My originals band, Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey, is ready to take an important step. I've assembled all our original songs and made note of who contributed to each song. After everyone has a chance to review the package, we'll be registering our music with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrighting our songs is important because it will allow us to move forward with aspirations of earning mailbox money.
While everyone in the group aspires to be a great performer, there are other avenues that will be open to us once our songs are protected through copyright, such as publishing or licensing for TV, commercials, or film. Then of course there is the pipe dream every songwriter has: that a major star picks up one of your songs and it becomes a hit. Fortunately, Thomas Vinton, our keyboard player, has been down this road before, so his experience will be invaluable as we explore new territory.
The idea of earning mailbox money from royalties is appealing to me, not because it would be fun to open up the mailbox and find a big check (which would be fun), but because of the freedom it represents. In another blog entry, I wrote about how much I enjoy being a background musician. Writing music and earning royalties is very much in line with my background musician mentality. I don't know how much more "background" you can get if you're writing songs that other people are singing or instrumentals that are used for mood music in commercials or films.
If I'm eventually fortunate enough to be earning mailbox money, I would have more freedom to pursue the kind of music I'd like to play, and I would have more time and resources for finding gigs. It sure would open a lot of doors if I could say that yes, I'm the guy who wrote the #1 hit, "Yoda in the Rain."
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that I need to keep writing music that I enjoy playing. If I write music that comes from the heart and find a way to earn a living from it, I'm not a sellout. I will be a sellout if I forgo artistry and start writing songs purely for profit.
But first things first. We need to send that copyright package before we start worrying about all the rest.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.