How To Get A Songwriting Staff Writing Deal



Here are the best ways I know to increase your chances of getting a songwriting staff writing deal with a publisher:

Get to know music publishers organically.

If there’s a publisher you are interested in and you are able, go to writer’s nights where they are featuring their writers. Buy them a drink. Meet their writers. Mix and mingle. Go to events where publishers are speaking. Attend industry events. Publishers are much more likely to sign someone they know over a stranger. The more publishers you get to know, the better your chances are.

Co-write with signed writers.

We’ve had at least 12 people from SongTown get staff writing deals. Co-writing with them or with other signed writers is always a good move. Again, it’s best not to ask them out of the blue as strangers, but to get to know them before you ask them to write. If you’re new to co-writing Mastering Co-writing is a helpful book that will show you the ropes.

Do your homework.

Know what a publisher does BEFORE you approach them. If they are a country publisher, playing them your Americana/Polka isn’t going to get you a deal. If they are a pop producer, they aren’t going to be interested in your country songs. The key to getting a deal is to give a publisher something VERY commercial that they don’t already have. Another homework example. You might find out in your research that a certain publisher has 3 female writers and one male. That gives you, as a male, a little edge. They may need more male songs.

Use everything you do well to your advantage.

If you build tracks and do your own demos, mention that. That saves a publisher money. Publishers like to save money. Think of every marketable angle for what you do and make all of that known. Warning – DO NOT make up any of this. There’s no quicker way NOT to get a deal. Don’t blow smoke. And don’t name drop. A publisher wants to know what YOU can do, not hear a list of all the people you work with.

Write great songs.

There’s no easier way to get a staff writing deal. If you write hit songs, you’re not going to have to beg for a deal. If you aren’t getting the response you want to your music, this is ALWAYS the answer. Writing better songs will get you better opportunities and it will open better doors. I promise.

The SongTown Edge Groups are a great way to build relationships with publishers. SongTown has seen 12 members get staff writing deals. Other members have gotten major artist cuts on artists like Tim McGraw. That’s a big deal. And it goes to show that our philosophy works. Keep learning, keep working hard, and keep writing better songs. That is the ticket to long-term success in this business.

Write on! ~MD

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

25 thoughts on “How To Get A Songwriting Staff Writing Deal

  1. Hi guys I have written a Christmas song.
    Which I believe is beautiful song telling the Xmas event and story. I am looking for a publisher deal for this song or music artist / singer who can sing my beautiful Xmas song for xmas2019.
    Please advise if any one knows where to start

  2. Hi been at this a lifetime.. just wrote and published 16 new songs.. I am looking for a contract as if you get to know me and my music I can tell ya, I write and sing some good tunes. Need to look at my utube songs currently playing now.
    Anyways never been much of a promoter, but need someone to take a listen and you will surly see I am the real deal.
    appreciate your time

          1. Anyone can easily grab a list of publishers on the internet. But cold-calling publishers is not going to be a very effective way to get publishers to call or email you back. we teach our members how to make connections the right way. It’s a process and takes time and work. And the right approach.

        1. Getting your songs recorded by recording artists requires learning how the business works and meeting people in the business. It’s a process. There is not a “place” you send in your song and magically a big artist records your song. When their songs are good enough, We teach our members the ins and outs of the business and help them make connections.


  3. I appreciate you taking the time to get back to the people on your site. It means a lot to someone like myself just looking for more information on publishing. I’m personally looking to take that first step towards a publishing deal. Is there any information or advice you have for someone just starting off? I’m considering moving down to Nashville (currently outside of NY) to fully immerse myself in the business.

    Brian R.

  4. Mr. Mills,

    Thanks so much for the response!! I just started the 30 day trial today. I hope to stay involved and make it count.

    Scott Miller

  5. I have only been writing for two and a half years now. I follow blogs, and have been to a workshop with professional songwriters and met some great people so far. The problem I have, living in Southeast Georgia is keeping those networks established, and building new relationships. I dont want to be “that annoying guy”. How can you stand out from outside the circle? I am getting ready to deploy, and I am gonna be WAY OUT of the circle.

    1. Scott, I would join SongTown, and start co-writing with writers that are actively pitching their songs. Thats how all of us pro staff writers got started, by co-writing. We have writers from all over the world writing via Skype. And if you do come to nashville for a trip you can schedule co-writes with other members. Also we have publisher led groups that meet online. The SongTown Edge groups. Spots open up in that periodically.


      1. That’s all well and good..but they don’t tell you 40 elite songwriters have a lock on all the songwriting needs of the Nashville industry. Add in the fact that no one is buying CDd’’s all streaming which ended the careers of thousands of songwriters. So what’s the point nowadays? I find it scary to know that people are not aware of the impacts of streaming. Where you could once get a slice of the money if your song got a cut on a CD but never saw the light of day inside a radio station. There are some that pretend that there are wide open opportunities as staff writers..lots of job openings in this area. Go to a city like Nashville and move in with 5 other people and share housing and hope you get really lucky and can earn 25 thousand a year. That’s the best you can hope for..As to becoming an elite of those 40 or so? Run the numbers and place a safer the lottery.

        1. Steven, 40 percent of the ASCAP song awards last year for the top most played songs, were by first time winners. So no, it’s not a lock by a few writers at the top. When you are on the outside of the business it’s easy to get frustrated, I can understand that. I had similar feelings before I broke in as a pro writer. But new songwriters get signed to publishing deals all the time. Marty Dodson and I started SongTown to cut through the myths and let aspiring writers know what’s really happening in the business. Is it easy? Haeck no. But if you work hard and focus, it’s not impossible. I did it with zero money and no connections. If I had listened to people telling me I couldn’t, I never would have made it and started writing hits. I’d still be somewhere in Alabama working a job I didn’t care for and wondering what might have been.

    1. We teach you to write better songs first and foremost. 4 of our members in the last year have gotten staff writer deals. But they did it by first learning to consistently write great songs. Then we can help intro you to publishers at that point.

  6. Brother Marty, your advice as usual is golden, but I think “Write GREAT songs” should be first on the list in my humble opinion. Networking, and gettin’ to know folks in the business and knowing what they want and need certainly will help (as will understanding the business itself, and for that I recommend brother Jason Blume’s book “This Business of Songwriting”). But in my “not yet a pro” opinion, if you write awesome stories that are somewhat “artist targeted”, that’s what they want right?! You can know the president of SNG, but if the stories / songs you write are average, or are just rehashes of stories done before, well they’ve got better writers all ready on staff right? So why take a chance on you?! The song always comes first!!!!

    Thank you and Clay for Songtown my friend!!! It is the best investment an aspiring writer could ever make besides a decent guitar!!

  7. This was great info. I’m def heading back to nashville, I just want to lock a deal. Thanks for this info. Moving back soon will be a breeze now because i have direction. Thanks a ton.

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