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"Tips for the Musically Ambitious"



Tip #1 - The music industry is a business.

  • If you've had little business experience or lack a basic understanding of how the community operates, you should learn. Why? Because you cannot succeed at something without possessing an understanding of what it is.
  • Talent, musical proficiency, dedication to your goals & self-confidence are prerequisites, not your ticket to stardom. Think of them in as you would a college degree. The degree guarantees you nothing, other than an opportunity to compete.
  • Intangibles like "creative integrity" may be of value to you & your peers, but NOT to most businesses. Typically, they care about 2 things - making money & saving money. When you present yourself to industry representatives, keep that in mind.
  • If you're unclear about how someone might "save" a record label money, I'll list a couple examples:
  1. Think about the huge growth of the pop, rap & hip-hop genres in recent years. The bulk of the music & arrangements for those genres is created via software & sampling. That means fewer session musicians, less studio time and lower overall cost of production.
  2. If you happen to be an artist with a huge online fanbase/following (Justin Bieber), that's tangible selling point. A ready-made fanbase means lower promotional cost for the label…once again, saving them money.


Tip #2 - Beware of the "Scamortunity"


As you might guess, the term is meant to describe a scam disguised as an opportunity

What does a scamortunity look like? Not an easy question to answer, since they come in many forms. 

Typically, the better it sounds…

  • the more skeptical you should be
  • the more extensively it should be researched
  • the more reluctant you should be to participate

Most cons (scams) are designed to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities. 

In the case of songwriter/musicians, those vulnerabilities are well known & numerous. Don't allow belief in yourself, belief in the uniqueness of your creations & your desire for recognition to become liabilities in your quest for success. 

Remember....in business, opportunities rarely come looking for you. With very few exceptions, they won't!


Tip #3 - Nothing is owed to you.


Many in this business develop an attitude that the world/industry owes them something. Simply put, that is not a productive mindset & will do nothing to further your career.

  • As I mentioned earlier, countless hours of dedication to your craft, skills, talent & creative ability are prerequisites, not entitlements! Most of your competitors (fellow musician/songwriters) have worked just as hard as you have.
  • Forget about concepts like fairness. The world of business is based on many rules, but fairness isn’t one of them.


Tip #4 - For God sake, spend a couple dollars & get your finished material properly copyrighted.


We're only too happy to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone that'll be obsolete next year. ATM fees, wireless streaming fees, credit card interest, bank overdraft fees, apps....all things we've come to accept as unavoidable expenses.

BUT, when it comes time to spend $55 on legal protection for your artistic creations, we'd rather not.

Seriously....$55 ???

That's the current online filing fee for the U.S. Library of Congress (multiple works by a single author). 

To the best of my knowledge, a Library of Congress registration is the only universally recognized method for proving legal ownership of a work.

There are legitimate legal reasons for choosing this method & I encourage you to verify that for yourselves.


Here are a number of resource links:

United States Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/

Why Should I Register My Work? FAQ page http://copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#automatic

Copyright FAQ - http://copyright.gov/help/faq/index.html

Online Copyright Registration - http://copyright.gov/eco/


Tip #5 – Remember….it's all about the vocals !


It’s common for recording songwriters/bands to underestimate the importance of the primary vocal track. Bottom line, vocals are "Priority #1" & should be treated as such.

Why you ask?


To the ordinary listener, vocals are the most important element of a song.  

Sure…everything else matters! Just not as much.


Common Reasons for Substandard Vocals: 

· Internal Band Dynamics - every band member wants to feel like their part is essential to the success or failure of a project. But nothing outranks melody & the singer's presentation of it.

· When recording demos or finished material, vocals are one of the last things to be dealt with. If you’re working in a pro studio, you’re probably paying an hourly rate. If that is the case, you should budget your session time carefully.

  You can’t afford to blow your budget on preliminary musical tracks.


Take whatever precautions are appropriate. When it’s all said & done, the vocal track will represent your song.

My advice…shoot for the highest quality you can reasonably achieve. :)


Tom Hoffman
"About Me" Muse Member pg.


Tom Hoffman YouTube


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Tom - you forgot Tip #6 - Don't Give Up Your Day Job!

There are literally tens of thousands of people trying to make a name for themselves as a songwriter (let alone people who are not songwriters trying to make it as a performer).  How many make a living at it?


Copyright - this only applies in the USA, other countries are different .  Copyright of a single song is $35, but if you want to copyright a whole album, you do it as a 'collection' and its $55.

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Tom - you forgot Tip #6 - Don't Give Up Your Day Job!

Excellent point Mike! ;)



Copyright - this only applies in the USA, other countries are different .

I was part of an overseas forum for more than a decade Mike. We ALWAYS recommended Library of Congress filing, regardless of the country.

Yeah, there are other ways in which to file, but should you find yourself bringing suit in a US court of law, there is no legal equivalent to the Library of Congress registration.

That being said, it's still an individual choice. I simply offered my recommendation.


An excerpt from the L.o.C. FAQ page (link contained in article)...



Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.


My understanding is that you are not eligible to recover statutory damages or attorney fees unless you possess official L.o.C. registration.




Copyright of a single song is $35, but if you want to copyright a whole album, you do it as a 'collection' and its $55.

My apologizes, I stand corrected. Last time I filed, bulk works were still $35.

After checking their site, it appears you are correct.

Appropriate changes have already been made to the original article.

Thanks! :D

From the website https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ04.pdf_ - 



Registrations online $35 Single Application (single author, same claimant, one work, not for hire)

$55 Standard Application (all other filings)




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For sure, in the USA, the Copyright Office filing is the only sure thing when it comes to a court of law.  (There are still people insisting the old 'certified mail to yourself and don't open it' method works)


Yeah, the fee went from $35 to $55 at some point between 2014 and 2016.  Recently they have also changed the rule for recordings - where before you just needed to send in an electronic copy (MP3) of the work, now, if you also offer physical copies for sale (CDs), you also have to mail in 2 copies of the CD.

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Yep, no doubt the times they are-a-changin' ;) 

When I first filed back in 98, I'm thinking the fee was a flat $20 for a cassette tape full of material.

Of course, we tend to forget about the incidentals like...

  • Time it took to create the cassette, labeling, etc, trips to the Post Office
  • Cost of the cassette, case, bubble mailing envelope
  • Cost of mailing everything "certified", so you'd have a signed record of receipt for 6-8 months it took to get the actual registration materials via snail-mail :rolleyes:


Type of Work: Music
Registration Number / Date: PAu002337236 / 1998-09-14
Title: Songs by T.E.H. : vol. 1.
Description: Sound cassette.
Notes: Lyrics & music.
Copyright Claimant: Thomas E. Hoffman
Date of Creation: 1998
Rights and Permissions: Rights & permissions info. on original appl. in C.O.
Variant title: Songs by T.E.H. : vol. 1
Names: Hoffman, Thomas E.



Thanks again for the feedback & updates Mike!


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I copyrighted my first songs in 1984, I think.  Think it was $15 (with a cassette) back then.  My copyright certificates have come fairly quickly the last few times - usually within 2 months of registration.

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100% agree with vocals being the single most important factor. Hence that's where I put most of my money when I bought gear for my studio, mic and pre amp, because, as said by the new polar music prize winners, nothing else matters. :P


Good stuff Tom! Thanks for sharing.

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