Tip 13 – Get a Publishing Deal
In our first teleseminar, which you can stream or download from our website, we discussed publishing deals. In particular, we explained that signing to a good publisher could give you the capital required to fund your career without a record deal. A good publisher can also offer constructive criticism of your writing and performance.
So let's take a look at some of the issues involved in getting a publishing deal.
A Question Are you a songwriter first and foremost, or are you a performer who writes your own material?
The question is not as flippant as it sounds, because the answer could help determine the route to take when attempting to get a publishing deal.
So, once again, are you firstly:
It is important to recognise that you can have individual songs published by individual publishing houses, or you could have publishing by territory, or an exclusive deal with one house who will work with you on all your output. It is also useful to remember that a publisher is listening to the material performed in an entirely different way to that used by the A&R department of a record company. The eventual outcome is the same – a recording made of your songs, and hopefully income for all concerned! The equivalent of an A&R man in a publishing house is called the 'Professional Manager', which says it all, really. 1. Professional Songwriter This type of artist is one who wants to be a professional songwriter, rather than a performer. That is, you are happier having other people recording and performing your tracks while you collect the money! Having a major publishing house as a partner will give you access to most of the world's leading recording artists with a view to them covering your songs. Unsurprisingly, the initial way to approach a 'Professional Manager' is by the use of a demo.
- A professional songwriter, or
- A performer without a recording contract?
A 'Professional Manager' gets at least as many demos on his or her desk as the A&R manager, so in just the same way, your work needs to stand out.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of performing on your demo, it may be a good idea to ask someone else to perform on your behalf. This is not because a 'Professional Manager' is looking for a good performance, but he or she is looking for confidence, which is essential.
A publishing house is looking to exploit the material written. They will have several already established artists for whom they provide work, and are looking to fill that need.
When preparing your package for presentation, it is essential to take into account exactly what the particular publisher will be looking for when assessing your material.
Do some investigation into what type of music and for which artists he or she is working. Do you have the right type of bias on your demo? There will be little point in sending a rap track with a view to it being covered by Barry Manilow...
If you are looking for a career as a professional songwriter, you must try to impress upon the reviewer that you have a long-term future, and that there is substantial depth in your ability. Therefore, it will be worth their while to invest time and money in your future.
So, when you target the 'Professional Manager' of a publishing house remember:
When doing this exercise remember:
- He or she will be listening for originality in composition and a commercial approach to the market he or she covers.
- Do not send more than three songs – your very best!
- Keep it simple.
- Always record the demo in as high a quality as possible and check it before sending it out.
- Make sure that the package gets there in one piece! Within the parcel should be the demo along with any other information you think is relevant. Don't forget to send your return information, so that the Professional Manager can get hold of you when they are interested in your work. You might want to suggest artists that you've written the songs for...
2. Performer without a Recording Contract It would be helpful for you, before reading this section, to go back to a previous tip – the one about the professional songwriter. This is because, in looking for a publishing deal, that is what you are aiming to be, with the additional attribute of performing your own material. So, for example, you should also have confidence in your ability to produce a demo with your own voice! You are, as a performer, hopefully looking for a publishing deal as a stand-alone deal. The benefits to you may also include a recording deal as a result of getting your work known. A performer often gets a higher recording royalty on work he or she has also written! So, first of all, you need to send out demos to the Professional Managers of as many publishing houses as practicable. Ideally, these demos need to be of the three numbers representing your best work. The only difference between yourself and the previous category is that your performance also needs to be flawless, confident, and natural! SummaryIt is essential to understand the function of a publishing house, which is to provide music for performers to use on recordings and live work. The writer of the material gets a royalty from all such use of his or her work. It is the publishing house that will account to the writer for these royalties. Therefore, in order to approach a publishing house for a deal, you need to do so as a professional songwriter first and foremost, and a performer if coincidental. So:
- Do a budget for the demo exercise and keep within it.
- Protect your copyrights.
- Follow up, but on NO account hassle. Work on any criticism.
It may seem obvious, but even when you are in a band that the songwriter keeps all the publishing income.
- Investigate the target house, including names of Professional Managers, their sphere and artists serviced.
- Prepare a demo, and make sure it gets to the Professional Manager in one piece. Follow up, but do not hassle.
- Understand the structure of the deal thoroughly.