SONGWRITING TIPS AND ADVICE ON THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN ALL HIT SONGS

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SMOKEY ROBINSON

Photo: Dwight McCann

Smokey Robinson, the “poet laureate of soul”, is set to be the next recipient of the prestigious U.S. Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao has announced that Smokey Robinson will receive the prize in Washington, D.C., in November.

The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.

The seven previous recipients are: Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel and Willie Nelson.

“As a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao. “His rich melodies are works of art—enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way. It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time.

“His velvet falsetto and incomparable mastery of lyrical verse have created a tapestry of hits that have transcended generations and become a mainstay in American pop music.”

Smokey Robinson commented: “It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award.”

TRACKS OF MY TEARSThe 76-year-old Grammy Award winner has released dozens of Top 40 hits and added more than 4,000 songs to his legacy songbook. His music reads like a playlist of Motown’s greatest hits—”Mickey’s Monkey” (1963), “Going to a Go-Go” (1966), “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1963), “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), “More Love” (1967), “I Second That Emotion” (1967), “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” (1969), “The Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder, 1970), “Cruisin’” (1979), “Being With You” (1981), “Just to See Her” and “One Heartbeat” (1987).

“The Tracks of My Tears” was named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2007 as one of the nation’s culturally, historically or aesthetically significant sound recordings.

Robinson was the creative force behind many Motown classics. Hit songs that he wrote for other Motown artists include: “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Get Ready,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “My Guy,” “You Beat Me to the Punch” and “Don’t Mess with Bill”. He has crafted lyrics for Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Brenda Holloway, The Marvelettes, The Temptations and many others. His music also influenced The Beatles who recorded his song “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” in 1963.

The Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is only awarded to living musical artists whose contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin.

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


Nick_Jonas_-_Kingdom_Premiere_Oct_2014_(cropped)_(cropped)

“The beauty of songwriting is that we have the ability to tell our stories, and it means something to us. But then you open it up to other people, and their experience and how it affects their lives.

“That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned as a songwriter in an 11,12-year career. You have to write about things that are real to you and relevant to you. And it doesn’t always have to be emotional and heavy, it can be just about whatever it is, but it has to connect. But it can’t be hyper-specific or it’s going to alienate some people.

“People like Taylor [Swift] and Drake do that very well. They’re able to kind of create something that means something to them but also everyone can connect to it in their own way.”

—Nick Jonas  (in an interview with Bustle Magazine)

(Photo: Mingle Media TV)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


PAUL McCARTNEY - pure_mccartney_4_cd_packshot-b237130001f1c3fb11d0d50acfeb28ab75058b90-s800-c85

In its latest All Songs +1 podcast, America’s National Public Radio network (NPR) talks to Paul McCartney about his songwriting process and how he manages to stay inspired despite having written some 30 albums worth of songs over the past five decades.

The intriguing 40-minute discussion shows how McCartney, at the age of 73, is still in love with making music, and still feels a spark of enthusiasm in the way he approaches songwriting.

“If I was to sit down and write a song now,” he tells NPR’s Robin Hilton and Bob Boilen, “I’d use my usual method: I’d either sit down with a guitar or at the piano and just look for melodies, chord shapes, musical phrases, some words, a thought, just to get started. And then I just sit with it to work it out, like I’m writing an essay or doing a crossword puzzle. That’s the system I’ve always used, that John [Lennon] and I started with. I’ve really never found a better system …”

You can listen to the full NPR podcast here …

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/481256944/481471157

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


 

Lionel Richie

“I didn’t know I was a writer. I thought you had to be able to read and write music and understand theory before you could write songs. Then as I got into Motown, I realized probably half of the great writers there couldn’t read or write music …

“It set me free from the standpoint of technically trying to write the notes down … I think by not knowing much theory, it set me free from the rules.”

—Lionel Richie (in an interview with Billboard magazine)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 

 


Damon Albarn - 2010 - by Bill Ebbesen

“What is songwriting? What is it all about? … True songwriters are people who are able to release themselves from something that’s really affected them by writing a song about it.

“Some of us see it as going to church, some of us see it as going to work, but at the end of the day, if you’re not connecting to the spirit you’re not making true music.”

— Damon Albarn (on receiving his Lifetime Achievement award at the Ivor Novello Awards 2016).

(Photo: Bill Ebbesen)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


Pixie_Lott_2014_(cropped) - Photo - Walterlan Papetti

Pixie Lott (Photo: Walterlan Papetti)

UK music business training organisation, The Songwriting Academy, has teamed up with coffee house chain Caffè Nero to launch a songwriting competition to find the best unsigned songwriter in the UK—and raise £50,000 for charity.

According to the organisers, this is the first time a live, event-based songwriting competition has been launched in the UK where the song is the star, not the singer.

The songwriter with the strongest songs will be the winner. Songwriters who are not singers will be allowed to use session singers and musicians.

The first prize includes a 12-month development programme with The Songwriting Academy, plus promotion and exposure via Caffè Nero outlets, and support from Yamaha Instruments.

Songwriters can enter their songs online HERE before 1st September, 2016.

The top songwriters will be selected to showcase their songs at live regional heats across the UK in Caffè Nero stores from 26 September 2016, culminating in a star-studded Gala Final in London on 30 October 2016.

In addition, top celebrities and multi-million selling songwriters are all coming together to help the competition raise money for the Stand Up To Cancer campaign and music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. The two charities will share all profits.

English singer-songwriter Pixie Lott (pictured above) said: “What an amazing way to raise money for a great cause. Every unsigned songwriter in the country should get writing for this competition!”

Jack SavorettiSinger-songwriter Jack Savoretti (left) added: “This is a great opportunity for up and coming songwriters … which are hard to come by. It is also for a great cause.”

The Songwriting Academy is a UK-based songwriting, production and music business training organisation. It aims to help songwriters succeed in today’s competitive music business through the support of a team of leading songwriters, producers and industry experts.

Caffè Nero has supported talented grass-root musicians for many years. It was instrumental in supporting the early careers of artists such as Jack Savoretti and Passenger through live performances in many of its 600 UK stores and airplay on Caffè Nero’s in-store playlist.

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).



Sia Furler - Photo by Kirk Stauffer

“Record labels want things that people can Google,” Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler recently told ABC News.

This may be one reason why she has become one of the finest contemporary exponents of the captivating,  one-word song title. It’s a strategic songwriting approach that has resulted in a stream of distinctive hit songs such as: ‘Diamonds’, ‘Chandelier’, ‘Cannonball’, ‘Titanium’, ‘Unstoppable’, ‘Radioactive’, ‘Breathe’, ‘Invincible’, ‘Sexercize’, and many more.

“I’ll choose lyrical content from a list of concepts I have in my phone, and whenever I think of one, I write it down,” said Sia. “I usually choose a word, one solid concept. So say I’m looking around and I see a chandelier, I think ‘oh, how can I use that?’ … There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it.”

A recent study by Priceonomics confirmed that, in recent years, there has been a steady upward trend in the number of one-word song titles in the Billboard Hot 100. This could be a result of the growing importance of using catchy hashtags on Google, Twitter and other social media to promote artists. The Priceonomics study found that the probability of a one-word title is two and a half times greater today than in the 1960s, and the average number of words per song title has also declined. In the 1960s, less than 10% of hit songs had a one-word title; today the figure is almost 25%.

“There have always been songs with one-word titles, but in the first half of the 20th Century, they were uncommon,” said Dan Kopf of Priceonomics. “If you peek at lists of popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s, you’ll find that one-word song titles are exceedingly rare – hits like Jimmy Dorsey’s ‘Tangerine’ and Billie Holiday’s version of ‘Summertime’ are exceptions.”

He added: “By the 1960s, one-word song titles were more popular, but still unusual, at less than one in ten hits. The growth was relatively gradual from the Sixties to the Nineties, and then accelerated at the turn of the century”

With easy-to-remember song titles becoming increasingly important as a music marketing tool, it’s not surprising that Sia Furler and fellow hit songwriter Bonnie McKee both advocate writing songs from titles. After all, the title is the heart and emotional foundation of any song—a stepping stone to the lyrics in the verses and the chorus.

Once you find a great title, a song can almost write itself—or at least give you the direction that the song should take. It can help you to focus your creativity by encapsulating the message of the song in a simple phrase or (increasingly) just a single word.

Bonnie McKee - Photo Justin Higuchi

“I start with titles a lot because I think if you open your ears and eyes to them they’re everywhere,” said Bonnie McKee (pictured – photo by Justin Higuchi). “They’re on billboards; they’re in conversations when you’re eavesdropping at the grocery store. The world is full of song titles. So I just have a list that I go through.”

She added: “In pop music usually there’s already a track finished, so I can listen to the track and decide does it sound like a sad song or a love song? Is it a party song? What is it? And then I look at my list of titles and kind of find a title that looks the way the track sounds and build the story around that.”

A good title can also dictate the whole architecture of a song—with the words in the title helping to establish the cadence for the rest of the lyrics and thus playing a part in determining the melodic structure.

Sting is another top songwriter who always writes from titles. “I never write the first line of a song first,” he once remarked. “It’s a mistake, because then you have to come up with the second one.”

(Sia Furler photo: Kirk Stauffer)

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and across Europe. It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK and Europe, as well as Apple’s iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.A 5-star rated book at Amazon, How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


Lionel Ritchie - Mar2011 - Photo by Eva Rinaldi

Lionel Richie is set to receive the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award at this June’s Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The award is the Hall’s highest honour and is only awarded to past inductees. Richie has been a Hall of Fame member since 1994.

“In our view, Lionel is more than well deserving of this honour as one the greatest and most prolific songwriters and identifiable music voices in our century,” said the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s co-chairmen Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. “As a songwriter, Lionel’s songs made you love and dance and will last forever in American culture. But he truly demonstrated the power of songwriting with his masterful co-writing of the global song ‘We Are The World’ with Michael Jackson.”

Richie’s songwriting credits include ‘Three Times A Lady’ and ‘Easy’ with The Commodores, and solo hits such as ‘Endless Love’, ‘All Night Long (All Night)’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Say You, Say Me’.

Previous recipients of the Johnny Mercer Award have included Van Morrison, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Phil Collins, Paul Anka, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and Stephen Sondheim, among others.

Set to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at this year’s event are: Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Chip Taylor, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards (who died in 1996), and the late Marvin Gaye. Sire Records co-founder and chairman Seymour Stein will receive the Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award.

(Photo: Eva Rinaldi)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


American Authors, winner of the 2013 USA Songwriting Competition

This year’s USA Songwriting Competition is now open for entries and is offering a top prize of $50,000 (£35,000) in cash, plus music gear and US radio airplay.

Songwriters from around the world are urged to enter before the closing date of 27 May 2016. The cost is US$35.00 per entry.

Original songs – which can be written in any language – may be entered in 15 diverse genre categories including: Pop, Rock/Alternative, Country, R&B, Gospel/Inspirational, Folk, Latin, Instrumental, Jazz, Hip-Hop/Rap, Children, World, Dance/Electronica, Novelty/Comedy, and Lyrics Only.

Winners will be selected by a committee of music industry judges, including music publishers and record label A&R execs from Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony.

Songwriters will retain all rights to all of their songs.

The USA Songwriting Competition is an international songwriting event which has been honouring songwriters, composers, bands and recording artists from all over the world since 1995. Past winners have come from Australia, Japan, Canada, UK, Germany, Brazil and South Africa, as well as from the USA.

“This is not American Idol,” say the organisers. “This is the professional songwriting competition that offers winners the clout that it takes to really make it.”

The winner of the 2013 USA Songwriting Competition—’Believer’ by US rock band American Authors (pictured)—went on to achieve Platinum sales. It topped the Billboard Adult Pop Song Charts and reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. The song—which was written by Zac Barnett, Dave Rublin, Matt Sanchez, James Adam Shelley, Aaron Accetta and Shep Goodman—was also featured in the hit movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

You can enter the competition online HERE …

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


Stephen_Stills_2012-10-22_2

If you try to force too many messages into one song, you could end up being overloaded with verses, warns former Buffalo Springfield and CSN star Stephen Stills who wrote the rock classics ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Love the One You’re With’.

Stills believes writers should never be afraid to take a pair of scissors to their songs. “If I’ve got too many verses,” he says, “I’ll cut out two verses and then take the meaning of the song and condense it.”

Unfortunately, many new writers tend to try too hard and end up cramming too much into a song—making it way too long and unnecessarily complicated … and leaving the listener feeling confused.

That’s why it’s so important to avoid over-thinking or over-writing your songs. Sometimes, the chords, melodies and lyrics that come to you instinctively are the right ones, so don’t spend forever searching for the perfect melody or words. In other words, know when to quit.

That’s something that Dave Matthews – lead singer, songwriter and guitarist with the Dave Matthews Band – admits he finds hard to do. “I take it too far sometimes,” he once told Rolling Stone magazine. “When I listen to my favorite songwriters, they have such simple melodies and chords. I occasionally manage to stop at the right time, but all too often I keep on going until I have way too many notes and words.”

These days, a hit song tends to comprise just one story told from one point of view. So stay focused. If you have several unrelated points that you want to get across to listeners, try putting them in separate songs.

And don’t try to be too tricky with your chord progressions. Just concentrate on creating music and lyrics that can hold the listener’s attention … and write a melody that is easy for them to remember.

In short, don’t sabotage your songs by being too smart for your own good.

Here’s Stephen Stills with a perfect three verses-plus-chorus classic ….

Stephen Stills photo: SolarScott

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.

 How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).