The Dos And Don’ts Of Pitching Your Songs In The Music Business

music_pitch_meeting

Pitching your songs…

Pitching songs (playing songs for publishers, artists or record label people in hopes of getting them to record or help you get a song recorded), is one of the areas where songwriters make the most mistakes.  And, those mistakes can be costly.  You don’t get too many chances to make a good impression before you are put on the “burned bridge” list.  Here are some of the important dos and don’ts to remember when you pitch songs.

Do’s of pitching songs.

Make sure that your song fits what the artist is looking for VERY closely.  “In the ballpark” is not close enough.  You want to pitch songs like someone shooting a rifle, not a shotgun.  The idea here is not just to throw something out and see if it sticks.  You want to give them precisely what they need (or think they need).

Make sure your song is competitive.  If your song sounds like an amateur wrote it, then it will be tossed out and they’ll remember your name with a scarlet “A” beside it.  When you pitch songs, you are competing against the big boys.  Your song should hold up against everything they are being pitched or you shouldn’t have pitched it.

Keep your pitches to a minimum.  Unless someone specifically asks you for more, pitch 1-2 songs at a time.  Again, think rifle, not shotgun.  Pick your best two shots for that artist and pitch away.  If they like what you send, they may ask for more.

Make your presentation business-like.  Don’t hand-write the labels on the CD in sharpie.  Make your presentation just as good as the publishers that are pitching.

Start small.  If you’ve never had a cut on a major artist, the chances of you getting one are REALLY slim.  Your chances are much better with newer, less established artists.  Major artists get pitched thousands of songs for each album.  Newer artists get pitched hundreds.  Which pile would you rather be in?

Don’ts of song pitching.

Never send unsolicited CDs or pitches of any type.  Always get permission before sending.  I do that, even though almost everyone knows me.  It’s the polite, best way to do business.  Call or e-mail and ask permission to send 1-2 songs.  Most people will let you do that.  Doing things the right way goes a long way.

Don’t put 20 songs on a CD.  That will get tossed in the trash.  So will 10.  Probably 5.  Dropping off a CD loaded with songs screams “I have no idea what I’m doing and no idea what you need, so I’m just sending everything I’ve got.”  Don’t be that guy.

Don’t Irritate the person you are pitching to.  Drop it off, be courteous, and leave.  Don’t hang around yakking.  And don’t e-mail them the following day asking what they thought of your songs.  If they like them, they will contact you.  I promise.  Generally, you don’t want to contact them after you drop off the pitch.  They don’t have time to everyone that sends them something they aren’t interested in.  Drop it off and move on.  If they contact you, great!  If not, that means “no”.

Don’t Brag or name drop.  The people you are pitching to don’t care who you know or what names you can drop.  Don’t talk about who you write with or who liked your songs.  Other people don’t have anything to do with the quality of your writing.  Let your songs speak for themselves, don’t try to brag your way to the top.  Doing so places you in the “amateur club” once again.  Also, NEVER say the words “My songs are better than the ones on the radio”.  EVER.  Professionals in the business have heard that said ten thousand times and it has never once been true.  People who write better songs than the ones on the radio don’t say that.  So, if you find those words coming out of your mouth, stop them in their tracks.

Never complain and whine to the people you are pitching to.  If you tell them how hard the business is, how no one will listen to your songs, and other “woe is me” type statements, you’ll get shown the door promptly.  People only want to work with hardworking, positive people.  Those people don’t complain and whine.  They’re too busy working.

Don’t pitch any song that isn’t amazing.  Just don’t.  Pitching it will hurt you FAR more than it will help you.

I suggest getting professional feedback on a song before you pitch it on the open market.  If you get professional feedback that the song is pitch ready, you can start pitching it without worrying about burning a bridge.  Make sure your song is ready.  Make sure it’s commercially competitive.  And make sure it fits what the artist is looking for precisely.  Then, and only then, should you pitch it.

Write On! ~Marty

marty-dodson-songtown

SongTown Co-Founder

Songwriter/Performer/Prawn Fan

31 thoughts on “The Dos And Don’ts Of Pitching Your Songs In The Music Business

  1. However! Who is this “they” you keep referring to? Is this the right take: find an appropriate label, ask them if you can send them a demo, go from there? (i.e. follow the rest of your recommendations)

  2. You have any suggestions on Publishers or Producers who do listen to unsolicited music as I have written 237 and I don’t know where to start. I write gospel, country and pop. Can I suggest a particular entertainer or would that be out of bounds. How many songs would you send at one time.

    1. It’s a process. We teach how to pitch your songs effectively to all our members. But it’s not something as simple as writing a few sentences here. It takes learning and work. 🙂

      Cheers, Clay
      SongTown Co-founder
      Staff songwriter/Publisher @ VibeCity Music
      6 #1 Hit Singles and 150+ Cuts
      Including: “Beautiful Mess”
      Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”
      “History In The Making”

  3. I don’t write music just lyrics. When I write the lyrics I hear it as country in my head so I know that is where it belongs.
    If you know what artist you think the song is perfect for how do you reach that artist?

    1. Same 🙂
      I wonder who these professionals from whom we first get feedback are and how to reach them. Also what about protection of your intellectual property?

  4. What if a song is intended to be a soft ballad, or a basic country sound. You certainly don’t want to take away from the lyrics by over priduction. As a writer i tend to focus on the lyrics of a song iover the production.

  5. Should you copyright and register the song with a PRO prior to sending it to a publisher? What are your thoughts about sending the same song to various publishers?

    1. You should always copyright your work before shopping it. And by all means send the same song to as many people as you can until someone wants to record it and take it off the market.

      CM

        1. Mathew, you can of course always welcome any cut! But when you are pitching your songs to an artist, you want to pitch what that artist is looking for.

          Clay

  6. I would like to know if your songs should be recorder with full band etc. for a pitch or just a professional recording with say just a guitar or piano with vocals.

    Thank you

    1. Brian, there are many avenues that lead to the artist. I would suggest trying SongTown and start learning how the business works.

      Clay

  7. Great points, Marty.

    Find out how they want to listen to your music when asking permission to send them a song. Most prefer a link, CDs are old school.

    Respectfully follow up with a reminder of your submission, most artists don’t.

    Make it easy to listen, don’t make them think or work for it… include a few sentences describing your song so they have a reason to listen….

  8. The biggest problem is No Learning Writer writes amazing songs
    most think they have arrived before they have even started

    Most write dated songs based on the songs they loved during
    their teenage years

    Most do not re write enough, they over listen too comments from
    peers who believe mediocrity is okay

    Most Demo Producers haven’t got a clue and rush through the songs
    leaving errors every where , generally using failed singers and musicians

    Even Publishers very rarely Know when they have a potential hit
    Just look at the failures launched on to the public

  9. Great advice! Thanks for that. If I was to pitch my songs to a label in hopes they will sign me, what avenue do you recommend I request permission to submit since most don’t take unsolicited material? I know many label owners are on Instagram, but I want to make sure I don’t make that mistake!
    Thank you
    Jason

  10. Excellent advice. This is how the music biz really works. Cant over emphasize how important it is to only submit songs that match EXACTLY what is being asked for. If your song has one thing different, believe me, they will find it and toss your music. I’ve learned to carefully read the requirements, and listen to the artist’s music. Sometimes it’s necessary to rewrite a line or two, to make sure your song is spot on.

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