Heard In A "No Unsolicited Material" World
from PART ONE)
you know up front that industry people are deluged by calls from
writers and artists who haven't done their homework, you have a
distinct advantage if you put in the research time before you call.
It lets you call with a certain amount of confidence in your voice.
come off as arrogant, but do project confidence. If you can let
them know you're serious and have done your research, the "gatekeepers"
will be afraid to shut you down too quickly because, for all they
know, you may be someone important to their boss. The boss is also
more likely to take you seriously. Don't beg for a chance to be
heard! This is very unprofessional. Though you may not actually
say it, the subtext of your conversation should be, "I have
great songs that I know are appropriate for this artist. They deserve
to be heard."
matter who you're trying to get to, be nice to assistants and secretaries.
Treat them with respect. There's a better than average chance that
they are the ones who will initially be listening to your tape.
In fact, you may acknowledge that possibility ahead of time by asking
for their opinion on your songs.
by the next time you call, they may be the boss and the relationship
you developed on the phone gets you into their office. If you're
serious enough to want a career in songwriting, you need to think
years ahead and build bridges now.
permission to submit tapes or CDs. For the reasons outlined at the
beginning of this article, you must get permission to submit your
demo. You can do this by phone but you may not have much time to
"sell" yourself. A short fax can be more efficient. Include
any information that may set you off from everyone else; reviews
or favorable critiques of your songs or performances, sales figures
on your CDs or tapes, a short history of your career, other songs
held or recorded, and evidence that you've done your research on
the artist or company.
you do get through the door, consider it a great accomplishment,
but only the first of a series. Don't figure that all you have to
do now is just wait around for them to call you back and tell you
how great your song is. Know that they're very busy and you may
have to remind them that they have your tape.
calling to make sure they've received it, always ask them to give
you a date or time-frame to check back. You might say, "Look,
I know you guys are busy and I don't want to make a pest of myself
so I'd appreciate it if you could give me some guideline about when
to check back." That way, when you do call back you don't feel
like a pest because you can say "You suggested I call back
in a couple of weeks."
be shy about calling back several times. Nobody in the music business
will ever fault you for persistence. Though it will be frustrating,
don't let it affect your professional attitude on the phone.
you plan to pitch your songs directly to record companies, managers,
producers and artists, you're being a publisher. You'll get through
their doors easier if you have your own company, logo and letterhead.
choose a name for your company that reflects your own (JoJac for
Joe Jackson) or it will be obvious to them that you're a "hip-pocket"
publisher (a writer only representing your own material) rather
than a company who has invested in a writer it believes in.
Yes, I know
you believe in yourself but it doesn't give you that business edge
here. If you decide to pitch your songs to publishers, don't send
it on your publishing letterhead. They'll wonder why another publisher
is sending them a song.
You can send
your letterhead packages to record companies, producers and managers.
Managers should not be overlooked since, as "captain"
of the artist's team, they are usually very close to the decision
process on selection of songs, direction of the artist, choice of
producers etc. and may not be deluged as are record company A&R
sure you keep a tape and lyric sheets with you at all times. You
never know when you'll get an unexpected opportunity to give it
to someone. That someone could be the artist's hairdresser, limo
driver, recording engineer, road manager, touring musician, friend
or anyone else who has access to the artist or the artists official
can even offer them a sales incentive of a percentage of the income
on whatever song any of those people are responsible for helping
that I said "income" not a percentage of "the publishing"
which implies a percentage of ownership of the copyright. I'm specifically
talking about a "cut in" or "participation"
in a percentage of the publishers share of the income for that particular
recording . The income can be mechanical (on sales of CDs, tapes
etc.), performance (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC for airplay) or a combination.
independent songpluggers operate this way, often with a clause that
does give them some ownership if the song becomes a top 20 or top
10 record. Please note that A&R reps, recording engineers etc.
may be prohibited by their companies from making the above mentioned
"cut in" agreements.
Other good sources
of information and contacts are local or national songwriters organizations
and events. Most organizations have regularly scheduled events in
which they invite music industry professionals to speak and listen
to tapes. Familiarize yourselves with those guests, their histories
and current needs. The personal contact has much more impact than
a cold call.
organizations with your membership and volunteer time and you'll
often find yourselves surrounded by opportunities. Organization
newsletters also frequently provide valuable information about industry
events of interest to songwriters, such as the annual Songwriters
Expo and Urban Focus in Los Angeles, Nashville Songwriters Assn.
seminars and many others.
remember that this is a people business. As in most other business,
maintaining your personal relationships, networking for new contacts,
taking advantage of your memberships in organizations that can put
you in touch with the industry, doing favors for your colleagues,
researching the trade magazines and being ready to immediately take
advantage of opportunities are all things that could contribute
to your success.
BRAHENY is a noted songwriting consultant and author
Craft and Business of Songwriting," one of the best
publications available about songwriting and the music business.