How Valuable Is “Exposure” for Songwriters?

by Marty Dodson
Jun 26, 2024

If I had a dollar for every time someone offered to let me entertain them for free in exchange for some songwriter exposure, I could buy a new car.

I’ve had offers from TV shows, wanting me to grant them a license for my song for free so that I could “pad my resume’” and get “exposure” for my music.

I’ve had countless bar owners offer to let me play “any time I want” for free so that “word can get out” about my music. The list goes on. The problem with these offers is multi-faceted.

Problem #1 is that EVERYONE else in the chain is getting paid.

The guy making the tv show, the actors, the prop people, the gaffer (whatever that is), the cinematographer – they ALL get paid. Every single one. They aren’t working for exposure.

In the case of the bar or restaurant, the same thing applies. The bartender, the waitresses, the owner, the electric company, water company, the people who sell them napkins – they ALL get paid. They don’t work for exposure either. Why? Because the odds of someone coming in and saying “You are the most amazing waitress – I want to offer you a better deal!” are astronomically slim. That just doesn’t happen very often. So, here’s what I encourage everyone to remember.

People DIE from exposure.

That means you have to be careful working for it. It’s not a great currency to be bartering in.

If you love playing your songs at bars and are willing to play for free because you enjoy it, that’s awesome. If you are looking at that as a business move, you are going to be disappointed. The same for letting people use your songs for free in TV or movies. They are taking advantage of you. They are getting something for nothing. So, you should only do that if it brings YOU enjoyment. It’s not likely to help you in any professional way.

In fact, the problem with songwriter exposure is that it establishes the value of your music at zero.

Once you set that price point, it’s hard to raise the price later. The only people you really need to expose your music to are people in the business that are decision makers. They aren’t at writer’s nights at dive bars around town. They probably aren’t even at the Bluebird. You have to figure out how to get your music to them in other ways.

Don’t let people take advantage of you. And don’t de-value your music. It’s worth something. I’ll go to my grave fighting for that idea.

And remember the next time someone offers you songwriter exposure – People. Die. From. Exposure.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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