1. Signed writers have given up a portion of their royalties in exchange for song plugging, song administration and the other things that a publisher provides. Most often, they have given up half of their potential royalties to get their writing deal. That is a significant investment in their career. Unsigned writers still have all of their publishing and their publishing share. So, let’s say I’m a signed writer and I write with an unsigned writer. My song plugger pitches the song and get’s it cut. It becomes a single. The song rockets to #1 on the charts. I gave up half my royalties so that I would have a plugger. She got the song cut. Yet, here’s how the money shakes out. Just to use round numbers, my writer’s share pays me $200,000. My publisher gets $200,000 for owning my publishing. My co-writer who is not signed gets $400,000 because he owns both his publishing and his writer’s share. So, I gave up half of my money to get a publisher who got the song cut for us and my unsigned co-writer goes home with twice as much money without contributing anything toward getting the song cut, copyrighted, registered, etc. Not exactly a fair deal.
2. Publishers have their own agenda for writers. Publishers are always trying to get their writers in the rooms with well established writers or artists. If their writer has a lot of days booked with unsigned writers, then they either have to cancel and hurt someone’s feelings, or they have to miss the opportunity to advance their own careers.
3. This is a business, not a charity. I’ve had a number of people through the years act ugly when I told them I couldn’t write with them. They acted as if I owed them a co-write. No other profession acts that way. Nobody owes you (or me) a co-write. I have to earn the right to be in the room with certain people. So, do you. Don’t go around looking for handouts. Earn the right to be there.
4. There’s not enough time to write with everyone. None of us can possibly write with everyone who asks us to write. We all have to pick and choose. If you had the opportunity to write with me or with Max Martin tomorrow, you’d take Max Martin. Or you should anyway! Don’t take it personally if someone tells you “no”. Be polite and gracious. Then go work your butt off and make them regret not writing with you!
5. Many writers have come before who didn’t pay their demos bills and didn’t show up to the co-write with anything to contribute. A woman cutting my hair gave me a great title one day but said she wanted to write it with me. I pulled in a great artist and wrote it with her. She didn’t contribute much of anything other than the title, but it turned out great. She approved letting us demo it. When my company billed her for her part of the demo, she vanished. Never heard from her again. Guess who my publisher billed for her unpaid bill? Me. Lesson learned. Same goes for times that I’ve written with unsigned writers and they came in with literally nothing, as if I’m just going to give them a great song idea and write a song for them. As you can see, there are many reasons that signed writers hesitate to write with you if you are not signed. But, knowing those reasons can help you get into those writing rooms anyway.
If you want to write with staff writers, do these things and you will increase your chances dramatically.
1. Be kind and gracious if they say “no”. You might get another chance down the road if you don’t burn the bridge.
2. Contribute everything you can contribute. Offer to try to hire a plugger to work a great song if you get one with a signed writer. Then, you are helping get it cut.
3. Bring LOTS of great ideas every time. Don’t ever show up with nothing.
4. Pay your bills. If you agree to let them demo the song, then pay your bill promptly. If you can’t afford to do that, you don’t need to write with a signed writer just yet anyway. Publishers get upset with their writers if they write with someone who can’t or won’t pay their bills.
5. Be business-like and professional. Don’t ask for a handout. Let people know what you are bringing to the table. Bring your “A” game. Don’t let a “no” get you down.
Learn how the game works and you can defeat it!