1. Never attach an mp3 to an email without permission.
Submitting a song either via email or on a CD without having a contact who is expecting it is the same thing as not submitting at all. Unless there has been some kind of exchange where an industry person is expecting your music, there isn’t a pitch opportunity there.
Now you’re probably thinking, “All music industry people say ‘no unsolicited material’ so how can I get permission?” We’ll get back to that in a moment but here’s the most important point. Under no circumstances should you email an mp3 to someone in the industry without express permission to do so. Those files take up a lot of space and if every songwriter submitted unsolicited mp3s to the same music biz person’s inbox it would fill up/crash their email program. The last thing you want is to have someone in the industry irritated with you before they’ve even heard your music. Better still, if you can learn how to enclose a link to your song in the body of your email, you’re way ahead of the game.
Now, in reference to figuring out how to get past the “no unsolicited material” gateway, the music business is a relationship business. If you live in Nashville, NYC or Los Angeles, start getting out to industry functions, conferences and events and meeting people. Don’t expect immediate results, but the results will come if you continue to build relationships. If you don’t live in a music city, using reputable proxy organizations like Taxi.com is a great start.
2. Avoid writing long emails/letters with your submission.
Like any business person, publishers, A&R execs and music supervisors are busy people. While I understand that your history and reasons for writing your songs are important, that is a discussion for another time and place. Once you’ve received permission to submit your song you should keep your email or letter very short and to the point. A simple reference as to how you heard about the opportunity (mentioning a mutual acquaintance for example), naming the artist or project that you’re pitching to (if that’s what you’re doing) and your contact information is really all that’s necessary. Really. This means not enclosing lyrics, photos, a bio, etc. If someone in the industry wants more information, they’ll reach out to you.
3. Don’t send more songs than the opportunity requires.
Once you’ve been given permission to submit for a project, it’s important to use some restraint and not over-submit. For example, if a listing is asking for songs for a particular project, this means that you should only submit the song – or in very rare instances, two songs – that fit the description of what is requested. This is not an opportunity to show the depth and breadth of your catalog. If you’re pitching to a publisher, then two or three songs will do it. As I mentioned above, if the individuals looking for songs want more from you, they’ll ask. The rationale is simple. If you put yourself in their position, you’ll appreciate that these folks have to go through a mountain of submissions and sending too many songs might get your pitch pushed to the bottom of the pile because it seems like too much work to go through.
4. Don’t forget to follow up.
For the record, it is never safe to assume that one email, voicemail or CD submission is enough. In fact, it IS safe to assume that it isn’t. While your song might be the most important thing to you, it will be one of many, many submissions for a given project or publisher. It’s safe to say that submitting a song and not following up one to two weeks later is, again, like not submitting at all. I’m not saying this is good or right but my experience has been that unless you put it on your calendar to follow up, then, most likely, your song will be overlooked. And, by the way, following up is not a one-time thing. You can politely (and concisely) follow up every two weeks after your first follow up until you either hear something back or decide there are simply better ways to spend your time.
Submitting your songs is an exciting part of the process of being a songwriter. By remembering to treat this part of your career as professionally as possible, you’ll avoid the risk of losing credibility in the eyes of the industry. When in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re submitting to and think about what they would most appreciate.
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