To Get Music Publishers
By Matt Angel
Each day in my email inbox, I receive about 25 emails that all ask the same questions. Those questions are: "How can I get music publishers to listen to my material?" and "Why don't I hear back from the publishers when I send my songs?"
There are several answers to each question and everyone has a different scenario, but there are a lot of things that are taken for granted by beginning songwriters when trying to get their songs to a music publisher for publishing consideration.
Most beginning songwriters 'Shotgun' or 'Haphazardly' send out CDs to music publishers listed in trade magazines before they're ever ready to be heard. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but you'll KILL your reputation before you ever have one.
By using some professional guidelines, you can get attention from your songs.
1. Is my song original?
That doesn't mean it's original just because you wrote it. It means, "Is this an original idea?" Music publishers are only looking for songs they don't already have. They just don't have the time to listen to a song that they've 'heard' before. So take a second look at the 'idea' of your song and be sure you're as original as possible and you'll get their attention.
2. Is my verse clearly written?
If you ask 9 out of 10 songwriters who've never signed a contract with a music publisher to describe the back-story to their song, they'll spend 9 paragraphs telling you all of the wonderful information about their story. That's great! However, they always forget to include the same information into their song.
Remember, if you have all the information that's needed to fully understand your idea, be sure to write that in your song. Don't use vague descriptions or leave out important information. There's nothing more of a 'turn off' to a music publisher than when you have their attention and then lose it. In today's 'fast paced' world of the music industry, there's no time to waste when you're asking for attention for your song. Spend a publishers' time wisely 'IF' you get it. They'll thank you for it with an offer to submit more material or offer you a single song contract.
If you impress a music publisher with your politeness, great song title, clearly written verse, and good demo, they'll move onto the 'Holy Grail' of your song, the hook.
Unfortunately, this is where most songwriters fail. More songs are passed on in the chorus than in any other section of your song. "Why is that?" you ask. If a listener can't remember your hook and want to sing it, talk about it, feel something, it won't be desirable to a music publisher. Great hooks are one key that makes hit songs on radio, sell records, sell concert tickets, and so on.
If a publisher doesn't 'hear' or 'see' that in your song, the songs 'ride' is over.
So, before presenting your song to a music publisher you can have it evaluated by the Songwriters Guild of America through the online critiques and ProCritiques to ensure its commercial potential in today's competitive music market. Don't wait to 'blow' your chance with a publisher because YOU think your melody and hook are great!
It's hard to pass off a song without a great hook to a publisher who hears 10,000 songs per year. So make your hook unforgettable and great. You won't be disappointed.
5. Is my second verse unique?
Often times I evaluate songs and find the second verse to be the most troublesome for beginning songwriters. The information contained in your first verse should not be the same as the information contained in your second verse.
Your sole responsibility is to 'further' your story or idea without using the same information. Who wants to hear the same verse twice? A music publisher doesn't!
So a quick way to improve your second verse is to ask yourself a few questions about your idea. "What else can happen in my story" or "What happens next?" or "How does it end?" It sounds simple, but it's usually not applied by songwriters who've yet to sign a publishing contract.
6. Is everything included on my lyric sheet?
Imagine this scenario. A publisher opens up your CD case, browses your song titles for an interesting title, and skips ahead to that song. The publisher grabs your lyric sheet and begins to listen to your song. Everything is great until the 3rd or 4th line. "What's the problem?” you ask. You just lost their attention.
Seven out of ten songs I evaluate (that's right, 70 percent) have the WRONG lyrics on the lyric sheet. It's great that last minute lyrical changes were added to your demo. Be sure to reflect them on the lyric sheet too. Again, it's really simple, but so many make this mistake. When you don't have attention to detail, you look like an amateur, and 95 percent of publishers will never consider the songs of an amateur songwriter.
So, when you're growling vocals on a modern rock song, or singing the soulful sounds of the blues, be sure to include the correct lyrics on your lyric sheet. If a publisher can't read what you're singing about, they'll find another songwriter who has attention to detail. Also, be sure to include your contact information on your CD and lyric sheets.
7. Do I need a professional demo?
By far, the biggest question that everyone asks is "Do I need a full band professional demo for my song, or is a simple homemade demo good enough".
It's simple, what kind of pitch are you making? Are you pitching to Lyric Street or Universal Music? Are you pitching to the Music Director for NBC television? Are you pitching to a music library?
Those scenarios will ALL require a top-notch professional full band demo. No home demos will be good enough unless you're the greatest undiscovered talent this side of American Idol.
It's obvious that the words 'good demo' mean different things to different people, but in the industry it means the following. The vocals are clear, out-front and understood. A singer who can sing. Good instrumentation. No out of tune instruments or wrong notes. Good mix that separates all sections clearly, and doesn't overpower any other section. A mix that's as close to 'radio broadcast quality' as possible.
It's perfectly acceptable by music publishers to submit a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal demo. If the song is 'there' they'll hear it. Afterwards, a decision will be made to record a new demo if a contract is offered. Most small music publishers will require a full band demo. They're now earning money from the use of the 'master' recording and the song. It's an alternative income stream, and they can 'clear' a license faster.
(Please note that you may submit a “work” demo to SGA online critiques for feedback on your songs prior to spending money on a full demo.)
That wraps it up. Obviously, those are the basics, but it's enough to present yourself properly to a music publisher and increase your chances to hear a 'yes' instead of nothing or a 'no'. By utilizing these professional techniques, you'll have the information necessary to help further your career on your quest for success.