Pitching Songs And Market Research

If you write songs in the hope that you will get them recorded by artists who might actually sell some CDs or downloads, or get airplay (all of which can make you money), then the first step you need to take is to do some market research. This is the business of songwriting we are dealing with, not songwriting itself. I am going to give you some tips for beginning to develop your understanding of the market you are trying to break into it.

[Music Marketing Handbook-click here]

Bear in mind that, because you are pitching your songs to industry pros, it doesn’t matter much what the listeners think of your songs. That might sound weird, since they are the ultimate consumers, but you are once removed from them. You need to impress and wow the trend setters, not the trend followers. Doesn’t matter if you write country or hip hop, you can’t be writing songs that should have been on the radio last year and sell them this year.

Let’s assume you know what genre your songs fit into. Unhappily (for songwriters) genres are moving targets these days, so even that step means staying in touch with the current labels. For instance, the reality is that Motown R&B hits don’t have much in common with what is currently called R&B. But if you’ve got that base covered, let’s move to the next step.

•Look at the charts. Pitching songs requires knowing what songs and what kind of songs within the genre are getting airplay. In pop, ballads work for some artists but typically the hits tend to be uptempo. Does that still hold? And what tempo is uptempo?

•What vibes are popular? Are the songs within that genre downbeat or positive? What values do they promote—street rioting or family values?

•Are the newer artists following the trends or breaking new ground?

•Identify the singers who sings songs that you like. Do they cover a variety of styles or promote one style? Are the lyrics in your face or subtle? Are the themes personal or universal.

The intent here is to find out how you will fit into something that is alive and ongoing. The music business is alive and vital. It might not be as profitable as it was, and there are certainly new business models, but it has always been in flux. Think of it as a merry go round. You have to watch it a bit before you successfully jump on board.

That is step one. Once you’ve got this information, the next step is going to be pitching it. We’ve talked before about tip sheets and collecting this sort of information, but the key point is getting the information. If you don’t have the money for tip sheets or to join up with organizations that can help with placements, you are not up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Google is your friend. With a little creative effort you can find ways to get songs to artists you’ve identified in step one. So pick an artist and:

•Find their producers

•Find their management company

•Find their record label

These are the key players in determining what gets on a CD. So go to the web sites. Often you will find songwriter friendly submission links, or instructions on how to get your material to them. You might find an email address or mailing address. Now is the time to move slowly, however. Don’t email a gigabyte of mp3s. Don’t just mail a CD. Use the contact information to send a short note about yourself and ask for permission to submit material for a specific artist. Keep the note concise—no one cares where you went to school—and friendly. Make sure the language is good English. This isn’t time for text messaging. You are supposed to be a lyricist and that means understanding that while “Yo” might work well in a hip hop tune, it still is not English. No, that doesn’t mean that good English produces good songs—just good impressions. And initially, that is the entire point. The rule here: Make it easy for them to say yes.

If you are invited to submit music, you will need your demo and a typed lyric sheet. Make sure your contact information is everywhere—in your email, on your lyric sheet, on the CD… Folks don’t mean to be careless with your email address, but they are busy and you are not that important yet. Make things easy for them. So this rule is: Make it hard for them to lose you in the shuffle.

Even if you’ve done your homework and gotten permission, odds are you will never hear anything back. That isn’t necessary a reflection on your music or your research. It might be bad timing, the person is no longer connected with the act, or any number of things. In this industry, few people bother to say no—they just ignore you.

So you move on to the next one. And that is probably always a good rule. Move on to the next one and work with the willing.

About the Author
Ed Teja

Ed Teja is a musician, composer, and book author who writes, arranges, and performs a variety of music.


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