Story to Song program – How it works
The Veteran shares their story in whatever way is most meaningful and available to them. This can be testimony, writings, a poem, a painting, a story, and/or other method. Veterans can submit their stories to Warrior Songs online at our submission page, though many testimony are collected organically through interactions with Veterans during Warrior Songs outreach. Unfortunately, Warrior Songs is not able to turn every story into a song. If a story is selected to be turned into a song the Veteran is paired with a songwriter. The Veteran may want to work directly with a songwriter, or they may choose to be anonymous and work with Warrior Songs who then works with their songwriter on their behalf. The Veteran is in control of the process the entire time. All songs must be given final approval by the submitting veteran. The Veteran becomes a co-writer of their song and remains a co-owner of all rights and royalties generated from their song. Warrior Songs uses the Nashville Rule: “Write a word, get a third”. This means everyone involved in the writing process gets an equal ownership stake in the song, with no individual having a greater share than the Veteran.
Once the Veteran agrees to be part of the project their testimony is collected, the Veteran picks their songwriter. Sometimes the Veteran already has a songwriter in mind, as was the case with “Things you’ll Never Be” – Women at War: Warrior Songs Vol. 2. Other times the Veteran empowers Warrior Songs to find a songwriter for them, as was the case with “Yin and The Yang” – If You Have to Ask… Warrior Songs Vol. 1. Once selected the Songwriter receives the testimony, in whatever format the Veteran was comfortable in giving, and begins to create a song. The Songwriter set’s a workable deadline to produce a first draft, which when complete, is shared with the veteran. At that point the Veteran can: 1. Approve the song, 2. Approve the draft but ask for revisions, 3. Reject the song.
If the Veteran is unhappy with the song, the songwriter, or the process in general, we stop the process. Songwriters must agree not to release the song if the Veteran has rejected the song. If the Veteran approves the songs after the first draft, the songs move to the recording phase. The most common result is that the songs is very close to telling the Veterans Truth, but needs a little more work. The Veteran then offers feedback and input which is given to the songwriter and additional drafts are made. This process repeats until either the Veteran approves or rejects the song.
Only after the Veteran has approved the song does Warrior Songs seek out musicians to record the song in the studio. The Veteran is provided a list of musicians who have volunteered to donate their time bringing the song to life in the Studio. Some Veterans pick specific bands, singers, or musicians, while other times they simply suggest a genre or feeling they’d like the song to have. Sometimes the Veteran is involved in the studio process, as was the case with “Warrior Wings”- Women at War: Warrior Songs Vol. 2. Other times they are not involved in the recording process at all. Warrior Songs covers the cost of the recording, mixing, and mastering as well as any required studio musicians. Once the draft of a studio version is available, the Veteran is given the opportunity to approve or reject the studio version of their song.
If the Veteran approves the studio version of the song, Warrior Songs adds the song to an upcoming compilation CD. Currently, Warrior Songs releases a new compilation every other year on even years. “The Last Thing We Ever Do: Warrior Songs Vol. 3” will cover Vietnam Veterans and will release August 8th, 2021. Volume 4 will explore the stories of Veterans who are also people of color, songwriters for this CD must be a person of color. Volume 5 is slated to be about caregivers, family, and support personnel. A full list of planned volumes is available to review here.
The completed compilation CD’s are then distributed to Veterans across the country free of charge through our “Free and Discounted CD’s” program. At the Warrior Songs website Veterans can request physical copies of CD’s which are mailed to them free of charge postage paid. They can also choose to download a free digital copy. Physical copies are also made available to organizations doing Veterans work for free distribution to the Veterans they work with. Warrior Songs currently works with more than 50 separate organizations and individuals across the country in this capacity.
Copies of the physical CD’s are also made available to non-veterans (Civilians) for a donation. Digital copies are made available through the Warrior Songs website for a donation of any amount. Digital copies are also made available at full price through all major digital music vendors, such as iTunes, Amazon Music, and Spotify. Proceeds from the sales and donations help fund future volumes and free distribution to Veterans.