I’m a songwriter and I play one on TV

It started with an email from a fan, “They played your song on Good Morning America. Congrats!” Surely she had me confused with Shawn Colvin or somebody; I checked it out anyway and I’ll be damned if they hadn’t played my “Potato Chips” ‘cause, as everyone knew, it was National Potato Chip Day. That was just one of my brushes with TV fame.

I wasn’t sure how those things worked but I was pretty sure that a big TV show like that should have a sent me a check. I consulted my musician friends and found that indeed, the network had screwed up. Musicians who get airplay on TV shows get paid. A lot. Again, I consulted with my friends and one kind soul came up with the contact information for the music supervisor at the network. This is not something you can just Google so I owe her a case of chocolate – imported, none of that crappy domestic stuff.

I left a voice mail and the supervisor called me back right away. “Those guys in the production room make choices at 4 AM before our office opens,” she confided, “We’d be happy to license it. What’s your fee?” Should I quote just enough to buy the chicken enchilada plate from my favorite Mexican place? Or enough to purchase a BMW with leather seats and a custom paint job?

I told her I needed to consult with my attorney and I’d call her back.

I don’t have an attorney.

I did, however, find an organization that does pro bono work for artists. A very nice lawyer looked over the contract. Musicians who’d had music on TV shows gave me further advice. I was ready.

I called the music supervisor, took a deep breath, and quoted a fee. Not quite BMW level but enough to buy a new laptop. “Sure,” she answered too quickly.

Ah well, it bought a lot of potato chips. And a new computer.

One time I ended up on nationwide TV without even trying. I was on stage at the 1993 National March on Washington for LGBT Rights.  (LBGT? GLBT? I dunno, it all sounds like a sandwich to me.) I nervously eyed a huge platform crowded with enormous cameras that sat to my left.

I was on CNN at the top of the hour almost all day.  Guess I’m out to everyone now.

I showed up for a radio gig a few years ago and was surprised to find TV cameras. It was in my contract but it’d been a few months since I’d seen it. My brain is just not wired to remember that stuff. The opening riff for Stairway to Heaven, sure, but contract clauses? Anyway, I wasn’t upset, just unprepared. I did a pretty good job in spite of being obsessed with my hair. Even a blow torch couldn’t tame it so I ducked into the bathroom at every spare moment and wet it down.

I asked a violin player, Mark Russell, to join me on one song. He was there with someone else. I’d never met the guy and he’d never heard the song before but he killed it. Is it any wonder I asked him to marry me?

Over the years I’ve been on several cable TV shows, probably viewed only by the lone guy working at the all-night donut place. Thank god these were done before the advent of YouTube or I’d have to retire.

My lunchtime bellydance class was once profiled on a local news show. My butt made more appearances than the rest of me.

TV fame will probably continue to elude me but if you happen to work for one of the networks, call me. I’ve got songs about all kinds of food.

Maybe I should write one about donuts.

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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11 Responses to I’m a songwriter and I play one on TV

  1. Jami Bantry says:

    WOW Jamie…. “In-freaking-credible.”
    You cause me to feel pride for you, and that I am a musician.
    You are right, great song from you, and Mark Russell nailed it… blues lead on a violin. Just amazing.
    jami bantry

  2. buzzamato says:

    That’s great man! Do you belong to a PRO such as BMI and ASCAP or SEASAC? That’s where the “real” money comes from. License fees range in amounts but given you weren’t consulted before airing your song you really could have written your own ticket practically. Just make sure they file cue sheets and wait for the royalties to pour in. Congrats!

  3. Charley Bell says:

    I bought your album because I heard you sing “Potato Chips” at the Carrboro Music Festival years ago. They’re my favorite food and glad to hear the song got national recognition. Also like the one on this video, think I heard it too at the Carrboro Music Festival. Ain’t it the truth!

  4. Julie Nicolay says:

    Another excellent blog, Jamie, and yay for getting paid and (hopefully) making it easier for the next artist to get the paycheck without having to go to the trouble that you did! DAMN, that string wizard, Mark Russell, is INCREDIBLE!! That was a treat; so glad you posted that for us You guys kicked ass!

  5. Jami Bantry says:

    I bought MP3 Three Bridges album online.. I really LOVE it. 🙂 Thank you for the music. Huggs, jami

  6. CJP Staff says:

    What buzzamato said above was correct.

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