Monday, May 28, 2012

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Published

Step 1. Write Great Songs

This may seem like a silly step. But it is actually the most important one. It’s also the hardest one to get right.

Writing a great song is more than just a nice poem you wrote and kind of hummed a melody to. It’s more than just copying the latest worship hit with some similar “worship-ish” words.

A great song that will be published has to be hit material. It has to have melody that soars. It has to have a hook, or three! It has to have words that speak, and not just rhyme.

Now there is no definition or exact recipe for the perfect hit song that publishers will drool over. This is where time, practice, and finding some ears that will give you good constructive criticism come in.

But let’s say for the sake of blog space, you have some great songs and think they need to get in front of a publisher’s ears.

The next step is to get them to the publisher.

Step 2. Identify Publishers that have Published Similar Styles

Time for some investigative work. Who does your song sound like? The bad news here is, if it doesn’t sound like anybody at all, this might make it tough to get published.

The key is to find a publisher who has a track record with that kind of song. This is key to success. You don’t want to walk into any meeting in Nashville just hoping they are the right ears for your songs. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

If you’re making a trip, another good stop is your BMI or ASCAP rep. They can listen and see if your songs might be good for a contact of theirs. I had a writer we worked with last year stop in at BMI one day, and found himself at EMI later in the day showing a publisher his songs.

But having appointments is a good thing. There are lots of stories about chance meetings, and walking in off the street to find success on Music Row. But there are many more stories of success through good planning and strategic meetings.

3. Plan a trip to Nashville

If you are writing Christian music, there is really no other choice. Yes, there are many other Christian music publishers outside of Nashville, but the Christian music industry is squarely located here. Nashville is known as the music publishing capital of the world. Music City don’t you know.

While in Nashville you can also see lots of different kind of music live, visit studios, and maybe your favorite Christian music production company! ;)

4. Knock on Doors, Go to Lunch, Have Coffee

Then it’s just a matter of getting feedback from the many meetings you will have over lunch, coffee, at offices, and elsewhere.

Warning: Every trip may not lead to getting published. Remember, it’s OK to lose the battle to win the war. It’s all about iron sharpening iron. It took me repeated trips to Nashville for God to refine what I was doing for His plan (no matter how hard I resisted and thought I was failing!)

5. Repeat

Here’s the hardest part. You’ll need to keep doing this for your career.

Write great songs. Find the right contacts. Come to town. Have meetings. Repeat.

Welcome to the life of, if not a published songwriter, at least one working at it!

Have a great week!

Eric Copeland is a songwriter, producer, and president of Creative Soul in Nashville, TN. For more information check out

Get the new FREE E-Book “Getting Started in Christian Music” at


Anonymous said...

Question: How much of this process involves bringing with you/creating "radio-ready" versions of the songs for publishers and A&R execs? I'd love to just bring (or send) lead sheets of the songs I've written. Most non-professional songwriters have neither the time nor the money to invest in studio productions of songs that might never generate a publishing contract. Thanks. ~ David

Becky Wright said...

Eric, thanks for the article. David, if you have a good "clean" basic demo (guitar/vocal or piano/vocal), you can submit to publishers in the genre of your song. Get PERMISSION first before you send it, though, or it's deemed "unsolicited material" and will be thrown away (or deleted) without listening.

Publishers rarely listen to material from someone with whom they have no relationship, no history. Like Eric mentioned, you have to forge those relationships over time, usually. Rarely will it be a "chance" thing, with no prior homework, blood, money, sweat, tears, etc. Faith without works is DEAD. God requires a mix of both for things to happen.

That being said, I HIGHLY recommend attending a songwriters conference that I attend every year- the Write About Jesus Workshop. The main one (which I go to) is in St. Charles (St. Louis area), Missouri. (NO, I do not get a penny for this "endorsement". I just want to help YOU & other writers.) It's the BEST money & time I've ever spent on songwriting. I know have true relationships with music publishers, hit songwriters, music attorneys, etc. (with an open invitation to submit my material to them). Hard to put a price on that!! AND, of course, I've learned some CRITICAL things about songwriting, that have truly helped me "over the top" as I continue to hone my songwriting skills.

Hope this helps all who read. Becky Wright

(Agape Fest Female Songwriter of the Year, 2011 & 2008, Duo of the Year 2006; Dove Award "Inspirational Song of the Year" Ballot Entry 2007)

Eric Copeland said...

Great stuff Becky.

I can make arguments both ways for demos. if you are a good player, and have a good voice, a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal demo can suffice with certain songs. But I think having pro versions is good for certain genres too.

As far as relationships, there is just no substitute for forging them over time. Nashville is a relationship kind of place. We all know about each others kids and families here. We work, play, celebrate, and grieve together.


David said...

Thanks, Becky/Eric...

Good points, but I don't have money for studio time or lots of musicians. I can do productions on a workstation---and that still requires studio time---but it seems to be an awful amount of work for something that really should only require a lead sheet. After all, if it's a good song (i.e., worthy of publication or a recording), it seems logical that one should be able to tell from the chords and a melody.

(Since when did songwriters have to begin fossilizing their output? And aren't we limiting the vision of a song---and the vision of the publisher/artist---by selecting one specific "rendition" to send with a CD? Isn't it possible a great song might not "sound" great based on the rendition/vision chosen? I think so. Imagine "Everlasting God" as a reggae song...)

The problem---again, in my opinion---is that most A&R execs and publishers are no longer musicians who can read music, and that's a shame, especially for those of us who are disadvantaged with respect to "studio" work. I long for the days when someone could compose a really great song while sitting under a tree---and get it published without ever having to plug anything into an outlet.

You can have all the great relationships in the world, but if no one can hear your songs, they hold little value. ~ D

Jeannie Furst said...

Well folks, interesting comments...I have to agree with Becky though. I did get to go to Write About Jesus and it is a great place to learn about how to improve your songwriting AND how the "biz" works (as with Becky, I'm not get advertising pennies...) But, I learned that Eric is right...the relationships formed are personal. Everyone does indeed know one another. If you want to move forward with your songwriting ministry, be professional and get to know who in the world you are talking to...

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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, keyboardist, songwriter, and president of Creative Soul Companies. What is Creative Soul? Our main goals are to inform, encourage, and assist Christian creative folks in ministry, no matter where they are in their journey. Thanks for reading! Find out more about us at