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Songwriting Guides > Publishers > Approaching a publisher
Songwriting Guides
Approaching a publisher

As an unsigned artist or writer, approaching a publisher is the same as approaching any other professional in the business. You can save yourself an awful lot of time and increase your chances of success by doing your homework. Identify the companies that you want to approach, and identify the people there that you need to deal with. Then make a direct, focussed approach to that person. There are several sources of information when it comes to identifying the company to approach.

You can have a look through your record collection - all the songs will have the name of the publishing company listed somewhere on the sleeve. Look up some companies that publish music that you like. The Music Directory published by the Music Publishers Association has a list of all publishers with contact details. It will not tell you however whether these are the right publishers for you. You need to research the music they are interested in, and if you know people in the music business try to get some feedback from them about a particular company that interests you.

In terms of the recording, keep it simple.

Publishers are slightly different from record companies in that they're principally interested in the quality of the songs. Although there are people at record companies with great ears, songwriting is what pays the bills for publishers, so they're more likely to be able to spot a great song through a poor quality performance or recording.

You can't send in just anything, but you may well find that a publisher will be interested enough to bring you in and record a better quality version to see if their hunch is right. So once you're sure that the company is expecting your tape or CD, send in three or four of your very best songs and be sure to limit yourself to that.

In terms of the recording, keep it simple. Publishers want to hear the bare bones of a song. A common mistake writers make is to over-produce their track in a particular style. This can mean recording demos in one style for publishers and in another for a record company.
Give the person you've spoken to a good week or so to listen to the tape and then leave them a phone message or send them an email asking what they thought. They may not say "no" directly - not many people in the music business do. If they haven't said "yes" after two phone calls, though, take that as a "no" and move on.

No one likes knock-backs, but remember this is not someone saying that your songs are no good, just that they cannot use them. Your best plan is to try to get as much feedback as you can about how they came to their decision, and see if they can suggest another publisher who might be interested.

Being a professional songwriter is a difficult job. You think of the songs you create in the same way most people think of children. Even after you're signed you will get constructive criticism, because no-one writes consistent Number One singles. Learning to be objective about your work is an important part of developing as a writer. The knock-backs will hurt, but they're a part of that learning process.

Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Approaching a publisher

Elizabeth Ford-Crawley
I'm on the Songwriting road myself. I have recently sent two songs to USA for consideration. Before I sent the songs I built a professional relationship of two years with the president of one of the talent agencies. We kept in touch over the internet and I only sent stuff which was copyrighted. I advise anyone to do this before the song is sent. You can post the songs to yourselves without opening the letter, you can open a safety deposit in your bank and have your manager witness and sign/date the whole thing or you could become a member of a songwriter institution. I found the latter very helpful. Also mingle with people who love music and are serious about it, don't just sit in a pub with time wasters, choose your relationships carefully. Use your third eye, people who are too eager in you may have a hidden agenda. Be like a cat, trust but don't get taken for a ride either. There are hustlers in the music business too. Finally, be prepared for a long-lonely career if you get a contract.

Stu Evans (Staffs)
Put yourself into the publisher/A&R person's position. They can get over 100+ cd's a week. It'd take every hour in the day to constructivly listen to. What you need to do is let the publisher know you're sending something first then follow it up later. If they didn't likw it then's only THEIR opinion. Don't let the negatives get you down. And took Michaelangelo 4 years to paint the sistine chappel ceiling and until he'd finished it, everyone said it was crap.

John Skelley Witham
A couple of tips would be. Don't only listen to your Mum and Dads or close friends opinions on your songs, they could be a bit biased. Dont listen to the song for a couple of weeks and try to put yourself in the position of a new listener or buyer. Are there lyrics which don't sound right or don't scan properly or sound as though they are put there to purely rhyme. Is the melody catchy and memorable? place yourself in the listeners shoes, would you really want to buy it if you heard it on the radio? If you can answer an honest yes to these questions, give it a shot and don't take the first no. If you consistantly get knock backs and negative feedback, take notice of the advice and try to improve your skills.

melissa pritchard. torquay/devon.
i have written a variety of different songs. soul, r 'n' b, pop and slow rap. i stared to write songs as a hobbie, but now im alot more passionate towards the way i express my words and what im saying in my songs. friends and family have seen my songs and they think aswell as i, should do something with them. i dont want them to go to waste and would love to hear someone singing them. i would like some advice, on who i should get intouch with for futher advice..? thanks.

Joe from essex
i have a few songs written how do i get experts to take a look at them were do i send them to ??? or who do i give a ring for advice ???

Kory Mcleod- Ashford Middlesex
I am a singer songwriter and have been approched by two record companies in the past, however nothing has come of either and I am left wondering why!! I have been thinking mostly about looking at my writing skills and try to get a publishing contract, I enjoy both singing and writing and would be happy to do either or both. I have found the advice on this site most helpful and will try to use the tips posted.

joanna .lavender, Oxford.
How can I identify the 'right sort' of music company? I write and record my own love songs but I don't know how to describe my style.

Norman Wheatley/ Redditch
Publishers have sent CDs back still in the shrink wrapping saying "This isn't the kind of music we're loking for at present". Why would they lie about having heard it when I checked that they wanted to receive new material?

Joe Walls, Langport, Somerset
hey, ive written a song for my gcse music and ive been told by many people so far that its really really good and a few people have said i should try to publish it. it took me three months to write the song and put it all together, and its come along really good. but hey, i dont know if it will get me anywhere!!!

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers What a Publisher Does The Types of Publishing Deal Approaching a Publisher Record Companies Management Staying on Track
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