10 Ways To Get To A Publisher

Man vs Row

It’s hard to get to get a music publisher’s time and attention.  There are many reasons for this, some of which I discussed <HERE.>  Today, I want to share some pathways to a publisher.

1. The unsolicited request.

This is the only easy path on the list- and it’s the one I don’t really recommend.  This is where you just put in a cold call or email to a publisher and ask for a meeting.  It has a very low success rate (you’re lucky to get a response at all), and there are better strategies available.

2. The professional recommendation.

Publishers listen to those in their peer group.  If you can get recommended by another publisher, an A&R rep, a professional songwriter, etc., it will go a long way toward getting you in the room.  Your best bet for a recommendation from an industry pro is making a fan of someone at NSAI, Global Songwriters Connection (GSC), or another songwriting organization.

3. The personal relationship.

Do you have a relative or friend anywhere in the music biz?  Leverage your personal contacts.  It isn’t cheating- nobody gets here alone.

4. The business relationship.

When I first got to Nashville, I got a part-time job at a publishing company.  As I got to know our administrative clients- patiently, over time- I was able to approach them about listening to my songs.

5. The PRO recommendation.

A PRO is a Performing Rights Organization.  In the US, we have ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI.  Each PRO has writers reps who spend part of their time meeting with writers.  If, over the course of several meetings, you can make a rep a believer in your music, they might book you up with some publishers.  They can’t do that for everyone, so don’t expect it.  Every time they recommend a writer, they risk some of their professional credibility.

6. The Pitch-To-Publisher event.

Organizations like NSAI and GSC have events where their members can play one (I repeat- one) song for a Music Row publisher.  If you or your song knock their socks off, it might open a door.  You don’t always have to be in Nashville to participate in these events,  so check their websites for details.

www.nashvillesongwriters.com  www.globalsongwriters.com

7. The staffwriter cowrite.

It’s not easy to get a cowrite with a pro writer, obviously (read about why HERE).  However, if you write a killer song with a staffwriter, their publisher is likely to ask who you are.  If they love what you write with their writer, they will probably be open to hearing more of your stuff.

8. The industry function.

If you meet a publisher out at a writers night, workshop, etc., be patient.  Don’t get all excited and shove a CD in his face or beg her for a meeting.  Try to connect in a real way on a personal level.  Make a connection, not just a contact.  There are a lot of crazies out there, and a publisher will usually need to sniff you out a few times before they’re up for a meeting.

9. The major cut.

I wasn’t getting much publisher love till I got (and owned the publishing on) my Alan Jackson cut.  Suddenly, I had a skeleton key to just about every publisher’s door on Music Row.

10. The artist buzz.

The value of the writer/artist has skyrocketed over the past few years.  If you’re getting buzz around town as a potential artist, that goes a long way toward getting a publisher’s attention.  Even if you aren’t a great writer, they know they can always hook you up with great writers.

I know at this point, you might be more frustrated than you were five minutes ago.  Hey, nobody said this was easy.  I just don’t know of any path to a publisher that is quick and easy (outside of dumb luck).  And luck is not a strategy.  However, like they say, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

What about you?  Are there ways you’ve used to get to a publisher that I didn’t mention here?  Are there some ways you DON’T recommend?  We’d love to hear from you!

God Bless,

Brent

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11 thoughts on “10 Ways To Get To A Publisher”

  1. If you managed to score some co-writes with an artist who was gaining publisher attention……Would they also start to pay attention to your name also? Still appreciating all the good advice Brent! =)

    1. I guess I’d kind of put that under “get artist buzz.” But, yes, building success on your own increases your visibility and your “stumble-upon” potential. Enough writers are knocking on publishers’ doors that they aren’t seeking out writers by looking up contest winners, etc. However, depending on the contest, a publisher or hit writer might just be a judge, and that MIGHT get you on their radar. It’s a slim chance. But winning legit, well-known contests can be a good thing to put into your elevator pitch. When you meet or email a publisher you don’t know, you can say, “Hi, I’m Brent. I’m a writer, and I’ve won blah blah blah song contests in the past two years. My songs have earned __ views on YouTube (here’s a link). I’d love to meet with you, etc.” If you don’t have cuts to your credit yet, at least that gives you SOMETHING to recommend your music. Can’t hurt. But make sure it’s legit.

  2. Some good points here about how to get on the publishers radar. But don’t you find co-writes especially with Nashville pro writers so contrived? And often cliche riddled?

    I know co-writes may put you on the radar, but wouldn’t it stand you in better stead to be noticed by publishers on the merits of originality and substance of song?

    1. Well, sure, a lot of pro cowrites end up with songs that are cliche’ riddled and contrived. (Same is true of non-pro writes and cowrites.) Writing a bad song with a pro is not going to help you. You still need to write something great. A publisher is not going to love your song (and get curious about you in a good way) JUST because you wrote it with their writer. But writing with their writer sure increases the chance that the publisher becomes aware of you and your songs at all.

  3. This tips are great. Is good to know that NSAI provides good opportunities. I will love to dedicate my life to write songs, books or anything that can travel through people’s souls, I just hope it is for me on this life.

  4. What if you are not an artist or singer, but do write? You can have someone do a demo, but how do you get someone to listen to something you did not sing? Seems like it would
    hurt what credibility you may have, if any.

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