In the past year, the work of songwriters has been pushed to the limelight: whether it was The Pact standing up for equity and fair treatment in publishing, or the Grammys announcing the abolishment of their “33% Rule” which prevented many songwriters from earning an Album of the Year award, or the slew of lucrative song catalog sales during the pandemic. But one thing that has been largely missing from the conversation is how one can become a songwriter in the first place.
“Music and songwriting education is really inaccessible and unaffordable,” Song Start co-founder and professional songwriter Ali Tamposi explains. “We made the Song Start series to lift the veil.”
Co-created with Nvak Collective and Foundation founder Tamar Kaprelian, the two talents created the free education series Song Start with Spotify as a way to encourage aspiring writers from all backgrounds to pick up an instrument and just go for it.
“I want this to be a resource so that people have more agency over their creativity,” says Kaprelian.
Coming up about a decade ago, Kaprelian and Tamposi explain that “making it” as a songwriter meant having to know the right people and be in the right rooms. “It was all very gatekept,” says Tamposi. And it’s dangerous, according to Kaprelian, who says she’s been in multiple unsafe situations in writing rooms full of predatory men. Song Start, she thinks, could provide the next generation with the knowledge and power they need to be successful and safe.
Song Start is both a video, podcast, and written article series and is a joint project between Spotify’s many departments: Spotify for Artists, Noteable (Songwriter and Publisher Relations), Editorial and Podcasting along with its founders Kaprelian and Tamposi. It also features mega-watt music stars, hand picked by Tamposi and Kaprelian, to explain topics like song structure, recording at home, and what a PRO is.
With John Legend, Charli XCX, Phoebe Bridgers, Camila Cabello, and more as its masterclass teachers, Ali explains, “we selected based on skill and knowledge and diverse perspectives, and these were the leading contenders.” With lesson plans devised by musicians Eric Leva, Olivia Reid, and educator Candy Tamposi, Ali’s mother and a school principal with thirty years of experience, the outlines of each episode were then adjusted to incorporate real life stories from the artists’ own journey.
“We also wanted to share that once you learn the rules of songwriting, you can break them and experiment with them. That’s another cool thing about this content,” says Kaprelian.
Spotify producer Kimberly Taylor-Bennett echoes this sentiment, “we call it Song Start because it’s meant as a starting point. It’s not an entire education, but it’s the push you might need.” That was the reason why the team opted for shorter form videos to introduce the topics, and if a viewer wants to learn more, Spotify offers a deeper dive with its accompanying podcasts and written content on Spotify’s “Noteable” landing page — its hub for all things related to songwriting.
Although Song Start is a new initiative, it’s one that fits perfectly with the work Tamposi and Kaprelian have separately done in music education for years. Kaprelian’s Nvak provides education in Armenia, Malawi and Israel, and Tamposi’s Creative Waves provides similar resources in her home state of Florida. Though the series lives online for now, Tamposi says she’d love to take Song Start lesson plans to schools once its safe to travel. “It’d be especially great to target high schools which have budget cuts to the arts,” she notes.
But for now, the hope is to use Spotify’s online footprint to reach aspiring writers around the world.
“We wanted to use this COVID time to our advantage, to make a free digital platform to help even more people,” says Kaprelian.
Explore the Song Start series here.