Writing From a Title

songwritingby: Peter Linseman

A strong title can ensure that people will remember your song. Many music supervisors and publishers have to sift through thousands of titles to find the right song for publishing and licensing opportunities, so your title is a key marketing tool.

Choose fresh and innovative words and themes, then mix them together with the common words and themes. An example of this would be “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, or “Stairway to Heaven”.

As you build a list of potential titles, why not create a “Hook Book?” Most Nashville songwriters keep there titles and themes in a Hook Book and refer to it in co-writing sessions.

Titles, Titles, and more Titles

Use this list of title categories to brainstorm ideas on new titles which will hopefully lead you to new songs.

  1. Questions: What’s Love Got to do with it?
  2. Commands/Requests: Lets go crazy, Beat it
  3. Political/Social, Current Events: Imagine, We are the World
  4. Character/People: Alejandro, Vincent
  5. Places: Born in the U.S.A, N.Y. N.Y.
  6. Objects: Little Red Corvette
  7. Emotional State/ Condition of Mind: Just Can’t Get Enough, All Shook Up
  8. Action/Activities: Dancing in the street, Run to You
  9. Dates/Times: Workin’ 9-5, Last Friday Night
  10. Metaphors: Love is a Battlefield, Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall
  11. Similes: Like a Rock, Like a Virgin
  12. Numbers: 9 Crimes, Route 66
  13. Rhyming: My Guy, Rock around the Clock
  14. Alliteration: Seasons in the sun, The Way We Were
  15. Assonance: Rolling in the Deep, Sweet Dreams
  16. Music: Play that Funky Music, Your Song
  17. Novelty/Nonsense Word Titles: MMMMBop, Na Na Hey Hey
  18. Dance: Twist, Macarena
  19. One word: Blow, Fame
  20. Opposites: Ebony & Ivory, Sound of Silence
  21. Humorous: Forget You (FU)
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Your life could be a write-off – Expert advice from a rock’n’roll accountant

Creative Commons licensed image by 401(K) 2012.
Creative Commons licensed image by 401(K) 2012.

By Jae Gold

In the songwriting business, “reasonable expectation of profit” can be significantly different from other businesses. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) admits that there’s often a longer ramp-up period before a songwriter starts making a profit. That’s why it’s important for artists to work with an accountant who knows the business.

An experienced entertainment accountant knows how to ensure that your losses are allowed by the CRA year after year until you make a profit, or until you stop trying. But let’s hope you keep trying! Jae Gold (rocknrollaccountant.com) has worked with many of the songwriters you hear on radio, and graciously offers his expertise by answering questions posed by S.A.C. members.

What are the most common mistakes made by artists when filing taxes? Missing filing deadlines; under-reporting income; not claiming allowable expenses; claiming expenses that are too personal in nature to qualify as business deductions; not keeping receipts; and not hiring a professional accountant.

Where do you claim grant revenue when filing taxes? Generally, grant revenue is claimed as income in the year it’s received. However, it does not make sense to claim the grant in the year you receive it if you don’t actually spend the grant money until the following year.

If you receive a forgivable loan from FACTOR, when do you declare it as income? How do you deal with repayments? If a loan is forgiven, the loan becomes income. If you make repayments before taking the loan into income, they’re considered a reduction of the original loan. If you make repayments after the loan has been taken into income, they’re treated as an expense.

Do I pay tax on foreign sales of CDs or downloads? All worldwide sales must be reported on your tax return.

What rate of HST do I charge a Canadian purchaser versus a purchaser outside Canada? The rate for Canadian purchases is the rate deter- mined by the purchaser’s mailing-address province. (Consult the CRA website for rates.) No HST is charged for out-of-country purchases.

An independent songwriter sells a CD for $15. What taxes should be paid? The $15 is reported on your tax return, along with all self-em- ployed income. For sales in Canada, you also collect GST/HST on behalf of the government.

When should an artist get an HST number? After your sales total more than $30,000, registration is mandatory. All songwriters should register for the GST/HST system right away because SOCAN collects the tax on their behalf on all royalties. All SOCAN royalties are GST/HST “taxes paid” by the time the songwriter gets the royalty cheque. Therefore every GST/HST return filed by a songwriter typically results in a refund of all the taxes paid on their business purchases.

Do artists need to pay tax on earnings from playing abroad? All Canadian residents must report income no matter where in the world it’s earned. International tax treaties help ensure that taxes you pay abroad are credited on your Canadian tax return. (Seek accounting advice before touring the US in order to obtain the correct tax ID numbers. Unless each individual Canadian in the tour files a Central Withholding Agreement with the IRS, the payer must withhold 30% tax.)

How does an artist prove CD sales from live shows? Keep accurate records. All income needs to be reported.

I had my deductions refused by the CRA. What should I do?  Hire an accountant to determine if the CRA made an error. If so, the accountant will set in motion a Notice of Objection. The case will be as- signed to an appeals officer.

When should I consider incorporating? By incorporating, you can benefit from a lower rate of tax (about 16% on the first $500,000 of profit). A general rule of thumb would be to incorporate when you’re making more money than you need to live on.

D. Jae Gold is a Chartered Accountant & Certified Fraud Examiner with principally entertainment/cultural industry clients. www.rocknrollaccountant.com

Reprinted from a previous edition of Songwriters Magazine.

Protecting your Creative Voice: Tools to staying focused, motivated and optimistic while creating.

Image by John Liu courtesy of Creative Commons licence.
Image by John Liu courtesy of Creative Commons licence.

by Gail Packwood

One of the challenges of a career in the creative arts is that there’s no right or wrong. There’s no definitive road map or method of determining success. Keep this in mind on days when creating feels more difficult than others, when the inner critic is loud and persistently gnawing away at your self-esteem. The songwriter’s creative voice is just as important to nurture and support as is the physical voice. It takes the same focus, time and commitment.

Check your physicality

A singer would not consider performing without a vocal warm-up. The physical and mental demands of performing are similar to those
of a songwriter’s off-stage creative period. It’s therefore important to regularly ‘check in’ with yourself. How do you feel physically? If you don’t ask yourself this question, you may overlook something that’s inhibiting your work simply because you haven’t acknowledged it. Physical aches can affect concentration as much as loud noises can distract you. Take a moment to stop and just breathe before turning back to your work. Have you created a physical environment that enhances your creative process?

Visualize, declutter and breathe

Visualization is one way to help manage thoughts and emotions. It can help calm you, and declutter the to-do lists and the life pressures that interrupt the creative process. For the brain, imagining something and actually doing it have the same positive effect. By taking a moment to pause, breathe and mentally take yourself through your next creative steps, you can receive the same mental benefits as you do from actually completing the task. This should help you feel more focused and confi- dent. Taking a walk can have an equally positive effect by removing your- self from the work at hand but not spending that time ‘doing’ something else.

Be kind to yourself

We are all our own worst critic. Silencing negative inner-voices is a key step in maintaining healthy creativity. A slight change in how we ac- knowledge an event can make a huge difference. Recognize and replace self-defeating thoughts by analyzing how the event made you feel. What was your initial response? What would be the reasonable response (imagining that it involved someone else and not yourself )? Give your- self the same kindness that you’d give others. You’re worth it!

Gail Packwood was previously the Executive Director of the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation (ahcf.ca).

Originally published in the 2011/12 edition of Songwriters Magazine.