You finally finished writing/producing that perfect song, worked out all the kinks and chosen the perfect words, and now you’re ready to share it with the world. How you move forward from here can define who you are as a creator/writer. The most important next step is to record, master, or mix your song. You can’t start collecting royalties or get public interaction until your songs are complete, so decide the way that works best for you and get finalizing.
The next step is often overlooked by creators, but a critical part of defining yourself as more than just a songwriter/artist/creator. While tedious, organization early on can save you hours of work later or the chance of making silly mistakes. The top things to keep in mind when organizing yourself are: lyrics sheets, split sheets, and information kits. Plan to share your songs with a label or music supervisor for sync placement? Create a lyric sheet - containing all your important information including the date of creation, names of the writers, and contact information - for when you need to share your lyrics. If there are multiple writers on a song, make sure to fill out a split sheet so it’s clear and finite who will receive what when you start collecting royalties.
Use this as a good business practice - knowing where all your original information is and having copies in case you ever need to provide someone with it. Another organization tip to keep in mind is creating electronic press kits (aka EPK) for labels, creatives, and sync placements. This includes everything from your biography and photos to tour dates and music samples. Prepare yourself now, so as your exposure increases, you’re already ready to rock it.
Building The Team
Ask yourself - what are the two things you need to have a successful song? To get people to hear your song and to make money off your song, right? To accomplish this, you need a distributor and a publisher.
How is Joe Schmo down the block going to even know you made a song if your song isn’t shared with the public? Finding a distributor, or figuring out your own DIY way of sharing your music, is really important and takes some research. A distributor is the middleman between you and your audience. They typically take a cut of your profits and pass the rest back to you when your song sells. Each distributor is different, so it's good to do your homework. Find the best way for you to effectively get the word out there by knowing who your audience is and how much you’re willing to spend to further the word.
Even more important is finding a publisher - this means finding a music publishing company that will collect your royalties, or payments made for the right to use your composition, and distribute them back to you. When you create a song, you own the rights to that composition which is essentially broken down into two parts - writer’s share and publisher’s share. A publisher will go out and collect your earned royalties from performance rights organizations (aka PROs) and mechanical collection agencies (like Harry Fox Agency, aka HFA) and distribute those back to you.
There are a few options when looking into publishing deals and it’s good to know the pros and cons for each. You definitely don’t want to just choose the first deal you come across. Make sure you’re getting the best agreement and a dedicated team behind you helping you along the way. The worst thing to happen is feeling lost in the shuffle with a company that’s too big to keep up with you. When you sign up with Songtrust, you’re gaining a dedicated team of experts who work with you throughout the life of your career - from registering your songs with PROs to providing integrations, like with Youtube, to ensure we’re supporting songwriter advocacy. To learn more on publishing, check out our post on publishing deals available in 2018.
The Final Details
Everything you’ve done up until now has laid the foundation for success as you grow as a songwriter and as a business person. You’ve prepared, catalogued, and done your homework, and now you’re ready to push forward to get your songs more exposure. Don’t forget your original community - share your songs with friends and family to get feedback from a public viewpoint. Share and network with more experienced writers - they went through this before and can be a great resource.
If you’re comfortable with being on stage, set yourself up some gigs and get your songs heard. We live in a digital age, so setting up a solid digital strategy can put you one step ahead. More importantly, find out all the ways you can earn revenue off your songs, and make sure you’re submitting your setlist (with Songtrust!) to collect royalties off your gigs. Even better - create a list of ways you want to monetize your songs such as with a music video, pitching to labels or looking for sync placement, or even turning your songs into ringtones!
At the end of the day, if you want to be successful and profit off your hard work, you have to make time to do the research and be prepared. Making sure you’re correctly registered with PROs to collect royalties and uploading your song to streaming platforms is only part of the bigger picture. Round out a well-crafted strategy to set yourself up for success so you can focus on what is most important to you: writing/creating.
Photo by Diego Catto
Maximize Songtrust for Your Songs and Business
We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful. Included is an extensive glossary, too; if you see a term in bold in the text, you’ll find it in the glossary at the end.