Do It Yourself Music Publishing Part IIIby Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, July 1999
At last! Your demo is finished and you can't quit listening to it! There is nothing quite like finally hearing with your ears what you have been hearing in your head as the writer of the song. You want the whole world to hear it too. What do you do next?
The next step involves creating a package -- something you will send to publishers and record companies to pitch your song. As with the demo, this step must be approached thoughtfully and carefully so that your package presents your song (and you, the writer) professionally and credibly.
As a music publisher, I never cease to be amazed at the way many songs are presented to me. Frequently, cassettes are of very poor quality; lyrics are either not included or hand-written and many times illegible; and it is very often difficult to locate the writer's name, address and phone number anywhere on the material. I sometimes wonder to myself why a writer would go to the effort and take the time to send material to a publisher without making it as presentable as possible. Even with very limited funds, a clean and professional package is essential to winning a hearing for your song.
The first thing I suggest is to design letterhead for yourself. If you intend to pursue songwriting beyond the personal hobby level, letterhead, business envelopes, shipping labels, cassette labels and business cards are a necessary investment. However, this does not have to be a costly expenditure. With the advent of computer software for desktop publishing, you or a friend may be able to design a clean and professional letterhead at little to no cost for graphics. Printing fees vary considerably. Shop around until you find a printer you can afford. You may even be able to print small quantities at a time with your own computer printer. Choose classy stationery. A business paper merchant will have a large selection to choose from in a panorama of colors and textures.
You may decide to name your songwriting enterprise -- in which case you can use the Company name as the focus of your artwork. You may even choose to design a simple logo. Some time ago, I received a very professional-looking package from a songwriter whose last name was Carr. He had named his songwriting business Carr Tunes. That was clever and made his package stand out. Over the years as I have received other material from him, I have learned to associate his name and letterhead with a writer whose songs are carefully and professionally created and presented. Make sure that your letterhead clearly displays your name, address, phone number, email address and fax number.
For each song in your submission package, include a typed lyric sheet ON YOUR LETTERHEAD. That way your vital information will never become separated from your song lyrics. Choose a clear and legible font. Some fonts -- especially those in script -- may be very artistic, but quite difficult to actually read. The objective here is NOT artistic expression but rather to make your lyric sheet EASY TO READ for the publisher. Then lay out your lyric in a clear and professional manner. I suggest the following steps to make your lyrics "shine:"
1) Bold and center the title
2) Double or triple space -- then type the first verse
3) Double space between the verses or the sections of the song
4) Label the Chorus
When you reach the chorus, label it "CHORUS" and indent the chorus lyrics to set them apart.
5) Proceed to type the second verse
Make the margins the same as the first verse. There is no need to re-write the chorus or to type "repeat chorus." The music executive will know enough to go back to re-read the chorus when it is repeated.
6) Label the Bridge
If the song has a bridge, label it "BRIDGE" and again indent the bridge lyrics as you did with the chorus.
7) Block out your lyrics as a poem
Be sure to show off your rhyme patterns. Many songwriters write out their lyrics in "paragraph style" so it is not clear if there even is a rhyme scheme at all. As my husband says, "It's a pretty poor dog that won't wag his own tail!" You worked hard at those lyrics...show them off.
8) Properly display copyright and authorship information
At the bottom of the page, type the name of the writer(s) of the song. Below the names type: Copyright 1999/Your Name. If your computer allows you to make the copyright symbol -- © -- feel free to use it in place of the word "copyright." This is all you will need for the time being. Under the present copyright law, a work is automatically protected from its inception until it is published or recorded. (We will further discuss the various options for copyright registration in a later article.)
It is usually a good idea to limit the number of songs in any one submission packet to two or three. However, from time to time you may find it necessary to submit up to six at a time. If you have several lyric sheets to submit, you may want to consider placing them in a clear plastic report folder with a plastic slide spine that holds the folder together. This creates a neat and professional presentation which indicates that you take your craft seriously.
Many songwriters mistakenly think that publishers and/or record companies expect a music lead sheet or other sheet music to be included in the presentation packet. (For beginners who may not be familiar with the term, a lead sheet is simply the melody line written on music paper with chords notated above the chord changes.) The truth is that in most cases music executives prefer that you NOT include written music at all. A lyric sheet and demo cassette are quite sufficient. If and when they decide to publish or record your song, they will either have their own arrangers and musicians do the score, or they will ask you for a lead sheet at that time.
Be sure to purchase professional cassette labels. Many can now be printed on a computer printer so that your name, address and other personal information can be neatly included on the label along with the title(s) of the song(s). At the very least, type the titles on the cassette labels and have your name and phone number on them as well. Be sure that the labels are placed on the correct side of the tape and that the tape is cued up to start playing immediately.
A hint about cassette boxes -- the hard plastic jewel box cases are more expensive to buy and considerably heavier to mail than the flexible poly boxes. If you plan to send out a number of packages, the poly cassette boxes can offer quite a substantial savings over a period of time. They also mail better because they do not crack like the jewel box cases do.
When you have prepared your cassette and lyric sheet, place them inside an 8 1/2 x 11 envelope. Your package is now almost ready -- except for a brief cover letter to the individual you are submitting the package to. That is a very important part of the package and will be covered in next month's column -- Making Contact with Music Moguls. Stay tuned!!
In case you haven't noticed...you are rapidly becoming a music publisher!
**From her earliest childhood years writing simple songs and poems with her father, through her twelve years as an overseas missionary, to her present, multi-faceted career as an author, lyricist/songwriter and conference speaker, Mary has always been adept at using words to communicate her heart to others. She is the President of CQK Records & Music of Dallas, Texas, a company which creates and produces songs in a panorama of musical styles for a variety of audiences, She is also the host of "I Write the Songs," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, especially created to inspire and instruct the more than 25 million aspiring songwriters in the U.S. "I Write the Songs" is broadcast over the Internet. Mary is a frequent public speaker and seminar lecturer on songwriting. She is a regular columnist for Independent Songwriter Web Magazine. Mary's commitment to discovering and mentoring talented new songwriters has given her extensive experience in song analysis through adjudicating songwriting competitions and conducting songwriting workshops across the country and around the world. Because of her role as president of an independent music company, she is also well qualified to instruct aspiring songwriters on the various business aspects of the music industry. She is married and a mother of four. She resides in the Dallas area.