Safe people are people that aren’t going to hold it against you if you play them a bad song and they most probably will tell you what they think is wrong with your song and even they might give you some suggestions to make your song better. You can consider their opinion, work on your craft and then show it to them again and see what they will tell you. Publishers are not safe people. They usually give you one chance and it is best for you to use your that one chance wisely.
Be businesslike. Don’t name-drop. That just simply doesn’t work. Because if it be about the names and who you had worked with or who you know in the industry, the publishers, themselves, can drop names much more than you can. So, it wouldn’t be something that make them care about you or your music. What they would care is what you do and what you have in hand to offer. Impress them with your songs, not with who you have worked with or who you know. They really aren’t impressed by that. Unfortunately, lots of people make that stuff up anyway, so it makes them wonder if you are lying. And believe me, that can be a huge turn off for a publisher. Act like you would act if you were meeting with a lawyer. Keep it friendly, but businesslike and professional. Remember that you are meeting some of the most professional people in the industry. Be like them if you want them to be more open to you.
Check out the publisher online before the meeting. Good thing about living in this era of technology and all online platforms – beside the fact that they ruined music sales – is that you can simply check on any company, label or any individual with a few clicks. Search about the publisher beforehand and find out what kinds of songs they get cut and in which genres they get cuts. Learn about them and their specialty. You don’t want to meet with a publisher, play them 5 great pop songs and have them tell you “We really only do hip-hop.” Do your homework in advance. Learning what kind songs they have gotten cut also helps you learn what kinds of songs they like. Like this, you will know what direction they are in, and if you should meet them or it just will be a waste of time for both parties, also if you should meet them, you would know what they might not have and maybe you can offer them what they don’t already have but it still is in the same direction as they are. They will dig it!
Leave them wanting more. One of the worst things you can do is go in and just attempt to play them as many songs as you can. Pick out your 3 or 4 of best songs and play those. And just those, for the time being. If they ask to hear more, then play a couple more. If not, thank them for their time, wind up the conversation and move on. If you just get in their office and bombard them with so many songs, without them asking for it, you are just boring them and as a songwriter – who is supposed to create the main step for music as entertainment – you are putting yourself to shame because you are showing them that you are not entertaining enough! You don’t want them to think of you that way. You will want them to be interested in you and your work, and believe me, if they are, they will ask for more.
Respect their time. One thing you definitely need to know is that the publishers are considered as one of the busiest people in the business because they literally are the ones turning the music into the music business. They build the business aspect of the industry and that is one of the main factors that makes them to be some of the most important people and most respected people by the members of industry. The other thing is that, in general, showing respect to anyone, from lowest to highest level in a business never goes anywhere bad. It always pays off. So, when you are meeting with a publisher, it’s good to show them how you respect them and the best way for it is to show them how you understand the value of their time that they are spending to meet you and hear your songs. Tell them upfront, “I won’t take up much of your time, I just wanted to play you a couple of songs and get to know you.” As the meeting moves along, you might even ask “Do I have time to play you one more?” All of those things let them know you are going to respect their time and not monopolize their whole afternoon.” By saying and doing all these little things, you are showing your professional manners and believe me, this can go a long way in your benefit.
Thank them. As I just mentioned about the respect, don’t only limit it to their timing. Whatever the outcome of the meeting, be gracious, kind and thankful. That’s the best way to get another shot even if you didn’t wow them this time. When they know you have a professional attitude, even if your work is not professional enough at the moment, next time, when you have worked on your craft and you are confident enough to present your work one more time, they most probably would be open to you. Because they would know that you understand the value of their time and you respect your own time enough to make it efficient and to keep it professional.
If they ask you to send them some more songs, don’t send 20! Again, be respectful of time and let them ask you for more. Your 20 songs in the CD or email will likely wind up in the trash. A 2 song CD or email will probably get a listen. Even you might think to yourself that they had asked for more, so they should be okay if you just throw a bunch of new songs on them. But no, if they ask for more, it means just a few more songs. Like 2 or 3. Not 10 or 20. After they hear the new bunch of one or two songs, if they still need more, they will ask you for more and you can give them another 2 or 3 songs. But again, do not bombard them. That will ruin all you’ve done to this point to gain their trust about your professionalism.
Don’t argue with them if they don’t like your song. These are the businesspeople. When they hear a song, they are thinking of how to position it in the market and where it will go and how much money this track will make. Everyone does their job, and everyone look at any given event from their professional point of view. If they say they don’t like your song, it doesn’t mean they would think your song is bad or if they have anything personally against you. It just simply means that with their knowledge of the market, they don’t see any place for your song in the market and they wouldn’t be keen to invest in your song. Maybe you show them another song and they immediately see potential in it. So, next time when they say they are not interested in your song, you don’t need to get upset or offended. It’s simply business and nothing personally against you or your music – well, in most cases at least! You are there to learn, so listen and learn. Don’t tell them that everyone back home loves the song. That’s a quick ticket to the highway.
Learn from your mistakes. If the last 5 publishers you approached didn’t like your song called “Daddy, Can I Bum A Cigarette”, don’t keep pitching that one to the next publisher. By now you should have learned that there might be something wrong with this song. There comes a time when you give up on a song and just write better ones. When you keep all your eggs in one basket, and put all your energy and resources in pitching just one song to many publishers, you are missing out on all other opportunities for any other chances you might have for pitching your other songs to the same or different publishers.
Relax and be yourself. Trying too hard is one of the biggest killers with publishers. By “trying too hard” I mean it in every aspect you can imagine. From trying too hard to get the publisher to meet you, for example there was a writer who wanted to meet me. I asked him to remind again at end of next week, because I am crazy busy this week and I might forget. He said okay. But the next morning he called me, and again I asked him to remind me at end of next week, not the next day. And you guess what? He called me the next morning. That showed me the is trying way too hard in a wrong way and I wouldn’t want to work with him, no matter how good his music might be, this guy will drive me crazy.
Other example for trying to hard to a publisher is when I mentioned not to send them 20 songs at once. Or name dropping. It can kill all their excitement about your work. When you meet them and pitch something to them, don’t keep calling or emailing them from the next day and following up with them. Don’t force them to put you in their blacklist of people they will not want to be around. They don’t want someone bowing at their feet. Be cool, kind and confident. And write better songs.