Overcoming writer's block: 5 tips for songwriters
As songwriters, we know all too well the frustration of staring at a blank page or an empty recording studio, waiting for inspiration to strike. Writer's block is a common phenomenon that can affect even the most talented songwriters. The novelist Steven Pressfield likened writer's block to a dragon that needs to be slayed anew every morning. Here are a few suggestions to help overcome this obstacle and reignite your creativity.
1 - Change your environment
Shaking up your surroundings can be a powerful tool in jumpstarting the creative process. If you're feeling stuck, try shifting your environment by moving to a new room, rearranging your workspace or taking the dog for a walk. A new perspective can often be the key to unlocking a fresh flow of ideas.
2 - Consistent Practice
Dedicate a specific time each day to write, regardless of whether or not you're feeling motivated. Although it may sound cliché, it's true that writing is like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to stay strong. Creating a routine for writing can also help you to develop discipline and self-motivation. It takes discipline to sit down and write when you don't feel like it. By committing to a writing schedule, you are training yourself to be self-motivated and to push through when things get tough.
3 - Collaborate with others
Collaborating with other songwriters or musicians can provide a fresh perspective and help you break through writer's block. Working with others can inspire new ideas, and the energy and enthusiasm of collaboration can be contagious.
4 - Consider AI to enhance creativity
The integration of Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT has raised debates about its potential to replace human creativity with a soulless series of zeros and ones. However, some individuals are embracing the use of LLMs as a tool to enhance the creative process. Songwriters can leverage the power of AI to brainstorm ideas, develop concepts, explore chord progressions, and more.
5 - Give yourself permission to write badly
Fear of writing something "bad" can be paralysing and prevent you from writing anything at all. Overcome this fear by giving yourself permission to write poorly. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind, without worrying about quality. Mark Twain famously said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." By allowing yourself to write freely and without judgement, you are taking the crucial first step towards crafting your next great work.
Check out the songwriting tips shared by the UKSC community on our YouTube channel. If you have any tips to share, please send in a short video clip to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AI in Songwriting: Enhancing Creativity or Undermining Human Emotion?
*Don't skip the final paragraph*
The world of music is rapidly evolving with the integration of technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have begun to play a significant role in the creative process, and songwriting is no exception. One example of this is ChatGPT, a language model created by OpenAI, which has shown promise in generating lyrics and aiding in songwriting.
To illustrate how ChatGPT works, let's take a look at a verse from a made-up song:
I see you standing there
Looking at me with those eyes
I know that you're the one
The one that's meant to be mine
Now, let's see how ChatGPT critiques this verse:
"While the first two lines are simple, they do an effective job of setting up the scene. The third line is where the lyrics become a little cliché, as it's a common theme in love songs. However, the fourth line brings something new to the table by introducing the idea of destiny, which adds an interesting layer to the song."
As you can see, ChatGPT is able to analyze and provide feedback on the lyrics generated. While AI can be helpful in aiding the creative process, there are also concerns that it may undermine human creativity. AI-generated songs may lack the emotional depth and connection that comes from a human's personal experiences and unique perspective.
The use of AI in songwriting also raises questions about originality and ownership. Who owns the rights to a song that is partially or fully generated by AI? How can we ensure that AI is not simply replicating existing songs or styles, rather than creating something new?
Despite these concerns, it's important to recognize that AI can be a valuable tool in the creative process. AI-generated lyrics and music can inspire and spark new ideas for human songwriters. Ultimately, it's up to the songwriter to use their creativity and personal experiences to craft a unique and compelling song.
The UK Songwriting contest is an excellent platform for aspiring songwriters to showcase their talent and creativity. By submitting your original songs, you have the opportunity to be recognized and celebrated for your unique perspective and creative vision. While AI may be a helpful tool, there is no substitute for the power of the human mind in the creative process.
Now here is the catch. Everything you just read about AI was written by chat GPT in approximately 5 seconds in response to a short set of prompts typed into a text box by the UKSC. Chat GPT came up with everything autonomously including the lyrics supposedly written by a human which it subsequently goes on to critique. There was no other human input in the writing on this article about AI. We welcome your thoughts and discussion points. Posts will be up on UKSC Insta / Facebook and Twitter for comments.
Mike P. Ryan, winner of the 2022 LOTY awards, discusses songwriting technique with the UKSC
In March of this year the Lyricist Of The Year (LOTY) results were announced with UKSC Singer Songwriter Finalist Mike P. Ryan taking his place on the podium as the winner with the lyrics to his song, 'Between Heaven And The Ground'. You can read and listen to these lyrics in full on the LOTY results page.
Mike P. Ryan's song tells the story of the day the Wright brothers made the world's first successful powered flight in 1903. The lyrics were inspired by David McCullough’s superb book on the brothers and in the song Mike takes the listener on a journey back through time placing them with Orville and Wilbur Wright on the coast of Carolina at the turn of the century.
"To me the key to engaging a listener is to tell a story from a human perspective", Mike has told the UKSC. "To do that I wrote the lyrics from a first person perspective making Orville Wright the song's narrator. To give the lyrics authenticity I had Orville speak in the dialect of that era with phrases like 'nineteen and aught three' ". Mike goes on to explain how he worked hard to avoid lyrical clichés about flight and instead searched for an interesting visual image for the lyrical hook. Coming from a Catholic background and based on the knowledge that the Wright brothers themselves were devoutly religious, Mike settled on the central theme of the song. This was the idea that the Wright brothers, through powered flight, were set on exploring that vast and intangible world which lies between 'heaven and the ground'.
As we all know there is no secret formula to writing a good song. Some songs emerge quickly from a source of deep inspiration and others reveal themselves over time following hours of drafts and re-writes. With this winning song Mike explains that the lyrics came fairly quickly with a minimum of re-writes. However, the challenge was to, "condense an incredibly complex story into something which can be told in the few minutes a songwriter has available to hold a listener's attention".
Congratulation to Mike P. Ryan and all the nominees and special mentions in the 2022 Lyricist Of The Year Awards.
*All Lyrics Only entries from the 2023 UK Songwriting Contest will be given automatic and free entry into next year's LOTY awards.
International Songwriting Awards (ISAs) published
The international songwriting awards (ISAs) were announced at the end of March showcasing exceptional talent from emerging artists around the world. These coveted peer recognition awards draw from a broad range of international music organisations including the UK Songwriting Contest in order to recognise and highlight the achievements of outstanding songwriters.
The 2022/2023 awards were broken down into 7 categories; Singer Songwriter, Pop, Rock, Teen, Solo Songwriter, Co-Writing Team and the Lyrics Hall of Fame. Here we will hear from a selection of these winners with some valuable insights into their songwriting technique and the inspiration behind their songs. A huge congratulations to all of those in the Lyrics Hall of Fame and on the special mentions list who are not specifically mentioned in this article.
Terra Spencer (Canada)
Terra Spencer is a funeral director turned songwriter from Nova Scotia, Canada. Many of her songs explore loss and the 'gentle art of saying goodbye'. Terra has told the UKSC that she has learnt the value of preserving stories through songwriting and it has become her mission not only to sharpen her own songwriting skills but to, 'fan the flame of songwriting with others so they can tell their own stories'. Since embarking on her songwriting journey Terra has toured across Canada, the UK and Germany sharing her powerful lyrics and melodies with lucky listeners around the world.
Trent-Jean Michel (Australia)
Trent-Jean Michel, winner of the Rock category, aspires to create work which inspires people to rise over the obstacles and adversities they face in their lives. Writing to the UKSC Trent-Jean explains that he wants people to channel the superhero and rockstar within! The direction and motivation behind his winning song HIGH3R hanged when he found out that his father had been given a terminal diagnosis. The 'gears shifted', Trent-Jean explains and the song went from being about love and desire to a piece about rising above the challenges we face within our lifetimes.
Rebecca Milne, Annalise Feilding, Jonah Widdis and Sebastian Smith
Band name - Detour
The band met at Rock Scholars, an independent music academy for young musicians in Perth, when they were 10 years old. Annalise Fielding (bass guitar), Rebecca Milne (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jonah Widdis (lead guitar) and Sebastian Smith (drums) have been writing music together ever since under the band name Detour. Their music navigates the 'turbulent time of young adolescence'. They have told UKSC that they are friends first and band mates second and their 'rock-via-pop-punk' style is poised to take Australia by storm.
Chris Broom (UK)
Chris Broom is a songwriter from the UK who won the Open Category of the UKSC this year with his song Broken Dreams feat. Lucy Thomas. This powerful and evocative composition forms part of Chris' debut musical Rosie about a young girl who grew up in an Irish convent and moves to Edwardian London's West End. This year's ISAs acknowledge Chris' outstanding contribution to the songwriting community through his solo songwriting and his efforts on his much anticipated debut musical.
Ava Della Pietra (USA)
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ava Della Pietra has a prolific repertoire of songwriting to her name. Aged only 17 she has written over 100 songs and she continues to write and record new music. Her music is a blend of pop, rock and soul with influences drawn from a wide range of popular artist. Ava's indisputable talent and dedication to songwriting have earned her recognition as the Pop category winner in this year's ISAs and we look forward to seeing what lies ahead in her songwriting career.
Peter Lewis and Tony Hume (UK)
Peter and Tony are no strangers to the UK Songwriting Contest and it is fitting to see their prodigious skill as a co-writing team recognised on the world stage. The UKSC has asked the duo to give some insight into their songwriting process. Tony writes the lyrics and plays the guitar and Peter, with a piano in his living room, will compose the melody and then shape the music. However, there is no hard and fast rule to their songwriting. Tony explains that their partnership is very fluid and they have, 'probably tried just about every way there is to write in order to get something interesting down'. For Tony, songwriting is mostly about decision making and their partnership enables them to make joint decisions on the key elements which ultimately shape the song. Peter adds that he writes music in a very fluid way drawing from subconscious sources of creativity. He acknowledges that there are times in which you have to labour over individual lines. However, Peter advises that if a song is not coming together, it is best not to force it, 'put it aside and if the idea has any merit the subconscious will often do the work for you'. When asked about their songwriting partnership Peter adds, 'It is great to have a partner whose judgement you trust because you're not always the best judge of your own work'. Visit Peter and Tony's website via the following link to see for yourselves their extensive body of work: https://peterandtonysongs.com/
Early judging results released!
EARLY STAR RATING RESULTS RELEASED
We know that it can be an agonising wait to find out how well your songs are fairing in the competition and we know that you would like to have more feedback throughout the contest on the status of your entries. In response to this feedback the UKSC will be introducing some changes this year. All entries submitted before the end of April will have their star ratings published in the first week of May and all five star rated entries will be carefully considered for a place in the Semi Finals and Finals. If you achieve a score of five stars it means that your song will be in the running for a Semi Finalist or Finalist position and could go on to become the Winner in that category. As the contest progresses, all entries submitted before the last day of the month will have their Star Rating announced during the first week of the following month.
SESSION ONE AND SESSION TWO EXPLAINED
The 2023 UK Songwriting Contest is divided into two sessions. Session One started on the 27th of February and will run until the 30th June. Session Two will begin on the 1st of July and run until the 31st of October. At the end of Session One the UKSC will announce which five star song entries have made it to the Semi Finals of the contest. Remember that all Semi Finalists are carefully evaluated and considered for a position in the Finals of the contest. The full list of Finalists and Category Winners will be announced after the closure of Session Two. Selecting the winners is a complex process which relies on careful deliberation by our expert panel of judges and at the finals stages songs are often "deconstructed" and examined closely and in detail by our judges and producers. For audio tracks this involves playing the song on keyboards and guitars to hear them without any production. Chosing the winning song is a highly personalised and time consuming process and we always ensure that judges are given all the time they need to make these decisions.
THE STAR RATING SYSTEM EXPLAINED
Songs are awarded a star rating from zero to five stars. A rating of five stars means that the song is very well written and complete and shows a good understanding of the craft of songwriting, song form and composition. A five star rating indicates that the writer(s) have been recognised by the judges as talented, capable songwriters with definite potential and these writers have demonstrated that they can write songs of a professional standard. All songs with this rating are considered for the Semi Finals selections. All songs which do not progress into the Semi Finals are given awards by the judges. The UKSC awards range from 'Participant' to 'Highly Commended Entry' award with the best five star entries achieving the Highly Commended Entry award. A detailed explanation of the star rating system, special awards and final positions is here.
The UK Songwriting Contest launches the 2023 competition with exciting new additions.
In this newsletter we introduce two exciting songwriting categories (Olympic Theme and Unsigned) and we welcome a new judge, Dr. Martin Isherwood, the Head of Music at Sir Paul McCartney´s Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). There is also another contest in town; the Eurovision Song Contest. And in this newsletter we outline why it is coming to Liverpool and what that has to do with the war in Ukraine.
The UKSC was founded in London in 2002 in association with The BRIT Trust and over the past two decades has become one of the most respected events in the international songwriting calendar.
In 2023 the UKSC again opens it’s doors to songwriters around the world in what promises to be another exciting year. We are delighted to welcome an accomplished new judge, Dr. Martin Isherwood, head of Music at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), to the panel of judges. As the LIPA lead for songwriting and a widely published academic, Martin is a valuable addition to the contest bringing with him the expertise he has accumulated over decades in the industry.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD SONG?
In other judging related news you can watch and listen here to UKSC judges Stuart Epps and Rachel Walker Mason being interviewed on the 2nd of March about Gigi Ann Green’s 2022 Under 18s Category winning song, ‘Devil In Disguise’. If you missed the live broadcast you can watch our UKSC video and hear the judges discuss Gigi's winning song and get their insights into the judging process and what makes a good song.
As well as introducing an accomplished new judge, the UKSC will keep things interesting this year by launching two new categories for the 2023 contest: Olympic Theme and Unsigned.
The last time this category was featured was in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics when the winning song ‘When You Ride A Dream’ by Marv Conan and Brian Muni was picked up and produced by award winning record producer Mel Shaw. The song became a popular download on iTunes and Amazon Music and was widely covered in different genres from Rock to Techno. Watch a short video about the Anthem version of the 2012 Olympic winning track on our YouTube channel here. This year we have relaunched the Olympic category for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games. The winning song will be promoted widely in the run up to the Games. We encourage entries from a range of styles including instrumental and lyrics only categories and we hope to see someone from the UKSC songwriting community add their voice to the biggest sporting event in the world.
If you are looking for the support of a record label to help push your music to the next level then this could be the category for you. Getting ahead in the music industry is no mean feat. Many of you have worked hard in developing your skills as songwriters and feel ready to have your songs heard by a wider audience. However, the path to a successful songwriting career can seem elusive and ever out of reach. Getting signed can provide you with the support, expertise and finances needed to get your music heard on the world stage. Songs in this category may be submitted in any genre or style but the the writer(s) must be independent and unsigned at the time of entry. Songs may be simple home demos, or they may be studio recorded and independently released through a distributor, eg Distrokid or CD Baby. If they are released this must be as a direct and independent release by the writer or artist, and not through a signing to any music company. The winner and top finalist songwriters in this category will be presented to our professional production, management and publishing contacts for consideration for signings and development.
Dr. Martin Isherwood, director of Music at Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), joins the UKSC panel of Judges.
Martin Isherwood is Director and Head of Music and Songwriting at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). LIPA was co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney alongside Mark Featherstone-Witty (founder of the BRIT School) and it has become a centre of excellence in the performing arts. Martin has many years’ professional experience as a songwriter, producer and music entrepreneur. He has achieved top 20 UK chart success and received a number of songwriting awards including winning BBC Song for Europe in 2003. He has been Head of Music at LIPA since 2001 and he is the LIPA lead on songwriting. Martin is a member of UK Music Skills Academy and he has served on the Boards of many music organisations and urban regeneration projects. Martin has featured in a number of TV and radio programmes, panels at music industry conferences, presented songwriting papers at Higher Education conferences and published research commissioned by the Higher Education Academy. We are very pleased to welcome Martin as a UK Songwriting Contest judge in 2023. You can discover more about LIPA, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, at lipa.ac.uk.
Why Liverpool is set to host the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023
Liverpool is no stranger to the world of music. The city has become synonymous with the Beatles and in 2015 it was officially recognised by UNESCO as a City Of Music. But why has it been chosen to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest? Hosting the contest is considered an honour which is normally given to the previous year's winning country. In this case Ukraine. In 2022 the Eurovision Song Contest was won by Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra with the song ‘Stefania’. The winning song combines and electronic drum beat, rap and a traditional Ukrainian woodwind instrument, the Sopilka. It was the third Ukrainian song to win the competition since 2004. Second place in the 2022 contest came to the UK's Sam Ryder, who rose to fame on TikTok during the COVID19 pandemic. Unfortunately, due to security concerns over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), who organise the event, could not allow the 2023 contest to be held in the winning country. The UK was subsequently approached to host the competition as the second placed nation. Various UK cities bid to host the contest, but in October 2022 Liverpool beat favourites Glasgow to host the event. Liverpool is also officially known as Odessa's 'sister city' and they have been recognised as twin cities since 1957. The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Liverpool between the 9th and 13th of May on behalf of Ukraine. Kalush Orchestra rapper Oleh Psiuk has been quoted as saying “We, in turn, will make all efforts to help Ukraine win next year as well, so that Eurovision 2024 can take place in a peaceful country.”
THE UKSC 2023 IS NOW OPEN
The 2023 UK Songwriting Contest is open for entries. See the opportunities for songwriters, prizes, song categories, new judges and more on the official UKSC website at www.songwritingcontest.co.uk
Categories in 2023 include Singer-Songwriter, Unsigned, Pop, AC, Lyrics Only, Jazz, Blues, RnB, Acoustic/Folk, Crisis and Protest Songs, Teen, Instrumental, Country, Love Songs, Retro and more. There is a category for everyone and every style of music. Check out all the categories on the UKSC website at www.songwritingcontest.co.uk.
We are re-introducing the Olympic Theme category in 2023 and we are looking for songs to promote during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.The last UKSC Olympic Theme winner was covered and released by many artists and produced by Mel Shaw, Founder of the Juno Awards and Founding President of CARAS, The Canadian Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences. It was widely played and downloaded during the Games. Find out more on the Song Categories Page.
Everyone who enters is given free entry in the LOTY Awards (worth $30), a package of song pitching opportunities to promote their work (worth $50) and other great benefits, plus every song receives a Star Rating from our judges, an Award Certificate for each song, and an option to include your song in The International Songwriting Contest using the same UKSC entry form. And everyone who enters can join our exclusive private Songwriting Community Group to interact and network, collaborate and share, with other UKSC entrants. Get the full details at www.songwritingcontest.co.uk
We look forward to receiving your songs.
The second session song deadline is on Sunday night 31 July at midnight. You have Saturday and Sunday, all weekend, to get your song entries in for early results.
If you submit before midnight Sunday you will see your song´s Star Rating and its current status and position in the event your dashboard within days. Semi Finalists will be able to follow events live to see if the song moves forward into the Finals. And if you don´t get into the Semi Finals you still get your song´s Star Rating from the judges, and you will be Awarded an alternative position.
PRIZES AND BENEFITS
This year´s prizes include an International Distribution Deal with world wide distribution of your song through the world´s top stores and streaming sites and there is a big selection of other prizes including valuable music software, mastering, effects packages, Songwriters Guild Memberships, song pitching opportunities and much much more. There is also valuable FREE entry in the LOTY Awards and The Commonwealth Song Contest included (saving you $$$s on entry fees), plus an option to be part of The International Songwriting Awards (The ISAs), and everyone receives $50 worth of song pitching with SongU as a thank you gift.
Categories this year include a Song Co-writing Challenge (write new lyrics or a new melody to a famous song), Birthday Songs, Protest Songs, Latin Music, Work In Progress and much more. There is even a Cover Songs category and a BRITSONG category for the type of songs suitable to represent the UK in major international showcases like Eurovision, the CSC or international Expos. There are 30 categories this year with a category for every type of song, and something for everyone. Visit the website for full details.
We sincerely wish you every success with your songwriting. Browse the UKSC website for details and ideas. And contact us at any time with your questions.
The UK Songwriting Contest Team.
CO WRITING CHALLENGE
Our first UKSC Songwriting Challenge was to write new lyric or melody to the most recorded song of all time: Paul McCartney´s Yesterday. This year we opened it up to include ANY existing famous song. It can be a song from any era, in any genre, by any songwriter or artist. The judge´s favourite songs will be copyright registered, with an international Copyright Certificate issued, and winning songs will passed on to our A&R and publishing contacts and producers. This is a chance to co-write with a famous songwriter and get noticed. Full details are on the UKSC website.
There are more opportunities than ever this year with new song categories and new prizes that include a Record and Distribution Deal, music software, mastering with Grammy Winner´s and much more. Everyone receives a valuable gift just for entering, everyone has the chance to be included on the UKSC promotional album, and you will receive updates about your song´s status live in your dashboard during the event. There is also free entry in other major international competitions and awards included with your UKSC entry.
We look forward to receiving your work this year. The UKSC Team and the judges are waiting to hear from you!
Best wishes from,
The UKSC Team.
Visit at https://songwritingcontest.co.uk
fIn this video veteran BBC broadcaster and UKSC judge Richard Niles interviews songwriter Johnny Schaefer and Grammy® Award winning legend Melissa Manchester. Johnny won the Original Song category, held in partnership with Music Aid FM, with his song "Can’t Hide the Light”. Melissa Manchester sings on this UK Songwriting Contest entry as a duet with Johnny, and in the interview they are joined by producer Stephan Oberhoff to talk about how the song was conceived, written and produced – with the epic sound of 55 vocal tracks!
Hollywood actress and singer-songwriter Bonnie Piesse joins the UKSC judging panels in 2021. Bonnie was born in Australia and was well known for her many TV roles there before working on the Star Wars films with George Lucas and moving to the USA. She made the role of Beru in Star Wars her own, in Star Wars Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, and Disney have signed her for the new, and long anticipated, Star Wars series 'Obi-Wan Kenobi', alongside Ewan McGregor. This is now in production in 2021.
Bonnie is a highly aclaimed singer songwriter with songs placed and featured in movies and TV shows including the recent Home Box Office HBO docu-series 'The Vow' in which she was also a featured subject. She was described by Oscar nominated film director Luke Doolan as "the type of artist who’s work gets better each time you see or hear her. She has the voice of an angel and the mind of a warrior". When she is not busy at the Disney Studios acting in the new Star Wars series (or judging UK Songwriting Contest songs!!) Bonnie is working on songs for a new EP to be released in 2022.
Bonnie is a past winner of The UK Songwriting Contest, with her beautiful and enchanting song 'Ariella', so she knows the event very well and from both sides - as a contestant and as a judge. She is based in California and is a judge for both the UK and USA editions of the contest. You can discover more about Bonnie and hear her music on her website www.bonniepiesse.com
SUBMIT YOUR SONGS
The UK Songwriting Contest 2021 is now open for entries and we look forward to receiving your songs in this year´s event. Full details and entry forms are on the UKSC website at http://songwritingcontest.co.uk
The UKSC Team