I wanna let you in on a Music Row secret. No, it’s not Carrie Underwood’s phone number. It’s a secret that can help your songwriting career get started. Ready? Okay, here it is:
Publishers actually WANT to like your songs. (It’s just that most songs aren’t good enough.)
I know it may not seem like it. Playing your songs for a publisher for the first time can be terrifying. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about how they’ve said mean things to songwriters or how they never like anything. Like… never ever.
Or maybe you’ve had your own song-babies called ugly to your face. Or your emails have gone seemingly ignored. It can be easy to feel like publishers take some perverse joy in crushing songwriters’ dreams.
But I don’t think that’s really the case.
I think publishers are disappointed when they don’t like your song. Why? Here are a few reasons:
1. Great songs and songwriters help publishers keep their jobs.
A publisher earns his or her paycheck by getting songs cut. And that is HARD. So the more great songs and songwriters they can find and sign, the more their odds of getting hits increase. They want your songs to be great so they can keep their jobs.
2. Publishers don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Unless the publisher is a sociopath (or you’re an arrogant jerk and have it coming), he takes no joy in leaving a boot-print on your heart. Publishers know a ton of songwriters, and they know how much this stuff means to them. Why would they enjoy hurting you?
3. Bad songs create unpleasant work for the publisher.
If they don’t listen in front of you, the publisher may just not respond if it’s a bad song. But if you’re sitting across the desk or in a room full of other people, they have to think of something to say. In a hurry. And we’ve already established that they don’t want to hurt your feelings. That means they have to go through verbal acrobatics to be kind but honest without giving you false hope. That’s stressful. And NOT fun.
4. Average songs waste a publisher’s time.
As I’ve said, getting songs cut is hard. And spending part of your day listening to un-cutable songs doesn’t make it any easier. Finding a great song is 3:00 well spent. Sitting through anything less than a great song is 3 minutes the publisher will never get back.
5. Publishers are people. And people like to be liked.
Publishers know the fastest way to your heart is to tell you your song is awesome. They also know the quickest way to offend you is to say that you made an ugly song-baby. Publishers are people, too- and they’d rather be on your Christmas card list than your “I’ll-see-you-in-the-parking-lot-later” list.
Sure, some publishers believe in tough love and will be brutally honest. Others may just be having a bad day and aren’t inclined to like anything on that day. And most publishers probably expect that songs from unknown songwriters won’t be great, so you must overcome their expectations. But I don’t see why a bunch of publishers would hear something great, know it’s great, but tell you it’s bad or just ignore it. Why would a publisher do that? How does that benefit them? Sure, it may be great, and they’re just mistaken to think it isn’t… but why purposefully tell you it stinks when it doesn’t?
Yes, a good publisher has a very high standard for songs. But they WANT to find great songs.
Do YOU have a song that a publisher should hear? If so, I have an opportunity for you…
In October, I’m hosting the first Songwriting Pro Play For Publisher (“P4P”) event. This is YOUR opportunity to get YOUR song heard by a successful, active music publisher. And we’re kicking off our first P4P event with a great guest: Chris Oglesby of BMG Chrysalis! Chris is a 25-year music biz veteran, and he works every day with hit songwriters like Tony Lane, Brett Beavers, busbee, Hillary Lindsey, and more.
God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.