Selling Songs: How To Guide for Independent Songwriters

Perfect Guide for Selling Songs as Indie Songwriter


If you’re an independent songwriter who’s interested in your music getting picked up then selling songs is definitely an priority of yours. Some songwriters write songs simply as a hobby. Some do it for his or her love of music. Some do it as a craft. However, there are millions of indie songwriters who want to make their talent of writing songs an actual career. In order to accomplish that goal you have to pitch (another word for shop or sell) your songs. But in order to prosper in selling your songs you have to pitch them with a certain technique. Here are 10 great tips on how to sell your songs as an independent songwriter.

1. Having a 3rd party to sell your songs through

Logo for 2 major Performing Rights Organizations. Every songwriter should be registered with 1 of the 2 especially if selling songs to artists.

No matter how independent you want to be as an artist/ songwriter, the reality is you need another entity to work with. If you’re a songwriter interested in selling songs you need another party to sell your songs through. This is simply the reality. You may say “if I’m an independent songwriter why would I want a 3rd party?” This is a valid question. The reason is because people who are responsible for possibly picking up your songs only accept material through a manager, established producer, music publisher or record label. If you’re an indie songwriter chances are you don’t have none of these options. So where do you go from here? The solution to this dilemma is to represent yourself as your own music publisher. As a songwriter, once you register with a PRO (performing rights organization), if you’re not signed to a music publisher then by default you are your own music publisher. Since music publishers is one of the entities music executives accept material from why not submit your music as your own publisher. It would be honest. All you would have to do is state you’re an independent music publisher and explain you are your own publisher. This way you’re still submitting music as an indie songwriter but you actually have a chance of your music getting picked up. The steps to complete this 1st step accurately are:

  • Register with a PRO as a songwriter AND music publisher (Popular PRO’s are ASCAP and BMI)
  • Once registered be sure to set up music publishing company name. Can simply be “your name” then the word publishing
  • When you start to pitch songs to artists make sure you do it under your official music publishing name. This way you are honestly selling your songs to A&R and industry execs as a music publisher.

2. Send introductory email when pitching/selling songs

Now that you have yourself established as your own music publisher it’s time to start actually selling your songs. In order to do this you have to make sure your following proper procedure. The best way to reach out to A&R looking for songwriters with new material is via email. Once you obtain an A&R representative, record producer or artist manager email reach out to them. However, the initial email should ONLY be an introductory email. In this email you’re introducing yourself. You state you’re a music publisher and songwriter selling your songs. You let them know you’re interested in working with them and their related artist (if you have a specific one in mind). Then you politely ask for permission to send your songs over. Never automatically send you songs over without receiving permission.

3. How many songs to send over to A&R

Saying all goes well and the industry executive gets back to you and grants you permission to send over your songs. Out of pure excitement and wanting seem like the next Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, you may send over an entire catalog of songs. Maybe you want the executive to hear everything you have to offer. Maybe you want to display your variety. However, these executives are very busy and have short attention span. Simply send 1-3 of your best songs over. Make sure you choose your very best and put them in order from best to least best. If the A&R or executive request more songs that’s one thing. But initially send no more than 3 songs over via email.

4. No mp3’s when submitting songs to sell

Now that you know how many songs to send in your business email, you have to know the format. Although very popular among everyday music listeners, sending mp3’s are a “no-no.” Never send your music as an mp3 file. This is due to the fact that mp3’s are large in size and takes up too much space. If the executive who is listening to your music has to download files that can potentially clog his or her computer that’s already off on a bad start. You don’t want to annoy or irritate an established industry exec who could possibly grant you your breakthrough as a songwriter. Send the songs in a clickable link (i.e. YouTube or SoundCloud). You can also send the songs as a downloadable link. (To learn how to convert an mp3 into a downloadable link click here).

SoundCloud is a great source to obtain clickable links to submit in business emails when selling songs to A&R as an independent songwriter

5. Announce your songs are protected

When selling songs to artists and their team as an independent songwriter you have to be very careful. Many will assume you’re naive, lack experience, lack finances and lack support. Based on these assumptions many will try to take advantage. Even presenting yourself as an indie music publisher, once people find out you work completely independent they’ll still view you as an easy target. With this being said it’s important to let it be known in your email where you send your songs that your songs are fully protected. At the end of your business email before you end it make sure to put a disclaimer stating:

  • your songs are copy written (it’s also good to have the copy written date listed)
  • your songs are published (list your music publishing company name)

In order to complete this step this means your songs have to actually be copy written and published. That means if your songs aren’t copy written and under your publishing you shouldn’t be pitching them. Undiscovered artists get their music stolen from them all the time. Also this lets the executive know they’re dealing with a professional and that both parties will legally be covered.

6. Don’t sound too friendly

Make sure your email is written as professional as possible. Be as formal and polite as possible. Make sure to use proper grammar and punctuation. Don’t attempt to make any cute little jokes or sound too comfortable. The representation you’re sending the email to may take offense. To them it may come off like you’re getting too personal and not staying in your professional grounds. Remember to sound pleasant but not overly friendly.

7. Don’t brag in order to sell your songs

In an attempt to get the representative more interested in your material you may brag about the song. You may go on and on about how amazing the song is and why they should choose it. This is a big turn-off for more reasons than one. When recording artists are looking for songs it’s a certain style the artist themselves are looking for. Who’s to say your song is their cup of tea? No matter how good it may sound. Another thing to remember is your song sounding good to you because it’s your baby is not the same as someone else listening to it. Another reason A&R get annoyed at songwriters who brag when selling songs is because it’s arrogant and unprofessional. Everyone admirers a humble person, even people who are arrogant themselves. If you’re a new, indie songwriter with nothing under your belt yet and you’re bragging about your songs it’s not a good look. People in the industry see it as you’re someone being entitled who haven’t paid their dues yet. Let your music speak for itself. Trust me if they like it they’ll tell you how good it is.

8. Have lyric sheets available when selling songs

The song lyric sheets doesn’t have to be sent in the email. Remember you want to keep the email short and sweet. However, state in your email that the song lyrics are available upon request. Most artists and labels when picking up a song they like want lyric sheets as well. This makes it convenient for them, they don’t have to worry about learning the lyrics and they don’t have to worry about saying the wrong words of the lyrics. Once an agreement is made and it’s official they want the song than you send the lyrics or they’ll request them from you.

9. Be open to receive feedback

Once again your songs may sound amazing to you, but to an industry exec who’s worked with legends it may be nothing special. With that being said be willing to receive positive feedback. They may tell you they like the song or the song have potential but it’s lacking something. They may even state what it is your song is missing. If this should happen don’t take offense to it. Don’t get upset or discouraged. If you do feel any of these emotions DON’T show it to the representative. You never want to seem like you can’t take feedback or you aren’t “coach-able.”

10. Always say thank you

At the end of any business email or email related to you selling your songs always be sure to say “thank you.” Thank them for their time. Thank them for the consideration. Even during the initial email be sure to say “thank you.” This shows you value their time, appreciate the response and have good old fashioned manners. In any business or industry having manners will go a long way.

These 10 effective steps mentioned won’t guaranteed an offer for one of your songs from a top industry executive. However, it will definitely raise your chances. Some of these factors may seem small or petty. But you’d be surprised how many people know nothing about them and don’t practice them. Now that you have them available to you make sure to practice them with every music business related encounter.

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