The Truth About Pitching Songs

One of the biggest areas in which Clay and I see songwriters being scammed is in the area of pitching songs.  There are untold numbers of services that will GLADLY take your money to “pitch your song”.  There are two big reasons that this arena is full of sharks:

You have no way of knowing if they ever really pitch your song.

You want a cut so bad you’ll believe anyone who says they love your song.

Guess who loves your songs most (other than you and your mom)?  Scammers.  Why?  Because they know they can get you to fork over some dollars for that song, even if it doesn’t have a chance of getting cut.  Even if they have no real connection to the artist at hand.  Even if they have never gotten a song recorded.  Even if the artist isn’t looking for songs.  All they have to do is tell you that they love your song and your wallet falls open.

So, how do you keep the wallet safe and avoid wasting your money?  By understanding how the business works.  And by doing some homework.

Here are some important things to know about pitching songs:

In the real music business, we pitch songs to artists, producers, managers and A&R people.

That’s about it.  We don’t pitch to publishers.  Why?  Because the job of a real publisher is to get songs cut for their company, not for you.  So, if you pitch a song to a publisher for Darius Rucker, there’s only one possible, but highly improbable good outcome.  That one unlikely possibility is that the publisher says “This song is better for Darius Rucker than any other of the songs in my catalog, even the ones my writers wrote WITH Darius – so I’m going to pitch it to Darius and give this writer a single song contract.”  How often do you think that happens?  Not very often.  Almost never.  If you pitch a song through an online pitch service and you get an e-mail back from a PUBLISHER saying it’s “Perfect for Luke Bryan”, you’ve likely been scammed.  You want pitch services that are pitching to artists, producers, managers and A&R people – not publishers.

Most artists are not continually looking for songs.

It’s important to know WHEN an artist is recording and WHEN they finish their project.  If an online pitch services is claiming they need songs for Katy Perry and you know that Katy just finished a new record, then you’re probably being scammed.  The scammers count on you NOT knowing what is going on.  That’s how they prey on you.  Check the SongTown pitch sheet, or another reliable pitch sheet and find out when people are recording.  See how the truth stacks up to the reports of people wanting to charge you to pitch your song.  If they are looking for songs for projects that are finished, they just want your money.

People who REALLY believe in your song won’t charge you to pitch it.

Instead, they will want to get in business with you – sign you to a single song deal, develop you as a writer, or even just pitch it to help you out and develop a relationship with you.  Clay and I pitch songs fairly often just to help people out. People who don’t believe in your song so much want money on the front end, because they know that’s all they’re likely to get.  People who believe in you invest in you long term.  People who scam you want a dollar right now before you figure out that they really can’t help you.  There are independent song pluggers who pitch your whole catalog for a monthly retainer.  IF they are legit, then this can be a good deal.  Otherwise, most of the “Pay to pitch” services just want your money.  Sad, but true.

Check up on ANYONE you are going to pay to pitch your songs.

Don’t go by their website or by what they tell you.  If they are scammers they will lie to your face.  Ask around to see if other people have been pleased with them and had success with them.  Check to see how accurate and current their listings are.

Even with the legit services, like Taxi, you have to send them a song that fits the pitch perfectly.

They can’t risk their reputation by sending a weak song that doesn’t fit the pitch on to the artist.  The responsibility is on YOU to make sure you aren’t wasting your money by sending songs that aren’t ready to be pitched or that don’t fit the pitch.  It pays in the long run to get your songs evaluated by pros BEFORE you pitch them anywhere.

Don’t give the scammers your money.  Educate yourself and make smart choices.  You don’t want to be shark bait!

 

Marty Dodson

Co-Founder SongTown

Songwriter/Producer/Publisher

14 thoughts on “The Truth About Pitching Songs

  1. Here is some street wisdom, I think and hope. Only my opinion, but gleaned from three plus years in the trenches. I agree that if a song is truly good, then in the vast majority of cases, they will not charge you money. (This is subjective, of course. Either someone sees you as an artist worth investing in and developing and/or a song that is great, with potential for more from that vein.) That said, there are legitimate, professional businesses that might take you on as a client – I’ll elaborate on the “might take you on” part in a moment – and they do charge for their services, like any business. PR firms charge. Promotion and artist development firms charge. There are a lot of 360 services that provide a full, holistic menu of all the things an artist/performer and/or songwriter might need, from web design and song development, to play-listing, pr, song-pitching (to music supervisors – “supes” – and so on), promotion, etc. Most of them charge too. (But some don’t; IF you’ve got “The Right Stuff”) AND – here’s the “might take you on part” – if they’re professional and credible, they are only going to represent you if they think your music is decent and won’t damage their rep and hurt their credibility. After all, if they pitch low-quality songs, or the wrong songs that don’t fit the opportunities or the marketplace, that makes them look bad. Word gets out. Gatekeepers could stop returning their calls, texts, emails.
    But here’s a key part, in my opinion, that’s really hard to suss out. There is a spectrum in play here that has to do with where your song fits on their cred spectrum. Another way of putting it: how much will they compromise in taking you on as a client, and taking your money, even though they may know, or suspect, that your songs are okay, but they are NOT very likely to get much, if any, traction with anyone. They don’t have that “Wow” or “Now” factor. They’re not in fashion.
    I don’t want to say these are the “margin-feeders,” but it’s something to think about. In general, everyone wants their clients to succeed, fees or no. Everyone wins. Sometimes, a company will take a chance on someone, or there’s a relationship between an artist and someone on the pr/pitch team, so the artist has an in-house advocate/champion.
    What would be most helpful for me at this point, and I believe for the vast majority of songwriters, is to be able to access, like ANY other customers looking for a service from any business, a list of the top 20 or top 30 song pitchers/pr/360 firms in the country. (Or at least So Cal, Nashville, and NYC.) And then, a climate where songwriters could actually get in touch with these firms and start a dialog that includes that agency actually listening to the songs and letting the songwriter know if they’re interested in taking that songwriter on as a client. I’m not talking about gratis promotion or song pitching here. These would be songs actually listened to that sparks a conversation about partnering and you, the artist/songwriter, actually paying for that service, whether it’s $400 a month, $800 a month, $1,000 a month, or $2,000 a month. (And it can go higher.) Some song-pitchers, I have heard, work on a strictly commission basis. They don’t get paid unless they place a song. But, of course, those pitchers who do charge will tell you those who work on a commission base don’t have as much skin in the game. You are not a real, “paying customer.” Point taken.
    Forgive the length, but this is not a snapshot world or undertaking. What I have encountered, online, from music conferences, such as ASCAP Expo, and other sources, is you have to know someone to get an intro to someone else to get introduced to the PR/pitching folks, who then, maybe, in turn, and for a fee, will get you in front of someone who might actually pick your song for something, whether it’s a TV show, publishing deal, video game, industrial video, commercial, label deal, what have you. In other words, the gates are mostly closed. The main push back? “We don’t have time to listen to every artist, every song, every proposal. You need to know someone “on the inside” who will go to bat for you. How do you do that? Move/live in L.A., Nashville, NYC, etc. and start networking and build those relationships. It can takes many months, even years. OR, create a buzz with lots of gigging and buzz-worthy shows; something you can do in your hometown and still capitalize on in the industry, nationally. Of course, if you build up a huge fan-base – and by “huge,” you’re tipping point metric is really going to be north of 25,000, IMHO. Some might say higher. So, unless someone out there knows differently, I’m afraid there isn’t that list of 25 or 30 reputable, established, credible pr/song-pitching/play-listing/360 entities out there that are open to all to email them and send songs that actually get responded to. There are a few, but not many. And it takes some shoe leather to find ’em. Again, in the end, it’s still the same old story: relationships – create your home street team – and build it, or most of it, yourself.

    Once your field of dreams is there, with lights and bleachers, and the ballplayers have come out of the corn to play, then the gatekeepers will want a part of that and you’ll see their car lights coming down the road as dusk falls…

    Maybe. 🙂

  2. I found that as an independant artist and producer, the only way through the business is by paying an aggregator, a company that acts as distributor, to get material onto the streaming platforms and Cd’s into stores etc, otherwise its through effort of your own that takes one forward. Recording your own creations are quite possible nowadays with access to free DAW’s and it might take time and focus to get things down, collaboration is fun, but publishing your own work is relatively simple. There are things to know, but thats the business, the more you can do for yourself the lesser the chances of being ripped off increase.

    1. HI YOU ALL YA I JUST SIGNED A PITCHING AGREEMENT FOR ONE YEAR 2 SONGS DIDNT PAY THAT MUCH BUT YOUR RIGHT IF SONGS STRONG ENOUGH SHOULD BE NO MONEY OR IF SOMEONE WANTS TO PITCH CAUSE THEY LOVE IT WELL LET YOUR SONG DO THE TALKING AND THERE LOVE DO THE WALKING KEEP WRITING WRITING AND MORE WRITING

  3. Hello Marty and Clay!
    Thank you for allowed me to express my opinion, about this beautiful world of expressions!
    when Heart tells the mine to write! for what ever the story is, with God’s blessing, the purity is only one way,
    To reach millions of people that touches their life! and for personal enjoyment to have a good time!
    Through words and music! for my lyrics scammers will never get a penny!

  4. My father was a great songwriter and always told me one bit of advice. If you have a great song people will pay you for it..all of it. That means studio time, publishing, song pitching, etc. The only thing you should ever pay for is your band. Take care of your band always.

    1. I agree with Glen 💯, if your song is that good, there really shouldn’t be any money coming out of your pocket besides what it took you to write it, and at least what it takes to get it put together on a demo. I feel where there is a will there is a way, and it’s possible to get it presentable at a low cost. If it’s that good it will make sense to the right people.

  5. I agree there are more scammers out there then legitimate people interested in my songs. I think Nashville thrives on those trying to get in. There’s hundreds of us if not thousands spending money on critiques, demos and pitching. Without us “wanna-a-bees”, most of those working in the music industry would be out of business. Its very frustrating for sure. The best way is to move to Nashville and get to know everyone you can. That’s what I’ve learned in my years writing. Of you’re able to move there….move!

  6. I have been shark bait for many years.I need help to put my song lyrics in the right hands of the right person. Can you help people like myself.

    1. Ricky we have a great group of melody writers who are members in SongTown. I suggest co-writing. And also you can book mentoring sessions with top publishers on SongTown Website.

      CM

  7. Thanks for this information — People need to know about how the underside of the music business really works. A large part of the money pouring into Nashville goes directly into the shark’s pockets and few if any are willing to disclose that. Why? Money is money and city coffers can’t distinguish between good money and bad money — it’s all green to them. The more people know about how it all works the better prepared for reality they’ll be when they decide to spend their hard-earned cash. I have personally met a few sharks, and yeah – they got my money with falsely raised expectations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *