• Hugh Webber


Is a hole in 1 the ultimate aim of golf?

At least getting the ball on the green in the fewest shots I guess.

Pitching prospective music to people can feel the same - lots of shots that miss or replies “I like it, but”.  So how do you land your song in the right way?

Let’s take 3 specific areas for pitching songs:

1. Approaching artists directly

So this option is a good way for a songwriter who is starting out to connect with people to write with, or potentially offer a pre-written song too. This is most likely to be with local unsigned artists at an early part of their career. At that stage it’s still possible to talk to them after an open mic or a small gig, begin a friendship and have a conversation about co-writing or sharing a song with them.

For this approach any song you offer needs to be either playable yourself or just a fairly simple recording of the song idea, maybe just piano / guitar and voice. I think it would be acceptable for this to be a phone recording.  If it's a conversation via social media, then use well known sites like SoundCloud and have your rough demo’s available as private links.  This is a good way to showcase your writing talents.

Equally if you did have a fully completed and professionally demoed song, then that might be very appealing to an up and coming artist to have an opportunity to take the song and make it their own.  

In some respects it’s more about building a rapport with the artist first.  I think it would be odd to walk up to a complete stranger and say please will you sing my song!

Do be prepared for direct rejection or sometimes the long ‘No’ as I call it.  That’s when they are very nice and complementary of your work, but ultimately they would prefer to write their own material or work on their specific projects.  I learnt not to push these connections; at the end of the day if someone likes what you do, they will make the effort to stay in contact with you and a co-write will hopefully come about.

What I would add to this approach is - don’t be afraid to consider working with artists outside your normal genre or someone that has a very different character to you.  That could very well make for a great collaboration where each side brings new things to the table.

2. Approaching Artists via their A&R people

I was recently asked the question - “What are your thoughts on why songwriters have to produce a fully produced track and why a piano/vocal isn’t enough any more?”

These days it’s much easier to produce a more professional demo, and that means more and more people are producing their demo’s like this.  I’m sure it’s partly because of that, having a fully realised record has become the ‘expected’ format for submission.  I do still believe that if a song is truly amazing, then a simple vocal and guitar / piano demo will still showcase the song enough.

Is it lack of imagination on the part of the A&R person?  I don’t think so.  They are probably receiving hundreds of similar emails and approaches, so standing out is important.  Unfortunately the bigger and more complete the demo, the more impact it will make. Please consider your email content too and who you are writing to - do your research.  What type of artists / bands and music do they represent, what might they be looking for? Send one or two of your absolute best tracks that fit their label.

I spent a lot of years writing songs like this, and spent a lot of money on getting professionally recorded demos. In fact we would write a song we liked ourselves and then tried to find it a home.  That is not an efficient way of working.  Understand your market and provide the songs the market or label is looking for.

Be prepared for either no response, or a lot of rejections.  It’s a tough business out there, and unfortunately A&R people are looking for songs they can invest in, quite literally.  They have to be choosey and they know what will ultimately sell and make them money for their label.  They are always more likely to work with people they already know or connections of people they already trust.

3. Pitching for TV & Film sync, to music supervisors or via a publisher

This industry is NOT the music industry.  The TV and Film industry consume music very regularly and pay people well for it - hence this makes it a very popular attempted route to success!

I think the type of song is critical for this area.  I no longer believe that any song is suitable for Sync.  Songs used in TV and Film do not need as much visual imagery or too much detail.  That is simply because they need to complement what is happening on the screen, and not take over from it. If you write a song that has a truck driving through a forest, then guess what, it’s only going to work in that one way.  But if you wrote a song about going on a journey and exploring, then that could be used in more than one way.

Today I help singers and songwriters explore their own potential.  I encourage them to see new ways to view their creative ideas, working alongside to transform them into fully finished songs they are proud of.

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