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the realities of being a
professional songwriter #3

with BMG songwriter/producer and A&R Freakchild

Leo Chantzaras BMG songwriter and senior A&R manager at Imagem, Leo “Freakchild” Chantzaras, presents a short, sharp and characteristically outspoken blog on the realities of pursuing a career as a songwriter in the modern age.

Chantzaras draws from a well of experience having contributed his skills to a number of top selling international albums, including Sakis Rouvas’ latest #1 multi-platinum album, and gold-selling albums by NEWS and Koichi Domoto, and he has also contributed songs to X-Factor.

If you want to get in contact with Freakchild with any comments then mail him here.

#23 | All the little things

Aug 19, 2014

When submitting your songs to A&Rs don't overlook the little things that help make you look professional and also get you noticed.

Let’s start with an every day happening: naming the mp3 file you want to submit. I’m sure it’s something lots of you have never really thought about, but there’s a big difference between naming an mp3 like this:


and naming it like this:

WRITER - Song Name (Publisher).mp3

Which of the two examples do you think would make most sense to the A&R recipient and would therefore be more inviting to them? Version one would only ever make sense if you named all your mp3s like that, but even then it still looks shit and there’s no reason why you would want to submit something that looks shit.

Another every day happening is sending your music out. Don’t make it so complicated. Don’t send out emails with multiple mp3s; keep it simple, stick with one.

Secondly, don’t use file transfer services like WeTransfer or Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) just to deliver one song. That’s ridiculous. An A&R wants instant access, so you should send one song per mp3 or send a link that makes the songs immediately accessible via an online platform like Soundcloud, for example, and make it downloadable with a private link.

Also don’t send songs as unnecessarily large mp3 files. That is stupid too. The quality loss between an mp3 that is 3-5 MB to one that is 8-10MB will not make any difference. So don’t stress the A&R’s email account.

Let’s move onto the emails themselves. Right from the subject line, the email should set out to grab the A&R’s attention. A mail headed “New song for your artist” might make the writer’s intentions clear enough but it’s just not very interesting. So try to use catchy words to engage the A&R; keep it concise and punchy for maximum impact; and also be sure to highlight any relevant achievements. If you’ve had a Top 10 tune then write something like: “Top 10 writer offers new tune“. If you’re published then use that publisher’s name, for example: “Universal writer offers new song”.

Once you’ve sent a song out don’t follow up after a few days. Leave it with the A&R for three weeks at least and if you’ve not received a response then send a polite email asking whether they’ve heard it and if they have any feedback. If they don’t reply to that then they most likely didn’t like it. Usually if an A&R likes a song he will contact you. If he doesn’t that doesn’t mean he hasn’t heard it, he just probably didn’t like it and didn’t bother to tell you. Yeah it’s shit but that’s how it goes. Live with it.

But if you do get a response, and you’re not happy with it don’t get pissed. If an A&R tells you your music is not good enough or not well produced then he might well be a fool, but equally he might be right too and you’re just too deaf to hear it. So always at least try to take onboard what he has to say.

To reply with something like “Well I’m sorry if you can’t hear the hit” or “It seems like you’re not able to hear the quality of the song” is just bullshit. First of all you will just annoy the guy/girl who could well have loved your next tune. Secondly, every one of your submissions that doesn't match the standards of today’s productions will always have a low chance of getting cut. And I’m sorry to say it but from my experience over 90% of the music submitted these days is just mediocre and deserves to be passed on.

And last but not least, never ever send just snippets of your songs or songs with annoying peeps in it. Some writers think they need to be protect their work and so put shit like that in their songs. If an A&R likes your tune they will contact you, they will not steal it.


#22 | Shut the Fu__ Up!

Jul 22, 2013

If you’re an artist and lucky enough to get a famous producer/writer to work with you on your own material, remember to always keep one thing in mind: "Shut the fuck up!"

Why? I’ll tell you why.

Successful producers and writers are busy. Busy means they have a lot to do. And yet despite this, they’ve decided to spend time working on your material – you lucky ass. That in return means you need to be patient because successful people can’t just drop all their regular stuff for three months just to work with you.

You probably think that you’re the best thing that has ever happened to them, but guess what? You’re not. You're just some talented singer who's lucky enough to be supported by a successful producer/writer who has already proven that they can do it – something you’ve yet to do.

So if you want to work with successful people you have learn to wait and be ready when they call. If you want it done faster then work with unsuccessful people. They might not be as good but they’ll certainly have the time.


#21 | The Pros and Cons of Song Briefs & Artist Specific Camps

May 9, 2013

Let me talk about song briefs and artist specific songwriter camps. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to both.

Let’s start with the briefs. When an artist is set to record, their A&R will sit down with them or their management and write up some ideas on the direction they think the music should take. These form the songwriter briefs.

Now the problem you find with briefs is that the direction tends to change before the final songs are chosen. So by the time you finished writing the “electro” tune the brief asked for the A&R and artist have changed their minds and now want a “rock” style.

So, if you were to ask me I’d say, never write to briefs! Not unless you have a direct “in” with the A&R and you’ve talked with them about it first. Focus instead on writing good songs. You can always check the briefs to see if you’ve already written a song in the requested style and then just submit that.

Now onto artist specific camps. These are where you have, for example, 10+ writers being paid, all expenses included, to attend a studio complex for 2 weeks to write for the new Rihanna record. It all sounds well and good but that type of set-up tends to only happen in the US and it’s very hard to get an invite to one – you already need to be in the champions league. Plus those types of camps are not for every writer.

The equivalent camps in Europe usually expect you to pay all the expenses and in return you probably get a 10% chance of getting a cut. My advice is don’t attend them! Again, check if you have anything suitable for that artist in your collection and submit that. An A&R will not pass on a great song.

So ultimately the only thing you really have to care about is writing great songs and sending them out where they fit.


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