So, you've written a Christian song, or many songs. You think they are pretty good. Others think they are good too. Now what do you do?
You've heard about songs getting published, how does that happen?
You've heard about people getting signed to publishing “deals”, and becoming a “staff writer”. What does this mean?
What are the real options to you, wherever you might be, to get something happening with your songs?
1. Get Real Feedback
One of the first things you have to do is to see where your songs really stand. We always love our babies, and so does our Mom. But the truth is that likely they need work. Even seasoned songwriters need others to speak into their songs.
If you don’t want it changed at all, and think it’s perfect just the way it is, then that’s fine. You and your Mom can enjoy listening to it all day. You can even have it produced just as it is, and put it online right now. It will be on iTunes in a day or so, and you will be off and running. Then you can send it off blindly to “folks on Music Row”, and wait for the money to flow in from your online sales.
You may be waiting awhile.
If you are not ready to work diligently on your songwriting, then this profession may not be for you. None of us are masters. We all must keep perfecting, keep working with others, keep rewriting, and keep getting better.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.” – Bill Gates
2. Get Real with What Publishing Is (and Isn't)
We have people email us daily wondering where they send songs to be published. It’s as if we have a “publishing machine” next to the printer that we just feed the songs into it and it comes out marked “published.”
The truth is, publishing usually means someone thinks they have a real use for a song. That could be an album cut, a use on TV or other media, or many other things. What people usually identify as “getting published” is when a music publishing company hears a song and wants to sign it to a publishing deal. In this day and age, the single song publishing deal is getting rarer, but it can still happen.
In fact, getting published at all is something that takes years of writing, rewriting, co-writing, networking, critique by professionals, hearing no over and over, waiting for years while a song is on hold only for it not even to get picked up. It’s a long, hard road.
You may have also heard about self-publishing. This means nothing more than you affiliate with a performance rights organization like BMI or ASCAP and work your own catalog. If there is no “publisher” involved, you get all the royalties from whatever deals you work out. Or, you can start your own publishing company and get two checks (for 50% each) from whatever opportunities come along for the song.
3. Get Real with What the Industry Can (and Can’t) Do For You
This is where most people get hung up. They imagine that the publishers at a large label needs songs for their artists. The funny thing is, many times the publishing department of a record label doesn’t even get to put that many songs on their artists’ records.
The reason is that most labels are looking for artists who are already strong songwriters. If the artists aren't strong writers, then the label may have them work for years with co-writers and producers becoming a good writer. Then, when they are ready to record, they often have the songs they need for the record the label wants to put out.
What major label publishers have the best chance for is with a guaranteed radio hit, and I mean a number one with a bullet smash. Now, if you don’t write this kind of song (and in my experience most Christian songwriters who send us songs do not), you may have real trouble getting any traction with a major publisher.
But, publishers are always looking for songs to pitch to other labels, TV, movies, etc. So working hard to identify what is currently charting out in the marketplace, and who the publisher is, helps to know where to focus you're pitching.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is a producer and president of Creative Soul, a unique Christian music consulting, production, and marketing company in Nashville, TN. http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com