What do Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Kenny Loggins, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Leann Rimes, Chaka Khan, Oleta Adams, Gladys Knight and Dave Koz have in common? Hit songwriter, Jud Friedman.
Jud provided fair and honest advice during the song critiques, “Unless you are playing for a friend, get to the very best version of your song before presenting it. No excuses. No one cares if your demo singer was sick, or you couldn’t find the right producer.”
Jud is focused on productivity and creativity. He encouraged many songwriters who presented at the Songsalive workshop to push their concepts further. He said, “People are looking for something to move them in a new way.” Is this song as fresh and cool as the songs you absolutely love and would play on repeat?
Jud mentioned that if you are doing a Retro style song for example, there’s still a way to keep it current and fresh; mixing the old with a new spin. “Marry what’s been done with what’s current.” You can add synths or a dance feel to spice up a retro style song. Again, people like things that are new and also familiar at the same time.
If you want someone to get on a stage and be excited about your song in front of thousands of people, you have to invest the quality time and push the content a little harder to get to a powerful concept. It is still music business in action and you want people to put their money behind your work.
Jud recalls another hit he wrote with Allan Rich co-wrote “Run To You” for Whitney Houston’s movie The Bodyguard. The phone rung, it was a call from a publisher who said, “We need a breakup song for the end of this movie.”
Clive Davis loved the song Jud and Allan wrote and asked if they could make the demo sound a little more like Whitney. With no concrete direction on next steps, Jud agreed and used his power of creative reasoning to find a solution. He added drums and bass to make the song bigger. They were right on the money.
However, there were some hang ups with the song and Jud didn’t want to have to wait until the greatest hit album came out to cut a song with Whitney. Who knows when that would be?! Good thing Jud was proactive in pushing his song forward because the greatest hit album didn’t come out until eight years later. He and Allan changed everything except the line “I wanna run to you” and turned it into a love song. Thinking on his feet to get Clive what he wanted was critical to getting the record made. Jud emphasized being ready for opportunities as they arise.
Sometimes people don’t specify exactly what they want. As songwriters, we have to decode the directions and deliver promptly.
Another story on the importance of being prepared is when Whitney walked into the studio to record the “Run To You” vocals. She asked Jud to show her how to sing the song. She knew the song but wanted a walk through. He had to do a scratch vocal in front of all the big Warner Brother producers and Whitney’s team and sing the song in her key. Jud remembers seizing the opportunity and saying no problem. He was prepared.
Jud and Allan also wrote for a film called “For the First Time” along with composer James Newton Howard. The song was also being looked at by Rod Stewart. At that time, Jud had to leave town to visit his ill father. They called him to write a bridge just before he needed to hop on a plane to visit his dad. This meant he had fifteen minutes to write a bridge with James, since Allan was away. They were faced with a high pressure scenario during a very difficult personal time. Despite Jud’s limited time and personal issues, he and James knocked out the bridge quickly. It’s incredible what you can accomplish on short notice and while facing great adversity.
Anything you can do beforehand to get ready for the unexpected, do it now! Be prepared to speak other “languages.” You don’t have to know everything about engineering, but be able to explain what you want to engineers. Speak their language, “It needs a little more DBs two or three.” It’s very helpful and more time efficient. Plus as a songwriter or artist, you gain more respect and credibility for going the extra mile to educate yourself.
Jud produced a record for X Factor’s Melanie Amaro. Her team called saying they love the record. They wanted the instrumental mix so she could cut the vocals. He calls after a couple weeks to see what’s going on. Talking to the gatekeepers, he learns there is something in the mix that needs to be changed. The vague instructions were, “Can you play around with the mix?” Jud figured out it was not just the mix. There’s something they are not relating to. He went back and redid the track and sent it over. They loved it and Melanie laid down the vocals. People don’t always know what they want and you don’t always get to speak with them about what needs to be changed. Jud used past experience to problem solve.
Always be prepared. Think on your feet. Be proactive. Even if you feel mad or prideful, always follow your song through. Anticipate needs. Figure out how people like things and what they like. Be prepared to listen to those funding the project, or even significant others. It’s a business. Be flexible. Be pragmatic. Give to get when you need to.
Jud offered his services to the room. He produces demos, offers song critiques and other music business services that help to make songs better. He loves working with singers on vocals. If want to hire Jud, contact him at Jud@judfriedmanmusic.com
Any demo tips?
Ask yourself the following:
Why am I writing this song?
Who’s going to listen, or would want to record this song?
What’s the genre or group of artists that would be fitting?
Get a singer who is similar to the artist but not exactly. You don’t want a generic singer. Get someone who can give the impression of the artist authentically. For example, Valerie Pinkston sang the “Run to you” demo just enough like Whitney to suggest it was right for her.
How did you get started?
There is no linear way to get from here to there. It’s all common sense and hard work. He was living in NYC playing in clubs and realized he didn’t crave being on stage. You have to love the limelight. A lightbulb went off; he wanted to make music. Jud started with recording a few songs. He got them out there to see who was interested. He took five songs, referenced the songwriters market book, and sent out hundreds of cassette tapes to every manager publisher producer to see if one or two of the contacts came through. It worked! He got a call back from Kim Bassey who produced Kenny Rogers. The funny thing is he hadn’t sent it to them but they found the demos. He was on a plane to LA and five years later he had a hit. This was his first big opportunity. Yours awaits! Start banging on doors.
How do you get past the gatekeepers?
It is difficult to get people with authority on the phone. However, you can get to be friends with their secretary or assistant. Find out if there are any projects in the works? Is there someone else I can talk to?
You can email, but it can be tough. They get so many emails that even when they know who you are, it’s challenging enough to get a prompt reply.
What are some tips on collaborating?
Hear a couple songs first to know what each person is bringing to the table. Being very seasoned, Jud does not have to do much specific preparation before songwriting sessions. However, he does like to know the background on the artist and what they are going through. This helps him work organically and be improvisational. He does encourage people to have a list of song ideas that haven’t been developed yet, or melody snippets. It can only help and may spark something else.
In this digital age, what’s the best form of media to get your music out?
There is no one form. Pick a form of media you love. You will find every person and song that you love was turned down the first time. The Beatles included. They initially couldn’t get a record deal. Someone gave the Beatles a chance in the studio and the rest is history. Embrace the no factor. Have thick skin, or get out. It’s a NO business. Yes means a lot of risk for them. Don’t take it personally. It takes a lot of bravery to play your songs for others to critique.
Utilizing internet to market your material is common. It’s all changing so quickly. YouTube videos can translate into iTunes sales. Getting exposure and getting discovered through the internet happens often. There’s an infinite number of ways to utilize media. Think creatively about how you can get noticed.
For example, there’s a guy in south Korean who has 185 million views. He is a comedian and singer who went viral and blew up. Now he’s being spoofed on Saturday Night Live. The internet offers quick exposure. You never know when you’ll get recognition. Put your work out there.
How relevant are publishers?
Jud is not with one now, but he did have a publisher. If he could find a person or organization that believed in songs and would kick bums to get his songs out there, get him great projects and collaborations, he would be all for it. It is difficult to find that person, but if you do, go for it!
The climate of publishing has changed. A traditional publishing deal used to be 50% of publishing goes to them. For copublishing deals, they give you an advance, money in return for having a percentage of the song. Essentially a non recourse loan.
But now publishing advances are based on accountant saying I know how much money is going to come to you in the six months. This means less risk for the publishing company because they only give you money they know you’re getting for sure. So ask yourself, “Is it worth me doing that?” Otherwise, think about getting other representation that will take a percentage to hustle and get your songs placed. It’s a viable alternative to a publishing deal.