Songspection - Thoughtful Song Reviews

Note: This is a "beta" version of this page set up at this time to check links, etc. If you are interested in participating in this program when it becomes available, please use our contact page to express your interest, and we will contact you when the program is up and running.

Are you a member of the Songwrangler community who is looking for honest feedback on your songs? Are you willing to take that feedback seriously and not run away screaming that someone said you had an "ugly baby" or some such? If so, I may be able to help. And, as a Songwrangler, you can try the service for free.

As an avocational musician and songwriter who wants to give younger musicians the kind of support and encoragement I needed when I was their age, I've created and created links to countless resources meant to help fellow unsigned musicians. At the same time I can't help notice three things:

  • Almost every wannabe songwriter wants SOMEBODY to listen to their songs and tell them if they're "any good."

  • Many wannabe songwriters could use some help. Sometimes simple things are holding them back. Sometimes the problems are huge. But the wannabes have no way of knowing which is which when their friends and family keep telling them they're wonderful, and everyone else clears their throat and changes the subject..

  • Most wannabe songwriters who ask for "honest opinions" are really just looking for reassurance that they are writing great songs already and don't need to change or improve anything.

If the last item describes you, you're doing fine, everything you're doing is top-notch, and I can't help you. Move along. :-)

If, on the other hand, you really want to know what other people think of your stuff, there are a handful of ways to do it:

  • Find a "songwriters" circle. Or start one. We have one here, but you have to sign up to the discussion forums to see it, contribute to discussion, or ask other folks for help with your song.
  • Join a reputable paid service like Clay Mills and Marty Dodson's Song Town USA. I think you can sign up for a month at a time, so if it turns out it's not right for you, you haven't dumped $1000 into their services up-front like some people demand.

What doesn't work, for the most part, is dumping your songs on people, either online or by handing out CDs. Most people who are qualified to give you worthwhile feedback these days are just too busy to spend time sorting out problems in other people's songs. Not only that, they've all been burned by wannabe's who say they want an honest opinion taking offense at anything that sounds the least bit critical, then badmouthing them all over the community.

Most people who have "arrived" are also shy about listening to songs from people they don't already know and trust - too many folks over the years have been burned by lawsuits from wannabes claiming that their latest hit is reminiscent of a (lousy) demo they sent in years ago. So unsolicited songs tend to go right into the trash or the trash folder.

Why Recording and Promoting Songs That Need Work Can Waste Your Money - Many independent wannabe singer/songwriters put real time and money into recording and promoting songs that, frankly, could use some work. I can't begin to tell you how many folks I know who have spent countless hours recording and promoting songs that "miss the mark," only because they're working in a creative vacuum, or none of their bandmates have the nerve to tell them the second line of the chorus sucks or whatever.

Worse yet are the folks who've fallen for con games, like the fake contests that promise to get your songs on the radio if you send them $50 a monty or more indefinitely, or the fake "record labels" that are really third-class recording studios drumming up money by telling people they will surely recoup their investment if they pay up front to have a CD made. For a little more information on such scams, check out Paul's article "Avoid Bloodsuckers that Target Musicians

I Might Be Able to Help I usually don't tell people the truth about songs they send me, because they don't really want to know what I think of them. But I can help folks who are looking for honest feedback.

So I am using this page to give folks an opportunity to send me their songs and get an honest opinion. If I can't help you, because of not "getting" your genre or some such, I will tell you by return e-mail and there will be no harm, no foul. If I give you an opinion that you find helpful, you may reimburse me either as much as you can afford, or as much as you think my feedback is worth, whichever is lower. :-)

Songs I Want to Hear - That said, our mutual success in this endeavor will be more likely if you have songs that I'm equipped to judge. So, while this list isn't exclusive, it is meant to give you an idea of whether our partnership is likely to succeed.

What I Can't Do For You - I can't forward your songs to publishers or A&R people. Also, I can't tell you how to turn your song into a "radio hit," which takes a specific formula that differs by genre (and many of which make me want to run from the room screaming by the third hearing).

What I Can Do For You - Depending on how far along you are with your song, I may be able to:

  • Suggest tweaks to the theme or focus that might make the song more compelling
  • Point out critical mistakes
  • Point out places where the song is too vague or cliched or just plain uninteresting
  • Suggest melodic or harmonic improvements
  • Suggest better phrases, imagery, or metaphors
  • Others as the situation arises

If the biggest thing you can do for the song is to change its direction, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on individual lines. On the other, if it's pretty solid and compelling throughout, but one or two lines is holding it back from excellence, I'll try to help you with those.

I will stop short of "co-authoring" the song with you, however, except in special circumstances that we work out ahead of time.

Iterative Passes - If you "workshop" a song I've looked at once and want to resubmit it, I'll be glad to take a look, depending on how the queue is for the next pass.

How You Proceed

The process looks like this:

  • You apply for membership in the Songwrangler community by registering on the forum page. Go to the forum page and click on "Register" in the upper left hand corner. Yes, I ask for more information than 99% of the forums out there, but you are asking to join a community where trust is critical. None of your information (besides the nickname you choose) is ever visible online or shared with anyone else. But this is the only way I can enforce my zero tolerance policy for trolls, scammers, and haters.
  • On the first day of every month, I open submissions to the Songspector's program.
  • You submit a song for our "Songspectors" program. (You do this and the following steps once per song, unless you want to send the same song through twice.)
  • If your submission is accepted for review, you will be notified.
  • You will receive the review for your submission through e-mail. Please note that all of this takes place before you send anybody one cent, much less send out your credit card information or the like.
  • In the review e-mail, we will include a link to a feedback page ("Client Feedback Page 1") where you can rate various aspects of your experience and provide as much feedback as you wish. Obviously, we can't force you to fill this out, but we want feedback on our services as much as you need feedback on your songs.
  • When you have completed the feedback page and hit "Submit," you will be taken to a second feedback page ("Client Feedback Page 2"). There you will have the option of showing us show what you think about the value of our resources, our review, and our suggestions in a more tangible way. (It involves Paypal and a range of suggested values). This is entirely optional, but it is one way you can help us keep our resources going and growing. And frankly, if we've kept you from wasting hundreds of dollars recording and promoting a song that isn't as good as it can be, we don't think giving you a way to show your appreciation is really out of line.

  • Finally, while we're getting this program "off the ground," I can only properly review about two songs a month. That said, if I can't or choose not to review a song for some reason, I'll skip to the next song. So every month, I'll open the submissions up until I have 20 songs in the queue, then I'll close submissions. I'll get back to each submitter who made the "cut" before the next submission cycle. So you'll know whether to bother resubmitting again. Then on the first day of the following month, I'll open the queue again.

    How to Submit - First, join our community by signing up for the Creek Don't Rise discussion forums.

    Next, use the form below to submit your song (maximum of three per month, please). The song does not need to be professionally recorded, or even finished. We'll work with what you have.

    I'll contact you by e-mail to let you know if you made it into this month's queue, and to verify your information. I will also ask you to include a copy of the lyrics, and anything else I need. If you don't hear back from me within a few days, please check your spam folder. If you use "whitelist" software to filter your incoming messages, you won't hear back from me, because sheer volume of messages requires me to block bounced e-mail addresses permanently.

    If you don't submit the song within a reasonable period hours of me getting back to you, I will skip to the next song and move you to the end of that month's queue.

    Submission Form - Use the following form to apply for a place in the "queue" for this month's submissions.

    Have you signed up for the Songwranglers Forum using the Forum Signup page? (If not, please go do that and come back.)

    First Name

    Last Name

    Your email address
    Your email address again, just to be sure
    Song Title (required)
    Song URL (if applicable)
    Your Music Web Page (if you have one)
    Your Facebook Musician Page (if you have one)
    Your Facebook Page (if you do not have a Musician Page)

    How I'll Get Your Feedback Back to You - I will e-mail my comments directly to you.

    How You Will Give Your Feedback Back to Me - Anything specific you want to share with me directly, you may do so by e-mail. If you felt my feedback was helpful, and you can afford to support our efforts, use the little form below to do so. Again, payment isn't mandatory, but lack thereof may move your next submission to the back of the queue, depending on how many submissions I get each month.

    In addition, I ask that you log into the Honest Opinion Feedback discussion on the Songwrangler's section of the forum and provide responsible public feedback. (I reserve the right to delete or edit anything that I deem "irresponsible.") People who provide feedback will get moved up in the next month's queue over folks who don't.

    Paul Race

    This is how you show YOUR Honest Opinion of Paul's Feedback

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