Five Questions with Composer/Songwriter Kari Tieger

Composer/Songwriter Kari Tieger

This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Composer/Songwriter Kari Tieger

1. What was the inspiration behind becoming a Composer/Songwriter? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

For my 15th birthday, my father arrived at my mom’s house with the piano I still own in a UHaul truck. A jazz drummer himself, he had witnessed me running up to every piano I saw and trying to pick out tunes by ear. That year I wrote my first song.

I love how time disappears when I’m working on a new composition. It’s as though nothing but that new musical idea and I exist, until it has reached the point where I have either notated some part of it, or played it enough times so that it will not be forgotten.

2. Can you take us through your process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

In truth, every song is different. A rare few have come together effortlessly, but most require at least two steps, and usually take several weeks or months to gel satisfactorily. They typically start with a progression or a set of lyrics, from which the skeleton of a song is formed, and then it gradually gets fleshed out into Verse/Chorus, Bridge, and I will usually also add an intro and ending.

Thanks to music publishing opportunities, I have found ways to get airplay for a number of my songs, which used to pay far better than it currently does.

3. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

I think people believe songwriting an easy way to make money. It isn’t! It’s challenging mental work to bring all the elements together successfully into a song that can communicate with an audience.

4. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?

In the early 1970s, someone told me about the *poor man’s copyright as a way to prevent someone else from “stealing” your original ideas — sending a version of a creation to yourself and keeping it in a sealed stamped envelope. My sophomore year of college, I attended the music school at my university, and learned about filing copyrights with the Copyright Office. Then in the late 1980s, subsequent to writing a radio theme song, I joined ASCAP and began gradually registering my growing calatog with them.

5. What is your best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

Although it has become more costly, I would urge everyone to register their songs with the U.S. Copyright Office. In the case of an infringement case, it is the only surefire way to prove ownership.

Kari Tieger

*Under the copyright law, a work of original authorship is protected by copyright from the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. But clarified in § 411 of the Copyright Act, a certificate of registration (or refusal) from the U.S. Copyright Office is a prerequisite to bring a copyright infringement action in federal court. Mailing a copy of your work to yourself will not serve as a substitute for registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, the postmark on a “poor man’s copyright” could provide some value to a creator in an infringement action, in that it could be used as evidence that the work was in existence on a certain date, or to demonstrate that the work was independently created before the creation of another work.

Are you one of our Individual Creator Members? Participate in our Creator Spotlight series! Please email us at And if you aren’t already a member of the Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form!

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