[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira.]
There are a lot of revenue streams available to songwriters, but today let’s focus on getting your songs cut by recording artists. This is something you see a lot in songwriter-hubs like Nashville, but you can pursue this kind of publishing income from anywhere, even if you’re just starting to make a name for yourself as a songwriter.
Today, I’m going to cover a few best practices that will help you move up in the songwriting industry. The world of songwriting can notoriously feel pretty closed off, so I’m going to focus on a few tips that will help you get your foot in the door.
Pitching Your Song – What Does it Mean?
Okay, first thing’s first, what does it actually mean to pitch your song to recording artists? Essentially, you (the songwriter) are licensing your song to a recording artist – you’re granting them the right to record and release your song in exchange for some payment.
Of course, in most cases this is a license, so you still own the song. That means, in addition to the publishing income, you’ll also get backend performance royalties any time their recording is played in public. In other words, this is something that can become a great source of recurring income.
1. Start Small and Climb the Ladder
Every songwriter dreams of getting their songs cut by some big-time recording artist. And while a big goal like that is an awesome thing to strive for, it may not be the best place to start. I want to avoid the “big break” mentality and instead focus on building up to success one-step at a time.
Let’s think about the numbers here… an extremely popular recording artist might get thousands of song pitches as they’re gearing up to release a new album. Going by statistics alone, standing out in that stack of songs is extremely difficult (especially if you have no connections to give you a recommendation).
It’s easy to get discouraged in these kinds of situations, and those little rejections can really slow down your momentum and your confidence.
Instead, let’s start small and build up little wins that will get your name (and your songs) out in the industry!
Do some research and target some smaller, up-and-coming recording artists and bands and pitch your songs to them. These guys are always looking for a great song that will get them noticed and if they start breaking into the bigger league with your song, your music is going to start getting attention from other recording artists and labels. It’s a win-win.
Of course, you have your reputation as a songwriter to consider as well, so really spend a lot of time on the research phase. You want to find musicians and bands that are dedicated and in it for the long run. Plus you need to make sure they will do your song justice.
2. Build Your Network
I think this point can often be overlooked, but as a songwriter you may not have a typical artist-fan structure for your career. Instead, you’re pitching your songs directly to recording artists and publishers should you choose to work with one – almost in more of a B2B (business to business) format. And that means, your network and your connections are everything.
A great way to build your web of connections in the publishing industry is to co-write with other songwriters. I know, you ultimately want to get to publishers and recording artists, but your relationships with songwriters can be a gateway to those connections.
You need to make sure your rights to any co-written song are protected, and for that, we recommend filling out a split sheet. A split sheet is a simple document that you and your co-writers fill out for each song you write together. It includes basic information like percentage ownership, PRO and publisher affiliation, and contact information. Most labels will want this kind of information before they move forward with any song, so it’s best to have everything down on paper from the start.
3. Relevancy is Key
Most recording artists want to use songs they can personally relate to – both musically and lyrically. Simply put, a pop singer probably won’t want to record a country song about growing up on a farm in Montana when her childhood was spent in busy New York. Relevancy is key.
With this in mind, it’s best to know as much as you can about the recording artists you want to pitch. Do your research, know their musical style, become familiar with their catalog of recordings, read interviews, and check out their bio to see if you have a song that might be a good fit.
When in doubt, opt for songs that deal with more universal themes that anyone can relate to – you know, love, loss, relationships, struggle.
If you think you have some songs with potential, only send those tracks along. A targeted, well-thought-out pitch will have a much bigger impact than spamming them with your whole catalog.
Chelsea Ira is the Director of Marketing at New Artist Model.