You can’t just get a publisher to lay down (a publishing deal) for you on the “first date.” You have to romance them. Here’s how.
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Getting a publisher to offer you a publishing deal is kinda like getting them to marry you. It’s a big commitment, and it’s one that isn’t taken lightly by a publisher. It’s a tough, tough business, and they need enough of their investments to pay off to keep the lights on. Just because you show up in their office one day with a cool guitar and one awesome song doesn’t mean they’ll drop a staff songwriting contract on your lap.
You gotta romance a publisher. Here are eight ways you can do that.
1. Have sexy songs.
No, I don’t mean make-out songs. I mean there needs to be something sexy about your songs- something that captivates the publisher or something that pulls their attention back to your writing.
Maybe the whole song is great. Maybe it moves them to tears or laughter. Maybe there’s that one line in the second verse that is so honest and real that it takes their breath away. Maybe it’s a hook (melodic or lyrical) they can’t get out of their head. A sexy song has something about it that sticks with the publisher after you leave the room.
2. Be yourself.
Publishers want to see the real you in your songs. They want some real heart, some real truth, some of what YOU have to say (happy or sad, funny or mad). You may get a publisher’s attention by dressing your songs up like Craig Wiseman or Luke Laird, but it’s YOUR true creative voice that, if it resonates with them, will make them fall for you.
3. Be a good hang.
Ever date someone who is good looking but just leaves you exhausted (in a bad way)? Someone who is overly needy, pessimistic, a lush, or is addicted to drama? Eventually, their good looks (or good songs) aren’t worth the trouble. You don’t have to be the publisher’s best friend. But being a good hang is only going to improve your chances of getting to second base.
4. Be buzz worthy.
Ever notice how people get better-looking as soon as they start dating someone else? It’s like they get some sort of social proof that, yes, they are in fact… dateable. It repositions them in your mind. A similar thing happens in the music business. As publishers realize other people (writers, publishers, etc.) take you for real, they’ll naturally start to see you as more of a legit option.
5. Be committed.
I don’t mean to prove you’re committed to that publisher, like you’d never look for a deal anywhere else or play songs for another publisher. Show you’re committed to songwriting and the music business. Show you’re committed to getting better. Show you’re in it for the long haul- you’re not just testing the waters and will bail if the “music thing” doesn’t work out. Publishers invest a lot into their writers. They’re serious, and they want to know you are, too.
6. Make a good first impression.
It’s always good to start off on the right foot. A publisher’s first impression of you can either be a setup for success or a setback you have to overcome. Personally, I’d rather have the setup. Your first impression can come from the publisher seeing you at a writers night, hearing one of your songs through a cowriter, a “blind date” meeting, a workshop, or from word-of-mouth in the biz.
You don’t usually get to control when you make that first impression- or how you make it. But doing quality, consistent work in a professional manner increases your odds of making a good first impression.
7. Have “good prospects.”
Of course, it helps to woo a publisher by having three songs on the charts. But almost nobody is in that position. But the more things you have going on, the more attractive you are as a potential staff writer. Publishing is a business, and the publisher stays in business by making money. So even if you aren’t coming into the deal just crushing it, you want to show (honestly) that you have “good prospects.” It’s like a girl thinking, “yeah, he’s broke now… but he’s in med school…” But be real. Don’t hype. Hype is NOT attractive.
8. Go on a few dates.
A publisher who is interested in you may set you up to write with their writers. This is their way of checking you out. They’ll want to hear the songs you write with their writers. They know what their writers bring to the room, so it’s their chance to see how you play in the sandbox with someone on the team whom they respect. And they’ll usually ask their writer, “So, how was he/she?”
There ya go. Eight ways to romance a music publisher. I hope you go out, find that special someone who will change your life, and you make hundreds of beautiful song babies.
Just invite me to the wedding.
Now, if you’re ready to start romancing a publisher, I have an opportunity for you!
Tim Hunze is coming back to do another Play For A Publisher event in June! He’s a successful publisher with Parallel Music in Nashville, Tennessee. Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited. CLICK HERE to check out all the details and submit YOUR song for Tim!
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.