S.A.C Seminar with a Nashville Publisher


A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend a songwriters Association of Canada event in Toronto.  They had a guest speaker from a big publishing company in Nashville come in to speak to us about publishing, songwriting and licensing.  Being from the Nashville area, he had plenty of examples of big clients and success stories who he has worked with over the years.  I took a pile of notes that day, they have been sitting on my computer for a number of years since then.  I thought it would be a good idea to revise them into a legible form and share them with you.  Hope this is helpful!

  1. Politics have changed in the music industry.  Artist are being forced to write their own tunes and therefore record companies save big money on writing royalties.  The artist will really just sit in the room with the writers so the label can retain the writing credit for a certain portion of that song.  Apparently these artists don’t even pay attention while the song is being written.  They just OK certain lyrics and notes to hit while the song is being written.
  2. When writing for other musicians and artists, find artists who look for "outside" material (learn the artist, everything about them). Look for insight into their life and personal issues for instance, Luke Bryan breaks up with a girl, it might be a good time to pitch a certain break-up song you have in your repertoire.  This way your song will touch the artist personally, really hit home with them making them WANT to sing YOUR song. Sometimes you have to get lucky to hit that “moving target” that is the artists ever-changing life.  Your songwriting coinciding or being on the same wavelength as the artist is crucial to a successful placement.
  3. More and more, artists are being encouraged to write their own songs, even though they aren't a real composer or songwriter.   Like I said previously, they are just sitting in the same room as some professional writers while they craft a song for him or her.  For instance, Luke Bryan will sit down in a room full of writers and contribute very little, but the label wants them there to claim some of the writing credit.  40% of the biz for these labels is setting up co-writes with their artists involved.  The artist basically text messages with their friends while the writers in the room actually write a song for them.'
  4. Connect with "up and coming bands and artists". Get together with them and write with them before the whole world is asking to write with/for them. Send them songs and all it will cost you is the CD or MP3 you share with them.  Try to co-write and work with these "up-and-comers".  Pitch your songs to the artist or their producer or management or A&R.  Pitch to them all. ALL AVENUES.  Someone might like the song and place it for that artist wether it is the manager or artist themselves.  Attack from all angles.
  5. Networking and showing up at Seminars/Events like this SAC Songwriters Seminar is absolutely key.  It is also the biggest contributor to this particular publishers successful career.  With 25,000 songwriters in Nashville alone, you need to know the write people to rise like a phoenix from the millions of self proclaimed songwriters out there.
  7. UP TEMPO SONGS ARE HARD TO FIND. Ballards are dime a dozen.  Mid-Up tempo songs with a great groove will aways get you ahead of the pack simply based on supply and demand.
  8. Film and TV – love to have one stop shopping options (need everything ready to go all rights handed over “here is our offer, yes or no” is how they will approach you for your music) This is ONLY GOOD if you own the masters.  INDIES ARE BETTER FOR THIS.
  9. There are options where you can change the name of your song to offer royalties for multiple clients in different locations or industries.  (basically they own the song called “Love you Me” and we retain rights to “Me Love You” this would be something to talk to the lawyers about or ask your entertainment law guy.
  10. Be professional.  Be smart.  No hand written lyrics and home made packages.  Make sure you always included song titles, your name, email, all contact information.
  11. Aim to write for hundreds of artists, do not pin hole yourself to just Taylor Swift for instance, try to write universal songs that are timeless, not something topical or based on a fad.  Something that will resonate with multiple genres and artists.
  12. We all know the standard structure for a pop song is verse, chorus, verse, chorus with an optional bridge (which is the "what if" side of the song).  If you do a bridge it must be a "what if" section.  If your song is about growing up, the bridge should be if you never grew up, and what would happen.
  13. Unsolicited vs solicited – how do I become solicited, you must connect with a publishing company or writing group who will endorse your material.  This isn't easy, but you must be endorse or solicited to pitch to many of the big companies.
  14. Ask for permission, talk about UPTEMPO all the time.  Ballads are a dime a dozen. EXLUSIVE “YOUR GONNA BE THE FIRST ONE TO HERE THIS” market to them directly.  Be sure you don’t brag yourself up, but make it sound like you have what they want.
  15. Don’t put a copywrite from the year you wrote it.  Don’t let them think its an old song. You want to tell them they are the first to hear it. Market the song properly.
  16. Seasonal holidays valentines, weddings, baby born are all big life events and stages that people connect with on a personal level.  Its a niche market, but you can be successful.  He mentions people who make a living only on season songs.
  17. Unless you are reaching for a career in seasonal or niche songwriting you should avoid making the song too niche (it has to have some universal theme for fans to connect with)
  18. It can be tough but valuable to get these seasonal or niche songs (ex: weddings, graduation, christmas) in to sheet music books and make a small amount of money from it
  19. Make sure to write in third person when you write hardship songs, your seeing it happening.  Don’t be predictable.  Have something fresh that doesn’t stray too far away from the norm and you will make it