I hope you’re not like me and just keeping all your songs just in your head, It’s a bad habit I’ve developed over the years and one I’m still working against.
I’m especially bad at writing my lyrics down, which is surprising considering how bad I am at writing lyrics. You’d think I would want to capture anything that comes out after many hours of frustrating work.
We get to see a lot of lyrics here at Song Talk Radio. Every guest submits lyrics to us before they appear on the show and we use them as a way of notating what we like, etc. And although everyone seems to have a different approach, they almost all have some critical omissions.
They won’t make you famous if they can’t contact you
The biggest mistake we see is the lack of any kind of contact information on lyric sheets. You never know where your lyrics will wind up (perhaps someone will come across your amazing words in a year or two and want to give you truck-loads of cash, which would suck it they can’t get in touch with you), so you want to make sure that you have all your contact info on the sheet visible – it will also make legal ownership of the song a bit easier to confirm in the future. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you: at one time in the US, if you published a song without a copyright notice, it was considered to be in the Public Domain!)
You’ll obviously want to include your name and/or your band name, a phone number and an email address as everything is done via email these days (even scheduling phone calls!).
Also, include your website if you have one. If you only have a Soundcloud page, simply buy a cheap domain name from one of our favourite domain sellers, and just point your new domain name to your Soundcloud page. If, in the future, you want to use a different service to showcase your work — perhaps you’ll have your own website by then or just offer you music on iTunes — you can change where the domain points to – all your old lyric sheets will remain accurate.
AND, since you now have your own domain name, use your domain’ed email on your lyric sheets (so if you have the “MaryMarksRocks.com” domain, create an “info” or “email@example.com” and auto-forward it to your Gmail or present email service. If, in the future, you change from Gmail to some other mail service, just change where your “marymarksrocks.com” email forwards to.
Getting your own domain is super simple and stupid cheap. The company I use for such a thing is easyDNS.com. They’re based in Toronto, the president is a great songwriter himself, they are an all around dependable company and have been around since the 90s’.
Ensuring you get paid
If you’re in Canada, you might as well register your songs with SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada – no, I can’t figure out how they came up with SOCAN either ). Registering your songs is free and is always a good habit to get into, This brings in the next most important part.
Adding the “Who’s Who”
Always include author credits for your song when creating lyric sheets. “Lyrics & Music by:” if it’s just you, or divide it up as appropriate. Don’t worry about the percentage of ownership when listing the credits (you set the ownership percentages on the SOCAN site), just list the people who had a hand in writing the song. So for one of mine it would be “Music & Lyrics: P. Emery”. You don’t have to have full names, just first initial is fine. A more complex collaboration might be: “Lyrics: S. Jones, Music: J. Lennon and B. Peterson”. I keep the order alphabetic as it makes things easier and no-one gets their nose out of joint if they don’t like the order of the listing.
Adding Chords to your sheets
Although you don’t have to add chords to your lyric sheets, it can be a handy tool it you ever want to collaborate with others or have someone back you up live.
Adding chords to a word doc can be a bit of a pain. Usually just a “Cm” on top of the words would be fine. You shouldn’t need to worry about having tab diagrams at this point. You’d need to put the chords on their own line and then write the lyrics on the line below. You can move the chords to the appropriate location on the line using spaces, but if you change fonts it can make things a bit messy.
Another option to add chords to your sheets is to use a tool like Songs Pro or the fuller-featured, cross-platform Tunesmith. They are created to produce lovely lyric sheets with chords above the words and even include TABs. Tunesmith has a lot of other features which helps you track where you’ve submitted your songs and writers credits, who played on your recordings, etc., so if you’re someone who is looking to build a songwriting career give Tunesmith a look.
Here’s a free Lyric Sheet Template for you
I created a simple word doc that includes all the critical bits that we discussed above, along with text styles for choruses, verses and bridges. Contact info is located in the header and footer part of the document so you can update it as appropriate there, then save it as a template and you’ll have a snazzy looking and consistent lyric sheets from then on.
But for the words themselves, you’re on your own. I have enough of a challenge!!