Do It Yourself Music Publishing Part IVby Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, September 1999
Making Contact with Moguls
Your demo is finished. Your package is starting to look very professional. But while you have been busy preparing your song, some nagging questions have been running through the back of your mind -- questions like...
* Where the heck am I going to send this stuff once it's ready?This is where being a songwriter stops and being a promoter starts. It is also the most difficult part of the entire effort. It is at this point that many songwriters give up simply because it seems so hard to develop contacts with the powers-that-be in the Music Industry -- especially if you don't live in a major music capitol like LA, New York or Nashville.
* Will my beautiful package and great demo ever even make it through the door of the record company?
How can a songwriter from Nowhere, USA, break into a business like this? While there are, of course, no sure-fire methods to accomplish this feat, there are basic principles that will help you get over the initial inertia and get you moving in the right direction.
The first principle is one I adhere to religiously. Here it is:
* Never send in ANY submission packet to ANYONE in the Music Industry without first having made personal contact with someone who has given you permission to send the song.Why is this so important? Simply because it is common for music companies to refuse ANY unsolicited material. In other words, the chances are that if you simply send your song to a record label or publishing company without first receiving permission to send it, your carefully prepared demo and package will either be returned unopened or thrown away without any sort of response at all! You can flush lots of money down the drain by continuing to send songs to nameless, faceless music companies that automatically file unsolicited material in the trash can.
So -- your next question is obvious:
* How do I get permission to send my song?
The following steps will lead you through the process:
- Think of as many artists as you can whom you can hear singing
your song. It is important to keep abreast of new artists as well
as more established ones since newer artists may be much easier
to approach. List the artists in order of priority as well as the
record company each one represents. (You can find this out easily
by looking at the artist's latest CD and noting which record
company released it.)
- Invest in a good Music Directory. There are several which give
the names, addresses, phone numbers and even email addresses for
music executives in recording or publishing companies representing
many genres of music. These Music Directories can be a bit pricey,
but they are a must if you hope to make that crucial connection.
Here are three directories that I personally use and recommend:
The Musician's Atlas -- A general directory giving contact information for many major and independent record labels as well as recording studios, record stores, distributors and publishers. The atlas sells for $19.95, but if you complete the Artist Survey on their website, the company will take $2 off the price. Visit them online at http://www.musiciansatlas.com or contact them by phone at 818-501-1477.
Pollstar Record Company Roster -- This directory is quite complete and very helpful. It is updated twice a year and sells for $49.95 per issue. You may place your order by phone with a credit card at 800-344-7383 (in California -- 209-271-7900) or fax them at 209-271-7979. You may also visit their website at http://www.pollstar.com.
A&R Registry -- This directory is extremely detailed and is used by most music professionals. It is updated and reprinted every eight weeks and includes information on record company executives throughout the US, Canada, and the UK. The A&R Registry also lists the style of music and the distribution of each record label. Each issue is $65.00 plus shipping and handling. You may order through their toll free number at 800-377-7411 or by visiting their website at http://www.musicregistry.com.
- Look up the address, fax, phone number and/or email address
for the record label on which your artist appears. What you really
need to know is where the artist is in their recording schedule --
that is, when they are planning their next album. If they have just
released a brand new album, it will be wasted effort to try
approaching them with your song at this point. Better to wait a
year or so and try again. It is quite simple to find out, however,
exactly what their recording plans are.
- Call the label and ask for the Promotions Department.
Identify yourself confidently and say that you would like
information on your artist's management company. They will
gladly give it to you because you may be a promoter or booking
agent who wants to book the artist for a concert.
- Now phone or fax the management company. Ask for the manager
who handles your artist. Again, identify yourself confidently
and ask where your artist is in his/her recording schedule. Are
they looking for material now? If so, what kind or style? Tell
the manager that you have a song you think would be perfect for
the artist and ask if it would be possible to send it for
consideration. The manager may tell you to send it directly
to him/her, in which case be sure to confirm the correct address,
the correct spelling of the manager's name and ask for any special
instructions that may be necessary in order to submit material.
(Some companies have codes that must be put on the outside of the
package before they will even be opened.)
Or -- the manager may tell you that all submissions must go through the record label. If so, ask the manager to give you the name of the person at the label whom you should contact. Thank the manager for the information and volunteer to send the manager a copy of the song anyway -- "just for his/her own personal review." If he/she agrees, so much the better. The more people connected with your artist that hear the song, the better the chances that the artist will also hear and consider it.
- Call back the record company and ask for the contact person the manager has given you. Again, you will probably talk to the assistant or secretary. (Don't forget to ask for his/her name and record it in your phone directory.) Tell him/her that you have just been speaking to ___________at_________ Management Company who directed you to them. (The more names you can drop, the better.) Repeat your inquiry about submissions and ask for permission to send your song. The assistant or secretary may tell you to go ahead and send it to his/her boss. If so, be sure to again confirm the correct procedure, the address, correct spelling of the name etc. If all goes well, you may soon be on the way to the post office with your package.
But wait! There is still one more item to put into your package...a cover letter to accompany your demo and lyric sheet and to remind the recipient that you have obtained permission to submit your song. Below is a sample cover letter which you may follow as you create your own.
May 15, 1999
John Q. Mogul
Brand X Records
555 Record Contract Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90027
Dear Mr. Mogul:
This letter is in follow-up to a telephone conversation I had today with Mitzi, your secretary. I explained to her that I am a songwriter from Dallas, TX, with some very exciting new material which I feel will be of interest to you as you consider songs for your various artists. Mitzi suggested that I send a packet of my work for your consideration.
Please find enclosed a lyric sheet and a demo cassette of a new song entitled Walking Through the Storm. It is an uptempo Bluegrass Gospel song which I hope you will consider for your new male Gospel singer, Hal A. Luya. I understand that he is about to go into the studio to begin work on his first recording project.
Thank you for your willingness to review this song. I will follow up with you in about two weeks for your response. Whether or not this song is appropriate for Mr. Luya's album, please be aware that I am continually writing and would love to keep you updated on my catalog of songs as new ones are added. I am confident that I will be able to supply you with hit material.
(Don't have a secretary? Hey I have used my kid's or even my dog's initials here. Necessity is the mother of invention!)
**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.