Tag Archives | Music Marketing

10 Ways to Get Your Songs Recorded

Now that you’ve got that great song written and demoed, it deserves to be recorded so you can start earning the compensation you so richly deserve. In the broad scheme of things, there are two ways to get your songs recorded. You either become your own publisher or sign a contract with a publisher in which the publisher finds users for your song, negotiates fees for their use, then collects the money and splits it with you on a 50/50 basis. The following are some ways that can take place with or without a publisher. Without a publisher, the negotiation and collection still has to take place but you hire a copyright administrator or an attorney with that expertise to do it for you. You just take on the task of “selling” the song and experiencing the rejection yourself. Here are some strategies:

1. Find a Music Publisher to represent your songs.
If you have no inclination to be on the phones making cold calls and researching recording, TV and film projects and negotiating deals and you have no existing contacts in the industry you’ll want to go this route. If you have internet access, search the data-bases of ascap.com, bmi.com, sesac.com, in the U.S.A. or the performing rights organization in your country . Search for song titles and writers in your style and find out who publishes them. Call for permission to submit your songs. There are also other resources for the names of publishers. Go to your library, find Billboard Magazine, look up songs on the Hot 100, R&B or Country charts in the style of your songs and see the accompanying list of publishers. You may also be able to also get referrals from your performing rights representative if your songs are exceptionally good.

2. Pitch songs directly to recording artists.
If there are artists you truly believe should record your song (Not “they’d really sound great singing it”) and it fits their image, attitudes, style, vocal range, go after them in any way you can. If they’re playing in your town, try to get back stage or run into them in the hotel lobby. Tell them you have a song you feel is right for them and ask if it’s all right to give it to them. Often, to protect them from future lawsuits, their attorneys will have advised them not to accept tapes. In that case, ask if you may present it to their manager or record company A&R (Artist and Repertoire) representative. (See also: Casting)

3. Have an entertainment attorney submit your tapes.
Entertainment attorneys have industry contacts and if they feel your songs merit referral, they’ll shop them for their usual fee (roughly $100-$300 per hour) or may do it on spec. Not all attorneys will shop tapes, however.

4. Submit your songs or music into film, TV, production music libraries or multimedia productions.
There are increasing opportunities in these industries for not only songwriters but for composers of instrumental music who have master-quality recordings. Start your research in the phone book and ask the companies if they use original music in their productions. Some will use music from production music libraries or services that supply prerecorded music to film and video productions. Ask them for the names and phone numbers of those whose services they use and follow up to submit your music. If they like what they hear they’ll usually do a contract exclusively for visual use which means you’ll still be free to use it on your own audio recordings. You’ll be paid as the music is used and you’ll also receive royalties through your performing rights organization, after your music appears on television. How much you’ll receive depends on a variety of factors including the terms of your contract.

5. Offer a percent of the income from publishing royalties to anyone associated with the artist.
This time-honored sales incentive can work if those contacts aren’t prevented by their employers from participating in that type of transaction. Contacts may include, limo drivers, hairdressers, road managers, touring musicians and crew, recording engineers, relatives. How much? 5-10% of the publishing half of the song’s “mechanical” income (from sales of CDs and tapes). Only offer the percentage of income from that specific recording. Do not offer the percentage of ownership of the copyright, which will last the life of the copyright and include income from other recordings of the song.

6. Produce an artist/band and write for or with them.
If you have developed some production skills and have access to a good studio, find an exceptional local group with a great singer or singers and write for them, creating a style with the songs you write for or with them. The Glen Ballard /Alanis Morrisette collaboration is a good example of this strategy. Shop the masters to record companies.

7. Be your own artist, produce your own CD and sell it at your gigs.
This is a good route if you have a working band with a following, a database of fan addresses and somebody in the band with a good business head. (Read How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording by Diane Rapaport and Tim Sweeney’s Guide to Releasing Independent Records)

8. Find a local group to write with.
If you’re a good lyricist, whether or not you can write melodies, find a group with a great lead singer and write with him or her. That way, the singer can infuse the song with an individual style and also be motivated by participation in the writing royalties.

9. Submit songs via a respected service organization.
The best one I know is TAXI, an innovative tip-sheet/independent A&R service. Members, world-wide, receive listings every two weeks by major and independent labels, film music supervisors and publishers looking for writers, writer/artists, bands. All submissions are pre-screened and critiqued by industry pros. All styles including instrumentals.

Another service worth looking into is SongCatalog.com where, for a fee, you can post your songs online and, by way of entering specific search criteria, potential users can find your song and contact you or your publisher.

10. Attend seminars and meetings of songwriting and music industry organizations.
These events and organizations invite record company representatives, music publishers, record producers and managers to speak and screen songs at their meetings. You can meet them and hopefully begin to form ongoing relationships with them and continue to submit songs.

This is an updated version of an article that was written for Canadian Musician Magazine.


Peace and Good Will Songs… Donate Them?

We’re seeing a lot of new indie CD projects coming out that pledge to donate a percentage of the income from the CD’s sales to a charitable organization. I think it’s admirable that you want to donate to a good cause. However, I believe you and the charity can get more out of this than doing it that way. You may be selling your CD one at a time and when you stick the money in your pocket it takes some organization to be able to remember to put that money in an account and actually send it to the charity. Then you just end up feeling guilty about forgetting.

Here are some suggestions about how songwriters can get their songs to appropriate charitable organizations, and how those organizations can find appropriate songs for their cause. This is a ‘public relations’ job and takes a little dedication and follow-through.

Basically, it takes time to ‘smile & dial’ for a few days to find which organization you want to donate to. Fortunately, there are many. Then find which person in the organization is responsible for their public relations. Ask when/how their fund-raisers work. If they use music at their events, ask if you can donate your CD (containing not more than ONE or TWO appropriate songs, i.e., ecology songs for the Sierra Club) to be included at their events. Ask if the organization will distribute your one-song CD via their mailings to people who send them a donation.

In one scenario, the only thing you get in return (which is good) is the PR from hundreds/thousands of people getting your CD into their hands w/your info on it, e.g., lyrics, name/e-mail/Web site/yada-yada, how-to-buy-more of your music. This, after all, is a version of DISTRIBUTION. And the charity is getting it to people you can’t reach on your own.

Another scenario is that if a giver donates a certain figure to the cause (above $100, for example) they receive your one-song CD as a premium, and the organization pays you a $1.00. Even if only 100 are sold, you’ve made $100 more than you had before, you’ve covered your hard costs, plus you’ve reached a new audience of future purchasers.

In fact, a charity MIGHT agree to let you have a list of names & addresses of those who got your CD. Naturally, this has to be discussed in advance with the organization.

And last but not least, can you perform your songs ‘live’ for the organization … do they do benefits? Fundraisers? Will they let you sell your CDs at those events?

There are many ways to market your songs. But as with everything else, it’s a job and you may just have to hire someone to do it for you. The idea is to get the word out to as many people as possible, right? Not to mention that you could have a song that becomes an anthem and does us all a world of good.


How to Present Your Demo: 10 Biggest Mistakes Artists Make and How to Avoid Them

Your demo will introduce you to the eyes and ears of many music industry professionals. Take this introduction very seriously — it’s your job interview.

Here is a short checklist that summarizes the biggest mistakes I see new artists make all the time. Avoiding these will maximize your chances of getting heard and respect the demo listener’s time.

1. Sending more than 3 songs (unless specifically requested).
Demo listeners like to watch the “In” pile on their desk shrink and the “Out” pile grow as quickly as possible. If the listener has limited time, which is usually the case, the tendency is to listen to a CD they know they can complete.

So if you send a 12-song demo or a 12 song master, send a note that prioritizes 3 songs they should listen to. If you refer them to a MySpace, ReverbNation or other page where you have a list of songs, do the same.

If you want them to hear a song for a specific artists you think the song is appropriate for, tell them to listen to that specific song. If they like it, they may listen to others.

Most industry people resent getting CDs with 20 songs or a link to a site with 20 songs and a letter that says, “I know you’ll like at least one of these, so just pick out what you want.”

If you’re presenting it via snail mail or in person, they want you to send (or play) them three songs or less that you totally believe in. If you’re not far enough along to be able to decide, you’re not ready. When sending CDs with more than three songs, highlight three you want the listener to focus on first, and include the numbers of the cuts in your cover letter and lyric sheets (so they have a reference while the CD is on their player and they can’t see the label). If they like those, they’ll listen to the others.

Send CDs in standard, hard, jewel cases (not soft, thin vinyl) labeled on the spine so when they stack them they can find them later. And please remove the shrink-wrap!

2. Not placing their best and most commercial song first.
If you have a strong up-tempo song, start with that. If the listener doesn’t like the first one, it may be the only shot you get.

4. Not sending a lyric sheet, neatly typed or printed.
Letterhead is impressive. It says “This is my business and I take it seriously.” Some don’t like to look at lyrics while they listen, but most do. It’s a time saver to be able to see it all at once and to see the structure of the song graphically laid out on the page. If you submit online, attach the lyric sheet so they can look at it.

Lead sheets (with melody and lyric together) are not sent out with demos. They’re bulky to mail, it’s too difficult to follow the lyric and visualize the song’s form, and many industry pros don’t read music anyway. If they want to record the song and ask for one, then send them a lead sheet.

When you type your lyric sheet, separate the sections of the songs with a space and label each one (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) at the upper left side of the section or otherwise differentiate them by indenting or bolding the chorus or typing them in capital letters. If you’re repeating a chorus, note where it goes. Do not type your lyrics in prose fashion. Lay them out with the rhymes at the ends of the lines so the structure and rhyme schemes of the song can be seen immediately.

5. Not Putting on a Copyright Notice
Make sure there’s a copyright notice (© 2011 I.B. Cool, All Rights Reserved) on the bottom of the first page of the lyric sheet and on the tape or CD label. Technically, this isn’t necessary but it alerts everyone that your song is protected, whether it’s registered or not. (See the U.S. Copyright Office Website for info and forms.) Note: DO Register your song at the Copyright Office to be on the safe side.

6. Blowing the Cover Letter
Cover letters should be short and to the point. Let the music speak for itself and avoid hype. A professional presentation will do more to impress someone than “I know these are hit songs because they’re better than anything I’ve ever heard on the radio.” Don’t hype, plead, apologize or show any hint of desperation. It only gives the message that you have no confidence in the ability of the songs to stand on their own.

Here’s what should be in your cover letter:

  • It should be addressed to a specific person in the company.
  • It should state your purpose in sending the demo. Are you looking for a publisher, a producer, a record deal for you as an artist? Do you want the listener to pay special attention to your production, your singing, your band, or just the song? Is the song targeted for a specific artist?
  • List any significant professional credits that apply to the purpose of your submission. If you want your song published, list other published or recorded songs, contests won, etc. If you’re a performer submitting an artist demo, resist the temptation to grab at weak credits: “I played at the same club that (famous star) played.” Tell them what drives you, what inspires you. Keep it short. List real sales figures. Don’t lie.
  • Include any casting ideas you might have if you’re pitching to a publisher.
  • Ask for feedback if you want it. Odds are you won’t get it but give it a shot.
  • List the songs enclosed and writers’ names in the order they appear on the CD/tape. (Lyric sheets should also be enclosed in the same order the songs appear on the demo.)
  • Thank them for their time and attention.

7. Not putting their name, address and phone number, e-mail address and Web site on the CD, the case, and on every lyric sheet.
It seems like such common sense. In fact it would be embarrassing even to suggest that you might forget to do it but I see it happen constantly. The problem on this end is that, between listening sessions at the office, the car, and home, it’s so easy to separate the CD from the case or lyric sheet. Once they’ve gone to the trouble to find your hit song, not finding you is a fate neither of you deserve.

8. Not using adequate postage.
You’d be surprised how often this happens. Take the time to weigh your package at the post office and use the proper postage.

9. Sending CDs in ordinary stationery envelopes.
It’s risky because rough postal handling could force the edge of the case through the envelope. Use a special envelope with an insulated lining.

10. Sending song fragments or intro clips.
Like “a verse and chorus of each song to save their time and give them a taste.” Seems like a good idea if you’ve never been in the listener’s position and really like the verse and chorus, then have to wait until the writer can send you the rest. Frustrating! If I only want to listen to a verse and chorus or less, I’ll just skip to the next song.


There are a couple different procedures for this:

  1. Send an E-mail with the audio file attached. Follow the suggestions listed above for cover letter (Include phone number(s). Also include your Web site address so they can click it and go directly to it. When they get to your site, they’ll hopefully find additional bio material, photos and lyrics.
  2. Just send them an e-mail intriguing enough to get them to go to your site and hear your music there.
  3. Use an Electronic Press Kit (EPK). Sonicbids has been very popular for a few years now, but most artists will use their MySpace page as their EPK. A better choice is creating an “EPK” page on your own personal website and sending people there. (Example: www.nickdaugherty.com/epk/)

Indie marketing guru Tim Sweeney suggests that because of the limited amount of time someone may want to spend at any site and the degree of difficulty their online access speeds may present, it’s important to help them decide quickly which of your songs may be of most interest to them. You can help by providing a short description like this one provided on the site of Franklin Spicer and Valerie Ford’s Pegasus Project, a soft jazz, world music group.

“One People”
“The first song Franklin ever heard from Val was a reggae tune she had recorded called One People. He really liked the positive message and the infectious chorus. Franklin talked her into doing a rewrite and making it a Pegasus Project tune. They wanted to share a positive message of how we all are part of one global family. This song was shaped from a number of African musical influences, including the Tuku style. The huge chorus backup vocals were done in two days of recording using seven different singers.”

Note that the description includes information on the style, what it’s about, why it was written and how it was recorded. Their site also includes lyrics to all the songs.

Remember, your demo should look good, have something important to say, and say it well. There are a lot of other applicants for the job. The pros are looking for the best. Be the best!