When I met with Liz Walker to talk about songwriting, pretty much the only question I had for her was what she expected to get out of it. What can you do with a song?
I came to the interview with an expectation that musicians either wrote their own songs or they had teams of people who wrote music for them. (Yes, I watched a few episodes of Nashville).
Liz began songwriting because she enjoyed the process and it was another way to share her thoughts and connect with an audience.
So what can you do with a song?
Like all forms of publishing, there are lots of different songwriting paths (affiliate link). Here are the main options for newbie songwriters.
1. Release it yourself
Songwriters can record their own song and release it themselves for others to listen to. Here are a few places that self-released tracks can be posted.
- Online streaming services: Post songs on Apple, Spotify, etc. to help you build an audience and potentially collect royalties. You will need artwork for a single but can create your own with online tools like Canva.
- Curated music services: For broader exposure, pitch your single to internet radio stations, music blogs and playlist curators.
- YouTube: With google turning YouTube into a music streaming service, it’s a great way to reach an audience. Play around with creating your own video or simply use a still image with the audio recording.
- CDs or vinyl: Why not make an actual physical recording to distribute to your friends, family and fans?
There are a few different services that can help you distribute your self-recorded songs, like CD Baby.
2. Pitch it for use in Movies, TV shows and advertising
You can also send songs directly to music publishers that provide music for these kinds of clients (like the music supervisor for a tv show). Music publishers who specialize in film/TV sync licenses are referred to as music libraries.
3. Pitch it for someone else to record
As a new songwriter, you could reach out to small local artists to see if they would be interested in recording your song.
Alternatively, can send your demo to a small music label asking them to consider having it recorded by an artist on their label. However, not all labels are open to submissions.
4. Send it to contests
Submit your songs to song contests! This is a great way to get feedback on your music. Even if you don’t get specific feedback from a judge, you will have general feedback based on how well your song does in the contest.
A few practical details
The business side of songwriting can be a bit complex. Here is a podcast that Liz recommends for learning more about how the music industry works.
It’s also a good idea to hire an entertainment lawyer before signing a music contract. Copyright negotiation can be complex. There’s composition copyright, sound recording copyright, mechanical licenses…
Things get even more complicated in songwriting collaborations. If a few people or a band are working on a song together, it’s probably a good idea to set up a contract dictating how the copyright will be split, because it’s not always straightforward.