There seems to be a lot of confusion out there over the question “How do I submit a song?”. The truth of the matter is that there is no one way to “submit” a song. When you simplify the “song submission” idea, there are basically three categories of song submissions that a songwriter should educate themselves about. I’ll cover each of those here.
These are “safe” ways to submit a song that you aren’t sure about because the person you are submitting the song to knows that you are just trying to learn. You aren’t going to burn a bridge if the song isn’t there. These would include song critiques or feedback like we have in the pro forum on SongTown. They would also include mentoring sessions with one of our pros. None of the pros are going to close the door on you if you submit something that isn’t great. You’re there to learn and they are there to help you. The quality of your demo doesn’t matter much at all here as long as it’s easy to understand the lyrics and hear the melody. Simple work tapes are fine.
Pitches to publishers or PROS (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc).
These include more risk. If I waste a publisher’s or PRO rep’s time, I risk getting on their “do not work with” list. Most of them don’t have time to give you a second chance. These opportunities are not places to experiment or test the waters. You need to be confident that you are giving a publisher or PRO rep quality songs that they think they could get recorded in the current market unless you are meeting with them in a mentoring type setting. Otherwise, you are wasting their time. Pitching to publishers is much different than pitching to artists. Publishers are looking at the quality of your song, not so much the quality of the recording. The only way a publisher makes money is if they get a song recorded. So, if they can’t get your song(s) recorded, they aren’t going to be interested. If you get an opportunity to meet with and pitch to a publisher, you need to research what that publisher does, who their writers are, etc. That information will help you pitch that publisher something he or she might like. PRO reps can call publishers and get you meetings if they like what you do. Even though they personally are not trying to get songs recorded, their job is to help writers with their organization succeed. They can be great advocates for you if they love your music. Again, your demo quality needs to convey the song well and be easy to understand, but it doesn’t have to be a full studio demo or track.
Pitching for artists.
This is the highest risk pitch. I have Keith Urban’s e-mail. I’ve only sent him 3 songs in over a year. He has passed on all of them. I feel like I’m at a tipping point. If I keep sending him songs he doesn’t LOVE, he’s going to quit opening my e-mails. He doesn’t have time to keep fooling with someone that isn’t giving him what he needs. So, I’m going to be super careful with my next pitch. Even if he doesn’t cut it, I want him to think it’s an amazing song so that I can keep pitching to him. Whether you are pitching to the artist, a manager, a producer, or a record label, you want to be REALLY confident in the song you are pitching AND the quality of the demo. The closer the song can sound to something that would be on the radio, the better your chances will be. If you have a simple ballad, you might be able to get by with a guitar or piano vocal demo. Otherwise, you probably need a really good quality demo. You don’t get many of these direct-to-artist chances, so you need to really blow them away.
If you can’t afford full demos, that’s fine. Stick to the first two kinds of pitches as you work on improving your writing. Publishers can help pay for demos if they love your song. Don’t worry that you aren’t able to get to artists. Just make the most of your situation. And, I always recommend waiting until you get a “WOW” response from one of the safe opportunities before you climb on up the ladder. If you get a “WOW” response in the Pro Feedback forum, book a mentoring session with our pro publisher. If you get a “WOW” response there, you know you’ve got something. If not, you avoid burning a bridge by pitching in one of the more risky situations.
Many writers pitch songs WAY too soon and leave burning bridges smoking behind them. Don’t do that. Be patient. Keep writing and improving. That’s the ticket to success.
Write on! ~Marty
Co-Founder Songtown/Songwriter/Corporate Trainer