Used to be, you’d see ads in the back pages of magazines, in which some operation in L. A. or Nashville or some other Major Musical Center would offer to take your words and turn them into songs, which would then be recorded by professional musicians and then issued on actual phonograph records with labels and everything, and by inference yours, really, because they never really promised you a rose garden you’d become the Big Star you were destined to be. Did this ever work? What do you think?
Running these ads is like dropping a baited hook into a well-stocked lake. When the song-poet responds by sending her (for most song-poets are female) verse in for “evaluation,” the shark mails back a barrage of promotional literature in which he (for most song sharks are male) lays out a more sophisticated round of deceptions than can be squeezed into the ads. The verse, no matter how hopeless, is invariably given a top rating, thus inflating the song-poet’s ego and expectations. When such puffery is supplemented with anecdotes of just how much money there is to be made in songwriting, and hints of how “anything can happen” and “you never know,” the fish starts to nibble at the bait.
The next twist is perhaps the trickiest of all, for even the dumbest perch in the pond knows that in the music industry, if you’ve got a salable commodity then companies will pay you for access to it. Instead, the song-poem company must convince the song-poet that she should pay them, typically to the tune of $200 to $400.
That’s some expensive tune. And I might have thought that it might have faded into oblivion, what with the massive upheaval in what used to be the music industry. Instead, it migrated over to the book aisle:
So there’s this writing contest advertised by a company called “First One Digital Publishing”. The contest has unusually restrictive rules for entry. In a nutshell, they require a $150 entry fee, you sign over all the rights to your work even if it doesn’t get picked as a winner, they can use your work any way they want without telling you about it, and you can’t sue them for anything, ever.
Other than that, of course, it’s perfectly legit. Where’s John Trubee when you need him?