Of course, any full-time writer prefers to have a proper deal with a publisher and knows their music career is going somewhere. As a general approach, there are two common types of deals that publishers make with writers, but you don’t have to limit yourself to those two options if you can think outside the box. Here are the two common types of deals plus some ideas for creative options.
Staff Writer. In this kind of deal, the writes exclusively for one publisher. Basically, the name is self-explaining. The writer will be the staff of the publisher company and mostly writes on demand when the publisher has an opportunity for the writer and can pitch the song to some artists or producers. Also, the writer will be writing the songs and when they have something, they can provide it to the publisher and if publisher finds it interesting will push and pitch it for the writer. One important note about this kind of deal is that there is a quota of songs per year that must be written by the writer and accepted by the publisher.
People often ask me if I KNOW that I’ve written a hit song when I finish it. The answer to that is a resounding “NO”. I generally know when I finish a song whether it is great or just good or it just simply have to get more time spent on it. Beyond that, so much goes into making a song a hit that is out of my control. So, all I can do is try to write a great song every day and then get it into the right hands. After that, it’s up to other forces to make it a hit.
In my experience, here is what makes a song a hit:
The songwriter writes a song that is catchy, compelling and commercial. That means the song is well crafted, it connects to a broad audience and it causes action on the part of the listener. It may make them cry, laugh, dance, tap their feet, or go purchase the song. In any case, it causes them to react. It also has to be commercial in the sense that an artist would want to sing it and an audience would want to hear it.
One great tool every songwriter has at their disposal today are drum loops. Whether you have a computer handy or a smart phone, there are amazing apps for beats that were not available even a few short years ago. Loops are a quick way to add energy and style to your new music creation but there are some pitfalls to be mindful of and avoid. Even as a professional producer, I sometimes use these loops if I want to quickly write down some ideas, and not to spend any time on any other part of the song else than just writing the lead. The biggest reason I use a drum loop is that it sets a mood. Whether I want to write an R&B groove ballad or an up-tempo heavy metal song, that instant drum beat, and sound takes me to that place where that song can begin.
Music Publishers seem to be the “holy grail” for songwriters trying to get that first cut. Somehow, many people have the idea that if they could just “get a publisher,” all of their problems would be solved, and the cuts would start rolling in. While having a great publisher can be very beneficial, “getting a publisher” isn’t the most important piece of the success equation by any means. And, notice that I said having a GREAT publisher can be very beneficial. Having a bad or just mediocre publisher is often worse than not having one at all. So, proceed with caution and do a lot of background checking before agreeing to work with any publisher on an exclusive basis. Having said all of that, and as a publisher myself, here are a few things that publishers are looking for in a writer. Working at becoming all of these things before you meet with a publisher is going to increase your chances of that publisher wanting a working relationship with you.
One of the biggest areas in which 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. One is that you have no way of knowing if they ever really pitch your song. And the other problem is that 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.