Songwriting

The Songwriter’s Pitch To Publisher Checklist

by Marty Dodson
Dec 10, 2019

There’s an art to a songwriter’s pitch to a publisher. You can avoid many of the mistakes I made early on if you do these things when you get a chance to pitch to a publisher.

Before you even agree to the meeting, ask yourself –

“Are my songs REALLY radio/recording artist ready? Are they going to compete with everything this publisher hears every day?” If you can’t honestly answer that question then you don’t need to take the meeting. I have heard songs pitched to a publisher that were so bad that an artist would never cut them in a million years. Get lots of good feedback on your songs from “Safe” people that will tell you the truth. Safe people are people that aren’t going to hold it against you if you play them a bad song. Clay and I are safe people. Publishers are not. They usually give you one chance. So your songwriter’s pitch needs to be airtight.

Be businesslike.

Don’t name-drop. Impress them with your songs, not with who you have worked with or who you know. They aren’t impressed by that. Unfortunately, lots of people make that stuff up anyway, so it makes them wonder if you are lying. Act like you would act if you were meeting with a lawyer. Keep it friendly, but businesslike.

Check out the publisher online before the meeting.

Find out what kinds of songs they get cut and in which genres they get cuts. You don’t want to meet with a publisher, play them 5 great pop songs and have them tell you “We really only do country.” Do your homework in advance. Learning what songs they have gotten cut also helps you learn what kinds of songs they like.

Leave them wanting more.

One of the WORST things you can do is go in and just attempt to play them as many songs as you can. Pick out your 3-4 best. Play those. If they ask to hear more, then play a couple more. If not, thank them for their time, wind up the conversation and move on.

Respect their time.

Tell them upfront, “I won’t take up much of your time, I just wanted to play you a couple of songs and get to know you.” As the meeting moves along, you might even ask “Do I have time to play you one more?” All of those things let them know you are going to respect their time and not monopolize their whole afternoon.”

Thank them.

Whatever the outcome of the meeting, be gracious, kind and thankful. That’s the best way to get another shot even if you didn’t WOW them this time.

If they ask you to send them some more songs, don’t send 20!

Again, be respectful of time and let them ask YOU for more. Your 20 song CD will likely wind up in the trash. A 2 song CD will probably get a listen.

Don’t argue with them if they don’t like your song.

You are there to learn, so listen and learn. Don’t tell them that everyone back home loves the song. That’s a quick ticket to the highway.

Learn from your mistakes.

If the last 5 publishers didn’t like your song called “Daddy, Can I Bum A Cigarette”, don’t keep pitching that one. There comes a time when you give up on a song and just write better ones.

Relax and be yourself.

Trying too hard is one of the biggest killers with publishers. They don’t want someone bowing at their feet. Be cool, kind and confident.

If you work on those 10 things, you’ll get a lot farther with your songwriter’s pitch to publishers IF you have great songs.

Write on!
~MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

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

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