You’ve just written your new favorite jam, and you can’t wait to pitch it to every artist and label in town. Congrats! But DON’T pitch that song just yet!
Before you send that email or make that call, you need to ask yourself these 6 questions that can keep you from wasting your time AND your songwriting reputation.
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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 yourself as you’re going through your songs.
1. Does my song fit the artist’s brand?
Artists are brands. 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. Likewise, don’t waste an artist’s time by pitching him a song that doesn’t fit what he does. You’ll look like you just didn’t bother to do your homework. That doesn’t respect the artist’s artistry or their time, and you come off looking bad.
2. Can the artist sing the song?
I was 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. The same goes for most artists.
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? It has to be on-brand AND great. Never, never, never pitch a song that you know isn’t great. It’ll reflect poorly on you as a songwriter. It’ll damage your reputation. And in this business, reputation is huge.
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.
But what if you don’t have your own pitch contacts? What if you don’t know any artists or producers?
Well, you’re probably going to need a publisher. And I’m happy to give you a shot at meeting one! I want YOU to join me at Songwriting Pro’s next Play For A Publisher event- and get feedback on YOUR song in person! (No matter where you live.)
If you’re ready to connect with a publisher, I have a path for YOU and YOUR great song to get to a real, legit, successful music publisher, no matter where in the world you live.
On Thursday, December 14, I’m having the next round of Songwriting Pro’s “Play For A Publisher.” Our guest is John Ozier of ole Music. John has had his hand in a bunch of hits, but the deadline to submit your song is coming up NEXT MONDAY! DON’T MISS OUT- CLICK HERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY.
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.