The Limits of Networking and Cold Outreach in Songwriting

They told me to go down 16th Avenue

That I might have a chance to make my dreams come true

But I’ve looked everywhere, and I don’t know where they are

The one that can make me a country music star.

‘Get in line, buddy

Get in line, buddy’

That’s all I heard him say;

‘Get in line, buddy; you just got here yesterday.’

– Bill Yates, “Get In Line, Buddy”

Songwriter Tips – Networking and Outreach

As songwriters, we rely heavily on networking to get our songs in front of artists for consideration. Networking and “friend of a friend” contacts are great – and sometimes effective – but there are limitations.

As Bill Yates penned in his song “Get In Line, Buddy”, so many of us songwriters are out there trying to get our fantastic songs discovered, that our chances of breaking through on a hit by an ‘A-list’ artist are very slim indeed. It often seems like we “just got here yesterday.”

Household names in the songwriting business have already overcome what many industries call the “barrier to entry”. While they still actively pitch, these songwriters are often approached by artists looking for new, uncut songs for upcoming projects. 

Some level of knowledge and respect has developed whereby artists know the writer will only send them works connected to their style – songs worthy of consideration – so they don’t invest in arranging too many songs that get culled from the project. 

Artists welcome songs from these established songwriters. This enviable relationship only occurs after a writer demonstrates significant commercial success, so the rest of us are constantly looking for ways over (or around) that barrier. 

Networking is alive and well and still “works” (somewhat) for songwriters, but I’m betting the number of A-list artists you and I can claim as friends is pretty small. Furthermore, it seems that many of the top-tier artists have little say in the selection of songs they release! 

The labels are making more of those decisions, and executives at the labels often have their go-to writers already selected – or employed on staff – thus shifting the barrier to entry for undiscovered writers. And because these decisions are rarely theirs, many A-list artists are completely unresponsive to “cold call” pitches from unknown songwriters. 

More Songwriting Tips

So, given that “cold calls” rarely work and networking seems to merely put us “in line”, are there more effective pitching methods for songwriters? Here are a few points to consider:

1. Look for artists closer to your level of the music industry.

Many artists are looking for their first big commercial hit – just like you as a songwriter – and need your songs! 

I don’t mean to imply that songs recorded at this level don’t get a lot of airplay, either; more on that in a moment. These artists are still making it on their own, so they have total creative freedom at this point. 

Just look for talented folks who can do justice to your songs. Wouldn’t I prefer to have Rhonda Vincent make an iconic first release of my song? Absolutely! But if I’m getting no response from her, it’s better to have my song released by an up-and-comer than to have it go unheard. 

And let’s face it – even Rhonda records covers! 

Just because the first release isn’t by an A-list artist doesn’t mean it will never get cut by an A-list singer. Develop relationships with artists at that next tier; they’ll be more likely to have the freedom and the hunger for your new material, and you can even write specifically for their “sweet spot” – or even co-write with them through BDT+, which almost certainly guarantees a cut. 

Grow your credibility by making artists at this level successful; you’ll move up with them as their songwriters.

2. See who’s hot online. 

With rising artists and influencers expected to deliver fresh new content frequently, this is a whole new world of opportunity for songwriters today. 

We’re talking about accessible, talented artists with 50-600k+ followers but no record label, putting out a new live video weekly (some daily) with “test drives” of songs – followed by studio recordings and music videos of the most popular ones. 

How would you like for your song to be heard by 600k engaged fans who spread the word? Yeah, me too! This is an almost unlimited opportunity for your music. 

The library at BDT+ is instrumental in matching songwriters with online artists by providing an efficient search tool for the new material they need at a far greater frequency than more traditional recording project cycles. 

Best of all, BDT+ provides a means for you (the songwriter) to get paid earlier for works used in online content. Everybody wins!

3. Partner with co-writers who have already cleared the barrier to entry. 

Not only will your works have an advocate in the inner circle of the industry, but your songs will also improve in quality. I explored the benefits of co-writing in the January blog; go check it out! 

For this article, just let me say that you are NOT “using” your songwriting partner when you bring your best to the table; you and your partner(s) are equally invested in the songs that result, and you’ll each pitch to your respective contacts. 

It just may happen that your songwriting partner’s contacts are “higher on the food chain” because of the credibility your partner has earned with prior works. It may also be true that your efforts get more cuts from the next tier of online influencers. Nurture these co-writing relationships just as you would those you create with artists. 

Just keep on writing songs!

While there is no sure-fire formula for getting your songs cut, no matter how much you network and cold call, I hope these tips help make your efforts more efficient – leaving you more time to create the next big hit.

Keep writing!

Jim Grubbs

There’s a disconnect between the way songwriters and performers create music. We’ve spent our entire lives in the music industry and have seen firsthand how difficult it is to pitch that song you’re so proud of AND we’ve seen how hard it can be to find great songs for that upcoming project. So, was created to help change the way we write, create, and record music together forever.

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