Updated: Dec 15, 2019
The goal for a lot of songwriters is getting a publishing deal. Sounds simple enough, but how do you do it? Here are some practical tips to help you figure out if a publishing deal is the right next step for you as a songwriter:
Step 1: Have great songs
It seems obvious that you would have to have great songs in order to get a publishing deal.
Your parents, kids, sister, the guy at the store, and a couple other people probably also tell you your songs are great. And of course, these fantastic people are all telling the truth. Your songs are great, no doubt about it.
The problem is that everyone thinks his or her songs are great. It’s human nature.
A professional songwriter has more than just his friends and family’s opinions to back up the statement that his songs are great. He’s got evidence that his songs are viable because they’re generating income – whether from being recorded and sold by music artists, or from being used in film or television or some other way.
If you think your songs are great and want a publishing deal based on the opinions of your friends, you need to take it to the next step by getting professional opinions about your songs.
You can do that by joining a pro songwriting group like this one. Professional groups will be able to point you in the right direction if you have talent, and will help you develop as a writer if you’re serious.
Some less professional groups will distract you by offering meaningless awards or validations to keep you hooked in their money making methods. Be smarter than that and don't pay attention. For example if you live in Kansas, but some organization offers you a "Best Nashville Songwriter" award, you can bet it isn't legitimate.
Step 2: Write commercial songs
Your songs have to be commercial if you want a publishing deal. That means that you should be writing for a mass market in a Top 40 Billboard charts type format.
Either that, or you will have to write a ton of film and television music – or you’ll have to be a recording artist yourself.
The reason your songs have to commercial is because having a publishing deal requires that you write in a way that is going to make money.
If you’re writing a bunch of artsy songs that no one wants to use or record, then neither you nor the publishing company is going to make any money, and therefore, they won’t want to sign you to a publishing deal.
When you consider the fact that a song used in a recording usually only generates 9.1 cents per copy sold, you realize that you have to sell a lot of singles to make any significant income. 1000 copies only gets $91 and if you have to split that between the publisher and the songwriter, each party only gets $45.50 total – and that isn’t much of a party.
That’s why you can be a great writer all day long, but if you want a publishing deal, you have to write in a way that is commercially viable and can earn some money.
Want a publishing deal? Prove that your songs can earn some money, and you’ll be off to a good start.
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