The creative process is only one part of the songwriting experience. Ideally, there will come a time when you’d like to capitalize on your work. If you decide to sell your songs, you’ll need to learn a little about sales and marketing.
You can still sell and market your songs in the traditional venues, but the widespread prevalence of the Internet has made it more convenient than ever to create buzz and name recognition. You can also network with artists and other songwriters online, which is great when you need advice, inspiration, or just moral support.
In this section, you’ll learn about the power of social media marketing, plus what you should (and shouldn’t) do once a record exec has agreed to listen to your demo. You will also find the names of firms that work closely with music directors in film and television. Sign up with them, and you’ll be even closer to your big break!
Tip #14 – How to Sell Your Songs
Selling a song is a lot like selling a novel: It’s a process that takes time, persistence, and a little bit of luck. If you stick with it, you’ll come away from the experience with lots of useful knowledge and criticism. Better yet, you just might land a deal!
Before you try to sell your songs, you should have a high-quality recording on CD or in digital MP3 format. You should also be prepared for some common challenges songwriters face when shopping their songs.
It can be frustrating to finally get the go-ahead to send your song to an industry pro, only to wait for weeks or months with no word from them. The reality is that there are a lot of talented songwriters out there. To stand out, you need a fresh and memorable sound. You also need to know where to find leads for profitable projects. Purchase a Writer’s Digest magazine, and get your hands on a copy of the latest Songwriter’s Market guide.
Selling a song takes time – sometimes lots of it. You must master the art of being persistent without being annoying. If you sent in your song two weeks ago, go ahead and follow up with a polite e-mail to verify that the song was received. You’d be surprised by how often CDs are misplaced or fail to reach the right people. Be prepared to send your materials again. Label the CD itself and the CD case with your name, e-mail, address, and phone number to make it easy for industry pros to reach you.
Every two to three weeks, check in on the status of your song and ask if anyone has had the chance to listen to it yet. Be patient, as the person you’re communicating with is probably overrun by submissions from songwriters just like you. If they ask you not to send follow-up messages, honor that request.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to do while you wait for a response. If you live in an area with a thriving music scene, like New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville, try submitting your song to a local band to see if they’d like to use it. They might like it enough to start collaborating with you on other songs. Start networking with other bands to build a reputation as a good songwriter.
You can increase your chances of landing a deal by doing a little research before you send in your demo. First, confirm that the label accepts unsolicited demos. If they don’t, yours will probably be returned to you. Next, make sure the label you are pitching to produces music similar to your particular genre. Finally, get some unbiased reviews to ensure that your music is ready for prime time. Industry pros listen to approximately 20 seconds of each song to decide if the rest is worth listening to. Send in 3 or 4 of your very best songs.
Some words of caution: You should never, ever pay someone to listen to your songs, set your lyrics to music, or publish your work. Many scam artists offer instant gratification to desperate songwriters, but don’t fall for their tricks. The only money that should change hands is when the record company pays you after deciding to use your song.
Tip #15 – Marketing on the Internet
The Internet has changed the way songs are marketed and provided easier access to paying customers. At the same time, it has made the industry even more competitive.
One of the best things about the Internet is that a small business or independent songwriter can gain name recognition with little or no start-up costs. Thanks to free blogging software and social media web sites, marketing is more affordable than ever.
All of the big social media sites – Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter – are free to use. Just start posting material that people find interesting, entertaining, or useful, and you can quickly cultivate a virtual following.
One idea is to provide advice and tips to other struggling songwriters. Regularly update your Facebook and MySpace pages, send out frequent tweets with cool links and information, and upload some question-and-answer videos to YouTube.
Create a free blog and use it to give away promotional ebooks, answer questions, and discuss industry headlines. For maximum exposure, link your blog with your social media pages. If you provide valuable content that helps or entertains your readers, they may link back to your blog and promote your site to their contacts.
By following these tips, you will increase your name recognition without spending a dime. At the same time, you can network with industry insiders, collaborate with other songwriters, and offer your songs and services for money. When your business takes off, you can increase your marketing investment through banner ads and pay-per-click campaigns.
Tip #16 – How to License Your Songs
This tip is for songwriters who would like to license their music for use in movies, television shows, commercials, and video games. Some songwriters think of licensing as ‘selling out’. Others look at it as a steady paycheck to cover their living expenses while they create more music.
Licensing isn’t for everyone. Songwriters who work slowly might lose out to those who can turn around a project in a matter of hours or days. If you’re confident that you can do this reliably, you could definitely increase your income by licensing your songs.
Licensing is a great way for new songwriters to break into the industry, since many music directors like to work with new talent rather than better known (and more expensive) label artists. By maintaining a reputation for quality, dependable work, you will endear yourself to music directors who might call on you for future projects.
When you license your songs for commercial use, you might be paid a flat fee for the rights to the song, or you could receive an advance against future royalties. The flat fee is a safe bet, but you could end up losing out on a lot of money if that show, film, or game becomes a best-seller.
Whatever you decide, closely research any business that offers to put you in touch with music directors and industry insiders. Although many free services exist, they are often overcrowded because they don’t require the songwriters to pay anything up front.
While you should generally avoid agents and others who ask for money up-front, there are a couple of reputable firms that charge a fee for their marketing services. The trade-off is that they do get calls from music directors seeking new talent, so your membership fee pays for a significantly higher chance of being discovered.
Some of the more popular match-making services include Taxi, Broadjam, and Pump Audio. Before you choose a service, go online to find unbiased reviews from fellow songwriters.