“The Importance of the Lyric Sheet”

By Pete Martin Copyright © 2015 - 2011

As I have stated before, the lyric sheet is the single most important part of a song. The lyric sheet tells it all, and it should be in one glance. I will explain.

 

In one of my earlier newsletters, I reflected back on my early years of songplugging. I was still fresh to the business of songplugging; reflecting back, I was a real pest and had to learn the hard way in every aspect of the business.

 

I remember the worst meeting I ever had with the head of A&R at RCA Records in the heart of Hollywood. I did my pitch over the phone and set up a meeting. Excited and eager to do my live pitch I felt that I was well prepared. I was greeted and everything was fun and cordial. After a few words of conversation he stated, “What have you got?”

 

I pulled out the demo and was ready to hand it to him, but he exclaimed, “Where’s the lyric sheet?”

 

Prepared as I was, I proudly pulled out the nicely typed and formatted lyric sheet, as I had been taught. He glanced at it briefly and stated, “Are you kidding me? A bunch of crap!”

 

Shocked, I replied, “But you haven’t listened to the song?”

“Don’t have to! It’s a piece of crap! The lyrics tell it all. I can’t waste my time to listen to the demo.”

 

I felt so humiliated, and so low, I felt like crawling out the door. As I was leaving out the door, he stated, “By the look on your face you must have good music on the demo, which I did. Listen, don’t let the music deceive you, the lyrics are the most important part of a song!”

 

To this day I will never forget that interview and a great lesson. He was 100% right. A well typed and formatted lyric sheet tells it all. A bad formatted lyric sheet still reveals an amateur regardless of the demo.

 

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“Formatting the One Page Lyric Sheet”

 

You can always tell if the songwriter is a novice or a professional songwriter. You can also tell if a songplugger is for real, or if a publisher knows what the hell he is doing in the business; all by the lyric sheet they present with the package.

 

The title of the song should be centered in a regular accepted font, such as Arial or New Times Roman. No fancy fonts or italics. This is a dead giveaway of an amateur.

 

·       The title should be 18 fonts, bold, and centered.

 

·      The writer is listed under the title in parenthesis using 12 fonts and centered.

 

Example:  (Bill Jones)  Everyone in the Industry understands this is the writer.

 

·      The rest of the lyric sheet will be on the left margin in 12 fonts throughout. (Never "center" the song. This includes the contact information. There is a reason for this.)

 

·    If you have a lyric intro before the verse, signify that. For example (Intro) then type in the lyrics to that intro. (Music is not part of the lyric sheet. Do not state that you have a musical intro. Also, please do not put musical chords on the lyric sheet.)

 

·      Do not signify the verse. This is understood in the industry. You only signify the lyric (Intro), (Chorus), or (Bridge) in parenthesis. Never the verse.

 

·    Please do not set up your lyrics "centered" like a poetic poem with short phrases, which usually ends up in two pages. You are not writing a poem; you are formatting a lyric sheet.

 

·      Your lyric lines must end with the rhyming words at the end of double phrases, which is the most common. (This is extremely important.)

 

·      Lyrics should most commonly rhyme in the A, B, A, B lines. Or, the A,A, B,B, lines. If you do not understand this, buy a book on lyric phrasing, or listen to the top ten hits. You will learn quickly. Most common is the second and fourth line of a verse that rhyme. (This is what the A&R reviewer looks to see that there is a pattern that does not falter. This is where they can, at a glance, see that you could not come up with a better rhyming word.)

 

·      It is also important to know, that a reviewer will see in the lyrics that an amateur writer rhymes words with the most obvious choice. A professional writer always comes up with the unexpected intriguing choice.

 

·      Reviewers also “at a glance” can see the overused clichés that distinguishes an amateur writer. (Stay away from clichés unless you have something different, and rarely used.)

 

·   Reviewers can also spot a “positive or negative” song at a glance.

 

·     If the lyric sheet runs two pages, the reviewer already knows the song is too long.  It does not comply with radio. (2 ½ minutes to 3 minutes.)

 

·    Sometimes there is a lyric tag at the end of the song. In the same manner that you have an “Intro,” some studio musicians signify this section as the “Outro.” Although it is not necessary you can signify it as the “outro” or “ending tag.”

 

·     When the lyric sheet is complete, this is where the writer puts his contact information on the left margin. Never centered. (Again, there is a reason for this.)

Example:      

Bill Jones  Copyright 2011

2525 Wilson Ave.

New York, NY 100212

(212) 555-5555  billjones@hotmail.com

 

·     Always put a copyright date when you finished a song even if you have not secured a copyright at the copyright office. (Visit vaammusic.com click the copyright office link.)

 

Keep in mind, a badly formatted lyric sheet signals you are a time waster and should not be in the business. A nicely formatted lyric sheet will also expose you as an amateur or a professional. (See the sample lyric sheet below.)

 

It is important to study your craft and compare to the Top Ten Hits available on the Internet.

 

The best lyrics are usually written in an honest manner, as if you were writing to a friend. There is no “illusion or fantasy.” Just reality and that is what sells. Yes, you can use descriptive words that stimulate, intrigue, and attract attention. But as you progress in writing, you will see the difference between “false illusion” and “honesty” in words. This is the key to great lyrics!

 

Copyright © 2015-2011 Pete Martin / Pete Martin Method Books

P.O. Box 29550 Los Angeles, CA. 90029-0550

PMarti3636@aol.com  www.VaamMusic.com

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“I Love A Cowboy”

(Sherry Weston)

 

When I was small the neighbors used to tell my mom

You shouldn’t let that child watch TV all day long

But every Saturday there I’d be, watching westerns on TV

And my hero would ride across the screen

 

Well I’d sit and stare at him all starry eyed

I’d have my own little pair of six shooters at my side

I never heard a word you’d say to me, he blinded all reality

And I would think he was the bravest man alive

 

(Chorus)    

I love a cowboy, I love a cowboy

I love a cowboy in his tight blue jeans, his boots with the pointed toes

So sexy lean and mean, riding broncs at the rodeos

I love a cowboy, I love a cowboy

When he’s tough and takes control, he sweeps me off my feet

Makes no difference if he’s short or tall, it’s that hat that makes me weak

I love a cowboy

 

So if you want to know what turns me on

A man wearing snake skin boots a half mile long

If he’s rugged as can be, he fills my every fantasy

He can ride off with my heart into the night

 

(Chorus)    

I love a cowboy, I love a cowboy

I love a cowboy in his tight blue jeans, his boots with the pointed toes

So sexy lean and mean, riding broncs at the rodeos

I love a cowboy, I love a cowboy

When he’s tough and takes control, he sweeps me off my feet

Makes no difference if he’s short or tall, it’s that hat that makes me weak

I love a cowboy

 

Copyright © 1990 VAAM Music (BMI)

P.O. Box 29550

Los Angeles, CA. 90029-0550

 

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(Written and recorded by Sherry Weston, used in a bar room scene in the Cinetell Film “Far Out Man” starring Tommy Chong of “Cheech & Chong” comedy fame.)

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Copyright © 2015-20l2 Pete Martin/VAAM Music Group, P.O. Box 29550, Los Angeles, CA. 90029-0550

PMarti3636@aol.com/    www.vaammusic.com