Music Business

Songwriters: Here’s The Real Way To Get A Publishing Deal

by Clay Mills
Jul 27, 2016

This is one of the top questions filling our ST mailbox! The writer often states that they have songs and just can’t get the right person to listen. They feel their songs are as strong as what’s playing on radio, so how can they get a publishing company to take a chance on them? Well, I’ve been in those same shoes, believe me! I know the frustration of feeling like my progress was stalled and doors weren’t opening. And guess what, when they did open, it nothing happened as I thought it would. Here’s the way it did happen and often happens.

The Anchorman Analogy: Imagine a ambitious aspiring news anchorman. He knows he’s got the goods. He he’s spent countless hours practicing at home. He can speak as well and is as smart as those other guys at the big networks. So he books a trip to the Big Apple- NYC. He walks into NBC and asks to speak to the head of the network. By chance, the chief happens to be walking by, so the aspiring anchor stops him and says confidently, “I’m your next network anchor. I’ve been working my tail off practicing and I’ve got the goods!!” Now, what do you think the head of NBC is going to do? Hire him? Probably not. But this doesn’t stop our prodigy. He tries this at all of the networks. He even makes friends with the receptionist and interns. “Can’t you tell your boss I deserve a shot just like they did when they got their first big break?” He bemoaned to anyone he could. Hmmm…strangely, this didn’t work either.

Now our aspiring anchorman is left with no choice but to return home and find a real job. He opens up the paper, and by chance, the first job listing is for a low-paying assistant position at his hometown TV news station. He needs the money, and thinks, at least he’ll be around the TV station. He starts making a lot of new friends at the station. They think it’s a great story that he went all the way to NYC with no experience. One night, the local news anchor comes down with food poison a few minutes before the 6pm news. The normal fill-in anchor is on vacation, so who do you think they throw in the anchor chair? You got it—our aspiring wannabe! He’s a natural. The ratings that night are incredible. A year later, he’s working two towns over in the next biggest market. Then a year after that, he’s in Chicago doing the morning show. Everyone is saying the Big Apple is gonna come calling soon.

I hope you make the connection here. As a writer, you won’t likely go from point A-Z in one step. But, you can start writing great songs with other writers in your area, start meeting bands that play your hometown and co-write, or join a SongTown Song Circle and meet new co-writers. Once word gets out that you are a kick-ass writer, then someone will know someone who knows someone who will pass your songs along and you’ll make it up the next step up the ladder. This is exactly how it happened for me and keeps happening for me. This is how it happened for everyone I know who has succeeded in making songwriting a career. Start Where You Are Today and Grow Upward. You never know what doors will open today for tomorrow.

Write On! ~Clay

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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