producer of country musicians once walked on stage with two grocery
bags full of cassettes and CDs sent by songwriters who had likely
read a 'tip sheet' informing readers that one of his artists was
about to go into the studio. He began choosing at random, the way
someone picks out lottery tickets from a jar.
first cassette had a copyright date/owner, but no return address
or phone number on the cassette. The return address on the mailing
package was an indecipherable scrawl.
second cassette had an address/phone but no other information except
the names of the songs.
third cassette contained a written note: "I hope you will consider
these songs for. . . " He put it on the tape player. The first 15
seconds were a screaming rock guitar, followed by indecipherable
industrial rock lyrics. Quick forward to a new song. More of the
fourth was a CD of new age instrumental dulcimer music, with an
elaborate press kit. "I hope you will consider producing my next
album," the letter read.
this time, several important points can be made.
Don't waste a famous person's valuable time with music that isn't
appropriate for the artist being produced or the producer's interests.
Do your homework.You want them to listen to you? Then show that
you taken the time to find out about them.
Producers (and publishers) often receive hundreds of tapes and CDs
a week from songwriters. They prioritize their listening. First,
they review material by already famous country songwriters. Then
they review songs that have been sent by close friends and publisher
associates. Most often, packages that have been sent unsolicited
(without being requested by the producer or publisher) will almost
always be sent back unopened. This is because it prevents them from
being accused of having had 'access' to original material. (Songwriters
who sue for copyright infringement must prove, among other things,
that the person(s) who are being accused had access to the song.)
rare occasions, the packages may be assigned to an assistant to
quickly screen them and pick out five or ten that seem promising.
What seems promising?
of the CDs that the producer brought with him was a one-off CD.
The note read
are one minute samples and lyric sheets for 5 original songs that
I especially selected for your artist. They are produced with only
guitar and vocal to make it easy for you to pay attention to melody/rhythm
bands in my state have recorded my songs on their independently
produced CDs. . .
Finally, I want to tell you how much I have enjoyed your productions
You can contact me at. . . "
producer said that ultimately he rejected the songs but sent the
songwriter a note to keep him in mind for other productions and
sent the name of a publisher contact.
The business of being a songwriter is equal to the art of being
a songwriter. You may have a great song, but if you approach it
with a lack of knowledge of the business and the people you may
be working with, you might as well not be in the business at all.
Here are some of my rules of business. . . and each could take an
Know the business you are in. There are lots of books and seminars
to help you out.
Understand your competition.
State in 30 seconds or less why your songs are as good as or better
than your competition.
Start small. Approach indie bands and their publishers first. They're
more accessible and you can practice business skills.
Grow your business at a tempo you can handle. If you can only deal
with three new contacts a week, so be it.
Make it easy for people to do business with you and to contact you.
This is a relationship business. Get to know the people you work
with on a personal basis. Be pleasant. Be accountable: do what you
say you are going to do.
Have some organized way of taking notes of conversations with people
you talk with so that you can remember what was said or agreed on
for the next conversation. Personal tidbits are expecially important.
Ask questions about things you don't understand. There is no such
thing as a dumb question. We were all naive at the beginning of
Don't sign anything without having an entertainment lawyer look
at it. Being intimidated into believing that asking too many questions
or using a lawyer will cause a contract to be withdrawn is revealing
a lack of professionalism that will either lead to the contract
being withdrawn or your being taken advantage of.
Leave succinct 30-45 second messages on answering machines and with
secretaries about what you want. Most people make phone calls for
three reasons: (a) an appointment; (b) commentary on something they
sent; (c) the correct name of the person they should be dealing
with. State your purpose as succinctly as you can. When you achieve
your purpose, sign off. This isn't the time to tell people your
life story (unless they ask).
Learn to accept rejections with a good attitude. At some point,
your efforts will hit home, sometimes from the same person who may
have given you ten rejections and ten unreturned phone calls. One
of the people's 'hidden agendas' people is finding out whether you
are in the business for the long term and have resilience. This
is too barbed and callous a business for you to bounce around feeling
sorry for yourself. If one approach doesn't work, find another.
Accept criticism without negativity and be willing to learn from
your mistakes. That's how music and sports are taught and learned.
Learning business isn't a whole lot different.
What makes it difficult for you to be a business person?
How did you learn some of the rules of business?
Can you add some of your personal rules of business?