After finishing your song
by Holly Tashian
So you’ve written the perfect song, performed it in public, received lots of positive feedback and you’re pretty confident you’ve got a good song that could be commercially viable. What now?
This is the question we are all asking here in Nashville. Let’s face it: the possibilities for commercial radio play are extremely limited, CD sales are falling off rapidly, artists want to cut their own songs, and publishers want artists to use their songs. The independent songwriter is in a difficult position.
I don’t want to sound discouraging, but the truth is that it’s harder than ever to get an artist to cut your song or a publisher to listen to more than the first 15 seconds of your masterpiece. So what’s a songwriter to do?
Here are several steps you can take:
1. Spend a little money producing a quality demo of your songs and put them up on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/). If you have enough songs (10 to 12), record an album and sell the album on CDBaby (http://cdbaby.com/). This site will allow you to sell your songs on iTunes and a host of other download sites as well. Once you have your songs in circulation, there’s a much better chance that someone will hear them, and possibly want to record them or use them in a movie or television show.
2. Be sure your songs are properly registered with a performing rights organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. In addition, you can establish yourself as a publishing company and register your songs with the Harry Fox Agency (http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp). The agency’s job is to issue mechanical licenses for your publishing company, however small, and collect royalties on your behalf.
3. If you have a number of commercial quality songs and you want to skip all the details of publishing your own songs, I suggest working with a publisher who will take care of the paperwork for you. The publisher’s main job is to “pitch” your songs to artists and try and get your songs cut. Even though you will be forfeiting half of the revenue from your song, it’s worth it if the publisher can get your song recorded by a major artist.
Finding a good publisher is not easy. Music Row Magazine has a list of reputable publishers in the “In Charge” issue that you can purchase for around $35.00. See http://www.musicrow.com/directory. The magazine also sends out a weekly e-mail list of producers and recording artists looking for songs for their upcoming recording projects. You can pitch your songs to these producers, but always call ahead and get permission before submitting your song; otherwise most unsolicited material ends up in the trash can unopened.
4. This may all sound too complex, and it is, so my next piece of advice is to purchase a book about the music business and read up on the ins and outs of marketing your songs. My favorite book is All You Need to Know about the Music Business by Donald Passman. This is an easy to read, comprehensive book that every serious songwriter should own and read.
5. Join NSAI (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International)
For a very reasonable membership cost, you get your songs evaluated, and if your songs are very good, NSAI will recommend the songs to publishers. NSAI listens to hundreds of songs every day and can tell you if your songs are ready for the big time, or if you need to get back to the drawing board. The association also holds song camps and workshops, and support local chapters all over the country. You can start your own chapter if you want.
6. If all else fails, write another song and enjoy the process!
[© 2008 Holly Tashian]
Holly Tashian has had songs recorded by the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Roland White, the Stevens Sisters, Daniel O'Donnell, Ty England, and other country and bluegrass artists. Her publishing company is Poodle Paw Music, registered with ASCAP. For more information, visit her Web site at www.tashianmusic.com.
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