Every songwriter dreams of getting that ‘big cut.’ Many don’t realize what it really takes to make that happen. Getting a major cut often requires several key components:
- Great songs – Without this nothing happens. The songs need to be better than what is being pitched by established writers. Study the craft. Get honest evaluations. Make great demos once you are completely satisfied with the song.
- Credibility – Artists and publishers don’t want to risk using a song of which they don’t know the origins. They rightfully fear that you may have borrowed or stolen from another song, whether purposely or inadvertently. They don’t want the liability. If you’ve had some indie cuts, they may be willing to take a chance on you.
- Connections – Your song needs to be approved by ALL of the decision makers for a project. That includes the publisher, the label, the manager, the producer and the artist! If you have a connection with someone in the chain, it makes life a lot easier.
- Relationships – Having contact information does not constitute a ‘connection.’ Again, it is a matter of trust. The more relationships you build in the industry, the more trust you earn, and consequently the more people you have who can and will vouch for you.
- Research – Pitching a killer country ballad to someone who is looking for up-tempo songs is pointless, and lessens your credibility. Pitching a traditional country song to someone who is country-pop crossover has the same effect. Pitching to an artist who only writes his or her own songs is pointless. Do your research first by subscribing to a reputable pitch sheet like RowFax (www.rowfax.com).
- Timing – Even if you match your song perfectly with what is requested, getting the song to the team at the exact time that they are trying to fill the slot for that song is always tricky. A day late and you’re out of luck. A day early and it might get shelved. This is often out of your control. Just understand that it is a realistic part of the picture. NOT getting a cut is not always about how good the song is. Many other circumstances play a part in the process. That is why it is important to keep shopping your songs!
- Luck – Sometimes it is just that simple. You might just get your song with the right arrangement to the right person at the right time. Jen Adan co-wrote ‘She Wouldn’t Be Gone’ with Corey Batten. Corey sang on the demo and brought it to a record label hoping to try to get a deal for himself. Blake Shelton’s manager heard the demo and asked if he could play it for Blake. The rest is history. Blake Shelton recorded it, and the song spent 2 weeks at number one. It was Jen Adan’s first cut after less than a year living in Nashville. However, you can’t discount that she had been writing for years, truly studied her craft and was talented enough to be recruited to Nashville by Jeffrey Steele, one of the top writers in the industry.
The bottom line is that being a pro songwriter requires a lot of work, study and relationship building. It is a long hard road that takes a combination of all of the above! You have to love the journey – every piece of it – because there are no guarantees. And if you happen to hit the jackpot, it is worth every ounce of energy and every penny you put into it!
Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, a global business club for serious independent artists, songwriters, musicians and music professionals. Indie Connect helps its members increase their chances of success by providing practical career direction and education, combined with live and online industry networking opportunities. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, an artist manager, a booking agent, songwriter and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He is a published author and popular speaker at music industry conferences.