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What makes a publisher sign a songwriter?

I've written about how to effectively email a publisher. But hold up! Let’s not rush to jam up inboxes! Before we email publishers, we must first ask ourselves if we have what publishers want. Let's take a look at a few recent signings to see if we can get some answers.

Jordan Dozzi signed to Big Loud...the 23-year-old produces genre-blending tracks, including a recent cut with Nelly on “5 Drinks Ago” from his country-inspired album Heartland. A “Highway Find” on Sirius XM The Highway channel, rising artist Jordan Fletcher has signed with Triple Tigers. Singer/Songwriter Caroline Watkins signs pub deal with SMACKSongs. Caroline signed her first publishing deal with Warner Chappell...attended Belmont University & received the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Scholarship and Shane McAnnaly has been her mentor for many years. Warner Chappell Music Nashville has signed singer-songwriter Hailey Whitters...she’s written songs for Little Big Town (“Happy People”), Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile (“A Beautiful Noise”), Alan Jackson (“The Older I Get”), Martina McBride (“The Real Thing”), and Lori McKenna (“Happy People”), among others. River House Artists & Sony Publishing signed songwriter Neil Medley. Medley achieved his first No. 1 song with Jake Owen’s “Made For You,” and earned success with Lindsay Ell’s single “I Don’t Love You,” which was the No. 1 most added song on country radio and many many more…

What can we learn from these five examples?

  • 4 of 5 are singer/songwriters

  • 1 of 5 is a songwriter

  • 3 of 5 have hit songs already

  • 2 of 5 don't have hit songs but come with other motivators: a) Jordan Fletcher's song is playing on the radio, an economic driver. b) Caroline Watkins is an award-winning songwriter who has worked with Shane, the owner of Smack Songs since college.

  • 4 of 5 appear to be well known by the publisher.

  • Jordan Fletcher seems to be standing alone as a SiriusXM radio discovery but nobody gets on SiriusXM without knowing somebody!

Before we send out an email to a publisher, we must first ask ourselves if we have what they want. It's clear that publishers want to sign writers whose music has proven income and writers they know pretty well. Take this test:

  1. Do you have recent or upcoming cuts with indie and/or major artists? Yes/No?

  2. Is your music earning significant income for you right now? Yes/No?

  3. Do you have existing relationships with the publishers? Yes/No?

If your answers are No cuts, No income and No relationships. You're not ready yet. Don't email publishers!

If your answers are Yes cuts, Yes income and Yes relationships. It's a matter of timing. (We'll get to this in future articles.)

If your answers are No cuts, No income and Yes relationships, then keep working on developing relationships with publishers and meeting new ones. It's absolutely the right thing to do. When cuts and income appear, these will be the first people you'll reach out to.

In the next few weeks we'll talk about

  • Emailing publishers vs being introduced by someone else.

  • When is it time to "walk around" to publishers?

Good Luck Out There!

Nancy Deckant, CEO

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