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Co-writes On The Album?


I really don’t know how to approach the Five-Dollar Album. I don’t know if it ought to be all my stuff or include some of the co-writes. I have four songs by other people that I’ve musicated and recorded, plus the “Alphabet Without U” rap where the words were done by me and the “beat” by Jerry Miller (dba zonemusicinc), and the recordings are pretty good; any or all would be good inclusions on an album. The co-writes are:

Alabama Blues, by Diane Ewing

Tune the Strings of My Soul, by Rev. Skip Johnson

Sometimes She Could Scream, by Donna Devine

Simple Questions, by O.R. Vindstad

Why include the co-writes? It’s not like I don’t have enough stuff of my own. Basically, they’re very good (I have high standards where words are concerned); I like what I did with them, and am proud to be associated with them. I like listening to the recordings over and over (good sign), and I figure if they bring tears to my eyes and a catch in my throat, they might do the same for others. (For that reason, I wouldn’t put them all on the same album. Can’t be too serious.) In all cases, they push envelopes, and they make you think—and the latter is the primary purpose of the songs I write myself. They’re marketable—they’re something somebody famous could make a whole lot of money off of. And those writers could really use some attention, even if it’s just the little attention I can generate.

The more I read up on it, the more I think it’s possible to bypass the publishing even on the co-writes. That would be a better deal for the writers; since they’d retain publishing rights, they’d each get 9.1 cents per song per record manufactured, instead of 4.55 cents. The trade-off, I think, is they’d have to take care of registering their own copyrights and sign themselves up with a Performing Rights Organization (BMI is free for writers).

It wouldn’t make a difference in putting the album together. In both cases, I think, there are two songs of mine I’d re-do—I’d want to correct the timing on “Doing Battle with the Lawn,” and I’d really like a harmonica lead on “Armadillo on the Interstate.” I may see “Doc” Wagner at the Saturday thing at the Tillamook Library, and if so will ask him if he’d do it. “Doc,” who used to be my dentist (now retired), is one of the best blues harp players it has ever been my pleasure to know—there’s a lot of talent hiding out here on the Coast.

So maybe what ought to govern the decision is whether the co-authors themselves are willing and interested. I don’t know if they would be. Yes, there’s a little money in it—a very little money. Main thing they’d get out of it is the pat on the back of having somebody who does sell records (me) and has a certain (if small) reputation as a writer wanting their stuff on their (my) album—and they’d be able to tell people they were marketing the stuff to that their song is on an album, and it is selling. And if they’re not interested, well, we go with my stuff.

UPDATES: The Joe Songbook is done, and given away for Christmas (and they liked their present). If I make copies to sell, they’ll have to be black-and-white—color printing is way too expensive. The “Broken Record” CD is still waiting on three songs (of 16), and three photos (of 19), and I have heard from two of the composers warning me they’d be late. Don Varnell was happy with my “musication” of “Another Crappy Christmas” (it does have a melody that’s hard to get out of one’s head).

On the “what’s Joe going to do for a living?” front, I got three rejection letters in one week (great Christmas present), though I do have one interview ten days from now, and may get another (I do tend to be obsessively hopeful). And I have more jobs to apply for. I realize there’s only a tenuous connection between applying for a job and getting interviewed, but I remain obsessively hopeful. One has to, I think.



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