This week’s guest post comes to us from Jeremy Yohai, Director of Writer Relations at Downtown Music Publishing. Jeremy has been working with Downtown’s amazing roster of songwriters for the past 3 years. Previously, he worked at ASCAP for 7 years developing emerging songwriters. Many thanks to Jeremy for sharing his expert insight!
Sure, performers get most of the spotlight; but songwriters are the ones who can sometimes expect more money and possibly a longer career. Placing your songs with other artists is a surefire way of earning royalties and expanding your network. Don’t know how to go about doing that? Here are some tips on how to get started.
Maintain an online presence.
Regardless of how good your songs are, no one will find them if they’re not out there. And that’s why having an online presence is especially important in today’s market. Make sure you have a Myspace profile, Soundcloud page, or other easily accessible profile to display your music. Having an online presence can also present opportunities to collaborate with people in different parts of the world. For instance an artist or record label in Japan could find your music and want to use it in their market. There are plenty of opportunities locally and abroad for songwriters. You just have to make yourself available to them.
Work with a publisher and PRO to set up co-writes and other songwriting opportunities.
Regardless of what level you are on, if you are writing songs you should join a performing rights organization aka PRO (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC). If you are a member of a PRO, take advantage of them. They have great connections with others songwriters, artists and industry insiders. Remember that your success is in their interest, so they will generally be happy to help you set up songwriting and co-writing opportunities. They tend to know what’s going on, and who is looking for what. If you are signed to a traditional publishing deal, work with your publisher's creative department to set up co-writes and pitch your songs.
Meet other songwriters in your community.
Expand your contacts—and your songwriting repertoire—by finding like-minded songwriters to work with. Try Craigslist, Myspace, Facebook as well as community boards like BMI’s Songwriter101 and ASCAP’s Collaborator Corner, to find other songwriters that are looking to collaborate. If you don’t live in New York, L.A, Nashville, or Chicago, chances are co-writing may happen not only in the studio, but also over the Internet.
Work on developing an artist or band in your community.
Find someone in your community you think your songs might work for and work on developing them. Go to local concerts and shows for emerging artists; if you see a singer or a band your material might work for, approach them directly. If you get in the door early enough, you can bypass the managers, the lawyers, and the labels and sell yourself to the artist or band as a songwriter and collaborator.
Record a demo and shop it to labels, publishers, and PROs.
This old-school technique is still important; once you are confident with your songwriting, record some demos in as high quality as possible, and shop it to labels, publishers and PROs. The more people you reach out to, the greater your chances of finding success. Of course, nowadays, it’s just as helpful to do this online as off; many companies prefer to receive demos online rather than through the mail. But whether you’re sending CDs or digital files, make sure everything is labeled correctly with your name and contact information.
If you’re not a singer, you’ll need to find an artist to perform the vocals for your songwriting demo. It’s important to have a good quality demo with a decent vocal, but don’t worry too much about paying a lot of money to get in a state of the art studio to record your songs. If your songs are good, they’ll sell themselves. Once there is some interest in your songs, you can go back and tweak the production.
Attend songwriting events and conferences to meet people and pass along your demos.
Your goal is to get your demos in the hands of as many people as possible. And while the Internet is great and will prove useful to you, there’s nothing like face time with people you want to remember you. Attend songwriting events and conferences; the room is sure to be packed with people that can be good contacts for you. Networking isn’t everyone’s strength, so be sure to play it cool. Talk to attendees, panelists and organizers; be sure to listen, not just to talk. Ask for their business card or contact information. Like you, they are meeting a lot of people in a short amount of time, so be very sure to follow up within a couple of days.