by Marty Dodson
Mar 30, 2022
There seems to be a lot of confusion out there over the question “As a songwriter, how do I submit songs to the music business?”
The truth of the matter is that there is no one way to “submit” songs to the music business. 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.
1. Educational Submissions
Educational song submissions are “safe” ways to submit songs 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.
2. Submitting songs to publishers or PROs- ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.
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 typesetting. Otherwise, you are wasting their time. Pitching or submitting songs 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 submit songs to a publisher, you need to research what that publisher does, who their writers are, etc. That information will help you submit songs that the publisher is more apt to like. If you need help with learning to pitch your songs…
SongTown Edge Groups are monthly online writer meetings run by top industry publishers.
It’s a great program for learning to target write and pitch to artists in all genres. And you’ll get to submit songs and get them heard in a legit real-world fashion.
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.
3. Submitting songs to recording 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. Keith 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 wanting to submit songs 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 your song demo can sound to something that would be on the radio, the better your chances will be.
BUT if you have a simple ballad, you may 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.
These days you can set up a pretty killer home studio on an affordable budget.
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 up the ladder. If you get a “WOW” response in the SongTown Pro Feedback Forum, book a mentoring session with our pro publisher. When 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 when you submit songs to the music business.
Write on! ~Marty
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