Songwriters: Are You Pitching Your Songs With A Shotgun Or A Rifle?

songtown_pitching your songs









One of the most popular questions we get at SongTown is “how many songs should I send to a producer or publisher?”  The prevailing myth for aspiring songwriters is that “more shots equals a better chance of something great happening”. I want to dispel that myth and to explain why pitching your songs with a shotgun is NOT the best way to hit your mark.

Not too long ago, one of my pluggers sent out an e-mail to all of our writers asking us to send him ONE song pitch idea for Frankie Ballard.

Well, I had Frankie’s first single ever, so I thought to myself “I’ve got tons of songs that would work for Frankie”. I proudly sent my plugger a list of 8-10 SMASH HITS that I thought Frankie would kill. In my head, they were all pretty good shots. And, I thought the plugger could pick his favorite (or two or 5) to play for Frankie.

Immediately, I got a reply that said “I’m about to walk out the door to go to this meeting and I don’t have time to listen to 10 songs from every writer. I was counting on you to give me your BEST one, not a list. If you can’t do your job, I can’t do mine”. That’s the no-nonsense world I live in. And, worst of all, he was right.

Mistakenly, I took out a shotgun and tried to hit anything that was moving in the vicinity of the pitch request.

In doing so, I irritated the guy trying to pitch my song and I almost lost the chance at even having ONE of my songs played for Frankie. What I should have done instead was pick up a rifle and aim for the bullseye instead of just hoping to hit the target somehow with my shotgun. If I had spent my time trying to find that one perfect song instead of trying to find EVERYTHING that MIGHT work, I would have had a better chance.

I have learned that pitching one great song communicates that I feel like I know what the artist wants and that my song is THE one.

Pitching a bunch of songs often communicates that I don’t really know what the heck to send, so I’m slinging everything I’ve got in hopes of getting lucky. That approach turns people off and isn’t likely to lead to hitting the bullseye even if you hit the target.

If an artist or publisher is telling you they want a “career” song, they need a monster hit. None of us have tons of those. I’ve demoed over 6,000 songs and I’m not sure I have anything yet that is on par with songs like “The House That Built Me” or “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. So, I don’t need to worry about slinging 5 songs at that kind of opportunity. I need to find or write the VERY BEST shot I have and pitch that one. If it’s as good as I think it is, then they will call and ask for more. If not, I still have work to do.

Step away from the shotgun and aim for the bullseye when pitching your songs.

All the best!  ~MD

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

12 thoughts on “Songwriters: Are You Pitching Your Songs With A Shotgun Or A Rifle?

  1. Hey Marty great advice people are busy keeping it simple and straight to the point just send em your one best song and that’s it
    Thanks man

  2. Ouch…that reply stings…but kudos to you for sharing “real world” experiences. You could have waxed elegant for paragraphs telling us how to respond to submission requests…but that example spoke volumes! We’re all living and learning. Thankfully, we’re learning from the best with you, Marty.

  3. Abiding by the ‘consumer’s’ specifications is fundamental. If they give you ‘reference tracks’, listen to them and try to send them something relevant. If they want uptempo, don’t give them a ballad. If they want country leaning to pop, figure out what the hell that means and try to supply what they demand.
    See those words?
    supply and demand
    Don’t try to sell what you have. Try to sell what they ‘want, need, desire, demand’.
    And there’s another word; sell. You’re trying to make a sale. The customer, consumer, has told you how to sell them your product. Don’t ignore it. Don’t ‘under study’ and think about it. This is ‘commerce’, not ‘art’, ‘business’, not a ‘hobby’. Put on your ‘business’ suit and ‘go to work’.
    Speaking of which, I see here on the right an ALL NEW CrashCourse: Making Songwriting YOUR Business!
    That may be the most valuable investment of your time and money as you learn to transition from avocational hobbyist to commercial endeavor, being a ‘company’ engaged in ‘commerce’ with other ‘companies’.

  4. Hey Marty.

    I’m in the process of constructing a “music tracks” webpage that targets both commercial and personal use in the video media i.e. TV, film, product ads…etc. I have an extensive catalouge of original songs to which I will post for licensing purposes; including exclusive licensing. Is there a proven method of marketing and promoting my site for increased traffic and in reaching the potentail businesses? I could really use your business experience and advice.


  5. Great advice. I was pondering those thoughts approaching some pitch opportunities. Thanks again for the advice, inspiration and encouragement!

  6. Wow that is a pretty hard core response to get back from your plugger, damn, I think I probably would’ve totally collapsed from that Marty.

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