How have you gotten your songs out to the people in the industry who should hear them? And what tips would you give to others?
Gary A. Edwards
A bald-headed composer of CRAP - (Country, rock and popular) classical, jazz, etc., writes:
I've had the most luck browsing the Internet for publishers and when I find one with an E-mail address I send them an E-mail pitching the style I've written that they want and offer to send a demo tape. In the last two 1/2 years I've sent out about 500 letters, most with demo tapes, to publishers. I've finally gotten publishing contracts for six songs in the last five months that way. I've also sent mass mailings to publishers that I've got on a database pitching a specific song, then send a demo tape of 3 or 4 songs to those who respond. I usually send a follow-up E-mail after a month but I've found that if a publisher doesn't respond, they're probably not interested. I had a studio band create great demos but interestingly the home-quality demo tapes have done just as well. When I've found a publisher/record company that was interested in a song of mine, I contacted them regularly, sometimes for two years until we signed a deal.
I've tried TAXI. They've sent out one of my songs and returned several others... but if they place only one of my songs, it's been worthwhile. I write many different styles of songs, figuring that way I'll have a larger market. When I write a church song I'll also write a set of pop lyrics to go with the music or vice-versa to double my potential market. I write with a lot of collaborators. For one thing, that increases the number of people pitching your songs. It helped me to quit my day job and concentrate on writing music. It also helped when I got some songs on the air by pitching them to DJs and got membership in ASCAP. That marks one as a serious songwriter/composer.
Tips: Treat songwriting as a business. Spend at least 50% of your time marketing and about 50% of your time creating music. Don't send too many songs on one tape... three or four at a time. Send lyrics sheets for each song that match the lyrics on the demo tape of that song. Build on personal relationships and network in the music business. Be nice to everyone, you never know when the janitor or secretary will be just as helpful to you as the CEO. (They could also end up being the CEO someday.) Keep your promises. Follow-up and return E-mails and phone calls promptly. Don't take criticism or rejection personally. Maybe they just don't have a need for the particular song you're pitching at the moment, but may want another type of song later. Good luck.
A songwriter from Illinois, writes:
Joing TAXI!!! Network and Schmooze with any pals in any related industry positions .... Example: I have been a wholesale video rep for over ten years. I have been fortunate to make many friends and/or contacts in the major movie studios video divisions. Because of one certain contact, two songs of mine have been tapped by Sony for an upcoming cable-movie. It's all about getting your stuff heard by the right people! Talent does count, of course, but it's not everything!!!!
A performing songwriter from Western North Carolina, writes:
I think you need to spend the first five years honing your craft and then join a songwriting organization and get your songs critiqued before you send them to a publisher. Don't be afraid to make changes and rewrite. Go to song camps and read books.Get professional and organized. Get a game plan, set goals and treat this as much like a business as you can. Play your songs in front of an audience. Watch their reactions. Find out what works and why it works. My point is...'get good' and then 'get busy.' Above all else ...don't give up!
A songwriter/guitarist from California, writes:
Just one note of caution: I sent out tapes of a finished band album in the late Eighties to two dozen of the best known indie labels (and a couple of the big companies for the heck of it), and only got one response (from TVT). So I've learned never to make unsolicited mailings.
A songwriter and musician from NY, writes:
Contact Music Publishers as opposed to Record Prod., Record Co.s, etc. since they're the most accessible (buy a current copy of the book: Songwriter's Market to see who's looking for material), enter song contests. Make as many demos as possible and hand them out to family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. You never know who might eventually hear them. Be persistent--if you really believe in your heart that something is good, it probably is. But be honest with yourself. If you wouldn't buy it, nobody else will (except, maybe your Mom). When approaching industry professionals, be polite and gracious. They are people and they have feelings just like you.
KEEP SUBMITTING OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Believe that success is not only possible, but probable. It's not easy but anything worthwhile never is. Good luck.
A writer from Houston, writes:
I write for the country market. I've won song contests. I've had songs published. I had 2 cuts last year on and indie label by an exceptionaly talented artist. I say this, not to boast, but to emphasize a point. A publishing contract is just a piece of paper that says "if your song ever earns anything, you get half." If you define success as radio airplay by a major artist (or at least an album cut), then having your song published by a small publisher a thousand miles from Nashville serves no purpose and it is most likely you will never earn a dime. This is the voice of experience speaking.
What have I learned? I have determined I need to know one thing. Are my songs competive in the Nashville market? To ascertain this I need honest, critical feedback from someone whose opinion I can respect. Someone involved in the market. Not friends, local writers, publishers, or musicians (although if I was just starting out, their feedback could be helpful). Does my writing have potiential? Am I close or do I have a long way to go? What can I improve? And most importantly for me at this point in my life/career (I'm at a crossroad): Am I ready to join the writing community in Nashville?
If so, my understanding of my next step is this: I move to Nashville, go to every writers nite and showcase I can, perform my material, meet other writers, co-write every chance I get, develop a network and ease into other's networks, be friendly to everyone, get introduced to the right people at the right time (and have the right song), and perhaps in three to five years I'll be an established, contributing member.
The one thing I don't want is to wander around in a fantasy bubble, convincing myself I can write, if indeed I can't. That's like trying to, by a sheer act of will, add 6 inches to my height. I want the truth. Honesty. There is no shame in being who I am (or you are).
The mechanics of meter and rhyme most can master. What makes a voice special is its perspective, its choice of subject matter, its judgement. Kinda like common sense. How do you teach that? I believe I have a unique voice. I want to ask questions and let listeners seek their own answers. My goal as a writer is to make people think of who they are, what they are doing, and where they are going - and do it in a song that is commercially marketable. If I can do that, I'll always be successful, even if I never earn a dime.
Best of luck to all.
A songwriter/publisher from Tennessee, writes:
Be knowledgable about what you're doing. But realize too if you don't ask the question the answer won't be yes. I've mailed and mailed, but a real person contact helps. Network. Even an email contact is better than none. Collaborating is also a good way to network. Mass media is today. So use the telephone, the fax, the computer,etc. It still is a people thing though.
A songwriter, lead guitarist, bassist,composer from Virginia, writes:
Make demos and go to concerts. Tell the artists that you have some songs and give them a tape. Also, make up your own band or give the songs to a local band.
A published songwriter in Modesto, CA, writes:
Every time I have a couple of new songs demo'd that I feel are good enough to present, I classify their format: Country, A/C or whatever. Then, I start on page one of the "Songwriter's Market" and find as many listings as I can of publishers, producers and record companies that accept that type of material. Tips? I'd like tips myself on how to get songs to people who should hear them. In my first year of using my method, I have one published song. I plan on joining a songwriting organization this year. Hopefully, I'll win a subscription to Taxi in the Billboard songwriting contest. But, I am always looking on the net and in magazines for other ways to get songs to people.
A BMI Songwriter/Publisher in Florida, writes:
I want to be honest here and at the same time I do not want to crush anyone's attempts at breaking into the music business. I have gone by the book through the years only to find out that I would end up back on first base. Computers and their message boards have opened some doors for my partner and I lately. I firmly believe, you have to know someone in the music business. "Show me the way"
A singer/songwriter from Connecticut, writes:
I feel strongly that, as songwriters, we need to realize "The Industry" does not control our ability to succeed. The music industry serves up songs like McDonald's manufactures hamburgers; focused on mass production and often lacking in substance. Not much room for the diverse menu of talents and interests displayed by the songwriting community. Although most songwriters are focused either on commercial success or simple self expression, I have been able to find musicians, like myself, who are writing for audiences outside of the mainstream by getting involved in the Connecticut Sonwriter's Association. With the expertise made available through this organization, many of us have found ways to develop our careers by producing benefit concerts and community events, reaching audiences outside of traditional commercial channels. There are also CSA members also achieved success in the industry and are available to advise songwriters headed down this path. Our "Best of CSA" compilation tapes are heard by industry professionals around the country. And our critique sessions have refined the skills of all who have actively participated. In short, getting involved in CSA opens doors. Participation in local songwriting organizations is one of the most valuable and readily available resources we have at our disposal.
An acoustic rock from South Australia, writes:
It's just starting for us but it's taken me a year on the net writing to hundreds of people.It would have been much harder without the net because at least there's a chance of a response & you can form a generalised opinion about who you're talking to & whether they can help you in any way. Of course the great majority are just looking for money or offering to sell your product over the net which you can do just as well yourself but there are genuine small company's out there who are looking to help Indi's get a deal,we've found one. In my opinion the net is the best & cheapest resource for Indi bands but then I guess most of us have already found that out! My piece of advice then is find someone who has a history in the management business & who likes your music then get them to do the work,they have the contacts & often the industry will take more notice of them than us.
A singer/Songwriter originally from Baltimore, Maryland, writes:
Send your songs to EVERYONE (after securing copyright). This can never hurt. Send them to reputable companies such as Billboard. Professional companies are always the best option. Most contests claim that production is not considered. A good qualtiy pro recording always helps!
Any questions? Send me an E-mail!
A young songwriter from Manila, writes:
I think that you should train yourself to be an accomplished musician first before entering into the biz. Then, create the demo tape of originals. That is your ticket!
A 13 year old songwriter in a local Sacramento band, writes:
I am in a local band at the moment , but I do feel that I have some ideas. First of all, I think it is a nessecity to find people who are already fairly popular in the music scene. Show them first and see how they like it. I show my drum teacher who plays for a very popular California band called SIMON SAYS. People like that can get the word out about your talent. Another thing is to get online and e-mail clips of your music to companies. I have tried this many times and if anything I will at least get an honest opinion about my music.
A fulltime songwriter, guitar player and software engineer - sleep is a luxury , writes:
I have been writing songs for 30 + years. I only in started down the road to publishing in the last two months. I am looking for any help I can find. Here's my only tip - copyright your songs! In the U.S. it's $20.00 and the PA Form. There is a website to get the forms etc: www.loc.gov/copyright. You can get their forms in Adobe Acrobat format.
A songwriter from West Virginia, writes:
First, find out who wants to hear your style of music.("Songwriters Market" is a good source)You may have to call or write for permission to submit. Send a clean demo (Doesn't need to be a pro recording in the case of a publisher)I usually send 2 or 3 songs tops. Put your best songs first.(The first minute is as far as some are listened to-if it's interesting to them-longer. Put name/address/phone on every item you send(Letter of introduction,Lyric sheet,tape/cd, reply card,press clips) Be polite and professional-they will appreciate that. It's a good idea to © your songs and have a good music attorney evaluate any contracts you may be offered. I've had success publishing one song so far(about 20 submissions) Good Luck!!
A songwriter from Nashville, TN, writes:
First I'd like to say that I've tried going by the book. The best thing about that is it gives you a direction. Since music row is at my finger tips, I wish I could say that it works all the time. It doesn't. The big mistake we all make is looking at this from an artists stand point. Times have changed. They aren't looking for artists any more because they want craftsmen. They want writers who don't mind putting other peoples names on their work. I've been here for five years and this is what I've accomplished; One independant cut, One royalty check, five referrals to major publishers from BMI, four show case nights at the Bluebird Cafe, One song shark, Ten publishing contracts, One copyright infringement lawyer( I couldn't prove access) and a truck load of hurry up and wait. I'm taking a break right now but soon I will be back doing the same thing again from square one. If I had a friend in the business...I'd be in the business. It's just that simple and just that frustrating.
A Middle Aged Mommy Moonlighting as Music Maker, writes:
I have more success in trying to go right to an artist or a proposed songwriting collaborator then through a publisher. The songs I have had signed to publishers haven't earned me any money yet...so... I like to go right to the source. I have served as a songwriting consultant and song contest judge for local trade associations and have been instrumental in bringing in "big name" professionals for such events. During "down time" at such an event (or afterwards) I always have a package ready to pitch in person. In addition, I prepare a package to submit to target artist when I attend concerts or other public appearances. I have also been successful in hitting other less swamped industry professionals that may be more interested in getting something through for me, yet who aren't too hard to get ahold of, like attorneys, managers and booking agents. Most importantly, I never minimize any contact (she may be the secretary to the artist's big brother, but she might know how to get to them!) I ask for referrals and I try to keep track of where I met them and what we spoke of in case we meet again in the future. I would encourage others to facilitate contacts in their local area. Networking with other songwriters can double your exposure. Don't minimize the efforts of local artists. Pitch them your material for performance and custom recordings...who knows, they might make it big with your song! In addition, it is good to get a great lyric or a great melody and "sacrifice" it to a more established writer with a great pool of recording resources who will collaborate with you. I have gotten much father with this approach than trying to hang on to all of the song, even if I am capable of finishing it myself.