The goal of many a songwriter is to find artists to sing our material. And there are few things more thrilling than when you hear your music come to life. The first time you get to hear an artist’s take on a song you spent hours on, all alone in your writing room, is truly magical. The feeling exists somewhere in between hearing a very personal cover, and the ephemeral act of co-writing or collaborating with someone.
So how the heck does one even go about finding singers to sing one’s songs? Well there are a few tried and tested ways to meet people, get your name out there, and start recording. Here are some tips to get you started…
Start by building your friendships with local artists.
Get involved in your local or regional music scene. I know, easier said than done. But you’ll be surprised how many people you’ll get to know on a friendly basis after playing a few local shows and support spots.
What bands are playing shows in your hometown that you love? What about resident singer/songwriters? You can get to know your local artists by going to their shows and listening to their music. After a show, approach them with a business card and gracefully let them know that if they’re ever looking for songs, you’d love to send them some of yours. If you haven’t heard from them after a couple weeks, there’s nothing wrong with a polite and brief follow up email, like this:
Hi, [name]! We met at your show last weekend. I’ve been a big fan of your music ever since [memorable time you saw or heard them play]. I’m a songwriter and always looking for artists to work with. I’d love to know when your next album cycle begins. Do you have any plans to start writing for any upcoming projects?
No worries if you’re not thinking about writing yet. I wanted to reach out to make your acquaintance, let you know that I think your music is awesome, and offer any help I can with songwriting or co-writing.
Looking forward to catching another show soon!
After that, let it be, and continue to be a fan and supporter of their music. You never know when someone may approach you in the future.
Offer to co-write with local artists whenever you can.
Many performers out there are writing their own songs these days, and many have never written a song in their life, but would love to try. When you have an opportunity to talk songwriting with an artist or band, suggest that you would love to write with them sometime. Young writers will have a lot to learn from you, and experienced writers will have a lot of experience to offer you.
Plus, when you write a song directly with an artist, there’s a higher likelihood that they will want to record the song. They had a hand in writing it, after all!
Subscribe to tip sheets.
Tip sheets, also known as pitch sheets, are directory listings of artists who are looking for songs to record. They list out the type of songs they need, who to get in touch with, and usually a few details about the project. While a bit pricey, tip sheets can be a great way to get your first cut as a songwriter. Consider signing up for a subscription with RowFax (Nashville’s tip sheet for indie and major country artists), SongLink (an international tip sheet), or Taxi (for artist cuts and film/tv placements).
Something to keep in mind about tip sheets — you will have to use a shotgun approach when pitching songs. Meaning, you’ll have to send out a lot of emails and a lot of CDs, usually without getting any responses back, before you get any kind of traction. This is simply par for the course. Send short, polite, weekly follow up emails when you need to, for up to a month after pitching.
Here’s a track I wrote that got picked up by Maddie Deneault.
Learn about publishing, copyright law, and your rights as a songwriter.
When an artist does agree to record one of your songs, you’ll want to be completely up to speed on the business side of songwriting. You as a writer, will be entitled to performance royalties as well as mechanical royalties, should your artist decide to include your song on their album. Learn about these.
Now, your artist may or may not be aware of how all this works. That’s okay. Be transparent and upfront with them on what both of your obligations are when it comes to payment and your rights. And do not, DO NOT enter into an agreement without a signed contract. Jason Blume has some excellent sample contracts in his book “This Songwriting Business.” I highly suggest you take one of his example contracts to lawyer to read it over, edit it for your use, and make it adaptable for future agreements with other artists.
Knowledge is power, so learn as much as you can to protect yourself and your songs. Then, you’ll also be able to act as an educator to help your artists understand how they can protect themselves, as well. Everybody wins!