If you are old enough to remember album jackets and cassette tape sleeves, you’re probably familiar with the fact that a lot of famous musicians and singers don’t write their own material. Lyricists and composers handle that part. But how do the two hook up? Do songwriters sell their songs to artists?
More than one budding songwriter has asked this question over the years. Unfortunately, a fair number of them have made the mistake of selling their material to less-than-reputable publishing houses, only to never receive royalties or credit.
If you are an amateur songwriter thinking about selling your songs in hopes of making them big, here’s the most important thing you should know – don’t do it. Yes. You read that correctly. Don’t do it.
They Don’t Buy Songs
Producers, artists, publishers, and record labels do not buy songs as a general rule. They don’t view songs as commodities. So then, how do they get the songs they record? They collaborate with songwriters after hearing samples.
There is enough good material out there that songs do not have to be bought and sold like items on the department store shelf. There are enough songwriters looking for attention that producers, artists, etc. don’t have to go looking for them. So any organization that purports to buy songs is likely not a mainstream organization capable of getting your songs on the radio, TV, or silver screen.
Here’s How It Works
The process of getting your songs into the hands of the pros is fairly simple in principle. In practice, it can be quite time-consuming and frustrating. Here it is in a nutshell, compliments of New York-based Supreme Tracks:
1. Create a Demo
The first step is to create a radio-ready demo. This is something that Supreme Tracks do via their online music production model. Depending on where a particular song is in its evolution, it may need some adjustments to melody and lyrics. It will probably need an arrangement. The studio musicians record the piece, and it goes on to post-production.
2. Pitch the Song
A radio-ready demo can be produced in just a couple of weeks. That is actually the easy part. The hard part begins once a songwriter has a demo in hand. Now that demo needs to be pitched. The songwriter needs to get it into as many industry hands as possible.
Fortunately, there are people who pitch music professionally. They are usually industry insiders who act as representatives of the songwriters whose music they are pitching. Their main focus is finding those producers, artists, etc. most likely to want the song in question.
3. Sign the Deal
Assuming a successful pitch eventually lands a suitor, the last step is to sign the deal. Let us assume the interested party is an artist. His attorneys are going to present a deal designed to protect his interests first and foremost. You need to counter with an offer that protects your interests.
Ultimately, both parties will leave the legal wrangling to their respective attorneys. They should be able to work out a compromise that makes both of you happy. Once that’s done, the only thing left to do is wait to hear your song released. Every time it is played, you should get credit and earn royalties – at least if your attorney did their job.
If this process sounds like it is too much for you, that’s fine. Just remember that legitimate players in the music industry do not buy songs. They collaborate with artists capable of impressing them. Don’t worry so much about sales. Instead, do what it takes to impress.