To get a recording artist to record your song you need to do two things: write a song of recordable quality and get it heard by the right people. Although it helps to be in a major music business city (New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, London, etc.) you can still get your song heard, no matter where you live. In this guide, we will look at who chooses the songs for artists to record, who can help you get your song into their hands, and how to go about it yourself.
When it comes to choosing songs for an album, the artist most often makes the ultimate decision about what song or songs to record, with the album’s producer almost as often being the one with the final say about material. Additionally, the record company has a lot of influence over what songs get recorded as does the artist’s manager. All of these entities, as well as the people close to them, are worth pitching songs to.
For your song to even be considered in a recording project, each of these four people has to believe that:
To get your song heard by the person who chooses the material for the artist in question, there are several main avenues:
Except in cases where the artist writes his or her own material, the major song publishers get more songs cut than any of the other entities who pitch songs. All of the people involved in finding and choosing the songs for a recording project give the most information and consideration to the major music publishers (Sony/ATV Music, Warner Brothers Publishing, BMG Publishing, etc.).
To work with a publisher, they have to believe you can write recordable songs. Plus, they have to have a place for you in their organization. It’s best to approach them for consideration through a recommendation from someone who’s respected in the music business. If a “hit” writer, producer, manager, or agent can’t help you, have your music business attorney contact them on your behalf. They’ll want to hear songs you’ve written to convince them you’re worth working with. You can also use writing with one of their staff writers as a way in.
Professional song pitchers are hired guns you pay to pitch your songs. They generally have good access, although slightly less than a publisher’s, to upcoming project information and ability to get songs heard. Like the publishers they have to believe your songs are worthy of representing. They usually want a monthly retainer plus additional reward payments as a song they’ve pitched for you achieves certain milestones, such as being recorded, being released, charting, reaching a top 10 position on the charts, etc. Some will work instead on the basis of owning part of the copyright (instead of for payments) if they get the song recorded.
There are quite a few “Song Placement” organizations on the internet who offer song pitching services. Though more seem to be appearing on the internet all the time, an outfit called Taxi is the one we’ll talk about here and you can investigate the others as you care to.
Taxi has become very popular in the last few years with the so-called “stand alone songwriter” crowd. Taxi claims to receive the same kind of inside information the top publishers do about what projects of all genres are upcoming, and what kind of material they’re looking for. Plus they say they have the reputation for quality material and respect to be given special consideration by the top people looking for songs for their projects.
Membership affords you a frequently updated, exclusive tip sheet (a list of what projects are looking for songs and what kind of songs they’re looking for) to peruse and if you decide to, you can send your songs in (for a fee per song) to be critiqued by the Taxi staff to see if they feel those songs are in fact a good match for what the project you’re pitching to requires. If they think you’ve hit the mark, they present it to the people in charge of that project. They boast of many successes including hit records, songs in movies and television, etc. You can visit their site, and read their complete sales pitch to determine if their approach suits your circumstances.
The established pathways for getting songs to the right people are unfortunately carefully guarded and reserved for recognized professionals. Although the song pitching routes are off limits for unrecognized song submitters, it is possible to get your song into the right hands to be considered. Here’s how you do it.
Get informed about who’s recording, when, what style of material they want, and who to get it to. “Tip Sheets” which have exactly this information are obtainable from several sources:
Note: Don’t pitch any song to a project you don’t wholeheartedly believe is exactly right for the project.
Find out how to contact the people you’re trying to get your songs to:
Create a record of whom you are pitching songs for what artist and any contact information you get, for future use. Whether it’s a computer database, a notebook, or whatever works for you, make absolutely certain you have the information at your fingertips for when you need it.
Deliver your demo package.
Be ready and resourceful.
Always have CDs of the tunes you’re hottest on (with professional-looking labels and all your info plus a nice looking lyric sheet) with you wherever you go. You may have a chance encounter with one of the people you’re trying to get to and if you have your pitch package with you, you can parlay that moment into a successful and hopefully un-pushy pitch. At the airport: “Hey, great to meet/see you. I’m just flying out to Los Angeles for a gig. I’ve got a tune I’d love you to hear—could I just give it to you now? Thanks so much! I hope you like it.”
Countless creative methods are waiting to be thought up to get songs to the right people. They don’t always work, but there are too many true stories of songs that got cut by being handed to one of the road musicians or the bus driver of a hit act to not pay attention to the message being presented. If your song is good enough and you work hard enough, long enough, and smart enough, you can get your song recorded by a major artist. Good luck!
by Casey Kelly and David Hodge, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Songwriting