Monday, October 6, 2014


Members of the Dallas Songwriter Association and friends of the DSA,

I would like to ask you all for your help.  We are striving to keep the DSA a viable association that benefits our members and the community.  Like any normal organization, to do that we need money!  Basically our funds come from dues and song contest entry fees.  Unfortunately, dues are not coming in as they normally do, participation in the song contests are down, and the DSA as we know it is in jeopardy!

So we are looking for some help from you in order to keep going.  First, if you have not paid your dues recently, please renew your membership!  At $50 a year ($4.17 a month), it’s a real bargain but not enough to sustain us.  However, there is some great news!  We have an anonymous donor who is willing to match every dollar that is donated, up to one-half of the goal!  This is a tremendous gift, plus an opportunity for us to show our support and desire to keep the DSA in business!

You can give any amount, but with $25 you will receive a free DSA T-shirt and with $50 you will get the T-shirt and two DSA cuzzis.  For donations of $100 or more you will get the gift premiums plus recognition in the DSA newsletter every month as a special friend and contributor to the DSA.  The dues and the donations are tax deductible, but we hope that you care enough about all the things the DSA does to participate. 

Your gift will help keep alive all of the following, which makes us one of the busiest musical associations in the country.

• Educational programs and music industry speakers at regular monthly meeting.
• Song critiques by industry experts for your songs at each monthly meeting.
• Songwriting feedback sessions at Song Swap workshops twice a month.
• Nationwide lyric contests four time a year.
• Nationwide song contest once a year featuring 8 song categories and industry judges.
• Open mics for anyone to perform original songs twice a month.
• Saturday night showcases for members twice a month.
• Performance opportunities for members at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, Wildflower Festival   and the House of Blues.
• Workshop opportunities with great song writers like Richard Leigh, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Gary Nicholson
• Monthly on-line newsletter with music industry information and help for songwriters
• And coming soon, a brand new DSA website that will enable members to have their own page on the website to share their music and activities.

As they say, it just takes money so please make your donation today!  Just go to our online store and look for the Quarter Note, Half Note, and Whole Note donation levels at: 

Or, you can send your donation of any amount to:
Dallas Songwriters Association
Sammons Center for the Arts
3630 Harry Hines #20
Dallas, TX 75219

Many Thanks,
Michael Brandenberger
President, Dallas Songwriters Association

Friday, July 19, 2013

Say 'No Way" for a Pandora

Did you realize that Pandora is again trying to get your music for free.  So is YouTube and other media giants.  The rates they pay right now are ridiculously low because they take PROs to rate court and win low rates.  The Recording Academy and ASCAP have both introduced measure to congress and have successfully lobbied and fought in the halls of congress to prevent passage of bills that would devastate the music industry.

You can say no to Pandora.  You do not have to license your music to Pandora for use of your songs.  If you do not issue a license and you own the song, they are in violation of copyright laws.  Now lets get into some recent news about some major broadcasters paying performance royalties to artists.  I applaud this measure, because it is a step in the right direction.  But, it does not protect or compensate the songwriter.  Paying an artist for a performance only works if you perform your own songs.  What about that magical phrase "I got a cut with ..."?  You got a cut which gives you credibility as a writer, but what money do you get.  Well, if they sell you CD at concerts, and are legitimate business people that properly track sales, you get your writer's portion of the CD sales and iTunes downloads at 9.1 cents.  What about when they go get 10,000 CDs pressed and give them away to promote attending their concert where they get paid and you don't?  What about free downloads to fans they post on their website and radio plays?  What do you get?

I see paying the artist for the performance and not paying the writer as tantamount to the state sending child support payments for your children to somebody that rents property from you.  Yes, that sounds harsh, but think about it.  They have paid a license to use your song, but they can use your song to produce millions of dollars a year in revenue from concerts and merch sales, but the writer gets nothing.  Didn't you sit down and create the idea and sweat over creating scratch recording then pay for studio time or sit and make your own top bin recording?  Don't you deserve to get some of the pie?

Saying no to Pandora is just a start.  Get involved with a PRO like ASCAP, BMI, or SEASAC.  Joing Grammy 365 is a good step.  Send letters to you representatives in Washington, but most of all, get involved.  These slick executives are taking advantage of songwriters, especially independent songwriters.  It is like herding cats.   Songwriters like to concentrate on the creative, but normally get cut out on the business side of the industry.  Hey, it is your business, but now you know where I stand.

I testified for congress on a video interview at the ASCAP Expo, and I stood up for my rights.  I made things a little personal to Washington by making this case.  If I built a website and allowed people to read Barack Obama's book free of charge, all I would do is get banner ad money to support the site.  In a very short period of time, I would be arrested, put in jail, face criminal and civil penalties, and my website would be shut down.  Why is this so?  The publishers of his book have lobbyist and lawyers to look after their interests and are quick to use all of the remedies of copyright law.  Record companies and large music publishers also do the same thing looking out for their catalog.  Don't expect them to look out for your interests also, after all, you are competing with their artists for share of fans wallet.

I challenge each person that reads this blog to get involved, understand the copyright laws, and look at legislation that pertains to music.  Again, it is your business!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Dallas Songwriters, this is the last post as President for this term.  We will hold board elections tomorrow to find out who will be our next President.  I hope everyone got something out of last year with the variety of programs and workshops we had.  Numerous performance events and workshops added greatly over the year.  We started off January with Nancy Rynders talking about "Elements of a Good Song Lyric".  In February we had Emmy and Grammy award winning songwriter Barry DeVorzon.  He talked about his experiences and then demonstrated MasterWriter software for us.  In March we had a Skype session with Carly Simon and her son Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor) for what turned out to be a magical evening where Carly said "you are songwriters, play me some songs".  April was a fun evening with up and coming local artist, Zane Williams.  Zane played for us and talked about his formula for success.  In May, we took a new twist on Extreme Co-writes by using the melody for "Let It Be" and writing new words for the melody.  We had some interesting songs come out of that meeting.  Richard Chalk, Top Cat Records, delivered out May program with insights into his world of music for June.  Guitar legend and former John Denver guitarist Steve Weisberg came an spoke and played in July.  What a story he had to tell, and a great evening.  Mike Hall, from Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse, spoke to us in September about the local music scene ab=nd getting booked at local gigs.  In October we had another round of Extreme Co-writes, but this time with another twist.  I passed out slips of paper and told people to write down the line they would most want to hear in a song.  All the lines were written on the board, and the room was divided into two groups.  Each group had about an hour to use as many lines as possible to write a song.  It was amazing what songs came from that meeting.  November followed with local up and coming singer/songwriter Helene Cronin and her song Lucky Me that has been recorded by Nashville artists.

We had a blues workshop with local bluesman Hash Brown and participated in the Texas Independent Music Expo (TIME).  This year we took charge of the Wildflower Songwriters School and arranged for Beth Nielsen Chapman to lead the school.  We also manned the Acoustic stage at Wildflower and provided sound for the stage with many of our DSA members performing.

A 15 year old girl from Katy Texas took top honors in the DSA Songwriting contest and won a Taylor Guitar autographed by Beth Nielsen Chapman.  Beth also server as a judge for the contest this year.

We had our normal song swaps and open mics and added a showcase/open mic on the first Thursday at HalfPrice Books on Northwest Highway.

We had two members pass away in 2012.  Larry Dodge passed from complications from a fall, and Vern Dailey passed away having never fully recovered from surgery.  We have named our annual Songwriter of the year as the Vern Dailey Dallas Songwriter of the year in his memory since he took to honors so many years.  Vern will be missed.

Barbe McMillen brought her musical to stage and will be sending it out on the road to Austin before long.  We all wish her success in her musical.

Last but not least, James Pappas was recognized as the first Vern Dailey DSA Songwriter of the year for submitting the most songs to critique that took first or second place.  Congratulations to James and his hard work.

I am looking forward to 2013.  We have a new board with some returning and some new members.  Let's all find a DSA activity to get involved in this year.  Let's go out and have fun and write some hit songs.  Good luck Dallas Songwriters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It is all about the fans


In my last post I brought up the subject of venues and payment for services.  I have had numerous responses to this post.  But the overwhelming questions is "what can I do about it?".  My response to the question is that, we as songwriters depend on our creativity to be songwriters.  We are independent, and to some degree compete with other artists.  I feel that artists can compete in battle of the bands or compete for gigs, but still get together when it comes to venues.  I suggest a forum, where artists get the word out about bad or good experiences with venues.  Some online means to report the condition of the club, the cleanliness, the quality of the sound equipment, how good the sounds guy was or wasn't, and how fair you thought the compensation was.  Kind of like a Zagat guide or Nielsen rating for venues.

Also, artists have fans.  If you look at venues on FaceBook, they may have fans, but the number of fans for a venue pale in comparison to fans for an artist.  Let your fans know that a venue stiffed you.  I think venues will start to get the idea when your fans stop going, and I am speaking of when you are not playing there.  Social media is a powerful tool when it is used properly.  It is something that has to be leveraged by the business part of music.  If you are playing music, you are in the music business.

I recently attended a workshop and concert with Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines in Winnsboro, TX.  It was at the Crossroads location there.  I talked to Gus Gustafson at length, and then Terri and Lloyd.  They have tapped into the little out-of-the-way music destinations around Texas, and it is surprising what you will find.  The listening room was packed.  They sold CDs long after the concert was over.  They engaged the audience and got them involved.  It was a fun night for the artists and for the fans.  They CONNECTED with their fans, and the fans bought merchandise.  Do I need to repeat that?

I think back to the council have have given to young artists over the years.  I think I can sum it up in a one liner here. Don't act like you are a big star until you are one!  What am I saying here?  When you are getting established, you can't just hang around backstage  or sit at a table with your friends and family before the concert, and you have to show up at the merch table and shake some hands.  Before you play, get out and talk to people in the crowd.  If that somehow messes with you performance chi, then you may be in the wrong business.  You have to get fans and develop a relationship with your fans.  Shaking hands and letting people tell you how much they love your music never hurts.  In fact, it might give you a little boost before you go on stage.

I also attended a Master Songwriting Sessions with Mary Dawson.  Her guest speaker was Jeff Crilley.  Jeff used to be a reported for Fox News.  He now owns a PR firm and has written a book about getting yourself on the news for TV and radio or in print.  He tells those little tricks you need to know to get publicity.  His epiphany moment was when he was speaking at and event, and the event organizer bought copies of his book before the event and handed the books for free to the audience before Jeff spoke.  He usually waited until he was done speaking, then sold his merch.  The whole evening changed.  He was not selling when he spoke, he was connecting to his audience.  The whole atmosphere was changed.  He was speaking to fans.  Also, he gave me a book for free.  Did it work?  I just told you about Jeff, so YES!

I am not advocating giving away your hard earned merch to everyone in the audience, but how about giving away a few items.  Zane Williams tosses coozies from the stage.  Other artists toss t-shirts into the crowd or have drawings for prizes.  One thing that might help would be picking that die hard fan that set up in the front row and tried to sing along with every song.  And, no I am not talking about your mother here.  If you see that person lurking after the show, but they are not in the merch line.  They may not be able to afford a CD, but would like to have one.  Shake their hand, and slip them a CD or something.  What have you done then?  You have built a loyal fan.  Somebody that will promote you, because you acknowledged them and you paid them for their loyalty.  What about starting a loyalty program?  Announce your shows on FaceBook and other forums and track who is coming to your shows.  Give them some merch, toss them the coozie.   That is viral advertizing.  You want to go viral don't you?

This can be a tough business, so don't make things any harder than they have to be.  Artists come and go.  Artists are completely dependent on fans, even Taylor Swift!  Daddies money only goes so far.  Would you rather have merchandise sitting in a closet gaining dust, or merchandise in the hand of fans?  Fans that you have met and told you who they are.  Otherwise, if you know how to be a mega artist without any fans, please let me know so I can write the book on it and become a multi-millionaire.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Musicians are like herding cats!


I have started on a journey.  A journey of unknown destination with danger lurking around many corners.  That journey has the goal of getting songwriters and performers the respect and money they deserve.  I see a large problem, and yes it involves the statement that "musicians are like herding cats".  Many independent artists are being robbed blind.  Performers are working for price-fixed wages.  Yes, I said price-fixed.  The venue owners have gotten together and decided that they would low-ball the amount they will pay performers.  The problem is, we are letting them get by with it!

We as songwriters,  musicians,  and performers are an independent group.  Our individuality is the key ingredient in what makes our music unique.  But, that same individuality is, well lets tell it like it is; that individuality is getting us screwed.  There are laws that prevent real estate brokers from banding together to fix prices and laws that prevent large corporation from creating monopolies, but there are no laws being widely enforced to protect the average working performers.  Why is that?  The answer is simple; it is because we are independent.  Now, do not get me wrong, I am not advocating unionizing.  I am advocating that songwriters and performers find a way to work together to get the message across to these venues that they cannot get away with paying a $5000 band $1500 and having the band feel lucky that they got paid at all.  And, when you see and unauthorized video of you band on YouTube taken illegally at your concert or performance, go to YouTube and tell them to take the video down.  It might take up to six months for them to get around to it, so be resolute and keep contacting them until they do it.

Okay, there are some ugly facts about human nature.  When somebody is allowed to abuse another, they will not stop until there is a fundamental change.  If a person physically abuses another person the catalyst for change is the abused person leaving or the abuser being arrested.  That is an awful fact, but it happens.  These venue owners that have decided to low-ball your price are abusing you.  When you bring dozens or hundreds of patrons to your show, the venue owner is making money in food and alcohol sales.  I am not saying that there are not any venue owners that treat performers with respect, but I am saying there are venues that are not respecting their performers.

On another note.  I have been going to different establishments that say they support Texas music to solicit donations or asking them to sponsor our stage at Wildflower.  One of the establishments I approached was Texas Roadhouse.  I have been eating there probably fifty times a year for four years and the people that work there have become friends over the years.  All that Todd Harrison, the Managing Partner, had to do was provide a small donation, like he did for the Allen Library music event, and have their mascot dance around with discount coupons or something like that.  I emailed him, with no response.  I called him and they hung up the phone.  I called again, and they said I'll take a message for him to get back to you.  He never bothered to get back to me.  So, you ask how this relates to musicians not getting paid what they deserve?  My answer is that I am going to boycott Texas Roadhouse.  They have been getting about $1500 a year from me for four years.  That all stops now, because I am not going to allow them to disrespect me.

Songwriters and performers take note that the only way to get people's attention normally involves money.  Even lawsuits really boil down to money in the long run.  People tend to understand your point when dollars are involved.  If you want congress to hear your voice, the easiest way is large campaign contributions and lobbyist.  Independent performers and songwriters do not normally have that kind of money, so we have to work together and become a united front.  Write letters to your congressman or congresswoman.  Let your voice be heard.  Go up against those that profit from our music.  Work with your peers to get the attention of the venues.

Recall the story of Gandhi.  He, as one man, assembled the masses to nonviolently take control of his country form the British government.  He knew that he had to use nonviolent means, because violence would sway populist opinion against his cause.  In fact, he gained public opinion when the British government responded with violence against him.  They were seen as oppressive bullies.  His peaceful demonstrations included people gathering together and impacting commerce.  Workers not working and people not buying goods.  India gained independence because the merchants felt the sting in their wallet.  Those individuals went to their elected officials and demanded the government to bring about a resolution.

I am not Gandhi, and this is not India.  But, we can learn from history.  People respond to financial impact.  Performers and songwriters should not have to suffer for their art.  We need to be fairly compensated for our art!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dallas Songwriters,

I recently had the fortune to attend the ASCAP Expo in Hollywood, CA.  I missed the Dallas Guitar Show, unfortunately.  The conference was great and very informative.  We had numerous master classes.  We had speakers like Carly Simon, Paul Williams (ASCAP President), Allen Shamblin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bruno Mars and the Smeezingtons, Peter Frampton and many other household names in the music industry.  All of them had a common thread to what they said.  It took lots of work and even more luck to be these all time idols and superstars.  They were very honest and open when they spoke.  The work was learning to play and write songs, and the luck was being discovered.  The discovered part was due to diligently chasing their dream.  They left no stone unturned.  They went out and performed their songs to anybody that would listen and they found people that could help them perform and write better songs.  Peter Frampton admitted that he did not want to be a solo performer.  He wanted to play lead guitar, but he got pushed into performing with Humble Pie after he left the band The Herd.  Carly never thought she would perform in front of people because of her "stammer".  Bruno Mars was singing with his musical family in clubs in Hawaii until he just up and moved to LA on a whim.

There is luck that "falls out of the sky" and there is luck that a person can shape and channel.  Either type of luck takes getting out and practicing your craft.  Unless somebody steals your notebook full of lyrics or your work tapes and just happens to get them into somebody's hands, you, the songwriter have work to do.  This is where Dallas Songwriters Association is chartered to help.  We provide educational and performance opportunities for songwriters.  We bring talented people together and even provide opportunities for song pitching.  We help you write better songs by providing realistic feedback and provide song critiques.  What DSA does not do is go to your house and pull the TV remote out of your hand and say there is a mega-superstar in town, and they are might be looking for songs.  We offer the opportunities, and if you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the work, then we provides paths that songwriters can explore and avenues to follow a dream.  We as songwriters are all dreamers, but I would never expect Paul Williams to come to Dallas looking for me because he randomly pulled my name out of the phonebook, but I met him and talked to him at the ASCAP Expo.  We need to dream big and act on our dreams, but also realize for every dream there might be a rejection.  Rejection means that your song is not ready, or it may not have been the right time for you song.  I was rejected by Jason Aldean because the song pitched sounded similar to one he was already putting on his album.

Some things coming up this month are: the first Monday Song Swap Monday May 7th at HalfPrice Books on Northwest Highway.  Followed by our Tuesday night second Tuesday meeting at the Center for Community Cooperation.  It looks like we will be doing a co-write session by popular demand.  You will get an email a few days before the meeting with the tune we are going to write a song for that night.  Do not bring lyrics you have already created, your group will be drawing a song topic to write about.  To keep things rolling, we have third Monday Song Swap at Tino's, then we might go invade Mark David Mander's Songwriters in the round and get some folks up on stage.  Did you realize people like Rudy Gatlin sometimes goes to Love and War in Texas, Plano location?  That is where I met him.  We have our third Thursday open mic on May 17th at Dunn Bros Coffee, the we have the Wildflower Festival May 18th through May 20th.

If you want to volunteer to work the Wildflower Festival and get a free shirt and day pass, contact Lisa Byrn.  There are still available spots in Beth Nielsen Chapman's Songwriters School at Wildflower on Friday May 18th.  You get admission for a day and a ticket to see Beth Perform at 10:00 PM Friday night.  Zane Williams is headlining on Sunday and our very own Mary Guthrie and Merry and the Mood Swings is performing on the Bud Light Stage 11:30 AM on Saturday.  We are co-sponsoring the Courtyard stage during the festival and we will have daily performances of DSA members and songwriter competition winners.  Check out the list of performers on and you can also follow the link off of the Songwriters School page to signup for Beth's class.  People that attended her class last July will attest to how great that event was, and this promises to be just that much better.

I want to see our members at events, and most of all I want to be able to say that I knew that superstar before they got their big break, and DSA helped them get there.

Good writing,


Monday, March 26, 2012

DSA has a solid forward momentum

Fellow DSA members,

I feel a strong forward momentum with DSA this year.  We have started the year off with a bang.  It is good to see members getting involved in our activities and see the sustained growth of our membership with our new members.  As a board member, I want to see DSA flourish and grow.  I see positive things happening with our programs, workshops, song swaps, and performance activities.  I have spoken with members that are becoming active again and new members coming in this year.  We try hard to find something that we can provide that bridges across the organization.  Julie Jean White heads our programs and Lisa Byrn is tasked with our showcases and Michael Brandenberger has workshops.  If you have any ideas or contacts with industry professionals that would make a good speaker in person or via Skype, let us know.  The only thing that cannot be achieved is the thing that is never attempted.  So, lets aim high and get those speakers that are well accomplished in the music industry.

I felt a magical moment with Carly Simon and Ben Taylor in our March meeting as did many others.  They confirmed the principles that DSA teaches about the craft of songwriting, but also established the connection to that intangible spirit of the song itself.  It was kind of one of those moments where you just know that a song is a great song because you just feel it.  This does not diminish the role of the hard work that a songwriter puts in looking for proper structure and those colorful expressions and metaphors that add that extra dimension to our songs.  The words and phrases we use to make something more interesting to our listeners.  That is one of those things that sets a great song apart from others.  We have to say the same in thing in a new and interesting way, or find something new to say.  Like Carly mentioned,   she keeps notebooks of song ideas that she has kept for years.  She goes back through those notebooks and finds things to include in new songs.  When the muse visits, if you are like me, I have to write it down, or I find myself somewhere down the road without that great idea.

In April, we have Zane Williams as out guest speaker.  Zane spent about 10 years of his life in Nashville with a publishing deal and as touring musician. He had a top 20 song "Hurry Home" performed by Jason Michael Carroll.   He knows his craft.  Anybody that knows Zane understands the story within his songs.  He provides clear and vivid images that tell a story.  Zane had his magical moment recently and here is his quote:  "Zane was in heaven recently when Bob DiPiero, Jerrery Steele, and David Lee Murphy invited him up to sing an original song during their song swap at a Texas Heritage Songwriter's Association private party.  The thrills continued when the next day he performed onstage at Austin City Limits Live, opening the ceremony that inducted Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and Townes Van Zandt into the Texas Heritage Songwriter's Hall of Fame."  Can you imagine how he felt getting to perform on stage with Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett and paying tribute to Townes Van Zandt.  This speaks highly of the talent and recognition that Zane has accomplished.

We have a couple of festivals coming up.  The first one is the Deep Ellum Arts Festival.  It will be held April 6th - 8th down in Deep Ellum.  Our stage will be at Malcolm X and Main.  We are right in the middle of things.  Come by and listen a while and browse around.  Next up we have the Wildflower Festival May 18th - 20th.  The Songwriters School will be lead by Beth Nielsen Chapman on May 18th.  Beth is a wonderful teacher and I am glad that she agreed to come back to Dallas to lead this workshop.  There are only 40 seats available, so go out to Beth's website and sign up soon:  Later that evening, Beth will be a headliner on stage.  Guy Clark is another headliner this year.  This is shaping up to be a great festival.  DSA will be hosting an acoustic performance stage this year.  This will be a separate stage from the Bud Light Stage that we previously hosted.  We can obtain our own sponsors, so if you know somebody that wants to be a sponsor, let a board member know.

I am proud to be a member of DSA and I am glad to see more members becoming active in our programs and activities.  We are gaining recognition and we are working hard to put together programs and workshops that any member can gain from.  I always say that you will get the most out of an organization when you are willing to invest your time in that organization.  Song swaps, workshops, open mics, and programs are here for you, the songwriter.  You will hear different opinions, views, and advice about your songs, but that is a good thing and as I see it, that is a mini sample of your greater audience.

Let's have a good year with lots of fun and learning.