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Pitching a Song

17 Sep 06 - 08:47 PM (#1837011)
Subject: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

I have a few of original songs that I would like to "pitch" to various artists to see if they would consider recording them. I actually have dozens of originals, but only a few that I think are really good and which I would love to hear recorded by someone other than my own band.

Does anyone have any advice on how to go about this?

Like, how do you get their address?
What do you send, besides a sample recording? Music notation?
What are the chances that the demo will actually be heard by the artist?
Should you start at the top and work your way down to the regional and local musicians?
What happens next if they decide they want to do the song?
What are the chances that a national artist will do a song sent to them unsolicited by a local unknown?
What about all those songwriter contests?

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has tried and succeeded in pitching a song of their own.

17 Sep 06 - 09:05 PM (#1837020)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Mick

PM Jed Marum, I am sure he can share quite a bit of info.


17 Sep 06 - 10:52 PM (#1837085)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: GUEST,HWJennings

Hi Barbara, I'd suggest checking your local library for these titles.

The Craft And Business of Songwriting by John Braheny

The Songwriters Market (2007 edition won't be out until october)

Six Steps To Songwriting Success by Jason Blume

Getting a publisher interested in your song(s) is the way to go.
Just keep in mind, no legit publisher will ever ask you for a penny.

here is a link with some good info (a bit dated)

Hope this helps

17 Sep 06 - 11:34 PM (#1837109)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: GUEST,Jeff

Hi Barbara,
Would recommend getting in touch the closest music publisher in your region who has a track record of 'getting cuts'. Every major(and minor)population center in the US/Canada/UK/Australia and the Continent has AT LEAST one. Very few will accept(or review) unsolicited material via the post, but will arrange for a appointment. Keep your demo(s)simple...vocal/guitar, vocal/piano. ANYBODY who has more than a wind tunnel between their ears can 'hear it' if there's quality and/or originality to your songs. Be prepared to re-write.

If you go to Nashville don't bother with 'writers nights'. Make your appointments during business hours on 'Music Row' as the whole place shuts down after 6:00 PM. Steer clear of 'writer/publishers' as they try to get a 'co-write' credit and snap up half the writer royalty in ADDITION to the publishing half if they spot a 'hot' property.

Most artist's in all forms of music have their own publishing companies nowadays who act as 'clearing houses' to find them material. Find out the name of the artists' pubcos to whom you're interested in pitching song(s) to and MAKE APPOINTMENTS to present your material.

As you have an outlet for your material via your band I would suggest you continue to perform your songs with your band and keep writing. 'They' will find you. And 'them' coming to you puts you in a much better bargaining position when it comes to a deal. Be patient. If you have the goods you can't be stopped. If you don't you can't be helped.

Don't limit yourself to 'recording artists' as there are a number of different outlets for original material such as jingles, local TV/Radio shows, movies, plays, etc. Visibility/consistancy/tenacity are the keys. Hope this has been helpful.   Jeff   PS: DON'T do 'Music Business' in bars or cars.

18 Sep 06 - 09:11 AM (#1837347)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

Big Mick, I hope Jed Marum will post something here to share with all of us. He's certainly written some beautiful songs.

Thanks, HWJennings for the list of books. I'll look for the Songwriters' Market and the other books next month.

Jeff, you say MAKE APPOINTMENTS? Then you don't recommend sending a demo cd out? Your advice has the ring of authenticity, and I appreciate you taking the time to write it down. Lots of good information. I particularly like "If you have the goods you can't be stopped."

I guess I'm not ambitious or optimistic enough to consider going to Nashville and working hard at trying to sell a song or two, which is what I would have done 30 years ago. But I've got a handful of songs that I can imagine being done by, oh, say Alison Krauss or Bonnie Raitt or Del McCoury, etc. and I wonder if it's even possible to bring new songs to their attention for consideration.

I look forward to hearing more on this subject.

18 Sep 06 - 08:05 PM (#1837838)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: GUEST,Jeff

Hi Barbara,

Yes, I would recommend making appointments as opposed to sending out cds. You'll be taken more seriously. If you arrive at the time scheduled and the receptionist is told to ask you to 'leave it'(your demo)...walk. There's THOUSANDS of pubcos and your songs are unique. They(the pubcos) NEED you. Publishers rarely listen to demos unless the writer is a 'known commodity' to them. Most of the time unsolicited demos are filed in the circular or listened to by an unpaid intern. Either way the chances of the song(s) being heard by the artist are very, very slim. A 'song plugger' will be more receptive as their living is made by seeking out the 'unpolished' or 'unsigned' and connecting them up with artists looking for songs.

There's no tried and true method. Each situation is different. The ring of authenticity comes from experience.

Garth Brooks is quoted as saying, "You can't bury a great song. Dig a hole, throw dirt over it and it'll claw its way out and find who's supposed to sing it."

Stephen Bishop is quoted as saying to a publisher who hit FF for the third time on his demo cassette(in those days), "Next time press rewind."

Would also recommend finding a copy of Kenny Rogers' long out-of-print book called 'Making It With Music' and reading it from cover to cover. Songwriters need sensitivity and belief in equal measure.   Jeff

19 Sep 06 - 12:41 AM (#1837983)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

All this stuff about quality will out is total crap.

I have seen the best songwriters of my generation die unpublished, utterly neglected. (Garth Brooks says stuff like that to reassure himself that his songs aren't as unmemorable as I find them.) In some cases, I've known guys who could hold a whole audience in the palm of their hands for an evening with their own songs - but it wasn't Britpop, or shitpop - or whatever the buzzword was this week.

The answer is, that there isn't an easy answer.

My only hit came because I knew someone else who had had a hit record who gave me an address - and it was a cool idea for for a song. All the top soap stars were queuing up to sing my song - in fact the asshole music company put my version of the song in competition with a soap star cover version - so it got a lower chart position than it should have done. These people aren't bright - just very powerful.

After that, my songs were listened to for a while but I didn't have the whole package - a live act, something photogenic(and by that I don't necessarily mean some thing sexy - but something memorable to photgraph that will make magazine editors say - I want THAT as a picture in my pages) - knowledge of how to get value for money in a recording studio - remember you are up against people like Elton John who is looking for a bigger tax loss than your recording budget for a lifetime.

Basically what I'm saying to you is USE your intelligence and originality. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. If it were about musical talent, or creativity - I'm sure half of these people on mudcat would be too busy signing autographs to spend time here.

1) network - make contacts particularly with other musicians - who knows where the lightning will strike! Don't make enemies wantonly - most musicians could start an argument in an empty house. Its not smart.

2)Practise doing mailshots making up news stories about your band - find an image that catches the eye. Work on the internet - the local press - get your act togetether. Find something interesting to say about you. If not make it up - the lead guitarists drug problem, the gig/song dedicated to your dying mother, the hidden tragedy of your brother on death row - there is no bad taste in this world of people with no taste. Who knows a big magazine might run a feature if you catch their attention.

Similarly practise what you are going to say in radio interviews - these guys might respect sincerity, but they take notice of professionalism. A radio interview is a creative opportunity - a chance to make yourself a bit more famous. Nobody is interested in the real you - probably not even your parents - but everybody wants to be entertained - whether they know it or not.

3) if you hear a record that sounds a bit like something you want to achieve - look who the producer is, and find out what you can about him.

If I were capable of doing all that - I'd be a clever man. Do what you can though. if you do, and it doesn't work out - well at least you gave it a shot! And there are worse things to do with your life.

thats all I can think of - best of luck!


19 Sep 06 - 04:52 AM (#1838077)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Rusty Dobro

In extremis, there's a website for Brits called, which can often give you an artiste's home address. It helps if they have a distinctive name and you know roughly where they live - a search for 'John Smith', 'London' won't help much. The info is a couple of years out of date, but might provide an 'in' to bypass the Machine.

I imagine there are equivalent sites for other countries.

19 Sep 06 - 05:36 AM (#1838104)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Richard Bridge

The local songwriters I can think of who have been covered by "name" folk artists have achieved that by being there, singing as support or floorspots (or running sessions at festivals) when the name singer was there, chatting to them, drinking with them, etc. That is probably "folk" rather than "music business" though.

But WLD gives good advice - the "music business" is rotten to the core. I have had partners who have acted for name bands with turnovers bigger than the GDP of some countries. I've seen it. I've seen the record company contracts, the standard music publishing contracts.

All the people with integrity seem to go to the wall, or at least struggle, while the shysters profit.

19 Sep 06 - 06:24 AM (#1838124)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: breezy

At Windward Folk Club ,here in St Albans, I introduced George Papavgeris to Roy Bailey and Andy Irvine and made sure they heard his songs,met him then George did the rest and so they added his songs to their repertoire.

recently Anthony John Clarke , a fine singersongwriter himself and now full time, has shown an interest in songs by Chris Flegg and Christine Connolley who also resident at Windward

This Sunday 24th Sept A J C will be appearing at the Windward, that reminds me, I must write a song....

thats how Paul Simon blagged it before he realised he was the best interpreter of his own songs, so I believe

19 Sep 06 - 08:40 AM (#1838209)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Vixen

Hi Barbara--

Another resource for song-pitching is the CSA--Connecticut Songwriters Association. Reynaud and I are members mostly for the newsletter, which comes out every month (online) with interesting information. Also, their workshops, showcases, and guest lecturers provide lots of opportunities to network with recording industry types from NY, Boston and Nashville. We took one of our originals to a song critique session and got some very useful suggestions. We also helped organize a "Songwriters' Conference" here at the college that offered A LOT of very useful and interesting resources. And, of course, in the process we've met a mess of very interesting, creative, and cool people!

CSA Website

Good luck, and see you soon!


19 Sep 06 - 08:41 AM (#1838210)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Vixen

HEY>>>>I used the blue clicky thing tool to make the link and it doesn't work....PLEASE HELP!!!!


link fixed Sept. 29/06 - el clone-o; links to outside sites must include the http:// in URL

19 Sep 06 - 02:36 PM (#1838483)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: JedMarum

Well I've just tried twice to post to this thread. Both times Mudcat went off-line and nothing got posted ... I'll give it one more try.

Jeff hit the nail on the head.

If you get a song placed with a major (or even minor) artist, it's because they know you and want to pay homage to you and/or your song. It's possible they just got wowed by your song - but more likely it's personal.

If you get a song placed through an industry person, it's because you conivnced them in person you have something worthwhile. They will have a very exact set of criteria for song selection (hence the comment "be prepared to rewrite"). These uys already have a stable full of superb writers, so even getting them to look at you is difficult - but not impossible. You'll just have to dig hard.

BEST ADVICE I can think f is -keep siging your sonsg, verywhere you can, keep believing in them and keep writing them. As the bumper sticker says, "sometimes good shit happens." Well, OK I added the sometimes good part ... but you get the idea!

I'm not so cynical as some. I know it's really difficult to do. I know sometimes crap gets through and good stuff left behind .... but part of the winnowing out porcess is the drive behind the song - and that starts with you, the writer. The fact that rap sometimes get through only proves that it's drive behind the song that makes most of the difference.

19 Sep 06 - 02:45 PM (#1838491)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: JedMarum

By the way; if anyone sees Dolly Parton, please tell her she really needs to sing this song, and tell the story.

And also tell her there's more detail about the true story I call MAMA'S LILY here including lyrics and the story behind the song. She'll have to click the links in the jukebox at the top right of the page.



20 Sep 06 - 12:16 PM (#1839244)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: JedMarum

Did I get in too late for this thread?

Sorry, I was asleep at the wheel!

20 Sep 06 - 01:13 PM (#1839304)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

Hey Jed, no, you're not too late;>) I'm still looking for answers, but what I really want is a magic bullet to shoot my songs to some artist who will do a beautiful job of them. Or some great musician to come running up to me saying, "Hey, don't you have a great song I want to do?" (yeah, that's gonna happen...)

I've seen the occasional singer/songwriter at bluegrass festivals who carries around demo cds of their songs, and runs backstage after certain acts to try to convince one of the band members to take one. So far, I don't know anyone for whom this has worked.

I have had one guy, a local artist in another part of the country from me, who asked if he could record one of my songs. I said yes. Is this a good idea, or should I wait for the right musician to showcase the song better?

20 Sep 06 - 01:21 PM (#1839310)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Vixen

The more ways a work is conveyed and dispersed to a wider audience, the more likely it is to recieve wider attention. I know that sounds tautological, but think of the "other playwrights" from the Shakespearean era about whom the general public knows nothing. Not because these were all terrible playwrights, but because a lot of Shakespeare's works were most fortuitously preserved in print by his actors years 'n' years after they were performed live. The more people who hear your material, the more it is performed, the more it is recorded in a variety of media and passed around, the better its chances for longevity and a wider audience.

Commercial success??? That is often too much a matter of sheer luck...

Just my $0.02, fwiw....


20 Sep 06 - 01:42 PM (#1839327)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

I agree, Vixen. And by the way, I've been interested in that CSA but haven't gotten around to going to any of their events. Someday. (I have a little wooden quarter that is stamped "ROUND TUIT" on it, so I really have no excuse...)

20 Sep 06 - 02:15 PM (#1839350)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: dwditty

Hi Barbara,

While I am not a songwriter (my songs sound suspiciously like Dr. Seuss books - not that there is anything wrong with Dr. Seuss, mind you.) but a little creativity in internet use can go along away. I have made some great connections with people who appeared to have similar interests/aspirations/etc. just by reaching out. My suggestion is to find songs that you consider in the same ball park as the songs you would like to present, find out who wrote them, and reach out (google,, etc. - even MySpace). SOmetimes I get absolutely no response, but many seem pleased that somebody noticed their work and took the time and trouble to track them down and contact them. These people have already been down the road you are seeking. You have just paid them a huge compliment by seeking them out. They are often quite willing to introduce you to their contacts, pass along your cd, etc. Even if nothing happens, a side benefit is the chance to make a new friend.


21 Sep 06 - 08:49 AM (#1839914)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Willie-O

Barbara: Sure you did the right thing to let someone else record your song! Gets your name and song out there without any more work on your part, for one thing. You never know who's going to be hearing that guy sing.

Janis Joplin didn't pass on Me And Bobby McGee just because Gordon Lightfoot had already covered it...let alone if some unknown had had a go at it. The rest is history.


21 Sep 06 - 08:23 PM (#1840419)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: stallion

Well, me and the "boys" have been "pinching" other peoples stuff for years but last night a singer/songwriter hectored me to do his stuff, of which some are really good, I felt a little uneasy!

27 Sep 06 - 11:58 PM (#1844721)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: JedMarum

Yes Barbara - I think waiting for the right musician is not a help. You'll probably never who will be the right musician!

The more you get the song out there being sung, the better chance it has ...

I do not like the idea of giving out unsolicited CDs to other musicians backstage. I can;t tell you how many CDs I have and receive that way - and I no longer even who the people are or where they come from (sad to say).

Give CDs to to those who ask or those you have talked to long enough to know they will give it a listen. Otherwise, they'll be polite enough to take the CD, and will probably mean it when they say they'll try to give it a listen - but it is not likely they will - or at least not give it much thought.

Pave the way, before you give out your music. Make sure they want to hear it. Make sure they know why you are giving it to them.

And just play play play the songs ... the more people hear them, the more they'll remember ... the more chance you have of the right musician hearing it.

28 Sep 06 - 07:17 AM (#1844862)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Anne Lister

I'll second all that Jed and WLD have said before me ... my songs have travelled further than I have because I was out there and singing them myself. And because when someone asks if they can sing or record one of them I say "yes" without regard to how big a name they are or are not. You never know who will be listening to what they do, any more than you never know who is in the audience when you're playing.
As to the commercial route - I can't tell you, because although I've attended some workshop/seminars run by the Industry and had superlative comments made about my songs by the Industry Suits, none of them have felt able to do anything mainstream with any of them!

Anne (Lister ...if you've heard my song "Icarus" ..or not ...)

28 Sep 06 - 08:10 AM (#1844893)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

Yes indeed Anne. Icarus is a lovely song. I'm a long time friend of Derek Brimstone who recorded it for the Cheapo Album. The live section of which I recorded. Icarus was in the studio part as I remember.

I once talked for a while to Brimmo, about his choice of songs. i was looking through his oeuvre and remarked how few really comic songs there were.

He said, Indeed that's my secret - I sing very serious songs, but I present them in a light hearted way.

I'd be interested to hear what your thoughts were about the song. Icarus has been such a powerful motif in works of art - for example Auden's Musee de beau Arts Poem. And of course Icarus was the son of Daedalus, thus Stepehen Dedalus in Joycs's Portrait of the Artist and Ulyssess.

Put the words on this thread and tell us about your song - which I am sure has many admirers besides myself and DB.

all the best

Big Al Whittle

28 Sep 06 - 05:33 PM (#1845412)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: M.Ted

It occurs to me that, the music business being, more or less, a business--the same approaches that are used in business are necessary---That means that you need to get to know your prospective customers, and their needs---and then, you find a way to get in the front door--

The key is to "Give em' what they want"--but this is a rough philosophy for sensitive, creative, types such as we--who tend to "write what we feel".

When I hear the contemporary hits(of all kinds) it occurs to me that I would never have recognized their potential--I've always thought that I was pretty good at writing, but I've never had any sense at all of what the teeming masses are waitng for--

29 Sep 06 - 10:41 AM (#1845986)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Alaska Mike

Its been said here again and again. The best way to "pitch" a song is to sing it. Perform the song yourself over and over in whatever venue you can find. Get your CD into the hands of Folk DJ's who might include one or two of your songs into their playlist. If anyone asks to sing or record your song, say "yes" loudly and clearly with enthusiasm. Promote your songs in person or by mail to promoters, publishers, festival coordinators, and anyone else who might be interested. In short, get your song out to as many ears as you can.

And be patient. Don't expect anything to happen over night. Keep writing new songs, hone your songwriting skills. Learn all you can from books or classes or workshops or other performers. Develop your performance skills so more people want to hear your show. Expand your audience by traveling to venues you've never played before. Make it easy for people to purchase or listen to your songs. Develop a website where curious folks can find your songs, and link your site to as many others as you can. Get your CD's reviewed by magazines, newspapers, internet sites.

This is not easy. It takes time and persistance and skill. But the rewards are worth it. Best of luck to you.

Mike Campbell's Website

29 Sep 06 - 04:51 PM (#1846315)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: GUEST,Chris

Most of what people wrote, except for Alaska Mike, applies to the country and pop side of the music business, not to folk music. Most folk musicians, from the least known all the way up to the biggest names are a lot more accessible than that, and most can be approached directly, as long as you don't bother them when they are working. Anne Feeney, the labor union songwriter, pitched "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?" directly to Peter Yarrow, and now the song is on PP&M's latest CD. I strongly suggest that you speak with the artits first by e-mail, snail mail, telephone, or in person, and don't send an unsolicited demo. Contact information is generally available on their websites.

29 Sep 06 - 05:04 PM (#1846324)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: GUEST,lox

before you do anything protect your song!

The best way to do this is to put a cd in an padded envelope (jiffy bag) and post it to yourself.

That's not it though ...

The post mark (with the date on) should be imprinted over the seal/flap where the envelope is closed. Half the post mark should be on the flap and the other half on the envelope it has been stuck down to. Try and get more than one mark.

Then add a strip af transparent tape to further seal the envelope shut. This will also be covering the postmarks.

When you receive your own post in the mail, you leave it unopened so that one day, when you are in court fighting for "ownership" of an original Idea, you can prove (by the date of the postmark and by the fact that the envelope has clearly not been opened since that date as to do so and reseal it convincingly and without doing damage would be almost impossible) that you have had that song since at least the date you posted it.

I hope that is helpful :-/

(If anyone wants gobbledygook lessons I am more than willing to oblige)

29 Sep 06 - 07:42 PM (#1846423)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Alaska Mike

Much easier and better for court purposes to simply copyright your songs. Inexpensive and easily done by logging onto the U.S. Copyright Website and following the simple direcions.


30 Sep 06 - 06:16 AM (#1846688)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: erinmaidin

schmooze schmooze schmooze! Go to events where you know people in the "industry" are going to be. Be charming, be confident, drop information into conversations...if someone asks what you do it's because they are truly interested...tell them. "I write songs." Be diplomatically shameless. Don't let refusals hinder your efforts. Believe in your songs and if someone asks, are you any good, tell them you're brilliant. Go out on a limb and ring labels and ask for permission to submit. That is something that always baffles the hell out of me, you search for a list only to find "unsolicited material not accepted". Listen critically to your songs and imagine someone else covering them then seek out the person responsible for supplying this artist with material and say "would be perfect for"...or "written with so and so in mind". We have music parties here at the house and invite people we meet who are in the industry, then our friends and ourselves have the opportunity to "trot out our stuff". I've been trying to get to as many singer/songwriter venues as possible. I think it's totally a matter of being in the right place at the right time....put yourself in as many places as many times and you up your chances.

30 Sep 06 - 04:37 PM (#1847085)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

Well, you never know where you might get a break. Maybe Mudcat is my good luck charm. Since I started this thread not even 2 weeks ago, I've had two hopeful events, and one is downright wonderful! Both happened because of playing the songs everywhere, even when you think people would rather hear something else. This is especially true for a bluegrass band when you get the idea people would rather hear the old traditional favorites than your own originals.

Anyway, we keep playing this one song that I wrote (HILLSIDE HOME), and our buddy Roger Sprung seems to love it. Yep, I'll drop his name, he's a legend and a grizzly bear to some but always good to us and an amazing musician on banjo and anything else he picks up. So Roger says to me, "Hey, if a REALLY GOOD band did that song of yours, it would be a knockout!" (Thanks, Roger, I think...) So he asked for a copy of it to send to some friends of his on the west coast who perform, "and SHE has a GREAT voice" (thanks again...). Anyway, my song may move a few steps forward because we played it and he heard it.

The second event happened because I insisted on including a certain other song of mine (CONNECTICUT WALTZ) in a set, even though the guy sitting in on fiddle with us (Stacy Phillips, another dropped name, another legend, grammy winner, amazing musician) didn't know it yet. After hearing and playing it, he said I ought to contact so-and-so who was putting together a soon to be published songbook called "The Connecticut Sound: A CONNtra Collection: Reels, Jigs, Marches, Hornpipes, Rags & Waltzes." He recommended this song for the book. Well, I sent her five tunes, and five of my tunes (including the one Stacy was playing) are going to be published in this upcoming songbook! I'm beyond delighted, I'm downright teary.

Thanks for the advice. To all you others reading along, listen to the advice.

30 Sep 06 - 05:10 PM (#1847119)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barry Finn

Congrats Barbara, I wish you good luck. It's great to hear that some times these things work out for the better.


30 Sep 06 - 05:35 PM (#1847139)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Anne Lister

Picking up on WLD's reply to my post ... it's ironic in a way to mention Derek Brimstone's name in this context as he's the only person to have covered Icarus and not to pay me a penny in royalties! I have always enjoyed Derek's performances, not knowing him personally, but I must admit this small fact has grated for years. He put the album out by-passing the usual performing rights channels, which is why no royalties have ever been paid, and as I don't know him I haven't known how to chase him for the money (which isn't a fortune but it's the principle of the thing!).
I'm not sure if this thread is the right place to put my thoughts on the song and the words to it ... but I think the words are already on the DT here on Mudcat anyway (put on by someone else). I'd happily enter into discussion with anyone and everyone about it, though - perhaps on a new thread?


01 Oct 06 - 08:54 AM (#1847498)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

well Derek's not untraceable. I think you might have asked him about the subject before using this forum. Not really a great move, if you want people to cover your songs.

songwriting is like that. Sometimes people don't pay. the collecting agencies like PRS can't be arsed with small fish like me for instance, and the vast majority of my airplay doesn't get a royalty. Most radio stations are quite upfront and say - we ain't paying you because we're doing you the favour playing your rather unpopular music.

One time Inter Milan bought all the unsold copies of my Rummenigge record, just after they had bought him, and apparently played it at their matches - which garnered nary a brass doubloon. Now they COULD afford it.

I think probably the truth is that during the 80's when Derek recorded your song, he couldn't - you'd have to ask him..

As I remember it was just at that point when the traddies had scientifically proved that nobody who didn't sound a cross between Walter Gabriel and Long John Silver was actually singing folk music. So they emptied the folk clubs to ratify their conclusions.

01 Oct 06 - 11:38 AM (#1847546)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Anne Lister

for WLD: Well, it would help before launching the defence missiles on Derek's behalf to check things out. Of course I did my best at the time to find out why Derek hadn't done the right things - and the right thing in terms of MCPS is to fill out licence forms when you manufacture an album and pay MCPS the correct monies due, which is hardly a secret procedure - and, as I recall (and it was a very long time ago) all I had back from Derek was the impression of a shrug. I'm fairly sure he sent me a copy of the album, and when I enquired about the royalties he ducked out of the correspondence. Many other people have recorded the song over the years and done the right thing, and Derek had considerably more "presence" in the folk clubs than many of those other people (and more than me, at the time), so excuses don't cut much ice here for me. I was performing myself in the eighties and not difficult to locate, and I don't remember folk clubs emptying the way you describe - in fact although there was a divide between trad and contemporary clubs in some places it was a pretty healthy scene at that time.
There's some confusion in your post about the difference between PRS and MCPS. PRS pays royalties on works when they are performed, whether on radio or on stage, and it's notoriously difficult to sort out what's due especially on smaller radio stations and in smaller venues. But MCPS pays on recorded product (CDs these days ... vinyl at the time we're talking) and at that time most reputable pressing factories wouldn't produce albums without the right licences in place. If someone can't afford to pay the writer to record a song on a commercially available album, they shouldn't record the song, surely? It really doesn't cost a lot per song on the kind of quantities involved on the folk circuit, and it's not as if Derek was short of other material.
And I've never been exactly rolling in the dosh myself, having to make do even now with all kinds of work to keep the bank happy in addition to performing and writing, so pleading poverty doesn't help matters much here either.
As to using this forum, I only mentioned it because of your mention of his name and my song in the same context. How, exactly, is it likely to harm my prospects of having my songs covered by voicing the undisputable fact that when a song is covered there are royalties payable to the writer? As this is a thread about how to get people to cover songs, it seems entirely relevant to say that when they do there are financial consequences. "Icarus" isn't the only song of mine to be covered by other people, and Derek (and one American duo) stand out against other performers of my songs because they seem to have dodged the financial consequences. He's obviously a friend of yours and you want to defend him - I have no opinion of him as a person, had always enjoyed his performances and then was somewhat disillusioned to have this experience. Which is why, when you brought it all up, it produced this reaction from me. If you'd talked about Martin Simpson, Maggie Holland, Bachue Cafe, Gerry Hallom, Grace Griffith or Artisan, to name drop a few, I wouldn't have had my memory jogged in any negative way whatsoever.


01 Oct 06 - 12:44 PM (#1847593)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

As you say memories of the same era obviously differ. If you PM me I can send you Derek's contact number and you can sort it out with him.
I don't suppose he would thank me for speaking out on his behalf, and for that matter I am not qualified to.

The MCPS, PRS and Publishers generally do indeed work in a mysterious ways, and indeed over 30 years of full membership of all the collection agecies have left me with no clear view of their operation - only a fleeting impression of rather turgid, expensively produced publications that they send through the post. The state of one's confusion about their various functions has (I have found)no real bearing on whether the money arrives.

Down at the working men's clubs during the 1980's most of the cabaret artists were knocking out cassettes for a couple of quid. Most were professionally produced. they helped keep music live, by makinga bit of petrol money for the artists, but I don't suppose the publishers saw a deal of licence money from them. Still as we said, our memories of the era differ.

As for your last point. Well sometimes people who can't afford it, if the rules are strictly applied, want to use your music. perhaps they won't bother if they know they are going to be named and shamed. A common sense point, I should have thought.

anyway, best of luck with your song writing career.

01 Oct 06 - 04:22 PM (#1847738)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Anne Lister

I'm even more confused about the point you're making, WLD!

First of all - no, I don't want to contact Derek. He gave me the brush-off twenty years ago and it doesn't appear to weigh in his conscience at all, so I don't intend to appear like an avenging angel at this stage and demand my money. My point originally to you was that it was ironic, out of all the cover versions of my songs that exist, you should ask me to comment on one of only two covers that haven't done the right thing by me as a writer.

In terms of how it might affect future covers of my songs - if those covers are done by people who don't intend to pay royalties to the writer, quite frankly I can live without them. Would I "name and shame"? I wouldn't have done this time if you hadn't asked directly what I thought of Derek's version, but why not? If people are selling their recordings for money then it's a commercial enterprise and they should expect to pay royalties to the writers of any songs that are recorded. That's life. There are copyright free songs out there and they could write their own, but if they want to record my songs then there's a financial consequence. The songs are my copyrighted property, and that's the way it is. In fact, I receive several requests a year from people who are making fewer than 100 copies of their recordings or who are doing something for charity and in those cases I almost always agree to waiving the charges - Derek, on the other hand, didn't ask and I have no idea how many copies he made of his album but I'm willing to bet it would have been more than 100 copies as it wouldn't have been cost effective to make fewer than that on vinyl. Did he pay you to do the session work? If so, that was a cost he factored into the production process just as he should have factored in the licence costs. If not, I'm fairly sure you agreed to do it as a favour - that's your choice. But in my case he didn't ask permission, just went ahead and did it without the licence. Are you saying this is OK because he was short of money? Where does this line of reasoning end?   And whether you're right in what you remember of the folk clubs in the 80s (in which case I wonder where my bookings were coming from, as I don't sound like Walter Gabriel or Long John Silver) or not, Derek Brimstone was a far bigger name than me at that time and I'm sure he could have afforded the few quid involved more easily than I could afford to lose them.
As to MCPS and PRS - I, too, have been a full member for pretty much 30 years and I receive easily comprehensible documentation from them, just as when I've recorded my albums I've been able to work out fairly simply what I should do to make sure my songs are registered correctly. If I get stuck on some piece of information, I call them, and there's always a human on the end of the phone who can explain. I can't see how any of this alters the simple fact that when you record someone else's song, there are royalties to be paid.
As this is a thread about how to get other singers to pick up your material it seems important to me to point out that (a) you don't need a publisher necessarily but (b) if you don't have a publisher you probably need to do some homework to work out where and how your royalties will be paid. And (c) inevitably there will be some people who try to avoid paying you. I remain disappointed that this happened twice for me, but on the other hand I've lost count (literally) of how many people have done the right thing, even to the extent of coming to gigs of mine in the US with a small wadge of dollars in their hands because they know the transatlantic system breaks down for us smaller fish.
But, WLD, I still don't understand why you seem to be implying I should let Brimstone and others record my work without permission or licence (if they're broke?), and why my songwriting career might be in jeopardy if I don't.


01 Oct 06 - 04:45 PM (#1847760)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

Anne, you seem to be very well established as a performer and songwriter. I would not presume to tell you your business.

Our differing experiences seem to have given us different insights into the music industry. But perhaps thats how it should be. We are, after all, different people.

02 Oct 06 - 12:30 AM (#1847986)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barry Finn

Maybe a change here in the thread title to "Pinching a Song". I do agree that Tabster's comments are very approprite to this thread. It is part of the business of selling or pitching a song. And no matter what a writer should be paid for their works & properties & yes, their name be dragged if they don't. Stealing rom one of your own is tabu IMHO, you research it before you record it.


02 Oct 06 - 02:51 AM (#1848019)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Big Al Whittle

No Barry, and its my positively last word. I made an invitation to this lady to talk about her song. I thought maybe, there was somebody out there who might help her popularise it further.

Because actually that is the name the name of the game. Derek brimstone is a guy who has scratched a living (on a scene that the factionalists and various fuckwits have damaged beyond repair)for the last thiry years. And in that time he popularised dozens of different songs - songs I would never have heard. Moreover someone so unsophisticated - I have never been able to explain to him the usefulness of a reverb unit. Do you really think Woody Guthrie or Leadbellys music would have become popular, if they'd said, sorry Cisco Houston - theres a price tag on that song. No, the only music to come out of the 1940's would have been the stuff the huge corporations had under it aegis(is that the word?) like Glen Miller.

The villains of the music scene are fairly easy to spot, should you meet them. they get you to sign contracts - promise you a fair price. then before their company has to pay any royalties, it mysteriously gets into financial trouble. Sometimes when your songs are still in the HMV shops and every motorway shop the length of England.

Actuallly after a point, you don't really care about that even. I was talking to another songwriter in a studio where we'd met up, and he was saying - well you knowthis business, after a bit you see these guys coming. you know you're going to be shafted, but the choice is have people singing and dancing to your music - or leave the 21st century to the genius of Robbie Williams.....

The first girl I ever really fell in love with said to me - Al, you're just trying to use me. with age, i realise, I should have been able to pass on the useful insight - that's the choice in life baby - be used, or be useless? those are the breaks.

Anyway, I retire from this thread herewith, having nothing to contribute to people fighting off offers of tours of America - giddy heights in the profession to which I have never ascended.

02 Oct 06 - 05:56 PM (#1848683)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Anne Lister

I think the problem is that the villains of the music industry are NOT easy to spot, and too many people go into too many deals rather misty-eyed and without sufficient information. I'm not saying that Derek was a villain, but there is a principle here and it works whether it's the Dereks of this world or the Sony Corporation. If some of the lesser known performers who have wanted to record one of my songs could take the trouble to track me down and pay me the right money, why couldn't Derek? Around the time of the early blues recordings there were a lot of excellent writers who were ripped off on a grand scale. It's great that we know their songs, but it doesn't make it OK that they were ripped off.   There are a number of songwriters today who have been assured by record companies that they should sign over their publishing as a matter of course, who have subsequently lost money as a result. If we could indeed spot the villains it would be a much simpler world.
To take another example - I've recently recorded a version of "Silkie", and took a set of words from one tradition and a tune I'd learnt from a well established other singer which I'd assumed to be traditional. And then discovered that the tune had been written for that other singer but never credited and never paid for. I spent some time tracking down the copyright holder (Sandy Paton of Folk Legacy, in case this isn't common knowledge) and made sure I made a payment to him - he didn't write the tune, but had the copyright assigned as a way of making sure there was some income to support his record company.
I don't think we have to decide to be used or be useless in any kind of a negative way. We can act with integrity, and generally that means we get treated with integrity too - even if none of us in this music genre get to be as rich as Robbie Williams. Derek is not the only person to record one of my songs, and I don't have to be grateful for him using my song without permission or payment.


02 Oct 06 - 09:07 PM (#1848864)
Subject: RE: Pitching a Song
From: Barbara Shaw

Very interesting discussion. From my lowly viewpoint with no one ever having recorded one of my songs, I'd be tempted to let them do it for free, depending on circumstances. But only with my permission. I fully agree that a songwriter should be paid for the use of their song.

I searched and found the writers of all non-trad songs on my ShoreGrass albums. The ones I couldn't pay online through Harry Fox Agency were contacted directly. One gave me permission to use the song with no payment. One took a long time to find, and had to direct me to another company that held the rights to his song. I hope that someone would go to the same trouble to use a song of mine. (Please! Please use a song of mine! haha)