Let’s say you have the opportunity to pitch to an artist. Maybe Aunt Agnes knows a guy that mows the lawn of the guy that cuts Blake Shelton’s hair. Or maybe you’re a staff writer who knows you shouldn’t leave all the pitching to your plugger. Either way, you want to make the most of your pitches. Here are some questions to ask as you’re going through your songs.
1. Does your song fit the artist’s brand?
As I wrote about last week, artists are brands. Check out the blog post here. But simply put, if your song is a french fry, don’t bother pitching it to Taco Bell. They don’t DO french fries- it doesn’t fit their brand.
2. Can the artist sing the song?
I’ve been in an A&R pitch meeting at a label, and I pitched a certain song for a certain artist on their roster. The A&R rep said the lyric was right up his alley, but she didn’t think he could sing it. Pass. My buddy, Anthony Orio, has pitched songs to a publisher before, and the publisher told him, “What guy can sing this melody?” Well, Anthony could. But the point is that not a lot of guys could sing a song that rangy, so it wasn’t as attractive to a publisher as a song they could pitch everywhere.
3. Does the artist already write this type of song?
For example, Keith Urban tends to write his own feel-good mid-and-uptempo songs. Most of his ballads and darker songs, however, tend to be written by other writers- “Raining On Sunday” “You’ll Think Of Me” “Making Memories Of Us” and “Stupid Boy,” for example. Your best bet for getting a Keith Urban cut is probably to bring him something he records but doesn’t typically write himself.
4. Is it a quality recording?
I’ve gotten cuts from demos. I’ve gotten cuts from good guitar/vocals. But unless it’s something I wrote with the artist, I’ve never gotten a cut off a worktape. There are writers that can pitch a worktape, but they’ve had enough success that the listener expects to hear a great song because of who wrote it. Also, they can probably play it directly for the artist or producer. Depending on how close you are to the project, your song may have to get past an A&R intern, a production assistant, and who knows who else before it can get to someone who can give you the “Big Yes.” I personally don’t count on every person in that chain to be able to hear through a worktape- especially when it’s sandwiched between great-sounding demos.
5. Is this song a step into the artist’s future?
Right after Brad Paisley hit with “The Fishing Song,” he got blasted with fishing songs from everywhere. Notice how he STILL hasn’t put another one out as a single? I’m sure he didn’t want to get pigeonholed as the fishing guy (although that was an important part of his brand at the time). Besides, he can write a great fishing song on his own- he doesn’t need to pay me for mine when he can make money on his. Successful artists evolve over time. Plenty of writers will be pitching them their LAST hit. You need to pitch them their NEXT hit.
6. Is this a great song?
I’ve made the mistake of pitching songs that were the right brand, but just okay. It’s like kicking a field goal perfectly straight… but five yards short. No points. There are too many really good and great songs out there- why would an artist cut yours?
I hope this list is helpful for you. It’s not an exhaustive list- each pitch opportunity comes with it’s own particulars. But I think you’ll be well served to keep these questions in mind. Happy hunting!
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What questions would you add to this list? Please post them in the comments. Thanks!
Big thanks to my good buddy and cowriter, Anthony Orio, for cutting two of our songs last week! Both were written with Matt Cline, and are for an upcoming release from Anthony. You can check out Anthony here. You can check out his previous two albums on iTunes here. I’m blessed to have several songs on each. Thanks, Anthony!
Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter
Brent Baxter Music: http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com