Writing music and lyrics can be very lucrative, especially for the mainstream. However, knowing what to do with a piece can be less than straightforward, without some insider info.
“I’ve written a great song – now what should I do?”. As a budding songwriter, you’ll be pretty excited once you have the perfect tune. But that’s just the first step. Next, you’ll need to work out where to market it and how to get it into the public domain.
This article will answer this very question. We’ll give you the lowdown on taking your track from the page – to played – to paid!
I’ve written a great song – now what should I do?
Fantastic! You’re already in possession of the raw materials needed for a successful career in composition. You may also be on the path to making it as a recording artist, but that will depend on whether you’re a singer, as well as a songwriter. Before you move into that territory though, you need to understand where your song fits. Ask yourself these questions…
What genre does my song belong to?
Which other artists around at the moment, write or record songs similar to mine?
Who – and where – is the audience for this song?
What setting is it suited to? (There are many options other than the charts – on the soundtrack of an indie movie, in an advert, as part of a jingle for example).
Is it definitely ready, or does it need some more work first?
Your song is ultimately a product in an industry. And so, you need to establish where you’ll market it and to whom before you make the next set of decisions. It’s not good to be vague. If you’re unsure about genre or audience, ask a professional or even better, research it yourself. As a musician, you should already have a familiarity with music types and contemporary artists.
How do I sell a song that I wrote?
Here are some of the things you might like to do with your complete song:
- Record and perform it yourself. Then put it on streaming sites, social media and YouTube and play it at gigs – all of which can generate some income. You may want to hire someone to plug it for you.
- Collaborate with someone else – or several other musicians – who will sing and play on a recording of it. Then put it on streaming sites, social media and YouTube. They play it at gigs, but you retain a percentage of royalties and copyright as the composer. No one else will be able to legally do this without your permission (and usually, after paying you for that).
- Sell the rights to another artist, so they can record, release and perform it.
- Record it either with you or someone else singing and then submit it to sync agencies and music licensing companies. They then put in their library for TV, filmmakers and advertisers to check out. If one of their clients wants to buy the licence or sync for that track, you make money.
- Enter a competition. Although this isn’t a direct sale, there may be prize money involved And it’ll often get picked up for recording or licensing if you win. Check out legitimate websites like the Songwriters’ Guild for competitions. But be wary of scams and fake competitions. Check that websites are fully formed.
You should first register with PRS for music. This will protect you in terms of royalties, whichever route you take with your song next. And to ensure you own the copyright, you’ll need to have the song in some kind of electronic or hard copy format. The most reliable way to do this is to record it. Your first recording can be a rough version. Just make sure it’s down somewhere, to cement your right to it as the composer.
Submit music to A&R
These people will be some of the best contacts you can ever make. They sign and develop artists. So whether you’re wanting to make it big as a singer-songwriter, or to have your song used by an artist on the up, see whether you can connect to some A&R. This will be a challenge. Scouts and artist developers and busy and constantly have thousands of musicians knocking at their doors.
However, it’s in their interest to find talent. You might need to attract their attention by putting your song on a platform like SoundCloud, YouTube or Spotify and plugging it. If it gets enough views, streams and downloads, important people will start to take notice. You can find out more about who’s who in the world of A&R and what they do, in this article.
But before you try to submit or sell your song anywhere, you’ll need to get a quality recording made.
How to sell songs to music publishers
Your rough recording will cover you for copyright. But it won’t do once you want to sell or promote the song. Now you need a professional standard version. If you have some good equipment, you may be able to do some or all of this in a home studio. However, in most cases, it’ll be worth investing in some studio time.
The amount of time you’ll need will depend on what’s involved in the track. A simple acoustic number with you singing and playing the guitar will probably be quick and easy to lay down. A layered, multi-faceted track with lots of instruments, backup singers and mixing will take longer.
The studio will be able to advise on the time you’ll need and their packages. Be sure to have a very clear plan of what you want to achieve and how you want your song to sound before you speak to them. If you have several songs you’re considering, you could make them as demos, then choose one to record fully.
Submit songs to music publishers
You’ve got your finished track. It’s probably in a WAV format. You’ll need to convert it into an MP3 to be able to email and send it. When converting it, add metadata, namely the song’s title, your name and contact details (read how to do add metadata to a song here). And ALWAYS make back up copies of your track!
Next, you can either pitch to music publishers yourself or use a third-party site like ReverbNation. ReverbNation is one of the more useful pitching sites as it doesn’t just deal with one facet of song-selling. It covers gig, syncs, licensing and publishing. Some music publishing companies hire staff writers if they really like their work.
Independent song pluggers
If you have the cash, you can pay someone else to sell your song to music publishers. They’ll also help you to polish the demo or track and pitch it to A&R, labels and for sync licensing. If you get a good plugger with excellent contacts, they’ll fast track the success of your song. But their expertise will be reflected in the cost. Be careful though. Many people get scammed by pluggers who promise the world, yet don’t deliver.
You may have a friend who’s looking to get into the music industry who will do the job for very little. Generally, you’ll get no more than you pay for (but sometimes less – so be wise). If possible, find someone who has experience in your particular genre. If in doubt, you could ask a local recording studio or a radio station if they have any recommendations or pluggers they work with. You can read more tips on hiring a plugger, in this article.
Recording artists looking for songs
Earlier we said that one of the things you need to do is identify the kind of artists who record songs like yours. This is because you need to know how to place it on the market. Even if you decide to record it yourself you need to know where it sits. But if you want to try and sell it to another recording artist, it’ll be even more important. You can then try and pitch to A&R, labels, or even the artist themselves.
How to pitch a song to an artist
Be prepared to do some research here. This is an ever-changing arena, so you must keep your finger on the pulse. Find out who is asking for what and when. For example, Atlantic Artists recently put out a call for songwriters to create for Sam Smith, Imagine Dragons and Sleeping with Sirens. Keep your eye on the label’s websites (large and independent) for these opportunities. Also, check out listings and networking sites like Join My Band and Music Gateway.
I wrote lyrics to a song – now what?
The first thing you must do is to write them down. You can’t prove copyright until you have the words in a tangible format.
We’ve talked about songs in their entirety. But what happens if you’re a lyricist and need some dots to make them complete? It’s unusual for lyricists and composers to form partnerships and each stick to their side of the job. Elton John and Bernie Taupin met when both were lingering in obscurity but together formed a winning songwriting team.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin met through chance via their record label. But there are lots of ways you can find composers to work with. If you find yourself at a studio, gig, open mic night, competition or even record label, keep your eyes and ears open. You can even ask around and see if anyone knows any great up and coming writers who might want to work with you.
Similarly, you can network on social media music groups and sites like The Songwriter Forum. If you’re a rapper or grime artist, you may just need some beats to work with. You can buy ready-made ones on websites including:
Song pitching websites
This is another possible way to get the legwork done for you. However, the jury’s out on whether it’s worth it. There are some for whom it has worked. But song pitching websites like Taxi, Broadjam and MusicOpps are often oversubscribed. They do, however, often offer feedback services, which may be useful. More mainstream music sites like Soundcloud are often a more effective platform, although it does mean you have to.
Don’t forget, that another great way to get your original song out there, is to enter a singing competition and perform it yourself. Brand new numbers, providing they’re good, give you a fantastic USP. With labels, collaborators, radio stations and talent scouts watching, there’s a much higher chance of getting spotted that at your average gig. So take advantage of your talent and perform your own material. Songwriting and marketing music is a huge topic. You can read many more articles on the topics of copyright, sync licensing, composition and promotion on our advice pages.
How do you know if a song you wrote is good?
There’s only one way – get it out there. Your friends and family will have biased opinions. Only when it goes into the public domain, will you be able to judge it. But you must plug and promote it so people know it exists and hear it. Likes, follows, downloads and shares will give your answer.
How do you write an amazing song?
Some people just have a knack for songwriting. And not everyone will agree on whether a song is amazing. It may depend on taste and genre. But there are some techniques and tips that will help you put together something that sounds amazing.
What makes a hit song?
In chart terms, there are some ingredients that increase a song’s likelihood to become a mainstream hit. A catchy chorus, a memorable hook, repetition, a great beat, and a bridge, middle 8, or breakdown all help to create the magic.
Have you written a great song? What have you done with it? Tell us and share your links and music videos in the comments below.