notes on Napkins

musings for songwriters


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Meet the SongU Special Event Pitch Guests

Join us for the latest “Staff Writer For A Day!” Special Event Pitch which is running during the months of October and November 2020. This is an exclusive opportunity to be selected by Emily Dryburgh, Creative Director of Deluge Music, for a chance to find out what it’s like to be a professional staff songwriter for a day. This includes a meeting with Emily and a CO-WRITING SESSION with hit songwriter, Danny Myrick! Additionally, Emily will be listening for potential signings for single song contracts. She says she’s excited to hear new writers and new material.

Deluge Music is a Los Angeles and Nashville-based Publishing, Management and Record company.  Opening its doors in 2015, Deluge has become home to hit and developing songwriters with cuts by artists including Rod Stewart, Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean, Reba, Walker Hayes, Rascal Flatts, Ashley McBryde, Keith Urban and more! They Currently have Lady A’s single, “Champagne Night” and have recently landed a TBA major deal with one of their artists. 

Emily Dryburgh, Deluge Music Creative Director

Emily Dryburgh is the Creative Director and Nashville face of Deluge Music.  Her duties include managing and/or developing writers and artists between LA and Nashville, setting up collabs, tweaking and pitching songs, overseeing creative processes, and developing and maintaining relationships with other publishers, managers, labels, writers, producers, etc. in the Nashville music industry.  Prior to Deluge, Emily worked in artist management, handling “day to day” and development for Grammy, CMA and Tony award winning artists in the Country, Bluegrass and Gospel genres.

Danny Myrick, songwriter

Danny Myrick is a 3 time #1 Country songwriter and producer, and 6 time #1 Gospel and Contemporary Christian writer. With songs recorded by Tim Mcgraw, Jason Aldean, LoCash, Craig Morgan, Maddie and Tae, Trace Adkins, Big and Rich, Randy Houser and more.  Danny has Trace Adkins current single, “Just The Way We Do It.”

A little bit muddy water Mississippi preacher’s kid, a little bit California beach bum, Danny grew up playing, singing and writing for his family’s gospel band in south Mississippi and being consumed with 70’s FM radio. He achieved his first #1 gospel song as a songwriter at the age of 17 before moving to Nashville.  After landing several more #1 Gospel and Contemporary Christian hits, Danny re-focused his attention on founding and fronting country rock band, Western Flyer, with whom he made two albums and had several Top 40 singles, including What Will You Do With M-E and Cherokee Highway, which dealt strongly with racial division in the Deep South and led to Western Flyer being the first country artist invited to play the annual Martin Luther King Day in Atlanta. 

Following thousands of miles on the road with Western Flyer, Danny decided to stay home in Nashville, and ended up singing 100s of songwriter demos as well as adding background vocals to numerous albums by the likes of Blake Shelton, Montgomery Gentry and Keith Anderson before immersing himself in his love of songwriting.

Over his career, Danny has produced numerous artists, including The FARM and The Jane Dear Girls, and has written songs for a wide range of artists from Maddie & Tae to Joe Cocker, celebrating numerous hits, including Craig Morgan’s “International Harvester, Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah”, LoCash’s “I Love This Life”, as well as 2009’s most played country smash, “She’s Country” for Jason Aldean! 

Danny’s wide array of interests has led to appearances on MSNBC and CNN discussing political and religious topics affecting country music and southern culture.  He is currently working on several projects, including his own self-produced album, King Of Jones County;  and releasing remixes under his alter ego DJ DMaxx featuring social media sensation Leslie Jordan.  Danny currently writes for Deluge Music.  

As the old adage says, “You can’t play the game when you’re sitting on the bench.” Whether or not you win the co-write session or a song contract, you will have done the work of a songwriter by putting your song out there into the world. Good luck to all!

For more inspiration read the interview with our Fall 2020 Staff Writer for a Day:


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Featured SongU Coach: A Conversation with Michele Vice-Maslin.

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with one of SongU’s long-time mentors and coaches, two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer, Michele Vice-Maslin.

Michele Vice-Maslin

Michele, I’ve got to start by asking what’s helping you cope during this time of Corona?

Well I am a complete hermit so besides my lack of a hot tub to slip into I’m doing just fine and feel blessed! Also I really aspire to be a “Happy Girl” as one of my songs is called. That always helps one c ope, finding and holding on to their “happy”. A little “hippy dippy” I know but it’s true!

…But first off what helps me cope are my amazing Students at SongU and in my FROM SONG TO SYNC course! I am so busy coaching, mentoring, teaching, guiding, hand holding and seeing “light bulb moments” go off!… It is beyond rewarding and fulfilling!

I’ve actually never been busier so I think I am too tired to have to cope. LOL. In addition I’ve been writing with my favorite artist smooth jazz R&B legend Jonathan Butler for his new album and writing /producing songs for my own little pet artist project (2 of the songs appear on the Mpath PHENOMENAL WOMEN album series), plus other productions so I’m busy with that. I’m busy guiding my new intern Jeremiah. I’m busy pitching. I’m busy participating in tons of webinars mostly about all things music biz like Neighboring Rights, The MLC, Music Licensing, and so forth. I’ve been speaking on a bunch of webinars too… and so on and so on. All a great distraction from the difficult “mess” at hand that we all share.

And to top it off, as you and I discussed a little while back Sara…all the cooking. OH MY! Right now it’s after midnight I’ve been up working since 7am and I still have dinner to cook. Hahaha No time to think of coping

How has the current state of the world affected your writing, production, and pitching?

It hasn’t much affected the producing and pitching and solo writing. I am still doing that. Yes there are much less specific projects in production but still I always have backlogs of new songs that need to be pitched and brought to the attention of the “powers that be”. It has however very much affected the co-writing for me. I don’t like to collaborate virtually at all!  In fact I usually have a strict policy of “in the same physical room at the same time from complete scratch”. The only person I write virtually with is my main collaborator Larry Treadwell whom I’ve worked with for 39 years and know so well. I’ve also made an exception with Jonathan whom I’ve worked with for 20 years.  

Actually I’m always impressed by the Songu members I coach and their ability to co-write virtually even before the pandemic.

What qualities do you look for in a co-writer?

Of course if they are what I consider a good writer, which is subjective any way but after that mostly I look for someone I like, who is a nice human, a good human, an honest human. 

As a coach and mentor, you inspire so many songwriters. What inspires you?

The songwriters I coach and mentor! They inspire me everyday!  Some of them are soooo talented they could be teaching the class!  In the last 2 weeks alone I have heard some really amazing songs from them!  Life itself as well has always inspired me! Paying attention to all that is going on. Listening, watching, participating.

Do you have a favorite story you can tell us about one of your song placements? 

I have so so many but probably it’s my first one. That is what is coming to mind. It was 1987 and I was the songwriter, producer, arranger, creator of a “performance art project”. I had films and slide shows and actors doing skits accompanying the songs. The songs themselves and the whole project made Bjork look “normal”. 🙂 The whole thing was beyond alternative and avant-garde. I had a friend who was directing his first feature film TAPEHEADS. It stars Tim Robbins, John Cusack and the R&B/Soul legends Sam Moore (Of Sam & Dave) and Junior Walker (Of Junior Walker And The All Stars) Sam & Junior were playing the fictitious duo “The Swanky Modes” in the film. The director(my friend) asked me if I had any friends that created R&B/Soul music and if so could they submit some tunes for the film. So I grabbed my writing partner Larry, whom I previously mentioned, and we wrote and produced up (after much careful research and listening) a song to submit. Now remember I am a weird “Performance Artist”  who writes very odd songs, so what to do what to do… how to submit…? The director (who actually directed the films and slide shows in my performance art project) would never have considered any R&B/Soul song I might come up with so…I submitted it under a pseudonym… and voila!! In the movie. With the legendary Sam Moore and Jr. Walker recording it. My first cut and placement at the same time. In a major big budget film…and then haha I became knows as an R&B writer. Crazy stuff! I think the moral of that story is just go for it!!! Give it a try! Ya never know…

What music have you been listening to lately?

I listen to so much music. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop as I am producing a really cool hip hop/rapper artist. Khalid, Kanye, Money Can’t Buy, A.J. Tracey, Troye Sivan, and others. Also a lot of pop music. Katy Perry, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Sean Mendez, Jonas Brothers, Charlie Puth, Kim Petrus, Tov Lo, Hayley Williams, Ellie Goulding… so so many and the songs of my friends, colleagues and students. Every day I listen to new music. I subscribe to some online newsletters that are always introducing me to new music.

Thank you, Michele, for offering professional advice and songwriting education to our SongU writers ! You rock!

Thank you for these really great questions Sara and thank you so much to you for having me. It’s really an honor. This is my 14th at Songu and it has enriched my life beyond measure. I’m so proud to be a part of the Songu family! I love my students!

I can’t believe it’s been 14 years already! Time flies when you’re having fun (and learning new things all the time). Thanks again for your time, Michele!

ABOUT COACHING AT SONGU.COM

In addition to our 20+ live audio/video small-group song feedback courses each month, our members have the opportunity to forge creative relationships with any of award-winning coaches in the form of individual written feedback with detailed song (or lyric-only) evaluations and constructive suggestions emphasizing lyrics, music/production, originality, commercial potential, and even a chance to be awarded “Best of SongU!”

HERE’S WHAT OUR MEMBERS ARE SAYING ABOUT COACH #2245 (aka Michele Vice-Maslin)!

“I am really thrilled with your Best of SongU recognition – you had awarded that for [my other song] ‘Marisol’ as well – and it means a lot. Both were probably more work than I would care to admit so it feels great to be recognized. I’m so happy that you liked it and found it relatable – THANKS!” -J.M., CT

“Thank you for the feedback. Once again you’ve opened my eyes through your insight. I definitely want to get away from cliche writing and hope to look get better at recognizing it when I write. Thx again!”D. Brown, GA

About Michele

About Michele: This coach is a two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer who has written hit songs in multiple genres for artists all over the world, as well as having several thousand film/TV placements. This coach is also a music producer and music publisher who is well versed in song pitching and placing, and business issues pertaining to the music industry. Specializes in evaluating Pop, R&B, Hot AC, Top 40, Dance, Alternative, Urban, Country, Singer-Songwriter, Film/TV/Songs for Sync Licensing.

Michele’s Coaching Philosophy: “My coaching philosophy is one of empowerment and inspiration along with some real and straightforward honesty about what I believe is important in the way of crafting a great song – for personal satisfaction of course – but also for commercial success.”


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Kelly McKay, Winner of “Staff Writer for A Day,” Tells Us About Her Experience.

I was thrilled to speak with Kelly McKay, SongU member since 2013, and the winner of our Spring 2020 Special Event Pitch, “Staff Writer for a Day” with WinSongs Music Publishing! Kelly is clearly a talented songwriter, but she is also a role model for what it takes to succeed in this business:

  • the desire to keep growing and learning
  • the ability to network bravely yet humbly
  • the persistence to carry on in the face of daunting odds 
Songwriter, Kelly McKay

Kelly, I’m so excited to hear about your co-write session and listen to the song that you wrote. But first, tell me about the pitch. How did you decide which of your song(s) to submit to the “Staff Writer for a Day” Special Event Pitch with WinSongs’ Creative Director, Kirby Smith?

I submitted four songs. Kirby said she likes fun, uptempo songs and unique hooks that surprise her, so I kept that in mind. I submitted “Kissed the Hell Outta Me” mainly because it was brand new and I was excited about it and that was the one she picked. 

What were your first thoughts when you found out that you were the winner?

I was just excited. Little victories are a big deal to me (see what I did there?), so any time someone digs a song, it’s a great feeling. 

What was it like when you first contacted WinSongs’ Creative Director, Kirby Smith, after the event?

Kirby was really nice and got a date locked in really fast.  

Your co-write session was supposed to be with hit songwriter, Sandy Ramos, but Kirby added Winsongs’ staff songwriter, Chase Fouraker. Why?

She added Chase so that we could write to a track. 

How did you prepare yourself ahead of time for the co-write session, which was online, I assume?

Yes, it was over Zoom. I had a bunch of ideas ready to go, some deeper ones and some fun ones. I basically wanted to have all my bases covered so if they wanted to write a certain vibe, I had a hook that could fit. I also listened to Chase’s material that he’s released as an artist to get a feel for what he does. 

How long was your writing session? Can you walk us through the process a bit?

We finished in about 2 hours, 45 minutes. We talked a little when we first jumped on. Sandy and Chase hadn’t written before, so we all introduced ourselves and got to know each other a bit. Sandy said she wanted to write a fun uptempo and they both liked the first idea I threw out, so we were off and running pretty quickly.

What do you feel is your “strength” as a writer? In other words, are you more lyric-driven or music-driven, or something else? What did you feel your co-writer’s strengths seemed to be?

I can be more lyric-driven or more melody-driven depending on the team I’m writing with. I think that’s probably true for Sandy and Chase too. Just based on that session, Sandy focused mainly on lyrics while Chase focused more on melody and track. But I got the feeling they both probably play different roles in the writing room on any given day. 

Did you learn anything new about the craft of songwriting during the session?

I loved seeing how Sandy approaches a lyric and how she would go back and make little changes that made a big difference to the song. It reinforced not to settle for the first thing that sounds cool, but to make sure you nail it. And Chase was sharing his screen so we were able to watch him build the track along the way. That was actually really cool. I’ve written with a lot of different track guys and girls, but I’ve never really had the chance to watch that process that closely while the song is being written. 

When you say you watched Chase build the track along the way, how did that fit into the writing?

We started with a chord progression and a loose melodic direction and he started building the track from there. At times, he was focusing on the track while Sandy and I were working on lyrics. For the most part, it was all happening simultaneously.

Any other thoughts or feelings you’d like to share about these two pros and/or the writing session itself?

Sandy was the first person to critique one of my songs at NSAI years ago. I’ve learned a lot from her, so I was really excited to write with her. She’s an amazing writer and just made the whole session so easy. And Chase is a multi-tasking wizard. I had a starting melody for the chorus and he took it to another level while he was building the track and helping with lyrics. He’s got a killer voice too. I could listen to him sing all day. 

Your overall experience with the Staff Writer for a Day Special Event?

It was an awesome experience that I’m truly grateful for. The Big Reveal session itself was really helpful. Sara, you asked a lot of great questions and Kirby offered a lot of insight. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from two pro writers, the chance to connect with Kirby and to add another song to my catalog all at the same time. I can’t say enough good things about it. Thank you Sara, Danny, Sandy, Kirby and Chase! 

Kelly, you’re so welcome! Thank YOU for sharing your experience so we can all learn from it.

And now, without further adieu, here is the work tape of the awesome song that came out of the session…

“Heart’s A Drunk” by Ramos/McKay/Fouraker

Great work, Kelly! I’m imagining myself on the dance floor right now with the one I love. I hope we will hear this on the radio soon!


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In One Day at SongU, You Can Meet With, Get Song Feedback From, and Pitch To Music Publishers.

Those of you who have been “on campus” for a while, know that at SongU our focus is on education, personal attention, and connections, even when it comes to PITCHING. That’s why the same pitch guests that are listening to your songs for their own meetings with artists and labels are also available to help you reach your songwriting goals. At SongU on any given day you can:

  • Run your demo by a publisher before pitching it…just to get a sense of whether or not you’re on target.
  • Play a simple work-tape of a song for a publisher before spending money and time on a demo.
  • Bring in a song or part of a song, even a lyric that you’ve been stuck on to get some professional direction.
  • Network directly with publishers, music licensing agents, and song pluggers.
  • Hear back about the song you pitched to them, even if they pass on it.

Featured pitches: Do you have a female Pop song that would be great for TV Shows? An incredible Contemporary Country song with harmonies that would be perfect for a newly signed trio? An interesting song with a Singer-Songwriter vibe for a major label artist? Right now we have publishers looking for those songs and more to pitch for their upcoming meetings. And we want you to put your songs out there in the music industry and pitch! But before you do…

We would also like to suggest that in a competitive industry, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity; whether it’s making your songs the best they can be, connecting with music industry professionals to find out what they’re looking for, or meeting a group of musical cohorts and peers, as well as experienced writers and publishers who will be there for you when you’re feeling a little discouraged.

woman in gray sweater typing on laptop
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

If you are not already a member of SongU, come check it out. Book a private consultation with a publisher, hit songwriter, or producer, take one of our monthly small-group song feedback sessions led by industry pros, submit a song for written feedback from an award-winning coach and pitch a song or two.

If you have any questions, see our extensive FAQ or send a “contact us” support form and we will respond directly within 48 hours (usually less).

Stay safe and have a great and inspired day!


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Pitching: It’s All About the Right Fit

Recently, we received an insightful observation in an email from SongU member, Bob Otting from Illinois, who wrote:

“I have a very, very limited number of songs that are pitch worthy – 6 max. Thus, I am sending the same songs out over and over to the same [pitch guests] on SongU and thinking, ‘These folks must hear that first note and scream ‘NOT AGAIN! WHY DO THEY KEEP SENDING ME THIS?!??” But then every once in a while I get a response: ‘Yes, Selected for this Meeting’, or a ‘Maybe’. It tells me I should keep pitching – its all about the right fit. Thanks for all you fine folks do at SongU!”

Bob’s insight is right on target. Industry pros like publishers, A&R reps, licensing agents, and recording artists listen to a lot of songs, and when listening, they often have a very narrow scope. So, they can frequently tell right away whether a given song may or may not work for a particular pitch. When you cast your song and pitch it again for a completely different project, the same set of ears listens differently. I’ve had songs turned down by an A&R person who two or three months later put the song on hold for another artist.

What does “pitch-worthy” mean? Bob adds an additional insight when he mentions his songs are “pitch-worthy,” meaning that he can objectively deem them competitive for the market place. How does he know this? He has taken the time to get feedback on his songs from mentors (that include hit songwriters, publishers, producers, and licensing agents) who have given him the thumbs-up. He probably has had to do some re-writing and tweaking to get them there, but once he got an okay, he knew his songs would be on a level playing field with the other songs being pitched in a professional arena.

Photo by Paulo Victor on Pexels.com

This Month’s Featured Pitches

Christmas/Holiday Songs. Pitch For Licensing Agent. Americana/Folk, Indie Pop, Jazz, Pop, Singer-Songwriter. Extended through August! Keep them coming! Holiday-themed songs needed now for film and advertising. Street Pitch guest, N.P., says productions are starting up for the holidays. Here’s what we need:
a. Cover songs of popular holiday songs and Christmas carols.
b. Original songs with great hooks, fun, upbeat, warm and positive…

Rose Falcon / Rodney Atkins. Pitch For Song PluggerAlternative, Americana, Singer Songwriter.  Street Pitch guest, J.N., veteran independent songplugger who has generated income for SongU members is looking for songs for Curb artists Rose Falcon and Rodney Atkins. Seeking solo songs for each as well as duets as per the following:
–Solo songs for Rose Falcon ala American singer-songwriter, Caitlyn Smith.
–Solo songs for Rodney Atkins with a Jason Isbell…

SongU.com: Online songwriting courses, co-writing, pitching, connections

Learn More About Pitching at SongU.com

Pitching at SongU is all online. Your songs go directly to our pitch guests. We’ve designed our Street pitch opportunities to connect members with several dedicated music publishers, song pluggers, and licensing agents looking for specific projects in order to mimic how almost every publishing company works. The truth is, unless you’re writing with the artist or producer, this is still a primary mode for “outside” songwriters to get a cut. It’s certainly better to have a plugger who can play the song for the A&R team, the producer, the manager and/or the artist rather than strictly have an A&R rep on who might not hear the song or have the final say in the decision making process. We also make direct connections to independent artists who are listening for their own projects. We’re really proud of our members when they have success with their writing, much like any teacher would be who sees their students successes.


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The Open-Mic Experiment

A couple of years after we got married, Danny and I packed up our hand-me-down couch, dinette set and mattress, and moved from Edison, NJ to Nashville, TN with a notion to eventually make our living as songwriters. We had at least thought ahead enough to have saved some extra money to open a savings account, and had acquired employment to give ourselves a steady income in case the “songwriting thing” didn’t happen right away. Big dreams can take awhile, as you might imagine.

Most nights we’d head out to “writer’s nights”, often to the infamous Bluebird Cafe, to listen to songwriters sing their original songs and tell the stories behind them: “Well, about a year ago my co-writer and I got together and he was telling me about his wife’s grandma and grandpa and how after 60 years of marriage, they’d been separated in a nursing home on different floors. She’d stopped talking until one day they wheeled him into the room and she asked, ‘where have you been’, and we just started writing a song about it.”

Night after night the writers would start strumming their guitars and singing a few bars until the audience realized they were listening to one of their favorite songs recorded by Kathy Mattea or Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire or Tim McGraw or Bonnie Raitt and so on. There would be an audible sigh and an eruption of appreciative applause. There’s really nothing more breathtaking then hearing a hit song sung in its simplest form by the person who wrote it.

It didn’t take long to realize that singing one’s original songs at open-mics and writer’s nights was a right of passage in Nashville…whether or not you were a performer. There were opportunities to “play out” for every level of writer from those who were fresh-off-the-turnip-truck to those who were polished and perfected. As newbies, we’d go out to listen and support the other newcomers, our incoming class, as it were.

The first time some friends asked us to perform at a writer’s night they were hosting, I was TERRIFIED. It took some serious self-talk to step up on that stage. But when it was all over, after I had heard my shaky voice coming back through the monitor and I kept going, after Danny played the last chord on his keyboard and I heard some clapping, after I had not spontaneously imploded, I had my “aha” moment. Great songwriting requires you to be at your most vulnerable and your most courageous at the same time.

Those writer’s nights were a big part of my songwriting education. They forced me to face my fears and time and again push beyond my comfort zone. They allowed me to test out new material and get better at what I was trying to do. Most importantly, playing out gave me the opportunity to interact with my peers in a supportive and constructive way, as well as to meet co-writers and friends who have lasted a life time (Shout out to Carol & Dale, and Nancy & Fett).

On August 14th, we’re inviting our SongU members to take part in this same kind of educational experience with a virtual open-mic experiment, hosted by long-time member, Mitch Townley. Whether we’re experienced or aspiring, whether we’re singers or vocally “challenged”, ready or not, here we come!


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Getting the Demo You Want: A Conversation with Producer, Justin Morgan

My guest today to talk about demo production is the owner of Pearl Snap Studios in Nashville, TN, Justin Morgan. As a singer-songwriter and producer, Justin is a sought-after mentor, teaching his monthly small-group live session: “FDBK 160 Song and Production Feedback.”

Justin, tell me how is your personal journey going in this time of Corona?

Thankfully, my immediate family has been able to avoid getting COVID but we have definitely had close friends and extended family get it which hits close to home. Industry wise, a lot of co-writes got cancelled when COVID entered the scene, which gave me space to slow down and really focus on writing for projects that I had put on the back burner. Now, my co-writes have moved to Zoom, which can be challenging, but it also opens up new opportunities to write with people who can’t be in the same room.  

Songwriting is such a personal and community driven industry and experience that this has definitely been a challenge. BUT it has a silver lining. I think difficult times breed some of the best art. It’s always been this way. I’m trying to use this time to be focused on creating great music! Luckily, technology has made that possible.

How has the pandemic affected your ability to produce demos?

We’re super thankful that our process isn’t terribly interrupted by the pandemic. Myself and my little team of players and producers are able to work remotely and still get great sounding recordings to our clients. We’ve seen an increase in songs being submitted, which I think is largely in part to writers having things they need to say about everything going on in our world.

Speaking of recordings, can you tell us what exactly is a “demo”?

When I was just starting out as an artist and writer, the word “demo” was thrown around a lot, mostly to describe rough recordings that my band would make and try to sell for $5 at our merchandise table. Now, years later I realize that the word “demo” is still a puzzling thing for a lot of writers. It’s actually an abbreviation for the word “demonstration.” A demo is a recording of a song used to demonstrate what the song might sound like if recorded by an artist. Think of it as a prototype. Car companies use prototypes to show off a car before it goes to market. They then take any feedback from trusted sources and various testing to perfect it before it takes its final form (ready to sell). A demo acts in the same capacity. A writer finishes a great song and needs to be able to show it to publishers, A&R executives, artists, or producers, hoping that ultimately an artist will fall in love with the song and record it on their album. In the songwriting world, we call it “getting a cut” when an artist chooses to record your song and put it out on an album.

Can a demo help you get a cut?

Demos can be pivotal in helping land a cut with an artist. I have personally seen songs not get cut because the demo wasn’t right, and then later, the song gets cut after the artist or A&R person hears a new demo of the same song.

Is there a difference between a demo and a master? Can you explain those terms a little bit?

It’s important to note that the artist does not typically use the demo track to record their vocals over.  The record label will use their own musicians, producer, and vocalist to create the final recording. Since demos are not intended to be used as the final recording, they will usually have restrictions from the producer or studio stating that they cannot be released commercially. A recording that is commercially released is considered a “master” and generally will cost quite a bit more to create than a demo. Sometimes a writer will negotiate a fee with the studio or producer in order to release the demo as a master, however permission will need to be granted from the producer, any players, and the vocalist who performed on the recording. 

How much does a demo cost?

Demos vary greatly in price from $150-$2,000 or even more depending on who is creating the demo and how it is being recorded. Sometimes just having an acoustic guitar or a piano along with a killer vocal is all a song needs to shine. Other times, a full production with a string quartet can be needed. It just depends on the song. Talking with your producer and mentors about what the song needs is always a good place to start.

What part does a producer like you play in the demo creation process?

Personally as a producer, I appreciate when a writer lets me have some creative leeway in the production process. I always welcome notes and reference tracks, however, being right in the middle of Music City and creating demos on a daily basis gives me a leg up on knowing what is and what is not working currently. It’s our job as producers to stay current and help your song shine like it should. This is why finding a producer you trust is very important to the process. A demo is an investment in your song and should be treated as such. 

What makes a successful demo?

A demo recording should be interesting and engaging, but should have room in the production to leave the song open to interpretation. I like to caution writers about wanting too much unique character in a demo. Some is needed and can be a great way to catch ears, but too much can pigeon hole a song and make it less recordable by a broad spectrum of artists. Here are some things to consider when you are looking to have a demo made:

  • Does this producer specialize in this style of music? 
  • Does this producer create current sounding recordings that sound similar to what I hear from current artists? 
  • Do I trust this producer’s work?
  • Is my song ready to be demo’ed?
  • Are all the lyrics how I want them?
  • Are all of the melodies dialed in? 
  • Am I financially able to make the investment in this song right now? 

Answering these questions will help you decide if it’s time to look for a great demo for your song!  

Thanks for taking the time to talk about the process of demoing songs, Justin, and for your great work mentoring the songwriters at SongU.com! I should mention that you also graciously offer a special discount to SongU members when they request a demo from Pearl Snap Studios directly from the SongU website portal.


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The Big Reveal! Staff Writer for a Day with WinSongs Music.

Recently, we invited Kirby Smith, Creative Director of WinSongs Music to the SongU virtual campus to get to know our writers. She listened to over 200 songs submitted throughout May and June and chose what she felt were the strongest of the bunch. That group of 22 songs became the list RISING STAR CONTENDERS. One final song rose to the top as the winner of “Staff Writer for the Day”. Congratulations to Kelly McKay with her brilliant song “Kiss the Hell Out of Me.” Kelly will be set up through WinSongs for a co-write session with hit songwriter, Sandy Ramos.

Because the primary goal of SongU is always to inform and educate, this week we had Kirby visit our e-classroom to find out about her work as a Creative Director (particularly in the time of Corona), as well as her listening process and what pros and cons factored into her choices for choosing the contenders, and finally to reveal her choice for Staff Writer for a Day! Thanks to Kirby for being so generous with her time, information and insights into the song selection and pitching process! Without further ado…

CONGRATULATIONS to the Top Contenders who all received the SongU “Rising Star Award”!

*Wes Bullock (4 songs)
*Elvira Cawthon (3 songs)
*Bill Gue (2 songs)
*Brenda Kornblum (2 songs)
*Brad McKinney
*David Nicastro (2 songs)
*Kenneth Riggins
*Becky Smith (2 songs)
*Dempsey Watson
*Rita Weyls

And to Kelly McKay (2 songs) from TN, SongU member since 2013, for winning the top spot of “Staff Writer for a Day” with WinSongs Music.

A round of applause to every one who submitted their songs to this challenge. As the maxim says, you can’t win the game if you’re sitting on the bench. Keep up the great work, everyone!


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GOLD STARS Report: Songs Recently Picked Up (latest update)

On our SongU virtual campus, success is achieved through our focus on education and making each song the strongest it can be BEFORE spending money on a demo. We offer numerous opportunities for songwriters to reach their goals, from one-on-one coaching to live feedback sessions, to peer and mentor co-writes.

CONGRATULATIONS to the following members for having their songs signed or pitched for the following SongU leads during the time period 8/04/2020 – 8/25/2020.

Pitch For Publisher. Christian. VARIOUS CHRISTIAN & POSITIVE COUNTRY ARTISTS. Extended! (“I’m finding some great songs from these SongU writers! Keep them coming.” – D.G.) Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs to pitch to Christian labels Daywind Records /Mountain Fever Records / Red Hen Records – 65/40 Records. Submit the following: Southern Gospel / Bluegrass and Positive Country songs, male …

      • Robbi Atkins “WE’LL GET THROUGH THIS” (Date picked up: 8/12/2020)
    • Carol Hashe rainone “WATER AND STONE” (Date picked up: 8/12/2020)
    • Shawndetta Miller “HE KNOWS” (Date picked up: 8/12/2020)
    • David Pellegrini “LAY MY BURDEN’S DOWN” (Date picked up: 8/12/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Contemporary Country, Pop, Traditional Country. BRETT KISSELL. Extended! Still current and actively looking.Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Warner Music Canada artist Brett Kissell. Brett’s last single, “Drink About Me”, went to No. 1 in Canada and currently has over 25 million streams (over 17 million streams in the USA alone). Here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV_QkrQLbxY

    • Pat Aureli “CALL YOU UP” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Adam Avery “JUST GOT REAL” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • James Hoppe “REBAL BOY N CHURCH GIRL” (Date picked up: 8/7/2020)
    • Lucy Leblanc “ANOTHER SONG IN THIS GUITAR” (Date picked up: 8/7/2020)
    • Kelly Mckay “SECTION 318” (Date picked up: 8/7/2020)
    • David Nicastro “A MILLION MILES AWAY” (Date picked up: 8/7/2020)
    • Brad Yunek “I WANT TO” (Date picked up: 8/7/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Genre Fluidity. THE BAND PERRY. Extended! Still current and actively looking. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Republic Records artist The Band Perry. Looking for songs, any tempo, The Band Perry’s new sound is about genre fluidity. Think about songs along the lines of “Better Dig Two”. Songs that inspire the mysterious, strange, unusual, eerie or …

     • John Cirillo “HURRICANE AFTER YOU” (Date picked up: 8/10/2020)
    • Luke Denison “ONE INCH AT A TIME” (Date picked up: 8/17/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. REVERIE LANE. Extended! Still current and actively looking. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Dreamlined Entertainment artist Reverie Lane. Female duo consisting of Spencer Bartoletti and Presley Tucker (daughter of Tanya Tucker). Needing hit radio singles, any tempo. Describing themselves as “nouveau traditional country duo.” Raw, honest, edgy lyrics. Think …

    • Frank Stopak “I KNOW BOYS” (Date picked up: 8/20/2020)

Pitch For Licensing Agent. Americana/Folk, Indie Pop, Jazz, Pop, Singer-Songwriter. Extended through August! Keep them coming! Holiday-themed songs needed now for film and advertising. Street Pitch guest, N.P., says productions are starting up for the holidays. Here’s what we need:
a. Cover songs of popular holiday songs and Christmas carols.
b. Original songs with great hooks, fun, upbeat, warm and positive are best, but quirky works for some films. Male …

    • John Cirillo “YOU MAKE MY CHRISTMAS” (Date picked up: 8/20/2020)
    • John Cirillo “THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF ALL” (Date picked up: 8/20/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. REBA. Street Pitch guest, D.G., veteran music publisher, who has already generated income for SongU members, is looking for songs for Universal artist Reba McEntire. Looking for songs, any tempo, in the classic style and sound of Reba McEntire. Specifically, songs that are bold, fresh, sassy, fun, lively, uninhibited and full of spirit a la “Take It Back”, “Why Haven’t I Heard From You”, also story songs, a la “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” …

    • Hollie Brogunier “A LITTLE BIT O’HONEY GOES A LONG WAY” (Date picked up: 8/25/2020)
    • Jeff Roe “WAITING ON AMAZING” (Date picked up: 8/14/2020)
    • Frank Stopak “I KNOW BOYS” (Date picked up: 8/25/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Americana, Traditional Country. JON WOLFE. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for several indie acts from Nashville for a better chance of getting a cut while many of the majors are on hiatus. SUBMIT all tempos of Traditional Country/Americana songs. For more about this artist go to http://www.jonwolfecountry.com/#home. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your song, before pitching …

    • Robbi Atkins “HERE IN THE HEARTLAND USA” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • John Cirillo “LOST AMEN” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Loralei Ells “MAMA’S OLD RADIO” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Carol Hashe rainone “CHAIN REACTION” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • David Johnson “WE’LL SLING SOME MUD” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Rita Weyls “COFFEE IN YOUR WHISKEY. RE-WRITE “ (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Rita Weyls “TAILLIGHTS IN THE DARK. DEMO” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Buc Williams “ROSES FOR NO REASON” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Brad Yunek “A FARMER’S WIFE” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)

Pitch For Publisher. Country. MATT FARRIS. Street Pitch guest and publisher, Bob D., who has already generated income for SongU.com members is looking for songs for several indie acts from Nashville for a better chance of getting a cut while many of the majors are on hiatus. MATT NEEDS: a “career breaking” Radio-friendly Country single. Mid or Uptempo. For more about this artist go to https://mattfarriscountry.com/. Pitch follow-up info: If this guest expresses interest in your …

    • Ava Paige “SLIDE IN” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Chelsie Taylor “STUCK ON YOU” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)
    • Buc Williams “ONE OF THE GUYS” (Date picked up: 8/11/2020)

And a round of applause to those marked ‘Maybe’ too. Keep up the great work, everyone!


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Featured Coach: A Conversation with Michele Vice-Maslin

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with one of SongU’s long-time mentors and coaches, two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer, Michele Vice-Maslin.

Michele Vice-Maslin

Michele, I’ve got to start by asking what’s helping you cope during this time of Corona?

Well I am a complete hermit so besides my lack of a hot tub to slip into I’m doing just fine and feel blessed! Also I really aspire to be a “Happy Girl” as one of my songs is called. That always helps one c ope, finding and holding on to their “happy”. A little “hippy dippy” I know but it’s true!

…But first off what helps me cope are my amazing Students at SongU and in my FROM SONG TO SYNC course! I am so busy coaching, mentoring, teaching, guiding, hand holding and seeing “light bulb moments” go off!… It is beyond rewarding and fulfilling!

I’ve actually never been busier so I think I am too tired to have to cope. LOL. In addition I’ve been writing with my favorite artist smooth jazz R&B legend Jonathan Butler for his new album and writing /producing songs for my own little pet artist project (2 of the songs appear on the Mpath PHENOMENAL WOMEN album series), plus other productions so I’m busy with that. I’m busy guiding my new intern Jeremiah. I’m busy pitching. I’m busy participating in tons of webinars mostly about all things music biz like Neighboring Rights, The MLC, Music Licensing, and so forth. I’ve been speaking on a bunch of webinars too… and so on and so on. All a great distraction from the difficult “mess” at hand that we all share.

And to top it off, as you and I discussed a little while back Sara…all the cooking. OH MY! Right now it’s after midnight I’ve been up working since 7am and I still have dinner to cook. Hahaha No time to think of coping

How has the current state of the world affected your writing, production, and pitching?

It hasn’t much affected the producing and pitching and solo writing. I am still doing that. Yes there are much less specific projects in production but still I always have backlogs of new songs that need to be pitched and brought to the attention of the “powers that be”. It has however very much affected the co-writing for me. I don’t like to collaborate virtually at all!  In fact I usually have a strict policy of “in the same physical room at the same time from complete scratch”. The only person I write virtually with is my main collaborator Larry Treadwell whom I’ve worked with for 39 years and know so well. I’ve also made an exception with Jonathan whom I’ve worked with for 20 years.  

Actually I’m always impressed by the Songu members I coach and their ability to co-write virtually even before the pandemic.

What qualities do you look for in a co-writer?

Of course if they are what I consider a good writer, which is subjective any way but after that mostly I look for someone I like, who is a nice human, a good human, an honest human. 

As a coach and mentor, you inspire so many songwriters. What inspires you?

The songwriters I coach and mentor! They inspire me everyday!  Some of them are soooo talented they could be teaching the class!  In the last 2 weeks alone I have heard some really amazing songs from them!  Life itself as well has always inspired me! Paying attention to all that is going on. Listening, watching, participating.

Do you have a favorite story you can tell us about one of your song placements? 

I have so so many but probably it’s my first one. That is what is coming to mind. It was 1987 and I was the songwriter, producer, arranger, creator of a “performance art project”. I had films and slide shows and actors doing skits accompanying the songs. The songs themselves and the whole project made Bjork look “normal”. 🙂 The whole thing was beyond alternative and avant-garde. I had a friend who was directing his first feature film TAPEHEADS. It stars Tim Robbins, John Cusack and the R&B/Soul legends Sam Moore (Of Sam & Dave) and Junior Walker (Of Junior Walker And The All Stars) Sam & Junior were playing the fictitious duo “The Swanky Modes” in the film. The director(my friend) asked me if I had any friends that created R&B/Soul music and if so could they submit some tunes for the film. So I grabbed my writing partner Larry, whom I previously mentioned, and we wrote and produced up (after much careful research and listening) a song to submit. Now remember I am a weird “Performance Artist”  who writes very odd songs, so what to do what to do… how to submit…? The director (who actually directed the films and slide shows in my performance art project) would never have considered any R&B/Soul song I might come up with so…I submitted it under a pseudonym… and voila!! In the movie. With the legendary Sam Moore and Jr. Walker recording it. My first cut and placement at the same time. In a major big budget film…and then haha I became knows as an R&B writer. Crazy stuff! I think the moral of that story is just go for it!!! Give it a try! Ya never know…

What music have you been listening to lately?

I listen to so much music. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop as I am producing a really cool hip hop/rapper artist. Khalid, Kanye, Money Can’t Buy, A.J. Tracey, Troye Sivan, and others. Also a lot of pop music. Katy Perry, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Sean Mendez, Jonas Brothers, Charlie Puth, Kim Petrus, Tov Lo, Hayley Williams, Ellie Goulding… so so many and the songs of my friends, colleagues and students. Every day I listen to new music. I subscribe to some online newsletters that are always introducing me to new music.

Thank you, Michele, for offering professional advice and songwriting education to our SongU writers ! You rock!

Thank you for these really great questions Sara and thank you so much to you for having me. It’s really an honor. This is my 14th at Songu and it has enriched my life beyond measure. I’m so proud to be a part of the Songu family! I love my students!

I can’t believe it’s been 14 years already! Time flies when you’re having fun (and learning new things all the time). Thanks again for your time, Michele!

ABOUT COACHING AT SONGU.COM

In addition to our 20+ live audio/video small-group song feedback courses each month, our members have the opportunity to forge creative relationships with any of award-winning coaches in the form of individual written feedback with detailed song (or lyric-only) evaluations and constructive suggestions emphasizing lyrics, music/production, originality, commercial potential, and even a chance to be awarded “Best of SongU!”

HERE’S WHAT OUR MEMBERS ARE SAYING ABOUT COACH #2245 (aka Michele Vice-Maslin)!

“I am really thrilled with your Best of SongU recognition – you had awarded that for [my other song] ‘Marisol’ as well – and it means a lot. Both were probably more work than I would care to admit so it feels great to be recognized. I’m so happy that you liked it and found it relatable – THANKS!” -J.M., CT

“Thank you for the feedback. Once again you’ve opened my eyes through your insight. I definitely want to get away from cliche writing and hope to look get better at recognizing it when I write. Thx again!”D. Brown, GA

About Michele

About Michele: This coach is a two-time Emmy Award winning songwriter and producer who has written hit songs in multiple genres for artists all over the world, as well as having several thousand film/TV placements. This coach is also a music producer and music publisher who is well versed in song pitching and placing, and business issues pertaining to the music industry. Specializes in evaluating Pop, R&B, Hot AC, Top 40, Dance, Alternative, Urban, Country, Singer-Songwriter, Film/TV/Songs for Sync Licensing.

Michele’s Coaching Philosophy: “My coaching philosophy is one of empowerment and inspiration along with some real and straightforward honesty about what I believe is important in the way of crafting a great song – for personal satisfaction of course – but also for commercial success.”