How It Really Works: Songwriter Sam Barsh On Success In The Streaming Age

Sam Barsh

Photo: Koury Angelo 

news

How It Really Works: Songwriter Sam Barsh On Success In The Streaming Age

The multi-platinum music creator discusses the reality of making a living as a songwriting in the streaming age

Advocacy/Apr 26, 2019 - 08:42 pm

What does it take to make a living as a songwriter in today's music industry? The answer may surprise you. Multi-platinum songwriter, producer and keyboardist Sam Barsh would know. His smash-hit credits include co-writer on Aloe Blacc's "The Man," writer and keyboardist on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, contributions to albums by Anderson .Paak, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ledisi and many more.

We sat down with Barsh to hear his perspective from the front lines of music creating as a living, and his insights are powerful. Below, Barsh shines a light on the reality of making a living as a songwriter in the streaming age and provides valuable advice to aspiring songwriters and a glimpse at why all music creators can find optimism in the recently passed Music Modernization Act.

As a major songwriter how has the streaming age affected your bottom line?

The biggest change that streaming has brought to the songwriting business is the replacement of physical or download sales with streaming, and the corresponding difference in revenue. Physical sales continue to disappear while streaming is the way of the present and the future.

The mechanical royalty payment for a physical or download sale of a song is $0.091 per sale, while the average streaming mechanical royalty payment is $0.00043 per stream. (The $0.00043 per stream figure is the average per stream payment from Spotify, which is the most used streaming platform in the US. Apple and Tidal pay more, Google pays less, so the Spotify number is a good median). And since songwriters have their rates set by the U.S Government, we can’t really go out and sell our songs to those services for what they should be worth.

The good news is the Music Modernization Act is set to change that [with the institution of a market-based "willing buyer, willing seller" standard], and that’s exciting and encouraging, but at the end of the day the new royalty rates will still be set by the government and as we’ve seen recently subject to appeals and court fights. So even though I have a catalog of over 100 songs, a large number of which are with major artists, including four songs featured on No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and multiple Gold and Platinum plaques, that doesn't translate into riches.

Could you go into more detail on the royalties you earn? 

To paint a very clear picture of how most songwriters earn money from streaming, let's examine the “album cut,” or a song that wasn't a single, on a major platinum album.

Fifth Harmony's [second album] 7/27 is a perfect example to use, since it's an album by a huge act that has a lot of different songwriters on it… It's a quintessential professional pop songwriter album, if you will.

Like almost every platinum album, 7/27 was led by its singles. On Spotify, “Work from Home” has almost 900 million streams, “All in My Head (Flex)” has close to 300 million, and “That's My Girl” has 130 million plus.

By contrast, seven of the songs on the album have less than 22 million streams each on Spotify. Taking into account that Spotify has a little less than 40 percent market share for streaming, let’s just approximate that each of those seven album cuts streamed 50 million times total across all platforms.

With the average streaming rate mentioned before of $0.00043 per stream, that means a song with 50 million streams earns $21,500. With an average of 5 writers per song on 7/27, assuming in this case that they all got even splits, each writer on one of these cuts would earn around $4,300 from streaming.

Considering that album cuts are much less likely to get major sync licenses or radio play, in many cases that $4,300 is practically all the songwriter will make from landing a song with an A-list pop act. Of course, artists like Fifth Harmony still sell some physical copies, but that is a small number in the scheme of overall sales. And keep in mind that there are songs on major platinum albums with WAY less than 50 million streams. Also, most writers have either an admin deal or a publishing deal, which will take anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of their earnings.

Contrast this with if Fifth Harmony had released this album in 2003 with the same numbers. For the entire CD era, if people wanted to buy an artist's single, they would purchase the album that the song was on. Given that “Work From Home” went 5x Platinum in the USA alone, for this purpose we'll assume people would have purchased 5 million copies of the album. With a statutory mechanical rate at that time of around 9 cents per song, each song on the album would have generated $450,000 from U.S. sales, with the individual songwriter's 20 percent of one song earning them $90,000 in US mechanicals alone, as opposed to today's number of $4,300 from the entire world.

This analysis is not an exact science, but it paints the picture of how things have changed.

In light of the difficulties of earning a living in the streaming age, what would you say to an aspiring hit songwriter?

First of all, I would say don’t quit writing songs if that's what you love to do. It’s part of our DNA as writers to create songs, and it is a hell of a lot more fun than most other things people do for a living. However, if you’re in it just to chase hits and make money, you need to know what the stakes are. 

Be forewarned that if your primary goal in becoming a songwriter is to get rich, your odds are infinitesimal. You’re not only competing with millions of writers for one of the top 30-50 songs (the songs that generally make real money), you also have to account for the fact that most hits today have between three and six writers on them, so the pie is divided accordingly. 

Also, the concept of an “evergreen” copyright has changed, since streaming has put a major dent into catalog sales for older songs.

"I was told recently by a legacy artist who had big hits in the 70s that their catalog royalties went down about 70 percent since streaming took over." -Sam Barsh

Given that most hit songs generate the majority of their revenue during a two to three-year peak period, you would have to write multiple hit singles and/or have a substantial percentage of a global super-smash to make the “set for life” money that many people think comes from writing just one hit song. It's definitely not impossible, but you can have a lot of success as a songwriter and still just be living royalty check to royalty check.

On the positive side, streaming is a great tool for artists. So if you're a writer/artist, self-releasing music is a way to both gain exposure and make money. It's much easier to get somebody to check out your music via streaming than it was when you just had to hope someone who never heard of you would randomly decide to buy your CD at the record store. And payments for the master side of recordings are about 10 times higher than mechanical streaming royalties for songwriters. 

Lastly, for my musician friends that are dabbling in songwriting and production, know that you’re competing with people who do nothing but write songs and produce, and have been honing their craft with as much dedication as we have with our instruments. I myself have put in my 10,000 hours at least threefold, as a musician, a songwriter and as a producer and engineer. And it still took me 10 years of seriously working at songwriting to write major records.

What’s one tip you’d give that a young songwriter might not be aware of?

Be mindful of splits ahead of time. I recommend having a conversation with your co-writers directly, before getting management involved, whenever possible. That doesn’t always prevent somebody from tripping or going back on their word, but if you can communicate directly with your collaborators and agree on splits before the song gets placed or recorded, it will alleviate headaches later on. 

You mentioned your role as a producer earlier. Can you talk a bit about what it’s like to be a producer?

One of my favorite things about being a producer is that it requires me to utilize the entire range of my musical, emotional and intellectual skill sets. I'm a people person, and every situation is different, so I always get an intrinsic feel for the energies in the room and do my best to facilitate a day of great work. Making the artists, writers, musicians, engineers and anyone else who happens to be in the room feel comfortable and stay focused is essential, because most of the time they're looking to the producer to set, or at least guide, the tone of the session.

All that being said, nowadays producers spend a lot of time working alone. In modern pop, hip-hop and R&B music, producers are responsible for creating the instrumental tracks, hiring outside musicians if necessary, recording and editing the vocals (sometimes with help of engineers and vocal producers), editing audio, adding effects, making requested changes from artists and labels, and delivering a quality rough mix and individual audio files (aka stems). In my experience, the average pop track takes a producer 30-50 hours to complete, often more.

I produce jazz records as well, which tend to take less time because in most cases the artist has selected the material and gotten the arrangements done in advance of the session, and the recordings are usually done by a live band all at once in the span of 2-3 days. Jazz producing is largely about time management and setting a good vibe in the tracking sessions, helping the artist pick takes and solos, and shaping the sound of the instruments in conjunction with the tracking and mix engineers.

For all of this work, producers receive an upfront fee upon delivery of the final product and a backend royalty [The Music Modernization Act guarantees direct payment of this royalty if you register with SoundExchange]. Despite the fact that a lot of people may not understand all it is that we do, as you can see from the amount of skill and time it requires to create and take a record across the finish line, the work of a producer has big-time value and should be treated as such.

Lastly, what can songwriters do to ensure their rights are protected and demand better compensation?

There’s no union for songwriters, but there are organizations like the Recording Academy or Songwriters of North America that we can join that fight for our rights and compensation. These groups were instrumental in getting the Music Modernization Act passed.

However, even with these groups fighting for our rights, according to US law anybody can record any song without permission, and any terrestrial or streaming radio station can play any recording without permission, as long as they pay the statutory rate of compensation to the rights holders. Without the ability to withhold the product, and with compensation rates set by government, we don’t have much leverage in that fight. 

The exceptions to this are for the first recording of a song, and for sync licensing in film, television and commercials. 

If you write a song that you believe is a smash meant for a major artist, but a label wants to have an unknown artist record it, or an indie artist wants to record it, you have the right to say no, as long as the song has never been officially released on another recording. However, once the song has been recorded and released, anyone has the right to record it again.

And if someone wants to license your song for a show, film or commercial, you have the right to negotiate the fee or to say no.

The underlying theme of all of this is that knowledge is power. The more we all stay aware of the realities of our business and communicate with each other, the better off we all will be. Earning money as a songwriter or music producer is the definition of art intersecting commerce, but a lot of us ignore the commerce part of it. Nobody would accept a job in another field without knowing how much it paid first, and a contractor wouldn't build a custom home for a client without first negotiating a price. If we can approach our work the same way, it could go a long way to convincing our clients and consumers to acknowledge the value of our work.

The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the Recording Academy.

GRAMMYs On The Hill 2019: Music & Politics Unite At Washington's Largest Advocacy Event For Music

The Recording Academy Announces 3rd Annual "Behind The Record" Initiative To Continue To #GiveCredit To Creators In Music

news

The Recording Academy Announces 3rd Annual "Behind The Record" Initiative To Continue To #GiveCredit To Creators In Music

This year, the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many creators in music, introduces Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual program to discus creators' needs with Congress

Recording Academy/Oct 12, 2021 - 05:00 pm

The Recording Academy has announced that it will continue giving credit where credit is due with its 3rd annual "Behind The Record" initiative, a global social media activation aimed at spotlighting the many producers, engineers, songwriters, composers, mixers, instrumentalists, and other creators who contribute to the music recording process. Taking place Friday, Oct. 15, the industry-wide conversation encourages artists across all music genres to celebrate their collaborators' incredible behind-the-scenes work on the tracks, records and albums loved by music fans around the world. This year's campaign features a short film, narrated by Recording Academy Board of Trustees Secretary/Treasurer Om'Mas Keith, illustrating that behind every hit song is an intricate dance of creativity that builds and builds to the final product.

A day before the social media activation's launch, on Thursday, Oct. 14, the Recording Academy will introduce Behind The Record Advocacy, a new virtual advocacy program to inform lawmakers about issues affecting the creators behind their favorite records. Building off the success of the Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" initiative, Academy members will meet virtually with members of Congress nationwide to discuss legislation that would have a direct impact on America's recording artists, songwriters and studio professionals, such as the HITS Act and the American Music Fairness Act. With nearly 200 meetings with congressional offices anticipated for Behind The Record Advocacy, members will focus on ensuring that the individuals behind the record are able to earn fair compensation for their work.

"It takes a village to create a recording, and as an organization that serves to support all music creators, we invite our peers to join us in spotlighting the many music professionals behind our favorite songs," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "While we celebrate the music professionals behind the scenes, we also recognize the importance of fighting for fair treatment of creators. We're proud of the evolution of 'Behind The Record' to include an advocacy element this year as we continue our ongoing work to ensure all music creators flourish."

"Behind The Record" is supported by the Recording Academy's Advocacy Department, Producers & Engineers Wing and Songwriters & Composers Wing. Supporting all music creators—including the artists behind our favorite records—is an urgent initiative for the Recording Academy year-round. Within the past year alone, the Recording Academy established the Songwriters & Composers Wing to better represent the diverse community of music creators who provide the world with the gift of song. The Academy also reintroduced the HITS Act in the House and Senate, which would allow artists and record producers to deduct 100 percent of sound recording production expenses in the year they are incurred, and continued efforts to support women producers and engineers through its Women In The Mix initiative.

To help the Recording Academy further support creators working behind the scenes, artists can participate in "Behind The Record" by:

  • Emailing givecredit@recordingacademy.com to request an access code to the Credit Cover Generator Portal.
  • Posting your Credit Cover across social media channels and tagging those who worked on your project. Use hashtags #BehindTheRecord #GiveCredit #WeAreMusic.
  • Artists can create Credit Covers for a single track or album, and covers will live in a gallery on the "Behind The Record" website for music fans to view and discover the roles of creatives behind some of their favorite records.

For the third year, Jaxsta, the world's largest public-facing dedicated database of official music credits, provided credits for Warner Music, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Merlin releases.

For more information, please visit the "Behind The Record" website. Follow and join the global conversation on social media using the hashtags #BehindTheRecord, #GiveCredit and #WeAreMusic.

Learn More About The Recording Academy's "Behind The Record" Initiative

Dionne Warwick, Donny Hathaway & More To Receive Special Merit Awards

Dionne Warwick

Photo: ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images

news

Dionne Warwick, Donny Hathaway & More To Receive Special Merit Awards

The Recording Academy has announced this year's crop of Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award recipients

Recording Academy/Dec 19, 2018 - 07:31 pm

What do Black Sabbath, Sam & Dave and Julio Iglesias all have in common? They are among this year's Recording Academy Special Merit Awards recipients. Today, the Academy announced a prestigious crop of recipients for its Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award.

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Black Sabbath, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic, Billy Eckstine, Donny Hathaway, Julio Iglesias, Sam & Dave and Dionne Warwick. Lou Adler, Ashford & Simpson and Johnny Mandel are Trustees Award honorees; and Saul Walker is the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient.

From their power riffs to their dark, gothic imagery, Black Sabbath arguably invented the heavy-metal signposts and influenced every hard-rock band that followed.

Among the most sampled acts of the funk/R&B era, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic’s spacey and masterfully played funk has laid the foundation for countless hip-hop hits.

Singer Billy Eckstine helped break ground for African-American artists in the '40s and '50s as a distinctive jazz singer and bandleader who crossed over to an equally dazzling career in pop.

Donny Hathaway was a versatile soul stylist who built his legend singing both urban protest songs as well as smooth, signature duets with the likes of Roberta Flack, despite his far-too-short career.

Perhaps the most successful Latin crossover artist of his time, Julio Iglesias became an enduring star on the world stage and Latin music’s most popular ambassador of his era.

Soul duo Sam & Dave (Sam Moore and Dave Prater) were one of the primary chart stars at the Stax and Atlantic labels in the '60s, bringing the passion of gospel to their wailing soul sides.

Singing the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the ’60s, and then scoring hits that bridged pop and R&B in the '70s and '80s, Dionne Warwick has carved out a unique and stellar career among pop/soul singers.

From the Monterey Pop Festival to L.A.’s iconic Roxy Theatre to the careers of the Mamas And The Papas, Carole King and Cheech & Chong, among others, Lou Adler is one of music’s most noted impresarios.

Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were among the elite songwriting teams at Motown Records, penning modern classics such as "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and "You’re All I Need To Get By."

A versatile composer, arranger and jazz musician, Johnny Mandel’s credits include playing in the bands of Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie and composing immortal movie and television music such as the MAS*H theme "Suicide Is Painless."

Saul Walker was a career-long audio innovator, teacher and mentor. From his early work in rocket telemetry to founding API in 1969, his designs continue to influence the music recording industry.

A special award presentation ceremony and concert celebrating the honorees will be held on May 11, 2019, in Los Angeles. Additional details regarding the ceremony will be announced in the coming weeks.

Emilio And Gloria Estefan $200,000 Music Scholarship Announced

Linda Perry Talks Craft, Creativity & Her Biggest Hits In Nashville

Linda Perry

Photo: Courtesy of Linda Perry

news

Linda Perry Talks Craft, Creativity & Her Biggest Hits In Nashville

The GRAMMY-nominated musical force of nature opens up to an intimate audience about artistry, authenticity and her illustrious career in music

Recording Academy/Jul 18, 2018 - 12:44 am

Finding success as a songwriter, artist or producer/engineer is a one-in-a-million shot at best in today's super-saturated music industry, but to succeed at all three takes a remarkable individual. Linda Perry is just that special talent. For a lucky audience at the Recording Academy Nashville Chapter's Craft Session event on June 14 at The Tracking Room, the GRAMMY nominee took a candid look at her remarkable career, her instinctual creative process and the stories behind some of her biggest hits.

Born to a father who loved Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, old time country, and jazz, a Brazilian mother with a penchant for Sergio Mendes, and growing up around siblings who loved pop and rock music, Perry's first love was musicals. She cites listening to "The Jungle Book" as the magical moment for her when storytelling and music collided. Later, she discovered the encompassing power of her own voice, the beginning of a career full of music coming naturally to her.

"One day, literally, in San Francisco, I was playing guitar … and then I just started singing," said Perry. "And this huge voice came out of me. … It just took over my whole body and I started crying and my roommate came running down. She was like, 'What was that?' And I'm like, 'It was me!' … Then that's when I said, 'I'm gonna be a rockstar.'"

From there, Perry stumbled into playing music, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist picking up guitar and piano by ear without any trouble at all. These instincts as a musician still guide her in the studio, where Perry let's her ears take over.

"I'm different because I don't know what I'm doing, I just feel it," said Perry. "I pride myself on my drum sounds, and when I get drum sounds they're fat, they're awesome, they're gorgeous, but I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just turning things, moving microphones until it sounds good to my ear. I don't need to know that I'm boosting 2K or bringing down 15K. Who cares about that? I just want to know I'm getting a good sound. … I don't look at meters, I just move microphones."

Every way Perry interacts with music seems to carry this natural, instinctual movement. As a songwriter, there may be ways of forcing ideas to come out, but she admitted that's not how she works. In fact, the question she gets asked most often by songwriters is about dealing with writer's block. Her answer is an enlightening one.

"I don't get songwriter's block because I'm not thinking," said Perry. "Only people who are thinking about writing music get songwriter's block, I just do it. And if it's not there to do, I don't do it."

During the conversation, Perry walked the audience through her journey in the San Francisco music scene in the '90s where she earned a write-up in SF Weekly for her brief but memorable first performance after playing just two songs then breaking a string. and formed her band 4 Non Blondes, whose original name was Lesbian Snake Charmers. She kept her solo career pursuits going while joining the band before combining the two and finding a record deal post haste.

Perry talked about writing "What's Up," the band's 1992 smash hit, and the subsequent struggle to maintain her artistic vision for the song. The album's producer suggested lyric rewrites and production choices that forced Perry to decide between being a team player and standing up for her artistry.

Thankfully, she was able to cut the tune on her last reel of tape and rush it to mastering just in time. Shockingly, it was Perry's first time touching a microphone and crafting sounds in a studio. The raw brilliance of the recording came together in a hurry and created something lasting.

"That recording was my first actual recording, and it's flawed all over the place. I can't stand my voice on that," Perry said. "Everything about it when I hear it sounds amateurish. All those flaws and all those mistakes are what made that song what it was. So the moral of the story is just trust your instincts because we're not here to be perfect. We're here to create an emotion and to create a moment."

Ever since, Perry has tapped into this magic throughout her career in her own music and collaborating with other artists. During the Craft Session, she recounted how she patched together Pink's "Get This Party Started," taking her first crack as sequencing, the arc of her collaboration with James Blunt, her love/hate relationship with the "beyond talented" Christina Aguilera, for whom she penned the 2002 smash hit "Beautiful," and more.

In an industry with so many facets, Perry has grown her career on the foundation of true artistry, tapping into inspiration and authenticity at every stage of the process. Her vision — or the vision of the artist she's working with — always comes first. From there, Perry says it's about craft and creativity, no matter who you are or what your process is.

"It's very important to really understand your craft," Perry said. "There's kids doing amazing albums on GarageBand because they're being creative. You can record on anything if you're creative, you have a good song and you get the emotion."

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

10 Vocal Tips From Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton & More

Issachah Savage, Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton, and Nazaneen Grant, MD
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

news

10 Vocal Tips From Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton & More

What we learned about how to sing your best from MusiCares and the Recording Academy Washington, D.C. Chapter's all-star vocal clinic

Recording Academy/May 25, 2018 - 08:15 pm

Washington, D.C.'s National Union Building was the place to be on May 16 for anyone interested in maximizing the musical use of the world's first instrument: the voice. Singers from various genres and backgrounds attended to learn more about caring for, resting and protecting their instrument at this vocal health clinic presented by MusiCares and the Recording Academy's Washington D.C. Chapter.

The clinic featured a conversation on vocal health moderated by singer/songwriter Tracy Hamlin with Associate Professor of Otolaryngology Dr. Nazaneen Grant, tenor vocalist Issachah Savage, and GRAMMY-winning gospel/R&B artists Lalah Hathaway and Anthony Hamilton. The all-star panel delivered a discussion that was anything but clinical, igniting the room into laughter, awe and epiphany as they shared their vocal habits, techniques, secrets, and insights.

For all you vocalists out there, here are 10 amazing insights, tips and tricks directly from the experts' lips.

1. Find What Works For You

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the clinic was that every vocalist needs to find out what works best for them, regardless of the wide variety of techniques out there. As Hamlin pointed out, "What works for one singer may be completely different for another." Savage added, "I cannot stress it enough, it is so super-duper important to really find out what works for you, and the only way you can do that is to know your instrument, and the only way to know your instrument, of course, is to spend a lot of time with it. Practice, practice, practice."

2. What To Eat On Day Of Show

Believe it or not, Hathaway confessed to not eating anything on the day of a concert, saying, "It makes me super sleepy and my reaction time is slow." Hamilton admitted he doesn't do dairy at all anymore, but he needs to eat something before taking the stage, saying, "I don't like to sing on an empty stomach, it just feels hollow." Savage added that he drops half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water the morning of the show. All three singers revealed they'll have a cup of coffee from time to time, but alcohol before a show is a no-no.

3. The Truth About Hydration

Hydration is always a good idea, especially for the voice. Staying hydrated allows the vocal folds to stay limber and maintains the protective mucosal lining that coats the vocal folds and protects them from the natural friction that occurs during vocalization. "Drinking water is good to hydrate your whole body, but when you swallow, there's this thing called the epiglottis that flips over and makes it so the water doesn't go in your voice box — that's what happens when you choke," said Grant. "So [the water is] not hitting the vocal chords directly. Even when we gargle, it doesn't hit the vocal chords directly. Steam is actually what makes [the moisture] touch [the vocal chords]." She added that avoiding dehydrating substances — such as caffeine, decongestants and allergy medicines — is also helpful.

4. Hamilton's Secret Rider Item

"I chew really, really strong Mentos gum, two pieces right before I go on stage, always. It's on my rider," said Hamilton. When asked if he worries about accidentally swallowing it while singing, the GRAMMY winner said, "I've been holding gum in my mouth since I was a poor little boy who didn't have money for new gum. I can sleep with it," a response that drew a laugh from the room.

5. What Harms The Voice

After running through an explanation of the physical components that make up the voice, including visuals from a scope of the vocal chords, Grant outlined five main things that can harm your voice: misuse/overuse, dehydration, cigarette smoke/pollutants, acid reflux (more on that later), and allergies. She pointed out that one common way singers overuse their voice is when talking on their cell phone. Most people strain their voice and speak unnecessarily loud because they don't have any visual feedback from the person on the other line letting them know they're being heard. "Pretend like the person you're speaking to is right in front of you," said Grant. "[That technique helps] you speak a lot softer and not strain, so that's the trick."

6. Rest, Rest, Rest

How much rest does a singer need? It depends on the person and how they like to unwind. Hathaway, who has been on the road for the past two years, enjoys hanging out with her friends, family and dogs and playing video games to let her body recharge. She also pointed out that singing itself is so natural and fulfilling for her that it hardly feels like work. For Hamilton, cooking a meal, going for a drive, taking a nap, and walking for miles and miles outdoors helps him recuperate. Savage prefers to unplug from the world, especially social media, to rebuild his strength between shows, and he stressed that refraining from speaking is the best rest a singer can get.

7. How To Cool Down

For some singers, taking a moment to ramp down after a big show can make a big difference. "Years ago, when we were in school and we had physical education or gym, after exercise you always did some kind of cooldown, It's healthy to do," said Hamlin. "Just doing a five-note scale on a hum or 'oohs' really softly and it massages the vocal chords." While Hathaway and Savage admitted they don't have any routine, Hamilton joked, "I like to pour a little Jamieson on it."

8. Hoarseness Remedies

Defying convention, Hathaway says ice-cold water helps her voice when she feels hoarse. "It doesn't work for me to drink room temperature water during the show," she said. "Whatever it is that works for you, you have to find that, because your instrument is so unique, and once you find out what it can do, you're on your path." She also said that speaking on the day of a show works well for her as a warm-up, and shared tips on battling hoarseness she's learned along the way. Apparently, the singers in Take 6 wrap a towel full of ice around their neck to draw out the swelling, which helps with hoarseness, while Al Jarreau once told her to always work out on a show day to get the blood flowing.

Issachah Savage and Anthony Hamilton
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

9. The Secret To Avoid Acid Reflux

Grant explained how acid reflux occurs and how to identify it: Heartburn is a tell-tale sign, but even a bitter taste in the back of the throat or compulsive throat clearing can be signs. She recommended avoiding coffee and alcohol, not laying down for two to three hours after eating, and staying away from certain acidic foods, such as vinegar and spicy sauces. Hamilton also shared an insider's tip on how to use gravity to help with acid reflux. "It's important to lay on your left side because your stomach hangs that way, and it helps to keep the acid down — head elevated and laying on your left, because I've been dealing with that for 20-something years."

10. At The End Of The Day, It's "God's Business"

"Music is a ladder for the soul," Grant said to the singers onstage and in the audience, quoting the writings of the Baha’i Faith. "You guys are the ladder makers." While all singers are looking for the key to unlock a great voice, the panelists all agreed that, when it's all said and done, it comes down to an intangible "it" factor. "I don't believe that having an amazing sound or an amazing voice is something that can be taught," said Savage. "You can train … but the difference in having a great voice is God's business."

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"