A complete overview to successfully pitching your songs to decision makers in today´s music market
Original songs are a songwriter´s most valuable goods, not only in terms of the pride we might take in them, but also with regard to actual financial return. However, songs need to be shared to be in existence! A song that sits on your computer´s harddrive is practically non-existent.
“Well, I might put it out some day” is what you might say! You know what? Then make someday today!!
Once again: Songs exist only when they are being played! They are non-material goods, that we perceive through our ears. However, if you never play your songs to anyone, no one will hear them, noone will sing them and no one will buy or stream them! There goes your chance for being heard and getting paid!
It is an part of the songwriting process to pull through to the finish line, which means releasing your songs or at least getting them out there somehow!
If you are not primarily a performing artist who releases their own music, but are instead writing music for other artists or Motion Picture/ Games etc., then the following tips shall help you get started at pitching your songs to the people that need to hear them and help you reach a greater audience! So let´s get started!
General pitching rules
No matter whether you are pitching your songs to win an Award, or pitching to Music Supervisors or Publishers, or even to Artists directly, there is a certain pitch etiquette, that you should respect and be aware of.
1) Know your customer
In the finance and banking world (an industry I´ve been working in as a part time job), there is such a term as “KYC” (Know your customer). This is a great term to pinpoint what is most important in any business relationship that you are building or trying to maintain: Understanding who it is you are dealing with!
First and foremost, make sure to do some research on your target audience! Who are you pitching your song to and why? Is it an industry professional, that is constantly looking for music from the genre you are writing in? Are they well established in the industry or are they just starting out (and maybe a bit easier to get in touch with)? Do they disclose an email on their company´s website? Do they prefer streaming links, downloadable files or actual hard copies?
Make sure to understand how the person operates and what they are looking for in order to save them and yourself some valuable time!
2) Drafting an email
Once you know how to approach “your target or target group”, make sure to keep things simple but memorable in your email/letter. Approach them with a friendly intro line to show interest and respect, but don´t keep rambling for too long. After all, this is a business matter. Instead, tell them, why you are approaching them specifically and why your song might be just what they are looking for. Then, give them a brief description of your song´s assets (e.g. a moody, electro-pop, bpm at 120, with distinct guitar riffs..ideal for thrillers or commercials that need to create suspense, without being too pushy or “up-tempo pop song made for strong female vocals, ideal to play in live settings to get people dancing etc.).
Make sure to quote your contact details and kindly ask for a feedback.
3) Follow up rules
Music industry professionals are busy, that´s just a fact! A lot of times, if you do not hear back from someone, that means they are just not interested! However, sometimes they are, but things just get lost in the daily hustle! So, if you feel your song is really worth their attention, do follow up your pitch! However, give them some time! Maybe 3 weeks or a month at least. Once that time has passed, send them a very short kind reminder and ask them if they have had a chance to give your song a listen and whether you can provide them with more information or instrumental versions or if they would want you to make any changes to the production. This is a great way to not seem too vain and show them you are open to collaborate!
Now you might wonder, how to even find someone to pitch to! It may seem impossible to build a network from your home computer. But is it really?
Networking and building relationships does not require any magic tricks! Instead, you just need to do some research, show genuine interest and find ways to catch interest likewise!
It takes some basic social skills, nothing more nothing less.
To get started, do look up directories online. Services like Music Business registry (www.musicbusinessregistry.com) or Songwriteruniverse.com are great places to go for that matter. Make sure to google the contacts you find and take notes on anything you can find about the people you want to win over, such as: Job position, references, location, current projects, people you both may know etc.
Once you´ve created a list of contacts, start evaluating your key players and make sure to get on their radar in sublte, non invasive ways. Remember: You want to build a sustainable relationship. So do be respectful and aware of their stressful and often time-consuming jobs. Do not be annoying!
Now, before you pitch a song, make sure to double check, that your song is the right fit for the person you are contacting. Let´s look into determining what makes a song a good fit, shall we?
Which songs to chose/ how to stand out?
Before pitching any song, make sure to pick your best one (especially when pitching to someone for the first time!) First impressions will last!
As a songwriters we love most of our songs, because they have meaning to us. But be aware, that your songs won´t resonate with everyone like that! You need to give your songs a rather objective, very honest listening!
To quote John Condrone, who is a successful Award winning and Grammy nominated ASCAP songwriter based in Nashville “When you´re writing a song, take a second to sit back and listen to it and ask yourself – what is the first impression you get?. How are you welcoming the listener to your idea? Something´s got to pull them in to the song and then keep them there. That is melody & lyrics. No magic answer here, but is that melody strong enough to draw interest for the 1st time it´s played to a crowd, publisher or producer? Are the lyrics strong enough to keep them there throughout the entire song? If not, take time to make it shine!”
This sums it up perfectly! Nothing much to add to this!
Alright, now that we know the general rules, let´s look into different purposes.
Pitching for different occasions
In the following I will provide a quick general overview on what to keep in mind when pitching for specific reasons:
This is a no brainer!
- Read Rules and check Deadline
- Think of the category that your song fits into
- Song checklist: Does it catch the listener from the first line onwards?
- Make sure it is well produced
Pitching to/for Artists
Pitching songs for artists to record them, comes with a whole set of challenges. If you are pitching to a specific artist, make sure to understand their vocal style, their brand and peers and get a feel of what could be a great next step for them musically.
A lot of times public listings won´t disclose the actual artist, or you might pitch songs to new artists that have not established a clear brand identity yet! In those cases, just make sure to understand who could benefit from your song and lay that out in your email! This could read out like this “… a song that speaks to young girls who need confidence and reassurance..:”. or: “Conveys strong emotions and inspires to follow your heart!”
(That way an A&R manager knows instantly which of their artists to consider).
If your goal is to get your music placed in TV shows, movies, games or commercials, then Sync licensing is your field of choice. There are multiple ways to get your songs picked, which includes being listed in music libraries, having a synch agent to pitch your songs to professionals or pitching to music supervisors directly.
However, make sure to understand how this industry works and which songfiles you need to have “at hand” for your pitch! A commercial comes with other requirements than a TV series or movie. An end title has other demands than a mid-scene placement.
Commercials often require attention seeking beats and a very fast build up towards the song´s climax (also do be aware of the loudness war). A lot of commercials aren´t much longer than 30 seconds in total…time is money…make sure to understand that!
Emmy Award winning Producer, Songwriter and Sync and Music Licensing Expert Michèle Vice-Maslin who has had numerous hit songs and cuts all over the world as well as over 5000 music placements in movies, TV series and commercials explains that in today´s sync market, there is a great need for “happy, encouraging” songs, as well as introspective “soul searching” topics, but not so much for sad or angry music.
Her approach to pitching music is very hands on and direct! She is an advocate for being in charge of your own networking and generally only signs non exclusive deals when passing songs to libraries or sync agents. This is a very smart move, as the industry is fast changing and the rules that apply today, might no longer be valid tomorrow!
That said, I too advise you to always make sure to stay on top of things!
YOUR CHANCE TO LEARN THE ROPES OF SYNC PLACEMENTS
If you want to learn more from Michèle ´s many years of experience, make sure to check out her brand new online course “FROM SONG TO SYNC“, which launches in the week of Monday 20th (deadline for enrolling is April 19th). In this course, Michèle covers all you need to know to pitch your songs successfully and make a living off your music. She will be your tutor for 20 weeks and share her valuable tools that have led to her impressive, proven track record (literally speaking).
Please click HERE to learn more and enroll in her course.
Direct links: Michèle Vice-Maslin: http://www.sweetersongs.com
John Condrone: http://www.johncondrone.com
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