Pitching to Publishers: Getting it Right from the Get-Go
UNDERSTAND MUSIC PUBLISHING
You’d be surprised how little newcomers know about what a music publisher does.
The official definition is simple: “A music publisher (or publishing company) is responsible for ensuring that songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Getting yourself published as a singer or artist is important for your future success in the music industry.”
Deciding who you want to publish your music with is the tricky bit and the one that requires the most research. Likewise, getting them to sign you takes just as much craft.
Before you research different publishers, you must understand the legalities that go into signing with a publisher and how this can help you.
Pitching to publishers involves one obvious thing: music. It’s also the one with the most components. So, let’s break it down:
Is Your Music Ready to Pitch?
You might have told yourself “it may not be ready, but if they like the general sound of it, they’re going to be willing to take it anyway.” That’s a risky approach, especially if you’re only just starting out. The bottom line is that if you are not 100% convinced that your song is polished and ready, you shouldn’t pitch it. The lyrics need to be tight, the vocal melodies catchy and overall, the demo needs to deliver.
When in doubt, reach out to a professional who can help you improve your song to make it perfect for pitching.
Understanding Your Audience
When pitching to publishers, the music charts should be your bible. It’s your responsibility to study every aspect of the current hits, from melodies to instrumentation to lingo. The next step to consider is who you are actually pitching to – reaching out to established artists is almost too ambitious. So, look for the up-and-coming ones.
New artists are hungry for new songs, which means their publishers are too.
Shows such as The X Factor and The Voice can give you a good idea of potential newcomers, and most importantly, provide you with study materials. Chose an artist and then begin your research: What kinds of songs do they excel at? Big choruses? Intimate verses? Soaring melodies?
“Write a song that will make this artist sound good, one that makes use of their strengths, something with a fresh, contemporary feel and an appealing theme.”
Do not ballpark your song: when it comes to pitching to publishers, you have to make your demo “customisable” to the desired artist/publisher.
Pithing to publishers can incur the most risk because you can end up in their “do not work with” list if you waste their time.
Great music doesn’t mean quality of the recording – it means quality of the song, as we learned during our talk with Claire, Senior Vice President of Global Administration at Warner Chappell. Publishers can help pay for demos if they love your song, but you must impress them first.
“Over my years of being in the music business, I’ve found that nothing happens as quickly as we’d like it to. The plus side is that the longer it takes a relationship with a publisher to develop, the longer it tends to last. ” –
CREDITS: WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?
Sometimes you might be signed to a publishing company because of one of your collaborations. It’s not uncommon to see young songwriters being signed because they co-wrote a song with an artist who’s already signed to a major publisher.
The benefits of musical collaborations go beyond trading skillsets and sharing ideas.
By linking your fanbases, you grow your audience and increase the chances of catching somebody’s else’s interest (i.e. a publisher).
The artist you collaborate with can introduce you to other artists. By forming working relationships, you can expand your professional field.
Remember what we said about always being on top of the music charts? Sometimes a little outside perspective can be just what you need to hit the mark.
“As musicians, we become immersed in the music production process, making it hard to hear our music objectivity. Useful feedback, both positive and negative, will give you a fresh perspective on your music. It will also present new ideas, reveal problems that may need fixing, and help you make artistic decisions,” says Harry Levin.
Approaching music publishing companies can be daunting, but it’s a necessary action if you’re serious about your music. Music publishing is a competitive business, and the best way to go about it is to get a clear idea of the music market before approaching a publisher. Understand what you’re getting into and be just as knowledgeable as they are so you always have the upper, or equal, hand!